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From George Washington to John Hancock, 5 January 1777

To John Hancock

Pluckamin [N.J.] January 5th 1777

Sir

I have the honor to inform you, that since the date of my last from Trenton,1 I have removed with the Army under my command to this place. The difficulty of crossing the Delaware on account of the ice made our passage over it tedious, and gave the Enemy an opportunity of drawing in their several cantonments and assembling their whole Force at Princeton. Their large Picquets advanced towards Trenton, their great preparations & some intelligence I had received, added to their knowledge, that the first of January brought on a dissolution of the best part of our Army, gave me the strongest reasons to conclude, that an attack upon us was meditating.

Our situation was most critical and our force small. to remove immediately was again destroying every dawn of hope which had begun to revive in the breasts of the Jersey Militia, and to bring those Troops which had first crossed the Delaware, and were laying at Croswix’s under Genl Cadwalader & those under Genl Mifflin at Bordenton (amounting in the whole to about 3600) to Trenton, was to bring them to an exposed place; One or the other however was unavoidable, the latter was preferred & they were ordered to join us at Trenton, which they did by a Night march on the 1st Instt.2

On the 2d according to my expectation the Enemy began to advance upon us, and after some skirmishing the Head of their Column reached Trenton about 4 OClock, whilst their rear was as far back as Maidenhead. They attempted to pass Sanpink Creek, which runs through Trenton at different places, but finding the Fords guarded, halted & kindled their Fires—We were drawn up on the other side of the Creek. In this situation we remained till dark, cannonading the Enemy & receiving the fire of their Field peices which did us but little damage.3

Having by this time discovered that the Enemy were greatly superior in number and that their design was to surround us, I ordered all our Baggage to be removed silently to Burlington soon after dark, and at twelve OClock after renewing our fires & leaving Guards at the Bridge in Trenton and other passes on the same stream above, marched by a roundabout Road to Princeton, where I knew they could not have much force left and might have Stores. One thing I was certain of, that it would avoid the appearance of a retreat, (which was of course4 or to run the hazard of the whole Army being cut off) whilst we might by a fortunate stroke withdraw Genl Howe from Trenton and give some reputation to our Arms. happily we succeeded.5 We found Princeton about Sunrise with only three Regiments6 and three Troops of light Horse in it, two of which were on their march to Trenton—These three Regiments, especially the Two first, made a gallant resistance and in killed wounded and Prisoners must have lost 500 Men,7 upwards of One hundred of them were left dead in the Feild, and with what I have with me & what were taken in the pursuit & carried across the Delaware, there are near 300 prisoners 14 of which are Officers—all British.8

This peice of good fortune is counterballanced by the loss of the brave and worthy Genl Mercer, Cols. Hazlet and Potter, Captn Neal of the Artillery, Captn Fleming who commanded the first Virginia Regiment and four or five other valuable Officers who with about twenty five or thirty privates were slain in the feild—Our whole loss cannot be ascertained, as many who were in pursuit of the Enemy, who were chaced three or four Miles, are not yet come in.9

The rear of the Enemy’s Army laying at Maidenhead (not more than five or Six miles from Princeton) was up with us before our pursuit was over, but as I had the precaution to destroy the Bridge over Stoney Brooke (about half a mile from the Feild of action) they were so long retarded there as to give us time to move off in good order for this place. We took Two Brass Feild peices but for want of Horses could not bring them away. We also took some Blankets—Shoes—and a few other trifling Articles—burnt the Hay & destroyed such other things as the shortness of the time would admit of.

My Original plan when I set out from Trenton was to have pushed on to Brunswic, but the harrassed State of our own Troops (many of them having had no rest for two nights & a day) and the danger of loosing the advantage we had gained by aiming at too much induced me by the advice of my Officers to relinquish the attempt, but in my Judgement Six or Eight hundred fresh Troops upon a forced march would have destroyed all their Stores and Magazines—taken as we have since learnt their Military Chest containing 70,000£ and put an end to the War. The Enemy from the best intelligence I have been able to get were so much alarmed at the apprehension of this, that they marched immediately to Brunswick without halting except at the Bridges, (for I also took up those on Millstone on the different routs to Brunswick) and got there before day.10

From the best information I have received, Genl Howe has left no men either at Trenton or Princeton. The truth of this I am endeavouring to ascertain that I may regulate my movements accordingly—The Militia are taking spirit and I am told, are coming in fast from this State, but I fear those from Philadelphia will scarcely submit to the hardships of a winter Campaign much longer, especially as they very unluckily sent their Blankets with their Baggage to Burlington—I must do them justice however to add, that they have undergone more fatigue and hardship than I expected Militia (especially Citizens) would have done at this inclement Season. I am just moving to Morris town where I shall endeavour to put them under the best cover I can. hitherto we have been without any and many of our poor Soldiers quite bear foot & ill clad in other respects.11 I have the Honor to be with great respect Sir Yr Most Obedt

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; Df, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The executive committee of Continental Congress forwarded the LS to Hancock on 7 Jan. (see Smith, Letters to Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 6:45), and on 13 Jan. Congress read this letter and referred it to the Board of War (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 7:31).

3The firing of an alarm gun about ten o’clock on the morning of 2 Jan. alerted the American troops at Trenton that the British were advancing toward the town from Princeton eleven miles to the northeast. Almost immediately the various regimental drummers began to beat the call to arms (see “Young’s Journal,” description begins “Journal of Sergeant William Young: Written During the Jersey Campaign in the Winter of 1776-7.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 255–78. description ends 263; “Hood’s Relation” in Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 469; “McMichael’s Diary,” description begins William P. McMichael. “Diary of Lieutenant James McMichael, of the Pennsylvania Line, 1776–1778.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 16 (1892): 129–59. description ends 140; and Corner, Rush’s Autobiography description begins George W. Corner, ed. The Autobiography of Benjamin Rush: His “Travels Through Life” together with his Commonplace Book for 1789–1813. Princeton, N.J., 1948. description ends , 127).

Choosing not to defend the heights on the northern outskirts of Trenton, GW marched the assembled American regiments south out of the main part of the town across the single narrow stone bridge spanning Assunpink Creek, a small stream that flows into the Delaware River a short distance below the bridge (see “Reed’s Narrative, 1776–77,” description begins “General Joseph Reed’s Narrative of the Movements of the American Army in the Neighborhood of Trenton in the Winter of 1776–77.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 391–402. description ends 401). The grounds on the south side of Assunpink, Henry Knox says in his letter to his wife Lucy Flucker Knox of 7 Jan., “are much higher than” the grounds north of the creek “and may be said to command Trenton Completely—here it was our army drew up with 30 or 40 peices of Artillery in front. . . . The Creek was in our front—our left on the Delaware, our right in a Wood parrarell [parallel] to the Creek” (NNGL: Knox Papers). Capt. Thomas Rodney says in his diary that “Gen. Mercers brigade was posted about 2 miles up the creek, and the troops under Gen. Cadwalader were stationed in a field on the right about a mile from the town, on the main road, to prevent the enemy from flanking” (Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 30–31; see also “Hood’s Relation” in Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 469, and Sellers, “Peale’s Journal,” description begins Horace W. Sellers. “Charles Willson Peale, Artist—Soldier.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 38 (1914): 257–86. description ends 278–79). Mercer’s and Cadwalader’s brigades apparently were deployed in those positions during the afternoon to protect two fords on Assunpink Creek above the bridge, which Joseph Reed and a small party of Philadelphia light horsemen, acting on orders from GW, reconnoitered soon after the alarm on this date. Reed “found the one at Henry’s Mill two Miles from Trenton scarcely passable for Horses the Water being rapid & high. At Philips’s Mill about 1 Mile higher the Ford was in very good Order & had the Enemy taken the Oppty of passing it the Consequences would probably have been fatal” (“Reed’s Narrative, 1776–77,” description begins “General Joseph Reed’s Narrative of the Movements of the American Army in the Neighborhood of Trenton in the Winter of 1776–77.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 391–402. description ends 401–2; see also “Letter from a gentleman of great worth,” 7 Jan., in Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 466–68).

An advanced force consisting of Gen. Adam Stephen’s Virginia brigade, which was commanded at this time by its senior colonel Charles Scott, and La Rochefermoy’s brigade, which consisted of the German Regiment and Col. Edward Hand’s regiment of Pennsylvania riflemen, had been posted sometime earlier at Maidenhead (now Lawrenceville, N.J.) about six miles northeast of Trenton on the main road to Princeton. Its orders were “to skirmish with the enemy during their march and retreat to Trenton, as occasion should require . . . by which means their [the British] march was [to be] so much retarded as to give ample time for our forces to form and prepare to give them a warm reception upon their arrival” (“Letter from a gentleman of great worth,” 7 Jan., ibid.; see also George Johnston to an unidentified correspondent, 5 Jan., in Powell, Leven Powell description begins Robert C. Powell, ed. A Biographical Sketch of Col. Leven Powell, including His Correspondence during the Revolutionary War. Alexandria, Va., 1877. description ends , 46–48; “Beale’s Revolutionary Experiences,” description begins “Revolutionary Experiences of Major Robert Beale.” Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine 6 (1956): 500–506. description ends 502; and “Reed’s Narrative, 1776–77,” description begins “General Joseph Reed’s Narrative of the Movements of the American Army in the Neighborhood of Trenton in the Winter of 1776–77.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 391–402. description ends 401–2).

Archibald Robertson, who was with the advancing British column, says in his diary entry for this date: “At Daybreak, Count Donhop advanced with his corps towards Maiden Head and Trenton. At Maiden Head some of the Rebels were posted with Cannon but they went off. The 2 Battalions British Grenadier Guards, 2 Battalions Light Infantry were ordered forward to Join Donhop and the 2d Brigade to take Post at Maiden Head. The 3 Regiment[s] of the 4th Brigade were left at Princetown under Lieutenant Colonel [Charles] Mawhood. We lost a great deal of time owing to the whole’s not marching in one Body from Prince Town and run a Risque of having been cut up in Detail. After the Light Infantry Joined us we advanced and found the Rebels posted on the top of a Rising ground covered with wood within 2½ miles of Trenton. The Jagers at first gave way a little but were soon supported by the Light Infantry. By a Prisoner taken we learnt that there were two Battalions in the wood one on each hand of us. The Horse Guard and Highlanders were form’d and advanced on our left in Front where they saw the Rebels as if they intended to form but they retired into the woods on the other side of the Assumpink Creek just opposite to us and within a mile and half of Trenton where the main Body was. In order to amuse us they Manoeuver’d 2 or 3,000 men on their Right very well making a Demonstration of Passing the Creek at two Different places in their Possession where it was fordable, so that by that means to turn our left Flank if we advanced towards Trenton. However the heights and woods on our Right were soon forced with little loss and our Troops followed them into Trenton where their main Body were drawn up, about 6 or 7,000, with the Creek and Bridge in front and a Number of Field pieces. We lost a few men with the Cannonade but durst not attack them. They were exactly in the Position Rall should have taken when He was attack’d [on 26 Dec.] from which He might have retreated towards Borden’s Town with very little Loss” (Lydenberg, Roberston’s Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 118–20; see also Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 48–49, and Collins, Ravages at Princeton description begins Varnum Lansing Collins, ed. A Brief Narrative of the Ravages of the British and Hessians at Princeton in 1776–77: A Contemporary Account of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1906. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 31).

The Pennsylvania riflemen and the Virginians in the advanced force acquitted themselves well in the skirmishing actions northeast of Trenton, and they succeeded in delaying the British arrival at the town until late afternoon when insufficient daylight remained to make a major attack on the American positions south of Assunpink Creek. The recently raised German Battalion, however, “gave way with very little Resistance” when it came under attack on the northern heights of Trenton (“Reed’s Narrative, 1776–77,” description begins “General Joseph Reed’s Narrative of the Movements of the American Army in the Neighborhood of Trenton in the Winter of 1776–77.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 391–402. description ends 402; see also “Beale’s Revolutionary Experiences,” description begins “Revolutionary Experiences of Major Robert Beale.” Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine 6 (1956): 500–506. description ends 502, and Henry Knox to Lucy Flucker Knox, 7 Jan., NNGL: Knox Papers; for a more detailed account of the skirmishing action, see Smith, Battle of Princeton description begins Samuel Stelle Smith. The Battle of Princeton. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1967. description ends , 13–16).

“In their way through the town, the enemy suffered much by an incessant fire of musketry from behind the houses and barns,” an anonymous American correspondent presumed to be Benjamin Rush writes in a letter of 7 January. “The [British] army had now arrived at the northern side of the bridge, whilst our army was drawn up in order of battle on the southern side. Our cannon played very briskly from this eminence, and were returned as briskly by the enemy. In a few minutes after the cannonade began, a very heavy discharge of musketry ensued, and continued for ten or fifteen minutes; during this action a party of men were detached from our right wing to secure a part of the river [Assunpink Creek] which it was imagined, from the motions of the enemy, they intended to ford. This detachment arrived at the pass very opportunely, and effected their purpose. After this the enemy made a feeble and unsupported attempt to pass the bridge, but this likewise proved abortive. It was now near six o’clock in the evening, and night coming on, closed the engagement” (“Letter from a gentleman of great worth,” 7 Jan., in Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 466–68; for other accounts of the retreat through Trenton and the action at the bridge, see “Hood’s Relation,” ibid., 469; George Johnston to an unidentified correspondent, 5 Jan., in Powell, Leven Powell description begins Robert C. Powell, ed. A Biographical Sketch of Col. Leven Powell, including His Correspondence during the Revolutionary War. Alexandria, Va., 1877. description ends , 46–48; Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 30–32; Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 49; “Young’s Journal,” description begins “Journal of Sergeant William Young: Written During the Jersey Campaign in the Winter of 1776-7.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 8 (1884): 255–78. description ends 263–64; “Beale’s Revolutionary Experiences,” description begins “Revolutionary Experiences of Major Robert Beale.” Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine 6 (1956): 500–506. description ends 502–3; White, Narrative of Events description begins J. White. An Narrative of Events. As They Occurred from Time to Time, in the Revolutionary War; With an Account of the Battles, Of Trenton, Trenton-Bridge, and Princeton. Charlestown, Mass., 1833. description ends , 20; and Haven, Thirty Days in New Jersey description begins C. C. Haven. Thirty Days in New Jersey Ninety Years Ago: An Essay Revealing New Facts in Connection with Washington and His Army in 1776 and 1777. Trenton, 1867. description ends , 35–40).

James Hood, a Philadelphia militiaman, writes in his account of events: “The Enemy threw number of Shells which did no execution and one Cannon Ball, passed through the 3d Battalion [of the Philadelphia militia] & killed 2 men” (“Hood’s Relation,” in Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 469; see also Sellers, “Peale’s Journal,” description begins Horace W. Sellers. “Charles Willson Peale, Artist—Soldier.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 38 (1914): 257–86. description ends 279). Lt. James McMichael says in his diary entry for 2 Jan.: “Our artillery fire was so severe, that the enemy retreated out of town and encamped on an adjacent hill. We continued firing bombs up to seven o’clock P. M., when we were ordered to rest” ((“McMichael’s Diary,” description begins William P. McMichael. “Diary of Lieutenant James McMichael, of the Pennsylvania Line, 1776–1778.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 16 (1892): 129–59. description ends 140). Henry Knox writes in his letter to his wife of 7 Jan. that after the last American troops “had retir’d over the Bridge the enemy advanc’d within reach of our Cannon who saluted them with great vociferation and some execution, this Continued till dark when of course it ceas’d except a few shells we now & then chuck’d into Town to prevent their enjoying their new quarters securely” (NNGL: Knox Papers).

From the British position on the north side of the Assunpink, Archibald Robertson says, “I observed distinctly this Evening [2 Jan.] the Rebels filing of[f] to their left, which made Sir William post the 2d Battalion Grenadiers and Guards with a Battalion Hessian Grenadiers to secure that Flank. At the same time [we] were Apprehensive they meditated a Blow on Prince Town which was but weak. Two of the 3 Regiments [at Princeton] have been order’d to join us after we saw the Rebels force. Our Troops all lay out. Hard frost and 2 Battalions Light Infantry lay in Trenton without fires by way of Piquets to watch the Rebels on the other side of the Creek” (Lydenberg, Roberston’s Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 119–20).

4The draft reads: “of Consequence.”

5Col. John Cadwalader in a “Letter from an Officer of Distinction” dated Pluckemin, 5 Jan., writes that at Trenton on the night of 2 Jan. “a council of war was held and it was determined to file off to the right, through the woods, and by bye roads leaving the enemy on the left and attack Princeton by daylight: about five hundred men, and two pieces of war cannon were left to amuse the enemy” (Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 446–48). Nathanael Greene says in his letter to Nicholas Cooke of 10 Jan.: “We left all our sentries standing and moved off as silently as possible. The guards had orders to decamp in three hours after our march began. No person knew where we were going except the Genl Officers” (Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 2:4–6).

Henry Knox, who undoubtedly participated in the council of war, says in his letter to his wife of 7 Jan. that the American situation on the south bank of the Assunpink “was strong to be sure but hazardous on this account that had our right wing been defeated the defeat of the left would almost have been an inevitable consequence, & the whole thrown into Confusion or push’d into the Delaware as it was impassable by Boats. from these Circumstances the General [GW] thought it was best to attack Princeton 12 miles in the rear of the enemys Grand army” (NNGL: Knox Papers; see also Wilkinson, Memoirs description begins James Wilkinson. Memoirs of My Own Times. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1816. description ends , 1:139–40, and Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 49).

The route by which GW’s army marched to Princeton during the early hours of 3 Jan. lay to the southeast of the post road that the British army had used the previous day. About sixteen miles in length, the byroad crossed Assunpink Creek at the Quaker Bridge about halfway between Trenton and Princeton (see Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 32). James Wilkinson says in his memoirs that “General St. Clair had been charged with the guard of the fords of the Assanpink, and in the course of the day [2 Jan.] whilst examining the ground to his right, he had fallen on the road which led to the Quaker bridge; whether from this circumstance, or what other information I will not presume to say, it was this officer who in council suggested the idea of marching by our right and turning the left of the enemy; the practicability of the route was well understood by Colonel Reed, adjutant-general; and the commander in chief, as soon as satisfied on this point, adopted the proposition” (Wilkinson, Memoirs description begins James Wilkinson. Memoirs of My Own Times. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1816. description ends , 1:140). Wilkinson’s account was refuted in 1824 by John Lardner, who said that he was one of four light horsemen who patrolled the Quaker Bridge road on the night of 1 Jan. and that GW must have know about the road at that time “or the patroles would not have been placed there.” Lardner also says: “I well remember the circumstance of the Council sitting near to where the Troop was station’d, on the evening of the 2d Janry, and to have heard it confidently mentioned the next day & repeatedly afterwards as the universal sentiment—that the thought of the movement that night originated entirely with Washington—solely his own manoeuvre” (John Lardner to Captain Smith, 31 July 1824, in Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 442–43).

Thomas Rodney says in his diary entry for 3 Jan.: “At two o’clock in the morning the ground having been frozen firm by a keen N. West wind secret orders were issued to each department and the whole army was at once put in motion, but no one knew what the Gen. meant to do. Some thought that we were going to attack the enemy in the rear; some that we were going to Princeton; the latter proved to be right” (Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 32; see also Sellers, “Peale’s Journal,” description begins Horace W. Sellers. “Charles Willson Peale, Artist—Soldier.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 38 (1914): 257–86. description ends 280, and “Letter from a gentleman of great worth,” 7 Jan., in Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 466–68). The extreme secrecy and silence with which the American army marched prevented the British in Trenton from learning of GW’s movement or his object until it was too late to counteract it. Archibald Robertson’s diary entry for 3 Jan. begins: “At Day Break reported that the Rebels were all gone which it was generally thought was towards Borden’s Town. Untill about 8 o’clock [when] a very Brisk fire of Small Arms and Smart Cannonading was heard in our Rear towards Prince Town” (Lydenberg, Robertson’s Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 120; see also Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 49).

6The draft reads: “only three Regiments of Infantry.”

7The draft reads: “near 500 Men.”

8About daybreak on 3 Jan. GW’s force of about six thousand men crossed Stony Brook on the byroad about three miles southwest of Princeton and about a mile and a half south of Worth’s Mill where the main road from Princeton to Trenton crossed Stony Brook on a bridge. There apparently was no bridge over Stony Brook on the byroad, for an anonymous local says that the Americans “were hindered some time in making a bridge over the brook for the Army to pas with the Artillery” (Collins, Ravages at Princeton description begins Varnum Lansing Collins, ed. A Brief Narrative of the Ravages of the British and Hessians at Princeton in 1776–77: A Contemporary Account of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1906. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 32). About a half a mile north of the Stony Brook crossing, the Americans came to a fork in the road. GW sent Gen. John Sullivan’s division up the right-hand road which led to the back part of Princeton. Gen. Hugh Mercer’s brigade, a force of about three hundred and twenty-five men who were at the head of Gen. Nathanael Greene’s division, took the left-hand road toward Worth’s Mill apparently with orders to seize the bridge on the main road “for the double purpose of intercepting fugitives from Princeton, and to cover our [the American] rear against Lord Cornwallis from Trenton” (Wilkinson, Memoirs description begins James Wilkinson. Memoirs of My Own Times. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1816. description ends , 1:141; see also Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 33, and Smith, Battle of Princeton description begins Samuel Stelle Smith. The Battle of Princeton. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1967. description ends , 19–20).

Mercer’s brigade never got to the main road because on its march it unexpectedly encountered British troops. The British 17th and 55th regiments under the command of Lt. Col. Charles Mawhood marched from Princeton shortly before dawn on 3 Jan. to join Cornwallis at Trenton, leaving the 40th Regiment at Princeton to guard the stores there. The 17th Regiment in the van of Mawhood’s column crossed the bridge at Worth’s Mill about the time that the Americans reached the fork in the road a mile to the south. Neither force was aware of the other one’s presence in the area until a short time later when a few British light horsemen who were escorting Mawhood’s corps spotted the Americans and were sighted themselves by some officers at the rear of Sullivan’s division. Thinking that the British horsemen were part of a reconnaissance party, GW sent a message to Mercer ordering him to deal with them, and he proceeded with Sullivan’s division toward Princeton on the back road. Meanwhile, Mawhood’s column reversed its march and moved back up the main road toward the town. The 55th and 40th regiments occupied a position in front of Sullivan’s division on some high ground a short distance south of Princeton, while the 17th Regiment, supported by some men from the 55th Regiment and the 16th Regiment of Dragoons, engaged Mercer’s small brigade in an orchard off the main road about a mile southwest of the town (see Smith, Battle of Princeton description begins Samuel Stelle Smith. The Battle of Princeton. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1967. description ends , 19–21; Wilkinson, Memoirs description begins James Wilkinson. Memoirs of My Own Times. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1816. description ends , 1:141–42; “Inman’s Narrative,” 240; Sergeant R—, “Battle of Princeton,” 516–17; “Letter from an Officer of Distinction,” 5 Jan., in Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 446–48; and Collins, Ravages at Princeton description begins Varnum Lansing Collins, ed. A Brief Narrative of the Ravages of the British and Hessians at Princeton in 1776–77: A Contemporary Account of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1906. Reprint. New York, 1968. description ends , 32–33).

Capt. Thomas Rodney, whose Delaware militia company flanked Mercer’s brigade on its march, says in his diary that the troops of the 17th Regiment “posted themselves behind a long string of buildings and an orchard” and Mercer “never discovered the enemy until he was turning the buildings they were posted behind, and then they were not more than fifty yards off. He immediately formed his men, with great courage, and poured a heavy fire in upon the enemy, but they being greatly superior in number returned the fire and charged bayonets, and their onset was so fierce that Gen. Mercer fell mortally wounded and many of his officers were killed, and the brigade being effectually broken, began a disorderly flight. Col. Haslet retired some small distance behind the buildings and endeavored to rally them, but receiving a bullet through his head, dropt dead on the spot and the whole brigade fled in confusion” (Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 33–34; see also Sergeant R—, “Battle of Princeton,” 517, and Smith, Battle of Princeton description begins Samuel Stelle Smith. The Battle of Princeton. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1967. description ends , 21–23).

As Mercer’s men retreated, Col. John Cadwalader’s brigade, a force of about eleven hundred men who trailed Mercer’s brigade in Gen. Nathanael Greene’s division, moved forward to engage the 17th Regiment. “Our brigade,” Cadwalader writes in a letter of 5 Jan., “advanced through the skirts of a wood in front of the enemy, posted on an eminence with two field pieces. Gen. Greene ordered me to form as soon as we arrived on a hill about two or three hundred yards distance.” Cadwalader promptly began to deploy his men from their marching column. “This was done,” Cadwalader says, “in the face of the enemy and under a shower of grape shot. About half the first battalion was formed when they broke, fell back upon the column, threw the whole into confusion. I immediately rode round the left and formed a division [about fifty men], joined one man after the other to it: but the fire was so hot that they again broke. . . . Gen. Washington came down and exposed himself very much, but expostulated to no purpose. . . . I asked the General if it would not be proper to form about an hundred yards in the rear. He desired me to try, which succeeded beyond my expectation. I collected some of the brigade and some New England men, and advanced obliquely to the right, passed a fence, and marched up to the left of the enemy. Two small parties were formed on the left, and advanced at the same time, and bravely pushed up in the face of a heavy fire. The enemy then left their station and inclined to the left, and gave us several heavy fires, in which two were killed and several wounded. I pressed my party forward, huzzaed, and cried out ‘They fly, the day is our own’. . . . I fancy the enemy found it impossible to escape, as our troops all began to rally and join in the pursuit. They all dropped their packs and flew with the utmost precipitation, and we pursued with great eagerness” (“Letter from an Officer of Distinction,” 5 Jan., in Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 446–48).

The New Englanders who participated in the American counterattack were the men of Col. Daniel Hitchcock’s brigade whom GW had detached from the main column along with Col. Edward Hand’s Pennsylvania riflemen to reinforce Cadwalader’s brigade. Two cannon manned by Capt. Joseph Moulder’s Pennsylvania artillerymen and supported by the light infantrymen of captains Thomas Rodney and George Henry kept the British at bay while Cadwalader, Greene, and GW organized the counterattack (see Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 35–36; Sellers, “Peale’s Journal,” description begins Horace W. Sellers. “Charles Willson Peale, Artist—Soldier.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 38 (1914): 257–86. description ends 280–81; “Hood’s Relation” in Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 470; White, Narrative of Events description begins J. White. An Narrative of Events. As They Occurred from Time to Time, in the Revolutionary War; With an Account of the Battles, Of Trenton, Trenton-Bridge, and Princeton. Charlestown, Mass., 1833. description ends , 22–24; Wilkinson, Memoirs description begins James Wilkinson. Memoirs of My Own Times. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1816. description ends , 1:143–45; and Smith, Battle of Princeton description begins Samuel Stelle Smith. The Battle of Princeton. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1967. description ends , 23–25).

While the troops under GW’s immediate command pursued the broken 17th Regiment, General Sullivan sent two regiments forward to attack the 55th and 40th regiments defending the town, but they retreated in haste without offering any resistance. In the town the British did not make any attempt to defend the college building but fled toward New Brunswick closely pursued by the Americans. “There was but one gun fired at the college,” James Wilkinson says, “this from a six pounder, by an officer who was not advised the enemy had abandoned it” (Wilkinson, Memoirs description begins James Wilkinson. Memoirs of My Own Times. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1816. description ends , 1:144–45; see also “Beale’s Revolutionary Experiences,” description begins “Revolutionary Experiences of Major Robert Beale.” Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine 6 (1956): 500–506. description ends 500–506).

Gen. William Howe’s official casualty return shows that the British lost 276 officers and men in the engagement at Princeton. Eighteen officers and men were killed; fifty-eight officers and men were wounded; and two hundred officers and men were missing. In addition, an artillery lieutenant and nine enlisted artillery men were said to have been killed in the action (see Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 458).

9“Our loss at Princeton,” Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote Richard Henry Lee on 7 Jan., “amounted to about twenty-five killed and about forty wounded. Among the former were Colonel Haslet (a gallant officer), Major Fleming, Captains Neal and Shippen, and Lieutenant Morgan, of Philadelphia” (Butterfield, Rush Letters description begins L. H. Butterfield, ed. Letters of Benjamin Rush. 2 vols. Princeton, N.J., 1951. description ends , 1:125–27). Hugh Mercer did not die of his wounds until 12 January. Dr. Rush, who cared for Mercer at Princeton for several days following the battle, says in his letter to Richard Henry Lee of 7 Jan. that Mercer “is wounded in seven places with a bayonet. One of these wounds is in his forehead, but the most alarming of them are in his belly” (ibid.). James Potter (1729–1789), colonel of the 2d Regiment of Northumberland County, Pa., was wounded slightly and captured during the battle. He was exchanged a few days later. Potter became a brigadier general of militia in April 1777 and a major general of militia in May 1782, and in October 1780 he was named a member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council. Daniel Neil (c.1745–1777), captain of the eastern company of New Jersey artillery, was attached to Mercer’s brigade and died in Mercer’s engagement with the 17th Regiment. John Fleming, who was appointed a captain in the 1st Virginia Regiment in October 1775, was also with Mercer’s brigade. For a contemporary account of Fleming’s efforts to rally his men during the battle, see “Extracts of a letter from a General officer in the continental service, dated at Trenton, January 9,” in Dixon and Hunter’s edition of the Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg), 31 Jan. 1777. Other American officers killed in the Battle of Princeton include Capt. William Shippen of the marines, Lt. Bartholomew Yates of the 1st Virginia Regiment, and Ens. Anthony Morris, Jr., of the 1st Regiment of Philadelphia associators (see Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton description begins William S. Stryker. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. 1898. Reprint. Spartanburg, S.C., 1967. description ends , 452–56; see also Sergeant R—, “Battle of Princeton,” 517–18).

10“After we had been about two hours at Princeton,” Henry Knox wrote his wife on 7 Jan., “word was brought that the enemy were advanci[n]g from Trenton—this they did as we have since been inform’d in a most infernal Sweat, running puffing & blowing & swearing at being so outwitted—as we had other Objects in veiw to wit beati[n]g up their quarters we pursued our march to somerset Courthouse where there were about 1300 Quarter[ed] as we had been informed—they however had mar⟨ched⟩ off & joind the Army at Trenton—we at first intended to have made a forc’d march’d to Brunswick at which place was the baggage of their whole army & Genl Lee—but our men having been without either rest rum or provision for two nights & days were unequal to the task of marching 17 miles further—if we Could have procur’d 1000 fresh men at Prince[ton] to have push’d for Brunswick we should have struck one of the most Brillant strokes in All history. however the advantages are very great already they have Collected the Whole Force and drawn themselves to one point to wit Brunswick. the enemy were within 19 miles of Philadelphia, they are now 60 miles we have driven [them] from almost the Whole of West Jersey—the Panic is still Kept up” (NNGL: Knox Papers).

Somerset Court House (now Millstone, N.J.), where GW’s army arrived about sunset on 3 Jan., is about fifteen miles north of Princeton and about ten miles west of New Brunswick. The Americans marched on the main road from Princeton to Kingston and then proceeded down the east side of the Millstone River to Somerset Court House. “One division or a strong party of [British] horse,” Thomas Rodney writes in his diary, “took the road to the left [west] of the Millstone and arrived on the hill, at the bridge on that road just as the van of the American Army arrived on the opposite side. I was again commanding the van of our army, and General Washington seeing the enemy, rode forward and ordered me to halt and take down a number of carpenters which he had ordered forward and break up the bridge, which was done and the enemy were obliged to return” (Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 37; see also Sellers, “Peale’s Journal,” description begins Horace W. Sellers. “Charles Willson Peale, Artist—Soldier.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 38 (1914): 257–86. description ends 281–82, and “McMichael’s Diary,” description begins William P. McMichael. “Diary of Lieutenant James McMichael, of the Pennsylvania Line, 1776–1778.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 16 (1892): 129–59. description ends 141).

The van of the British army coming from Trenton reached Princeton about an hour after the Americans left the town (see Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 37). The British rear guard did not get to Princeton until about four o’clock in the afternoon of 3 January. About half an hour later the entire British force marched to New Brunswick sixteen miles to the northeast, where it arrived about six o’clock on the morning of 4 Jan. (see Lydenberg, Robertson’s Diaries description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends , 120–21; see also Ewald, Diary description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends , 49–50).

At daybreak on 4 Jan., Thomas Rodney says, the American “army was put in motion and passed on towards Brunswick and crossed the Raritan over a bridge 6 miles above that Town, but the General [GW] found the army was too much fatigued to attempt Brunswick as the enemy’s main body were so close after us, he therefore changed his course and went on to a place called Pluckemin situated among the mountains of Jersey about 10 miles from the last place [Somerset Court House]. Here he was obliged to encamp and await the coming up of nearly 1000 men who were not able through fatigue and hunger to keep up with the main body, for they had not had any refreshment for two days past and as all our baggage had been left at Trenton the army in this situation was obliged to encamp on the bleak mountains whose tops were covered with snow, without even blankets to cover them” (Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 38; see also “McMichael’s Diary,” description begins William P. McMichael. “Diary of Lieutenant James McMichael, of the Pennsylvania Line, 1776–1778.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 16 (1892): 129–59. description ends 141).

Lt. Charles Willson Peale, who was at Pluckemin with his company of Philadelphia associators, says in his diary entry for 5 Jan.: “The weather is very favorable, though rather cold; for had it rained or snowed we should have been badly off, as many of the men had no blankets. We spent this night much better than the last. . . . Many of the men, in their hard march on an icy road, were entirely barefooted. I got a raw hide to make them moccasins; but made a bad hand of it, for want of a proper needle or awl” ((Sellers, “Peale’s Journal,” description begins Horace W. Sellers. “Charles Willson Peale, Artist—Soldier.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 38 (1914): 257–86. description ends 283).

11GW’s army left Pluckemin on the morning of 6 Jan. and arrived at Morristown, about twelve miles to the northeast, by sunset (see Rodney, Thomas Rodney’s Diary description begins Cæsar A. Rodney, ed. Diary of Captain Thomas Rodney, 1776–1777. Wilmington, Del. 1888. In Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, vol. 8. description ends , 41; Sellers, “Peale’s Journal,” description begins Horace W. Sellers. “Charles Willson Peale, Artist—Soldier.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 38 (1914): 257–86. description ends 284; and “McMichael’s Diary,” description begins William P. McMichael. “Diary of Lieutenant James McMichael, of the Pennsylvania Line, 1776–1778.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 16 (1892): 129–59. description ends 141). GW established his winter quarters at Morristown and remained there until late May 1777.

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