SHARE:
In his famed “Battle of Princeton” painting, 18th-century artist John Trumbull celebrates George Washington’s heroic arrival on the battlefield (on a brown horse, with Dr. Benjamin Rush) and depicts British grenadiers bayoneting Washington’s friend, Gen. Hugh Mercer. Mercer died 9 days later in the battlefield’s Thomas Clarke House, despite Dr. Rush’s care.
John Trumbull

Princeton

New Jersey  |  Jan 3, 1777

After crossing the Delaware on December 25, 1776, George Washington embarked on a ten day campaign that would change the course of the war. Culminating at the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777, Washington snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and proved his amateur army could defeat the British.

The Battle of Princeton was a classic meeting engagement, both sides stumbled into one another, and neither expected to fight on the ground where the battle raged. Initially, the British commander Charles Mawhood, marched his force south towards Trenton to meet the main British army, when he spotted the American column. Washington had stolen a march on Charles Lord Cornwallis, slipping away from the British forces along Assunpink Creek the night before.

When the American's spotted British troopers around William Clarke's farm, Washington detached Hugh Mercer's brigade to investigate. Mercer ran headlong into the 17th Foot, firmly stationed behind a fence at the end of Clarke's orchard. In the ensuing volleys, Mercer was wounded and his men routed by a bayonet charge. With the outnumbered British on the verge of splitting his army, Washington quickly detached John Cadwalader's Philadelphia Associatiors to plug the gap. These green troops fought valiantly, but were also broken by British bayonets.

With the battle, and the war, hanging in the balance, Washington personally led fresh troops onto the field while grapeshot and canister from Joseph Moulder's artillery battery forced the British back towards William Clarke's farmhouse. Washington's counterattack broke the British line, which quickly turned into a rout. 

Further towards town, two smaller engagements at Frog Hollow and on the grounds of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), also resulted in British retreat. Washington had won a great victory, defeating an inferior force of British regulars, but Colonel Mawhood was also praised for delaying the American's long enough to rescue most of his supplies.

All battles of the New York and New Jersey Campaign

Rev War  |  Battle
Brooklyn
New York  |  Aug 27, 1776
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 2,388
American: 2,000
British: 388
Rev War  |  Battle
Pell's Point
New York  |  Oct 18, 1776
Result: British Victory
American: 21
British: 244
Rev War  |  Battle
White Plains
New York  |  Oct 28, 1776
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 450
American: 217
British: 233
Rev War  |  Battle
Fort Washington
New York  |  Nov 16, 1776
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 613
American: 155
British: 458
Rev War  |  Battle
Trenton
New Jersey  |  Dec 26, 1776
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 910
American: 5
British: 905
Rev War  |  Battle
Princeton
New Jersey  |  Jan 3, 1777
Result: American Victory
American: 75
British: 270

Related Battles

Princeton, NJ | January 3, 1777
Result: American Victory
Commanders
Estimated Casualties
American
75
British
270

The Battlefields Today