(Princeton, N.J.) – The Institute for Advanced Study and the American Battlefield Trust have closed on the Trust’s $4 million purchase of 14.85 acres associated with the 1777 Battle of Princeton. The land, adjacent to the current Princeton Battlefield State Park, will be preserved while enabling the Institute to complete construction of new housing for its faculty on its campus.
The newly acquired land, which will eventually be conveyed to New Jersey as an addition to the existing Princeton Battlefield State Park, includes approximately two-thirds of the Maxwell’s Field property, along with an additional 1.12-acre tract north of the property that has been identified by historians as a key part of the battlefield.
Looking southeast across Princeton Battlefield State Park, the viewer sees the distant high ground from which Gen. George Washington counterattacked British forces during the Battle of Princeton, after rallying his Continental Army troops.
Eric Malave / American Battlefield Trust
To make the acquisition possible, the Institute reduced the footprint of its housing project by substituting a new plan to build 16 townhomes for its original proposal to subdivide lots for seven single-family houses and eight townhouses. After closing, the Trust and the Institute will continue to collaborate to fully restore the battlefield site and complete construction of the faculty housing. The Trust intends to install interpretive trails and signage on the land to better tell the story of the Washington’s Charge phase of this pivotal battle.
Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute, joined James Lighthizer, President of the American Battlefield Trust, in saying, “We are pleased to finalize this landmark transaction, which addresses the Institute’s critical need for faculty housing and enhances the size and preservation efforts of the Princeton Battlefield State Park.”
An artist depicts a preserved and restored Washington’s Charge site (center right), with new housing (right) for the Institute of Advanced Study faculty, and the existing Princeton Battlefield State Park. The IAS campus adjoins fields associated with “Washington’s Charge” during the Battle of Princeton, fought on Jan. 3, 1777. The Mercer Oak’s offspring is at center top in the fenced enclosure, with the Princeton Battlefield State Park’s memorial colonnade beyond.
Peter Giraudeau / American Battlefield Trust
“This addition to the Princeton battlefield is one of the most important acquisitions in the Trust’s 30-year history and preserves the site of one of the defining moments of the American Revolution,” Lighthizer noted. “We have raised nearly $3.2 million from private donors, matched with $837,000 awarded by the National Park Service and the Mercer County Open Space Assistance Program.
In addition to the private and public funds raised to purchase the Washington’s Charge site, in 2017 the Trust received a federal grant to create a five-year preservation and interpretation plan for the Princeton battlefield, to help prepare the battlefield for its 250th anniversary in 2027.
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 / Yale University Art Gallery
“This landscape is a precious reminder of America’s struggle to create a democratic republic dedicated to ordinary people’s liberty,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson, who taught U.S. history at Princeton University for 42 years. “Of all the sites that figured in George Washington’s ‘Ten Crucial Days’ campaign, it is the only one that survives for people to see, understand and appreciate today.”
Princeton Battlefield Society President Jerry Hurwitz said, “The land purchase brings to fruition decades of work to preserve the Princeton battlefield and honor the men who fought on this land 240 years ago.”
About the Institute for Advanced Study
The Institute for Advanced Study, founded in 1930, is a private, independent academic institution in Princeton, New Jersey. Its more than 8,000 former members have held positions of intellectual and scientific leadership throughout the academic world. Thirty-three Nobel Laureates and 41 out of 56 Fields Medalists, as well as many winners of the Wolf and MacArthur prizes, have been affiliated with the Institute. Learn more at www.ias.edu.
About the American Battlefield Trust
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. To date, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected nearly 50,000 acres of battlefield land associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.
About the Battle of Princeton
Fought on Jan. 3, 1777, the Battle of Princeton culminated an audacious, 10-day campaign that began with Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776. In a series of daring maneuvers, Washington successfully attacked isolated elements of the British army. His decisive charge at Princeton marked his army’s first victory over British regulars and revitalized the cause of American independence.