(February 22, 2016 | Princeton, N.J.) – During a ceremony this morning at the Nassau Inn in Princeton, veterans, historians and preservationists gathered to announce Veterans for Princeton, a national association of current and former military personnel united in their determination to protect the historic Princeton Battlefield. The new group opposes plans by the Institute for Advanced Study to build faculty housing on Maxwell’s Field, the location of the climactic charge that determined the 1777 Battle of Princeton.
Keynoting this morning’s announcement of Veterans for Princeton was Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, a 40-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. In his remarks, Lt. Gen. Mills emphasized the need to preserve the Princeton Battlefield: “We can never forget the sacrifices of the tattered Continentals who fought the greatest army of their time to achieve victory at Princeton. The Princeton Battlefield is a living memorial to these men. It is a sad commentary on our times that such a hallowed site is being considered for housing which could be built anywhere.”
Lt. Gen. Mills led troops in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, and was the first Marine Corps General Officer to command NATO forces in combat. He is current president of the Marine Corps University Foundation, Quantico, Va.
Joining Lt. Gen. Mills at the announcement were Mike Miller, lead historian for the U.S. Marine Corps History Division, and James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Trust and leader of Campaign 1776, the Trust’s national initiative to protect Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields. (Campaign 1776 is now the Revolutionary War Trust, a division of the American Battlefield Trust.)
“Today, we ask America’s veterans to add their voices to the growing number of historians, preservation advocates, government officials and community leaders who recognize the significance of this battlefield and urge its preservation,” Lighthizer remarked. “As a descendent of a common soldier who fought under Washington during the Battle of Princeton, I am proud to stand with those seeking to protect this irreplaceable national treasure.”
The announcement of Veterans for Princeton was timed to coincide with George Washington’s 284th birthday commemoration. Washington was not just our first president; he was also the U.S. military’s first commander-in-chief. During the Battle of Princeton, Washington conspicuously led a counterattack on horseback that swept the vaunted British Army from the field. His victory was the capstone of a daring 10-day campaign that saved an American cause that seemed all but lost less than two weeks previously.
The right wing of Washington’s famous counterattack occurred on Maxwell’s Field, a 22-acre tract owned by the Institute for Advanced Study. The majority of the tract has been identified as core battlefield by the National Park Service, and fully half of the property is incorporated within the National Historic Landmark boundary for the Princeton Battlefield. Despite the property’s historic pedigree, the Institute is moving forward with plans to build 15 faculty houses on the site.
“The land in question is the very spot where Washington launched his audacious charge against British forces,” stated Jack Warren, executive director of the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati “This ground is where the American Revolution — and our country as we know it — were saved. It is also one of the few intact Revolutionary War battlefields left in the nation.” The Society of the Cincinnati, founded at the end of the War for Independence in 1783, is America’s first and oldest veterans’ organization.
Both Lt. Gen. Mills and historian Mike Miller stated in their remarks that Princeton holds a special place in the illustrious history of the U.S. Marine Corps. The January 3, 1777, engagement was the first land battle fought by the Marines. It is also where the Corps suffered its first battlefield death.
“The Battle of Princeton is essential to the legacies of the Marine Corps and our country’s armed forces,” Miller said. “It is difficult for modern-day Americans to imagine the harsh realities of service in the Continental Army during the Revolution. Hallowed battlegrounds like Princeton represent outdoor classrooms that teach us about citizen soldiers who endured danger, disease, exposure and death to forge the nation we are today.”
Miller is one of several accomplished historians, business leaders and preservation advocates who serve on the leadership council for Veterans for Princeton. Other members include:
- Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian emeritus of the National Park Service, joined the Marine Corps in 1942 and fought in the Pacific before being severely wounded at Suicide Creek on Cape Gloucester, New Britain.
- Carlton Crenshaw, a retired business and finance executive, is the founder of the Marine Corps Heritage Museum. He served as a Marine Corps officer during the Vietnam War, earning a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.
- Clark B. Hall, retired FBI agent, criminal investigations expert and prolific military historian, served as a combat infantryman in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.
- Bill Spadea, prominent New Jersey radio and television host, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former board member of the Princeton Battlefield Society.
- Robert Uhler, a business leader and marketing strategy expert, graduated from West Point and served in the renowned 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War, earning two Bronze Stars and other commendations.
- Glenn Williams, a current member of the Princeton Battlefield Society board, is a U.S. Army veteran and senior historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History.
Veterans for Princeton council member Edwin Bearss added: “When I answered the call to serve my country in World War II, I felt a kinship with every soldier who marched before me. The soldierly bond felt across generations helps veterans understand better than most the importance of preserving battlefield land in honor of those who struggled there.”
Princeton resident and Veterans for Princeton council member Bill Spadea added: “Not only are we fighting to preserve this hallowed ground; we are fighting to honor the sacrifices of veterans who fought for American independence, and for all veterans who have served and continue to serve our nation.”
An informal coalition of preservation groups, concerned citizens, and historians have repeatedly urged the Institute for Advanced Study to consider alternatives to its plan to build housing on the Maxwell’s Field property. The local Princeton Battlefield Society has been the principal advocate for protection of the site. The National Trust for Historic Preservation identified the Princeton Battlefield as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2012, as a result of the Maxwell’s Field controversy. The Civil War Trust, through its Campaign 1776 initiative, has offered to buy the Maxwell’s Field tract from the Institute for $4.5 million, so it can be preserved and incorporated into Princeton Battlefield State Park.
About Veterans for Princeton: Veterans for Princeton is an association of American service veterans and active duty military personnel with an abiding interest in the protection of the historic Princeton Battlefield. The group seeks to educate the public about the role of Continental soldiers who achieved victory at Princeton against formidable odds, and to assist with long-term preservation and stewardship of the battlefield and state park. Veterans for Princeton opposes the Institute for Advanced Study’s plans to develop Maxwell’s Field, the site of Washington’s famous counterattack that decided the battle.
Campaign 1776 was created in 2014 as an initiative of the Civil War Trust; in May 2018 it became the Revolutionary War Trust, a division of the American Battlefield Trust.