Battle of Princeton 1777


Howe sent troops south to take on Washington in Trenton. The American troops sidestepped the British forces in Trenton, instead battling them in Princeton. The Battle of Princeton fought on Jan 3, 1777 was won by the Americans at the last moment, forcing the British to withdraw to New Brunswick.

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After his victory in Trenton, Washington reviewed his options. After discussions with his generals, Washington decided to cross the Delaware once again, to pursue the retreated and disheartened British troops. The American troops did not all get across the Delaware until December 31st. Crossing the Delaware on the last day of December presented a significant challenge to General Washington, since many of his mens' terms of service ended the next day (on January 1st). However, Washington secured their continued service by offering a signing bonus of $10 (considered a large sum at that time) for all those who agreed to stay in the army.
By the time Washington's army had fully crossed the Delaware, the British forces had reorganized. American forces returned to Trenton, while a large British force commanded by General Cornwalis headed for Trenton. On January 2nd 1777, 8,000 British troops departed Princeton for the 10 mile march to Trenton. It took the British forces all day to arrive at the Assunpink Creek, where American forces had established a strong defensive line. As soon as he had what he believed to be sufficient forces in place, Cornwalis ordered the first assault across the one bridge that spanned the Creek. His troops were met with murderous fire from the Continentals.Three assaults failed before nightfall. 365 British soldiers fell trying to cross the bridge. This brought the one day loss of the British to 500 soldiers, which included those shot by snipers during their march to Trenton.

Overnight, with a large British army facing him across the creek, Washington and his advisors needed to decide whether to stand and fight or withdraw back across the Delaware. The Americans ultimately decided on a third options. They proceeded instead to outflank the British forces and attempt to capture Princeton, toward the British rear (where the British had not left a large number of troops behind to guard.) Washington’s forces succeeded in moving off their lines past the British forces and toward Princeton.

As the American forces were approaching Princeton they collided with British forces heading South to Trenton. The British force was heavily outnumbered as they faced the American forces in an open field. The British troops fought stubbornly, and at times it looked like the day might be theirs. However, General Washington became personally engaged in the battle, directing the troops from his large grey horse. Finally, the outnumbered British troops broke and retreated toward Princeton. The American troops were closely on their heels, defeating any attempt at resistance. By the end of the day, the British forces had lost 450 troops, while the Americans lost only 37 dead. The American victory at Princeton capped off ten days that changed the direction of the war. Before their victory at Trenton, the American forces had been defeated. At that point, it appeared the Americans were one battle from away from total defeat. By January 4th, the British had effectively been forced out of Southern New Jersey.