Battle of Princeton
The Battle of Princeton- By Sergeant R
Three or four days after the victory at Trenton, the American army recrossed the Delaware into New Jersey. At this time our troops were in a 8, destitute and deplorable condition. The horses attached to our cannon were without shoes, and when passing over the ice they would slide in every direction and could advance only by the assistance of the soldiers. Our men, too,were without shoes or other comfortable clothing; and as traces of our march towards Princeton, the ground was literally marked with the blood of the soldiers' feet. Though my own feet did not bleed, they were so sore that their condition was little better. While we were at Trenton, on the last of December, 1776, the time for which I and most of my regiment had enlisted expired. At this trying time General Washington, having now but a little handful of men and many of them new recruits in which he could place but little confidence, ordered our regiment to be paraded, and personally addressed us, urging that we should stay a month longer. He alluded to our recent victory at Trenton; told us that our services were greatly needed, and that we could now do more for our country than we ever could at any future period; and in the most affectionate manner entreated us to stay. The drums beat for volunteers, but not a man turned out. The soldiers, worn down with fatigue and privations, had their hearts fixed on home and the comforts of the domestic circle, and it was hard to forego the anticipated pleasures of the society of our dearest friends.
The General wheeled his horse about, rode in front of the regiment and addressing us again said, "My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay only one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty and to your country which you probably never
can do under any other circumstances."
A few stepped forth, and their example was immediately followed b, nearly all who were fit for duty in the regiment, amounting to about five hundred volunteers. (About half of these volunteers were killed in the battle | of Princeton or died of the small pox soon after.) An officer enquired of the General if these men should be enrolled. He replied: "No! men who will volunteer in such a case as this need no enrollment to keep them to their duty."
Leaving our fires kindled to deceive the enemy, we decamped that night and by a circuitous route took up our line of march for Princeton. General Mercer commanded the front guard of which the two hundred volunteers composed a part. About sunrise of the 3rd January, 1777, reaching the summit of a hill near Princeton, we observed a light-horseman looking towards us, as we view an object when the sun shines directly in our faces. Gen. Mercer observing him, gave orders to the riflemen who were posted on the right to pick him off. Several made ready, but at that instant he wheeled about | and was out of their reach. Soon after this as we were descending a hill I through an orchard, a party of the enemy who were entrenched behind a bank and fence rose and fired upon us. Their first shot passed over our heads, cutting the limbs of the trees under which we were marching.... Our fire | was most destructive; their ranks grew thin and the victory seemed nearly complete when the British were reinforced. Many of our brave men hid fallen, and we were unable to withstand such superior numbers of fresh troops. !
I soon heard Gen. Mercer command in a tone of distress, "Retreat!" He was mortally wounded and died shortly after. I looked about for the main body of the army which I could not discover, discharged my musket at part of the enemy, and ran for a piece of wood at a little distance where I thought I might shelter. At this moment Washington appeared in front of the American army, riding towards those of us who were retreating, and exclaimed, "Parade with us, my brave fellows! There is but a handful of the enemy, and we will have them directly." I immediately joined the main body, and marched over the ground again. |
. . . The British were unable to resist this attack, and retreated into the College, where they thought themselves safe. Our army was there in an instant, and cannon were planted before the door, and after two ol three discharges a white flag appeared at the window, and the British surrendered They were a haughty, crabbed set of men, as they fully exhibited Nvhlie prisoners on their march to the country. In this battle my pack, whicl~ Noms made fast by leather strings, was shot from my back, and with it went NvLar little clothing I had. It was, however, soon replaced by one which had bc longed to a British officer and was well furnished. It was not mine loa., for it was stolen shortly afterwards....