The Battle of Princeton (January 3, 1777) was a pivotal battle in which General George Washington's revolutionary forces defeated British forces.

On the night of January 2, 1777 George Washington repulsed a British attack at the Battle of the Assunpink Creek in Trenton. That night, he evacuated his position, circled around General Lord Cornwallis' army, and went to attack the British 4th Brigade garrisoned at Princeton. Brigadier General Hugh Mercer of the Continental Army clashed with two regiments under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood of the British Army. Mercer and his troops were overrun. Washington sent some militia under Brigadier General John Cadwalader in support. The militia, on seeing the flight of Mercer's men, also began to flee. Washington rode up with reinforcements and rallied the fleeing militia. He then led the attack on Mawhood's troops. Mawhood 17th Reg of about 800 men were surrounded.  Mawhood gave the order to retreat and most of the troops tried to flee to Cornwallis in Trenton.

In Princeton itself, Brigadier General John Sullivan encouraged some British troops who had taken refuge in Nassau Hall to surrender, ending the battle. After the battle, Washington moved his army to Morristown, and with their third defeat in ten days, the British evacuated southern New Jersey. With the victory at Princeton, morale rose in the American ranks and more men began to enlist in the army. The battle was the last major action of Washington's winter New Jersey campaign of ‘77.  Part of the site of the battle is now Princeton Battlefield State Park, a National Historic Landmark.

Click for larger image.  Map courtesy of

Hand drawn map of Princeton
  • For an excellent video on the Ten Crucial Days Campaign,click here
  • For a lecture on the Battle of Princeton by famed historian, Tom Fleming,click here

Click for larger image.  Map courtesy of

The Caldwalader "Spy" Map

To read more about the Battle of Princeton, and the Ten Crucial Days Campaign from December 25, 1776 to January 3, 1777,click here.

Phases III and IV 8:30 am to 8:45am

Battle of Princeton Phases I & II courtesy of Mount Vernon

Click for larger image.  Map courtesy of

Facts about The Battle of Princeton

  • After its darkest days, Princeton revived the flagging patriot spirits and changed the course of the American Revolution!
  • Washington’s First Victory over the British on a Battlefield (Trenton was fought against the Hessians just 8 days before on December 26, 1776).
  • US Marines suffer their first battlefield death at the Battle of Princeton. 3 companies of marines came with Washington from Philadelphia, including one African American Marine named Orange.
  • A brilliant daring night march of 18 miles by Washington’s army around the flank of a larger British army which was positioned just yards from his front lines to attack its rear. By marching his army around the flank of the British army he avoided almost assured destruction by the British army at Trenton while demonstrating his ability to pick off British outposts and threaten British supplies and communications. His victory ultimately leads to the liberation of New Jersey.
  • Washington’s leadership abilities and personal bravery are demonstrated by his rallying of two broken brigades and leading them back into battle and facing a British volley at 30 paces. Washington threatens a double envelopment of the main British force and drives them off the field.
  • Washington threatens the British payroll 20 miles up the road from Princeton in New Brunswick and guarded by a mere 100 men. Washington places his own army between British army and their payroll which panics the British.

The Battle of Princeton

Phases I and II 7:40am to 8:30am

Battle of Princeton Phases III & IV courtesy of Mount Vernon