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The New International Encyclopædia/Princeton, Battle of

PRINCETON, Battle of. A battle of the American Revolution, fought January 3, 1777, at Princeton, N. J., between an American force under General Washington and an inferior British force under Colonel Mawhood and General Leslie. On January 2d Cornwallis with about 8000 men took up a position on the west bank of the Assunpink, at Trenton opposite the American army, which was inferior in every way to his own. Washington, unable on account of the floating ice to retreat across the Delaware, immediately resolved to attack the British detachments at Princeton and New Brunswick, and, leaving his camp fires burning, marched around the British left during the night. Reaching the Stony Brook Bridge, about three miles from Princeton, at sunrise, he sent General Mercer with about 400 men to destroy the bridge on the main road to Princeton, and went himself by a shorter way. The British force at Princeton, on its way to Trenton, encountered Mercer's brigade at the bridge. The Americans, occupying a piece of rising ground, began a vigorous fire upon the British, who soon made a bayonet charge and drove them from their position. During the fight General Mercer was mortally wounded, and his troops slowly retreated. The British pursued, but were soon stopped by a force of regulars and militia under Washington, who displayed the greatest personal gallantry. After a short but fierce engagement, the British retreated rapidly, some toward Trenton and some toward New Brunswick, while Washington entered Princeton and seized the military stores left there by the enemy. On the approach of Cornwallis, he withdrew, and took up a strong position at Morristown. The British loss was more than 100 killed and wounded, and about 230 prisoners. The American loss was about 100. Strategically the battle was very important, as it forced Cornwallis to fall back to New York, and left New Jersey in the possession of the Americans, besides inspiring the hitherto discouraged people to renewed efforts against the enemy. Consult: Stryker, Battles of Trenton and Princeton (Boston, 1898); and Johnston, Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn (Brooklyn, 1878).