This day in history, January 3, 1777, General George Washington defeated the British, led by General Lord Charles Cornwallis at Princeton, New Jersey.
On the night of January 2, George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, 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 of 8,000 Redcoats, and went to attack the British garrison at Princeton.
Washington left his campfires burning, muffled the wheels of his army’s wagons and snuck around the side of the British camp. As the Continentals headed north at dawn, they met the straggling British rear guard, which they outnumbered 5 to 1.
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 and Washington sent some militia under Brigadier General John Cadwalader to help him. 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, driving them back. 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 ranks and more men began to enlist in the army. The battle was the last major action of Washington’s winter New Jersey campaign.