General George Washington had just defeated the Hessians in Trenton on December 26, 1776. He and the rest of the colonial army were staying in Trenton. But General Washington's troubles were far from over. Most of General Washington's troops were going to leave soon. Their enlistment ended on January 1, 1777. General Washington asked the men to stay and offered them $10 each, which was a lot of money then. About half of the men agreed to reenlist. painting of George Washington General George Washington General Washington needed to win the next battle. If he lost, his troops might lose confidence and leave. Then the Revolutionary War might never succeed. Meanwhile, the British prepared for an attack against General Washington. General Cornwallis gathered 6,000 British troops in Princeton and marched to Trenton. Lt. General Charles Mawhood commanded the remaining soldiers in Princeton.
General Washington needed to win the next battle. If he lost, his troops might lose confidence and leave. Then the Revolutionary War might never succeed.
Meanwhile, the British prepared for an attack against General Washington. General Cornwallis gathered 6,000 British troops in Princeton and marched to Trenton. Lt. General Charles Mawhood commanded the remaining soldiers in Princeton.
On January 2, American and British troops met outside of Trenton. General Washington placed troops by a bridge to keep the British from crossing the Assunpink Creek. The Americans kept the British from crossing for hours. By the time the Americans retreated, it was dark. General Cornwallis' troops were tired from fighting. He decided to stop for the night and attack General Washington in the morning.
General Washington saw his chance to escape. Some of his officers knew back roads that would lead around the British and up to Princeton. General Washington kept around 400 troops in Trenton to keep the fires burning and make it appear everything was normal. Soldiers took the army's supplies to Burlington, so the British couldn't steal them. General Washington led the rest of the army down a back road. Everyone was silent, and the cannon wheels were covered with rags to keep it silent.
Stony Brook Bridge
General Washington sent a group of soldiers, led by General Mercer, to the Stony Brook Bridge. They wanted to destroy the bridge because the British used it to move troops between Princeton and Trenton. As they walked towards the bridge they met British troops led by Colonel Mahwood. They began fighting.
The fight looked bleak for the Americans in the beginning. The British outnumbered them and had better weapons. Partway through the battle American reinforcements arrived. This didn't help them, though, and the Americans began to retreat. General Washington rode up on horseback and prevented the soldiers from leaving. He bravely rode to the battlefield where he risked being shot by the British. He wanted to rally the Americans to win the battle. The Americans began to fight with renewed strength and cause the British to retreat.
Some of the British retreated to Trenton and others went to Princeton. The Americans followed the British to Princeton because General Cornwallis and thousands of British troops were in Trenton.
The British barricaded themselves in Nassau Hall in the center of Princeton. General Washington and the Americans surrounded the building and shot cannonballs at it. One cannonball left a dent in the building that can still be seen today. According to legend, another cannonball went through a window and decapitated a portrait of King George. The frame was later used to hang a portrait of George Washington.
The British in Nassau Hall surrendered. The Americans killed or wounded over 80 British soldiers. Only 40 Americans were killed or wounded.
Meanwhile, General Cornwallis and his British troops were still in Trenton. When he heard the cannons General Cornwallis realized General Washington had escaped again. General Cornwallis quickly marched to Princeton. When he arrived, General Washington had just left.
After the Battle
General Washington was marching towards New Brunswick. The British kept their stock of supplies there. The American army needed more supplies. When they stopped near Somerset, General Washington saw his soldiers were hungry and tired. Instead of attacking New Brunswick, General Washington decided to camp for the winter. He took his army to Morristown where they safely set up winter quarters.
General Cornwallis thought New Brunswick might be attacked next. The British quickly marched there to protect their supplies. Soon after they arrived, General Howe ordered the British to leave New Jersey except for a few soldiers in Perth Amboy and New Brunswick.
The battles of Trenton and Princeton were part of the "Ten Crucial Days" of the American Revolution. The battles turned the war around for the Americans. Many people who gave up hope now believed America would win the Revolution.