Skip to content

I hear voices in my head and they don’t like you.Edward Cullen

January 3, 2009
 

hoot302006_049

This is an ancient hallow, and ere the kings failed or the Tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here. For it is said that, though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake. ~ Gandalf in The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien

 

1777 – American general George Washington defeats British general Charles Cornwallis at the Battle of Princeton.

300px-princetonwashingtonThe Battle of Princeton (January 3, 1777) was a battle in which General Washington‘s revolutionary forces defeated British forces near Princeton, New Jersey. The site is administered as a state park operated and maintained by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry.

Background

On the night of December 25, 1776 General George Washington, Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, led 2,400 men across the Delaware River. After a nine mile march, they seized the town of Trenton, killing or wounding over 1000 Hessians and capturing 900 more. Soon after capturing the town, Washington led the army back across the Delaware into Pennsylvania. On the 29th, Washington once again led the army across the river, and established a defensive position at Trenton. On the 31st, Washington appealed to his men to stay for just six more weeks for an extra bounty of ten dollars. His appeal worked, and most of the men agreed to stay. Also, that day, Washington learned that Congress had voted to give him dictatorial powers for six months.

On the morning of January 2, General Lord Cornwallis left Princeton in command of 8,000 men who were sent to attack Washington’s army of 6,000 troops. Washington sent troops to skirmish with the approaching British and delay their advance. Indeed, it was almost nightfall by the time the British reached Trenton. After three failed attempts to cross the bridge over the Assunpink Creek, beyond which were the American defenses, Cornwallis called off the attack until the next day.

The night after the Battle of the Assunpink Creek (also known as the Second Battle of Trenton), General Washington stealthily led the roughly 6,500-man main body of his army away from Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis and his troops. To disguise the departure of the American soldiers, Washington left a detachment of 500 Pennsylvania militia behind to tend to large campfires and periodically fire volleys from two cannons.

During the night, Washington’s army marched over a back road toward Princeton and reached the Quaker Bridge over Stony Brook, about a mile and a half south of the town. The Quaker Bridge was not strong enough to support the army’s cannon and ammunition carts, so another bridge had to be hastily built. While it was being constructed, Washington divided his army into two groups: a large right wing under General John Sullivan, and a smaller left wing with 2,300 men under General Nathanael Greene. Washington had intended to attack Princeton before dawn, but the sun was rising.

Greene’s assignment was to advance to the Princeton-Trenton highway to block traffic there and destroy the highway bridge over Stony Brook. Sullivan’s division, the main attack force, moved toward the rear of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). The British were known to have outposts on the roads leading north, east, and west, so Sullivan took an abandoned road that went into town from the east.

Before Greene’s wing could reach the highway, its leading brigade, made up of 350 men under General Hugh Mercer of Virginia, met up with 800 men of the British 4th Brigade, armed with 2 light guns, under the overall command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood. The British group had been marching from Princeton to Trenton to reinforce General Leslie’s 2nd Brigade. The remaining unit of the 4th Brigade had been left to hold Princeton along with another 400 men.

The Battle

Upon sighting the American force, Mawhood formed up his men in a defensive position across the edge of an orchard, which Mercer’s troops were passing through. A violent firefight ensued, and Mawhood launched an assault which largely cleared the orchard of Mercer’s troops, who began to retreat in confusion. General Mercer was wounded but refused to surrender. When he tried to attack the enemy with his sword, he was bayoneted and presumed dead; he died of his wounds nine days later. Colonel John Haslet of Delaware replaced General Mercer and was killed by a shot to the head.

The death of Mercer. Washington is the background.

During the confusion, General Washington rode up to rally Mercer’s men, while a fresh brigade of 2,100 troops under General John Cadwalader arrived with an artillery battery. Washington then rode straight into the British fire, personally leading the attack. As Washington charged towards the British lines, he was heard yelling

“Parade with me my brave fellows, we will have them soon!”

 Legend has it that Washington was obscured by smoke, but when it cleared, he was still there.

With Cadwalader’s reinforcements and Washington’s successful rallying of Mercer’s men, the larger American force was able to attack the British flanks and retake most of the orchard, until fire from Mawhood’s guns halted the American advance.

A second British assault cleared the orchard, and seemed about to win the day until Sullivan led up another 1,300 troops. Now outnumbered nearly 6 to 1, Mawhood led a final charge to break through the American lines. A number of British soldiers broke through the Americans in a desperate bayonet charge, continuing down the road to Trenton. Washington led some of his force in pursuit of Mawhood, then abandoned the pursuit and turned around when some of Leslie’s 2nd Brigade troops were sighted. The remainder of the British force fell back to Princeton, where, along with the troops already present, they defended the town against Sullivan’s force before retreating to New Brunswick. A number of British troops left behind in Princeton, facing overwhelming numbers and artillery fire, surrendered. The British casualty list stated 86 killed and wounded, and 200 captured. The Americans suffered 40 killed and wounded.

Washington rallying the army

In Trenton, Cornwallis and his men awoke to the sounds of cannon fire coming from behind their position. Cornwallis and his army began to race towards Princeton. However, Washington’s rear guard had managed to damage the bridge over the Stony Brook, and American snipers further delayed Cornwallis’ advance. The exhausted American Army slipped away, marching to Somerset County Courthouse (now Millstone), where they spent the night. When the main British force finally reached Princeton late in the day, they did not stay but quickly continued on toward New Brunswick.

Aftermath

The Princeton Battle Monument in Princeton Borough, NJ

Princeton Battlefield State Park

After the battle, Cornwallis abandoned many of his posts in New Jersey, and ordered his army to retreat to New Brunswick. The battle at Princeton cost the British some 276 men killed, wounded or captured and greatly boosted the morale of the Continental troops, leading 8,000 new recruits to join the Continental Army.

American historians often consider the Battle of Princeton a great victory, on par with the battle of Trenton, due to the subsequent loss of control of most of New Jersey by the Crown forces, as well as the important political implications of the battle across the Atlantic in France and Spain, both of which would expand their military aid to the Continental forces after the battle. Fredrick the Great is said to have pronounced Washington’s achievements in those few weeks “the most brilliant in military history”.

The site of the battlefield is south of Princeton and has become the Princeton Battlefield State Park. The mortally wounded General Mercer reportedly rested under an oak tree on the battlefield. The surrounding Mercer County is now named after him; the Mercer Oak is pictured on its seal. The tree died in 2000 and a replacement grown from its acorns was planted on the site.

The 3rd Battalion/112th Field Artillery Regiment claims lineage from the Eastern Artillery Company of New Jersey assigned to Thomas Procter’s 4th Continental Artillery Regiment, which took part in battle of Princeton.

Princeton Battlefield State Park

The State of New Jersey preserves 100 acres (0.40 km2) of the site as the Princeton Battlefield State Park. The park is located on Mercer Road (Princeton Pike), about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south of Princeton University and 3.8 miles (6.1 km) north of Interstate 295/95

1959Alaska is admitted as the 49th U.S. State.

Flag of Alaska             State seal of Alaska

Alaska  is the largest state of the United States of America by area; it is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait. As of 2007, the population was 683,478 with approximately 50% residing along the Anchorage metropolitan areas.

The area that became Alaska was purchased from the Russian Empire after Western Union discontinued construction of its first electric telegraph line which ran from California, up the coast of North America, across the Bering Strait, continuing to Moscow and into the European telegraph network. Despite $3 million in U.S. investment for the Russian-American telegraph expedition, work ceased upon the completion of the competing Transatlantic telegraph cable. The U.S. realized the potential of continuing the line to Moscow and sent Secretary of State William H. Seward to negotiate with the Russian Ambassador to fund the remaining phases of the telegraph line. Russia didn’t see the potential in funding so Alaska was offered in exchange for the value of the Russian-American telegraph. The Russians feared that if they did not sell Russian North America, it would be taken from them by the westward expansion of the United States and Canada. They tried to play one potential purchaser off against the other to start a bidding war, but this was largely unsuccessful.

The U.S. Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire on March 30, 1867, for $7.2 million at 2 cents per acre, about 5 cents per hectare. When adjusted for inflation, the total sum paid equates to approximately $111 million in today’s dollars.The land went through several administrative changes before becoming an organized territory on May 11, 1912 and the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959. The name “Alaska” was already introduced in the Russian colonial time, when it was only used for the peninsula and is derived from the Aleut alaxsxaq, meaning “the mainland”, or more literally, “the object towards which the action of the sea is directed.” It is also known as Alyeska, the “great land”, an Aleut word derived from the same root.

The first European contact with Alaska occurred in the year 1741, when Vitus Bering led an expedition for the Russian Navy aboard the St. Peter. After his crew returned to Russia bearing sea otter pelts judged to be the finest fur in the world, small associations of fur traders began to sail from the shores of Siberia towards the Aleutian islands. The first permanent European settlement was founded in 1784, and the Russian-American Company carried out an expanded colonization program during the early to mid-1800s. New Archangel on Kodiak Island was Alaska’s first capital, but for a century under both Russia and the U.S. Sitka was the capital. The Russians never fully colonized Alaska, and the colony was never very profitable. William H. Seward, the U.S. Secretary of State, negotiated the Alaskan purchase in 1867 for $7.2 million. Alaska was loosely governed by the military for years, and was unofficially a territory of the United States from 1884 on.

In the 1890s, gold rushes in Alaska and the nearby Yukon Territory brought thousands of miners and settlers to Alaska. Alaska was granted official territorial status in 1912. At this time the capital was moved to Juneau.

During World War II, the Aleutian Islands Campaign focused on the three outer Aleutian Islands — Attu, Agattu and Kiska – that were invaded by Japanese troops and occupied between June 1942 and August 1943. Unalaska/Dutch Harbor became a significant base for the U.S. Army Air Corps and Navy submariners.

The U.S. Lend-Lease program involved flying American warplanes through Canada to Fairbanks and thence Nome; Russian pilots took possession of these aircraft, ferrying them to fight the German invasion of Russia. The construction of military bases contributed to the population growth of some Alaskan cities.

Statehood was approved in 1958. Alaska was officially proclaimed a state on January 3, 1959.

In 1964, the massive “Good Friday Earthquake” killed 131 people and destroyed several villages, many by the resultant tsunamis. It was the second or third most powerful earthquake in the recorded history of the world, with a magnitude of 9.2. It was 100 times more powerful than the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. Luckily, the epicenter was in an unpopulated area or thousands more would have been killed.

The 1968 discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay and the 1977 completion of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline led to an oil boom. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez hit a reef in the Prince William Sound, spilling over 11 million US gallons of crude oil over 1,100 miles (1,600 km) of coastline. Today, the battle between philosophies of development and conservation is seen in the contentious debate over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: