A series of special living history events will commemorate the 240th Anniversary of the Battle of Princeton for three days in early January.
Local public historians will be on hand to interpret the events leading up to the pivotal battle in Princeton that turned the tide in the early days of America’s war for independence.
On Thursday, January 5th, the Princeton Historical Society will host a talk by local historian Larry Kidder, “Retreat Through the Jerseys: Prelude to the Battle of Princeton.” Kidder, the retired chair of the Hun School history department, is the author of “A People Harassed and Exhausted” and the forthcoming book “Crossroads of the American Revolution: Trenton 1774-1783.” He will give a talk on the retreat of Washington’s forces,and their pursuit by the British army, through New Jersey in November and December 1776. The talk will focus on how Princeton experienced the retreat and how the retreat and subsequent British occupation set the stage for the pivotal battle on Jan. 3 of 1777. Copies of Kidder’s books will be available for sale. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Princeton Historical Society. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Princeton Historical Society’s Updike Farm on 354 Quaker Road in Princeton.
On Saturday, Jan. 7th, re-enactors from His Majesty’s 17th Regiment of Infantry will “occupy” Princeton’s Morven, the residence of Declaration of Independence signatory Richard Stockton. In a program called “The Ravages of Princeton”, historians will conduct a series of programs highlighting the activities of the British troops that occupied Princeton during the weeks leading up to the famous battle at the Stony Brook Quaker settlement just south of the village. The program, which will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at different locations in Princeton, will include a squad of six of His Majesty’s troops that will patrol Nassau Street. Loyalist civilian re-enactors will urge the townsfolk to take an Oath of Allegiance to the king, soldiers will prepare food by fire, and a British officer will be depicting the British military justice system and how convicted soldiers were punished. Refugees, escaped slaves and other displaced civilians will then drift into camp at Morven. A full schedule is available on the web site of the Princeton Battlefield Society. The program will begin at 10 a.m. the Morven Museum & Garden at 55 Stockton St. in Princeton.
At 6 p.m., luminaries will be placed at the Princeton Battle Monument and British Army Historian William Tatum III will explain the background story of the Princeton Battle Monument on Stockton Street just north of Morven. The Beaux Arts style monument is one of the few of its kind in the United States. Completed in 1922 and dedicated by President Warren Harding, the monument’s story provides colorful insights into the long history of battle commemoration in the town. Tatum will conclude his presentation with a blow-by-blow account of those portions of the battle that took place within walking distance of the monument, providing a sneak peak for Sunday morning’s real time walking tour of Princeton Battlefield.
Running concurrently at the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, members of Charles Wilson Peale’s Company will delve into the world and mindset of revolutionary Philadelphians as they drill, demonstrate various 18th century trades, and discuss the radical political climate in 1777. Peale’s Company will then begin its midnight march towards Princeton, arriving at Princeton Battlefield at the same time the original company arrived 240 years ago.
Capping off the commemoration, on Sunday, Jan. 8th, Tatum will lead “The Battle, a Real Time Tour ” from 6:45 a.m. to 9 a.m.. Tatum will be joined by other re-enactors of various Continental and Congressional regiments, including Peale’s Philadelphia Associators. The group will have marched all night from Trenton and the famed, British 17th Reg of Infantry to show exactly where, when, and why events unfolded that chilly morning in 1777. Guests will experience the battle, minute by minute, at the same time of year, and in similar weather conditions and learn how the Battle of Princeton, as it occurred, was not at all what Washington was expecting. The re-enactors will demonstrate where the Continental Line approached the battle and guests will learn how the momentous events transpired and were the culmination of the Ten Crucial Days Campaign that changed history. Guests are invited to meet at 6:30 a.m. at the Princeton Battlefield’s William Clarke House, 500 Mercer Street in Princeton.
All Princeton events are free and open to the public. A $10 donation is suggested. For more information, click here.