Researching the American Revolution

Your source for information on the American War of Independence

Trenton and Princeton

Reenactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware

Under Washington’s personal direction, the Rebels faced off against the British twice at Trenton and once in Princeton, New Jersey during the period December 25, 1776 through January 2, 1777.  The result of these Rebel victories forced the British to abandon their presence in New Jersey and retreat back to New York City.  Given the dramatic turnaround from the disastrous losses in the summer and fall of 1776, many books and articles have been written about these battles.

What is striking to modern readers is how few soldiers were involved.  Washington led a tiny army against 1500 Hessians garrisoning Trenton.  The second battle of Trenton and the battle of Princeton were waged by small units over a wide geography.  Remarkably, much was accomplished by so few!

Secondary Sources

Bill, Alfred Hoyt. The Campaign of Princeton 1776-1777. Princeton (N.J.): Princeton University Press, 1975.

One of the few accounts to focus entirely on the Revolutionary War events in Princeton, New Jersey.

Dwyer, William M. The Day Is Ours! November 1776-January 1777: An inside View of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. New York: Viking Press, 1983.

A New Jersey resident, Dwyer highlights the contribtution of New Jersey citizens and soldier through their writings and diaries.

Fischer, David Hackett. Washington’s Crossing. Pivotal Moments in American History. Oxford, England ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

A prime example of exemplary scholarship, Fisher’s book is the most comprehensive and accurate portrayal of the battles for Trenton and Princeton.  If you are going to read only one book on these battles, this is the one to read.  The appendices contain detailed information on critical conditions including the weather, ice in the river and doubtful documents.  In addition, there is an essay on the historiography of battle accounts.

Hanser, Richard. The Glorious Hour of Lt. Monroe. 1st ed. New York: Athenaeum, 1976.

Future President James Monroe was the most severely wounded Continental Army soldier in the First battle of Trenton.  Fortunately, the timely aid of a surgeon saving Monroe’s life thereby preserving him to become the fifth president of the United States.

Ketchum, Richard M. The Winter Soldiers. 1st ed. The Crossroads of World History Series. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1973.

A high quality book written for a popular audience.

Kidder, Larry. Crossroads of the Revolution: Trenton, 1774 – 1783. Lawrenceville, NJ: Knox Press, 2017.

An unique perspective of one location during the entire eight plus years of the Revolutionary War.  Well researched using many primary sources to understand the views and activities of the residents of Trenton. Highly recommend.

Levin, Jack E., and Mark R. Levin. George Washington: The Crossing. First Threshold Editions hardcover edition. New York: Threshold Editions, 2013.
Principally a book for young adults, Levin’s book contains many illustrations which aid the reader in understanding the battle and the impact of weather conditions on the events.

Maloy, Mark. Victory or Death: The Battles of Trenton and Princeton, December 25, 1776-January 3, 1777. First edition. Emerging Revolutionary War Series. El Dorado Hills, California: Savas Beatie LLC, 2017.

Best used as a field guide when walking the Trenton and Princeton battlefields.  Contains detailed directions and GPS waypoints for locating places of interest on two tours of the battlefields. For a review of this book published in the Journal of the American Revolution, click.

Smith, Samuel Stelle. The Battle of Trenton. Monmouth Beach, N.J: Philip Freneau Press, 1965.

This short,oversized volume is a good sources to understand troop movements before during and after the first battle of Trenton.  The easy to read maps aid readers in understanding Washington’s complex attack plans and Col. Rall’s counter attacks.  The appendices contain valuable references including detailed orders of battle, estimates of force sizes and Washington’s battle orders.

Stryker, William S. The Battles of Trenton and Princeton. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1898.

David Hackett Fischer casts doubt on some of the documents Stryker used in his book.  However, Stryker’s account remains a good piece of 19th Century scholarship and can be read to understand the battle.

Tucker, Phillip Thomas. George Washington’s Surprise Attack: A New Look at the Battle That Decided the Fate of America. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

The author promises to peer beneath the veil of myth to tell the real story of the battle of Trenton. Tucker asserts that he has uncovered new evidence that bickering among Hessian commanders significantly contributed to their defeat.  While others have demythesized the battle and the Hessian discord is not new, the Tucker volume is a good account of the battle of Trenton

 

Views of the Princeton Battlefield

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