Days of Yore
 
as recounted by

Bill Day

 


Mock battle dazzled hundreds
Several Haddonfield Revolutionary War history buffs journeyed to Princeton, on Jan 3, 1977 to witness the recreation of the Battle of Princeton, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the event.

Jesse Haydock, Jr. recounted the details of the War at that stage and the re-enactment of the Battle.  The New Jersey Bicentennial Commission at the head of which is former Governor Robert B. Meyner, organized the recreation of the Battle.

The Colonials had been driven out of New York City in the fall of 1776.  They had retreated to the south of Trenton to an encampment on the White Horse road in Hamilton Township, that is marked by a large tree which is still standing in the center of the road.  Only a skeleton force was there to confront the British scouts, as the main body of troops was at Princeton.  A pitched battle was re-enacted on a large field about a mile and a half outside of the town.

On the Princeton battlefield there were assembled hundreds of troops, 40 percent were British uniformed and 60 percent were ragged Americans, with two preserved regiments from Virginia present to take part in the Battle.

The two lines stood facing each other, each on high ground and separated by a lower section.  They began firing with their blank powder in their smooth bored old muskets.  Four-inch field artillery were loaded and shot off and for an hour their noise and smoke gave the appearance that an actual battle was being fought.  Not more than a half dozen casualties were lying on the cold, snowy ground, as none of the troops cared to wet and soil their uniforms, which were authentic in every detail.

The eight horses on the scene were mounted by riders who were members of Philadelphia's First City troop, a cavalry troop, that had been General Washington's bodyguard all during the Revolution.  Their olive drab uniforms added color to the affair.  The horses had been supplied by a historic unit from up in Essex County.

The battlefield has been preserved by the State of New Jersey and it was the site of the largest battle re-enactment of the War in the Nation during the Bicentennial.  With the British defeated, the POW's were herded to the rear of old Nassau Hall on the Princeton campus and the governor of Virginia making short addresses.  A cannon's firing ended the day's activities.  A temporary post office was established at Alexander Hall on the campus and commemorative stamps that had been printed could be purchased and put on post cards that were officially stamped there.

A luncheon was hosted by the Sons of the Revolution at the Nassau Club with all the honored guests in attendance.

As the battle was being waged a humorous twist came, as four aircraft kept flying overhead, a Piper Cub and three helicopters.  Facetious remarks were heard such as "Here comes Washington's artillery spotters" and "There goes Cornwallis' helicopter."

That Princeton defeat, and a few months later, the British downfall at Monmouth, and drove the British out of New Jersey and they never returned


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