Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777)
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. V (1776-1777).
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TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Pluckemin, 5 January, 1777.
I have the honor to inform you, that, since the date of my last from Trenton, I have removed with the army under my command to this place. The difficulty of crossing the Delaware, on account of the ice, made our passage over it tedious, and gave the enemy an opportunity of drawing in their several cantonments, and assembling their whole force at Princeton. Their large pickets advanced towards Trenton, their great preparations, and some intelligence I had received, added to their knowledge, that the 1st of January brought on a dissolution of the best part of our army, gave me the strongest reasons to conclude, that an attack upon us was meditating.
Our situation was most critical, and our force small. To remove immediately was again destroying every dawn of hope, which had begun to revive in the breasts of the Jersey militia; and to bring those troops, who had first crossed the Delaware and were lying at Crosswicks under General Cadwalader, and those under General Mifflin at Bordentown, (amounting in the whole to about three thousand six hundred) to Trenton, was to bring them to an exposed place. One or the other, however, was unavoidable. The latter was preferred, and they were ordered to join us at Trenton, which they did, by a night-march, on the 1st instant. On the 2d, according to my expectation, the enemy began to advance upon us; and, after some skirmishing, the head of their column reached Trenton about four o’clock, whilst their rear was as far back as Maidenhead. They attempted to pass Sanpink Creek,1 which runs through Trenton, at different places; but, finding the fords guarded, they halted, and kindled their fires. We were drawn up on the other side of the creek. In this situation we remained till dark, cannonading the enemy, and receiving the fire of their field-pieces, which did us but little damage.
Having by this time discovered, that the enemy were greatly superior in number, and that their design was to surround us, I ordered all our baggage to be removed silently to Burlington soon after dark; and at twelve o’clock after renewing our fires, and leaving guards at the bridge in Trenton, and other passes on the same stream above, marched by a roundabout road to Princeton, where I knew they could not have much force left, and might have stores. One thing I was certain of, that it would avoid the appearance of a retreat (which was of consequence, or to run the hazard of the whole army being cut oft), whilst we might by a fortunate stroke withdraw General Howe from Trenton, and give some reputation to our arms. Happily we succeeded. We found Princeton about sunrise, with only three regiments and three troops of light-horse in it, two of which were on their march to Trenton. These three regiments, especially the two first, made a gallant resistance, and, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, must have lost five hundred men; upwards of one hundred of them were left dead on the field; and, with what I have with me and what were taken in the pursuit and carried across the Delaware, there are near three hundred prisoners, fourteen of whom are officers, all British.
This piece of good fortune is counterbalanced by the loss of the brave and worthy General Mercer, Colonels Hazlet and Potter, Captain Neal of the artillery, Captain Fleming, who commanded the first Virginian regiment, and four or five other valuable officers, who, with about twenty-five or thirty privates, were slain in the field. Our whole loss cannot be ascertained, as many, who were in pursuit of the enemy (who were chased three or four miles), are not yet come in. The rear of the enemy’s army lying at Maidenhead, not more than five or six miles from Princeton, was up with us before our pursuit was over; but, as I had the precaution to destroy the bridge over Stony Brook, about half a mile from the field of action, they were so long retarded there, as to give us time to move off in good order for this place. We took two brass field-pieces; but, for want of horses, could not bring them away. We also took some blankets, shoes, and a few other trifling articles, burned the hay, and destroyed such other things, as the shortness of the time would admit of.1
My original plan, when I set out from Trenton, was, to push on to Brunswic; but the harassed state of our troops, many of them having had no rest for two nights and a day, and the danger of losing the advantage we had gained by aiming at too much, induced me, by the advice of my officers, to relinquish the attempt. But, in my judgment, six or eight hundred fresh troops upon a forced march would have destroyed all their stores and magazines, taken (as we have since learned) their military chest, containing seventy thousand pounds, and put an end to the war. The enemy, from the best intelligence I have been able to get, were so much alarmed at the apprehension of this, that they marched immediately to Brunswic without halting, except at the bridges (for I also took up those on Millstone, on the different routes to Brunswic), and got there before day.
From the best information I have received, General Howe has left no men either at Trenton or Princeton. The truth of this I am endeavoring to ascertain, that I may regulate my movements accordingly. The militia are taking spirits, and, I am told, are coming in fast from this State; but I fear those from Philadelphia will scarcely submit to the hardships of a winter campaign much longer, especially as they very unluckily sent their blankets with their baggage to Burlington. I must do them the justice however to add, that they have undergone more fatigue and hardship, than I expected militia, especially citizens, would have done at this inclement season. I am just moving to Morristown, where I shall endeavor to put them under the best cover I can.1 Hitherto we have been without any; and many of our poor soldiers quite barefoot, and ill clad in other respects. I have the honor to be, &c.1
[1 ]Better known as Assanpink Creek. The bridge was the only structure of the kind on the creek, and lay at Queen (now Greene) Street.
[1 ]“On the 2d. Lord Cornwallis having received accounts of the rebel army being posted at Trenton, advanced thither, leaving the 4th brigade under the command of lieutenant colonel Mawhood at Princeton, and the 2d. brigade, with brigadier general Leslie at Maidenhead. On the approach of the British troops, the enemy’s forward posts were driven back upon their army, which was formed in a strong position, behind a creek running through Trenton. During the night of the 2d. the enemy quitted this situation, and marching by Allen’s Town, and from thence to Princeton, fell in on the morning of the 3d. with the 17th and 55th regiments, on their march to join brigadier general Leslie at Maidenhead. Lieutenant colonel Mawhood, not being apprehensive of the enemy’s strength, attacked and beat back the troops that first presented themselves to him, but finding them at length very superior to him in numbers, he pushed forward with the 17th regiment, and joined brigadier general Leslie. The 55th regiment retired, by the way of Hillsborough to Brunswick, and the enemy proceeding immediately to Princeton, the 40th regiment also retired to Brunswick. The loss upon this occasion to his majesty’s troops is 17 killed, and nearly 200 wounded and missing.”—General Howe to Lord George Germaine, 5 January, 1777.
[1 ]This decision was attributed to the influence of General Knox.
[1 ]Read in Congress 13th January.