Skip to main content
Year
1777
Month Day
January 03

The Battle of Princeton

In a stroke of strategic genius, General George Washington manages to evade conflict with General Charles Cornwallis, who had been dispatched to Trenton to bag the fox (Washington), and wins several encounters with the British rear guard, as it departs Princeton for Trenton, New Jersey.

Deeply concerned by Washington’s victory over the British at Trenton on December 26, 1776, Cornwallis arrived with his troops in Trenton on the evening of January 2 prepared to overwhelm Washington’s 5,000 exhausted, if exuberant, Continentals and militia with his 8,000 Redcoats. Washington knew better than to engage such a force and Cornwallis knew Washington would try to escape overnight, but he was left to guess at what course Washington would take. 

 Cornwallis sent troops to guard the Delaware River, expecting Washington to reverse the route he took for the midnight crossing on December 25. Instead, Washington left his campfires burning, muffled the wheels of his army’s wagons and snuck around the side of the British camp. As the Continentals headed north at dawn, they met the straggling British rear guard, which they outnumbered 5 to 1.

Forty Patriots and 275 British soldiers died during ensuing Battle of Princeton. After the defeat, the Howe brothers (General William and Admiral Richard) chose to leave most of New Jersey to Washington. Instead of marshalling their significant manpower to retake New Jersey, they concentrated all of their forces between New Brunswick and the Atlantic coast.

READ MORE: Revolutionary War - Timeline, Facts & Battles

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

George A. Kasem of California becomes first Arab American member of Congress

On January 3, 1959, George A. Kasem takes office in the U.S. House of Representatives for California’s 25th District, making history as the first Arab American Congressperson. Kasem, who is of Lebanese descent, was born in Oklahoma and raised in Los Angeles. He ran as a ...read more

James Abourezk of South Dakota becomes first Arab American to serve in U.S. Senate

On January 3, 1973, James Abourezk, a Congressperson representing South Dakota’s 2nd District, takes office in his newly elected role in the U.S. Senate, once again representing his home state. Abourezk, who is of Lebanese descent, was the first Arab American to ever serve in the ...read more

George Steinbrenner's group buys Yankees from CBS

On January 3, 1973, a 12-member group headed by George Steinbrenner purchases the New York Yankees for $10 million from Columbia Broadcasting System, which owned the team since 1964. The group includes CBS’s Yankees president Michael Burke, who briefly serves in that role under ...read more

Facts about the Legislative Branch: The Senate and the House of Representatives

Dalip Singh Saund assumes office as the first Asian American and the first Sikh elected to Congress

On January 3, 1957 Dalip Singh Saund is sworn in as the congressional representative of California’s 29th district. Known to many as “Judge,” and also nicknamed “the Peacemaker,” he is the first Asian, first Indian American, first Sikh and first follower of a non-Abrahamic ...read more

Benito Mussolini declares himself dictator of Italy

Similar to Adolf Hitler, Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini did not become the dictator of a totalitarian regime overnight. For several years, he and his allies worked more or less within the confines of the Italian constitution to accrue power, eroding democratic ...read more

The Mars Exploration Rover "Spirit" safely lands on the Red Planet

The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit lands on the Red Planet on January 3, 2004. 21 days later, its twin, Opportunity, also arrived safely. In one of the longest and most successful missions in NASA history, Spirit would survey Martian geography for the next seven years, while ...read more

Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega surrenders to U.S.

On January 3, 1990, Panama’s General Manuel Antonio Noriega, after holing up for 10 days at the Vatican embassy in Panama City, surrenders to U.S. military troops to face charges of drug trafficking. Noriega was flown to Miami the following day and crowds of citizens on the ...read more

Martin Luther excommunicated

On January 3, 1521, Pope Leo X issues the papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem, which excommunicates Martin Luther from the Catholic Church. Martin Luther, the chief catalyst of Protestantism, was a professor of biblical interpretation at the University of Wittenberg in Germany ...read more

King Tut’s sarcophagus uncovered

Two years after British archaeologist Howard Carter and his workmen discovered the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen near Luxor, Egypt, they uncover the greatest treasure of the tomb—a stone sarcophagus containing a solid gold coffin that holds the mummy of Tutankhamen. When Carter ...read more

Meiji Restoration begins

In an event that heralds the birth of modern Japan, patriotic samurai from Japan’s outlying domains join with anti-shogunate nobles in restoring the emperor to power after 700 years. The impetus for the coup was a fear by many Japanese that the nation’s feudal leaders were ill ...read more

Jack Ruby dies before second trial

On January 3, 1967, Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub owner who killed the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, dies of cancer in a Dallas hospital. The Texas Court of Appeals had recently overturned his death sentence for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald and was scheduled ...read more

Alaska admitted into Union

On January 3, 1959, President Eisenhower signs a special proclamation admitting the territory of Alaska into the Union as the 49th and largest state. Indigenous peoples inhabited the region that would become Alaska for centuries. The European discovery of Alaska came in 1741, ...read more

Buffalo Bills pull off one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history

On January 3, 1993, backup quarterback Frank Reich leads the Buffalo Bills to a 41-38 overtime victory over the Houston Oilers in an American Football Conference (AFC) wild card playoff game that will forever be known to football fans as “The Comeback.” By halftime of the game, ...read more

Franklin Roosevelt founds March of Dimes

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an adult victim of polio, founds the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which he later renamed the March of Dimes Foundation, on January 3, 1938. A predominantly childhood disease in the early 20th century, polio wreaked havoc among American ...read more

Stephen Austin imprisoned by Mexicans

Escalating the tensions that would lead to rebellion and war, the Mexican government imprisons the Texas colonizer Stephen Austin in Mexico City. Stephen Fuller Austin was a reluctant revolutionary. His father, Moses Austin, won permission from the Mexican government in 1821 to ...read more

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts first woman

In 1986, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its first group of inductees: Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and the Everly Brothers. Since then, the Hall has added a new class of ...read more

Herman Melville sails for the South Seas

On January 3 1841, writer Herman Melville ships out on the whaler Acushnet to the South Seas. Melville was born in New York City in 1819. A childhood bout of scarlet fever permanently weakened his eyesight. He went to sea at age 19, as a cabin boy on a ship bound for Liverpool. ...read more

Charles Stuart implicated for staged murder of his wife

Matthew Stuart meets with Boston prosecutors and tells them that his brother, Charles, was actually the person responsible for murdering Charles’s wife, Carol. The killing of Carol Stuart, who was pregnant at the time, on October 23, 1989, had touched off a national outrage when ...read more