Bridge to the American Revolution celebrated in Lawrenceville

Sue Morris, the principal and the director of education at the Bridge Academy, admitted that neither she nor school officials knew of the history behind the property at 1900 Lawrenceville Road, which they recently purchased for a future school expansion.

But after learning of the property’s history – and betting that only a handful of history buffs knew it was the site of one of several skirmishes between American and British and Hessian troops during the American Revolutionary War – Morris arranged for three plaques to be placed on the property to explain the events.

So, on a warm afternoon on June 2, two “soldiers” – students at the Bridge Academy – pulled off the covers on the three plaques during the school’s “Bridge to the American Revolution” celebration.

The plaques, which have been placed on the banks of Five Mile Run – also known as the Little Shabakunk Creek – outline the daylong series of skirmishes between the Americans and the British and Hessian troops in the hours before the Second Battle of Trenton in January 1777.

The skirmish on the banks of Five Mile Run and another skirmish at the Shabakunk Creek, near Notre Dame High School, are celebrated during Lawrence Township’s annual “Col. Edward Hand Historic March.” Held in early January, it retraces the steps taken by Col. Hand and his band of Pennsylvania riflemen as they delayed the British and Hessian troops’ arrival in Trenton on Jan. 2, 1777.

As part of the Bridge Academy’s June 2 event, historians Larry Kidder and David Price and historic re-enactor William Agress, who portrays Col. Hand, spoke briefly about the Ten Crucial Days. It is the period between the First Battle of Trenton on Dec. 26, 1776 and the Battle of Princeton on Jan. 3, 1777, which proved to be the turning point of the American Revolutionary War.

Following a series of defeats  against the British troops during preceding months, many thought the revolution was near collapse. The Americans had been forced to retreat from New York and Long Island across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania.

In desperation to keep the revolution alive, Gen. George Washington devised a plan to attack the Hessian troops stationed in Trenton. The Americans crossed the Delaware River on Dec. 25.-26 and successfully attacked 1,400 Hessian troops at the First Battle of Trenton.

Gen. Washington and his troops slipped away to Pennsylvania, only to return to Trenton on Dec. 30, 1776, in preparation for what became known as the Second Battle of Trenton – alternatively known as the Battle of the Assunpink Creek – on Jan. 2, 1777.

The British wanted revenge for the earlier defeat at the First Battle of Trenton, and gathered 6,000 or 7,000 troops and set off for Trenton from Princeton on Jan. 2, 1777. In response, Gen. Washington sent about 1,100 troops to delay the British from arriving at Trenton.

The Americans, led by Col. Hand, ambushed and harassed the British and Hessian troops at several places on the King’s Highway – known today as Route 206/Lawrenceville Road – according to the plaques. The British and Hessian troops did not arrive until just before dusk, and decided to wait until morning to begin the fight.

But by the time the British and Hessian troops awoke the next morning, Gen. Washington and his troops had slipped away and attacked the British and Hessian troops stationed at Princeton in the Battle of Princeton.

Also during the Bridge to the American Revolution event, flag expert Roger Williams explained the origin of the American flag and dispelled the myth that Betsy Ross helped to design it.

The myth was developed by her grandson and while she was a well-known seamstress who may have been called on to help make the flag, she did not play a role in designing it, Williams said. The flag grew out of several iterations of British flags that date to the 1200’s.

During the Revolutionary War, each Continental regiment had its own flag. Gen. Washington believed there was a need for one unifying flag, which became the American flag – 13 stars in a blue field in the upper left corner, and red and white horizontal stripes.

“History happened in your backyard. You don’t realize that there were 1,100 Continentals (American troops) shooting down on the British from the Five Mile Run (on the Bridge Academy’s new property),” Williams said, wrapping up the afternoon’s events.