NCH Fights to Save Revolutionary War’s Princeton Battlefield

On March 3, the National Coalition for History (NCH) joined the fight to halt destruction of a historically significant parcel of land associated with the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Princeton.

In a letter to the Institute for Advanced Study’s Board of Trustees, a national coalition of historical and conservation organizations has asked the Institute to halt destruction of Maxwell’s Field, one of the most significant battlefield properties in the nation.  On this site, General George Washington staged a pivotal and daring charge against the British Army that led to victory in the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777. Coming on the heels of Washington’s victory against the Hessians a few days before in Trenton, historians consider the two battles to be a pivotal turning point in the Revolution

The Institute for Advanced Study, an international research organization unaffiliated with Princeton University, is moving forward with plans to construct 15 faculty houses on this hallowed ground, which has remained pristine open space for more than two centuries. The non-profit Princeton Battlefield Society, founded in 1971, has been fighting the IAS since the early 90s to prevent development in the area.

The letter notes offers by coalition members to work with the Institute to identify alternatives that would enable it to secure faculty-housing elsewhere.  In particular, the letter references an offer by the Civil War Trust, a national battlefield preservation organization, to purchase the Maxwell’s Field property. The organization has repeatedly offered to acquire the tract for $4.5 million (more than $1 million above the appraised value of the property).

Besides NCH, the broad-based Save Princeton Coalition (#SavePrinceton) is composed of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH); the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati; the Civil War Trust (through its Campaign 1776 initiative); The Cultural Landscape Foundation; the National Parks Conservation Association; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the Princeton Battlefield Society; and the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. Both the Civil War Trust and AASLH are members of the NCH.

To learn more about the Save Princeton Coalition, visit  To learn more about the Battle of Princeton and efforts to preserve the battlefield, visit the Civil War Trust’s “Campaign 1776” website by clicking here.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation had identified Princeton Battlefield as one of its National Treasures, a select portfolio of sites around the country where the National Trust works to find a preservation solution, and also one of its America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2012.  Environmental interests also amplify the calls to halt destruction of the battlefield.

The core of the battlefield has seen almost no permanent alteration to its terrain since the 18th century.  As a result, research of sightlines, troop movements, locations of key roads and even original artifacts may still be studied and pursued.  Although a portion of the battlefield is preserved within Princeton Battlefield State Park, other key land where fighting occurred—including the 22-acre Maxwell’s Field property owned by the Institute—remains unprotected.

A landmark mapping study funded by the National Park Service (NPS) confirms what historians and preservation groups have repeatedly said about the Maxwell’s Field property: it was the scene of the dramatic charge by Washington’s Continental Army that transformed a likely American defeat at Princeton into a decisive victory.  Part of the property is designated a National Historic Landmark.  Because of the importance of the battle to the outcome of the American Revolution, NPS has labeled the battlefield a Priority I site, its highest preservation designation. Less than 1 percent of Revolutionary War battlefields have received this classification.

The Save Princeton Coalition encourages those who want to preserve the battlefield to express their concern directly to the Institute for Advanced Study’s Executive Director Robbert Dijkgraaf by email or by telephone at (609) 734-8000.