Proposal for Faculty Housing Should Preserve Battlefield; Not Build Over It
(TRENTON) — Calling it “an affront to the history of our country’s birth and the legacy of the U.S. Marine Corps,” Deputy Majority Leader Reed Gusciora on Thursday decried the latest push by the Institute for Advanced Study to build faculty housing over a portion of the Battle of Princeton Revolutionary War battlefield.
“Only in New Jersey would we even consider building over land where one of the founding fathers — George Washington, in fact — led the Continental Army to victory over the British,” said Gusciora (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “Anywhere else in the country, and this land would be a national monument. Here, it’s a hare’s breath from becoming a housing complex. We cannot afford to pave over this portion of our past.”
At stake is a 22-acre plot that historians believe was the place where, on January 3, 1777, General Washington focused his counterattack against two regiments of the British Army, led by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood.
Rallying the routed brigade of General Hugh Mercer and the panicked brigade of General John Cadwalader, which was mostly green recruits, Washington himself led the men against the left flank of Mawhood’s forces. Reinforced by two brigades from General John Sullivan’s Division attacking on the right flank, Washington was able to envelop Mawhood’s forces and drive the British Army from the field.
In addition to the historical significance of this victory — the Battle of Princeton is roundly regarded as one of the turning points of the Revolutionary War in favor of the Continental Army — the battle site holds the dubious distinction of being the location of the first land casualties suffered by the Colonial Marines, the predecessor of the U.S. Marine Corps.
“For an organization purporting to be focused on theoretical research and intellectual inquiry, the Institute for Advanced Study’s decade-plus push for this housing proposal seems willfully ignorant of the simplest solution: build it somewhere else,” said Gusciora. “Their short-sightedness would almost seem laughable if the historical significance of the site wasn’t so immense.”
The Princeton Battlefield National Historic Landmark has been listed as threatened by the National Park Service (NPS) since 2002. In 2003, the Institute for Advanced Study submitted its proposal for building faculty housing adjacent to the existing borders of the Princeton Battlefield, which has been amended three times. Gusciora has been involved in efforts to preserve the site since 2005. In 2008, the NPS designated the site a Priority 1 Principal Site, which “require immediate preservation action before they are destroyed or damaged. Threats are expected to affect these sites within the decade.” In June, an Institute-commissioned archaeological survey of a portion of the 22-acre parcel in question uncovered 10 new artifacts from the Battle of Princeton: five musket balls and five pieces of grapeshot.