(June 20, 2016 l Princeton, N.J.) – In letters to the Institute for Advanced Study, two respected British military heritage organizations joined the chorus of voices opposing plans by the Institute to build faculty housing on a key part of the Princeton Battlefield known as Maxwell’s Field. The site is where Gen. George Washington staged a pivotal and daring charge against the British Army to win the 1777 Battle of Princeton. The Institute for Advanced Study, an international research organization unaffiliated with Princeton University, is moving forward with plans to construct faculty houses on this hallowed ground, which had been pristine open space for more than two centuries.
“Developing this area will destroy the archaeological potential of the site, damage the setting of the battlefield and make it much harder for future generations to interpret the momentous events that took place there,” noted Howard Simmons, chair of the Battlefields Trust. “Without this site our joint heritage will be poorer.”
The Battlefields Trust is a United Kingdom-based charity dedicated to the preservation, research and interpretation of battlefields as educational and historical resources. The organization campaigns locally and nationally to defend the battlefields of Great Britain from inappropriate development. These battlefields are the final resting place for thousands of unknown soldiers who forged the British nation.
The Battlefields Trust was joined in its opposition to the development project by The Royal Tigers’ Association, the veterans’ organization of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment (17th Regiment of Foot). The association is composed of men of one of the most famous units to ever serve in the British Army, with a lineage that dates to 1688. The regiment, then identified as the 17th Regiment of Foot, served throughout the American Revolutionary War. The regiment’s stand during the Battle of Princeton was commemorated with the addition of an unbroken laurel wreath to its unit insignia.
“Of all the fighting during the American War of Independence, the Battle of Princeton is easily the engagement with the most significance to the Royal Leicestershire Regiment,” stated Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Tony Pollard. “For us, there is no disputing that Princeton is sacred ground, with the regiment’s honoured dead still resting there in unmarked graves.”
In their letters to the Institute for Advanced Study, the Battlefields Trust and The Royal Tigers’ Association urged the Institute’s board of trustees to abandon its plans to build 15 faculty houses on the most historically sensitive part of the 22-acre Maxwell’s Field property. The site, identified as core battlefield land by the US National Park Service, is where the right wing of George Washington’s counterattack against the 17th Regiment of Foot, standing alone, first struck British lines. According to Pollard, “This property deserves to be preserved as a memorial to all the soldiers, American and British, who fought there.”
In its correspondence with the Institute, the Battlefields Trust also suggested that an institution with its own rich history should be mindful of preserving other historic places. “The Battlefields Trust is therefore disappointed that an organisation which cherishes its own history is acting in a way that seemingly ignores the unique historic value of a battlefield site in which it acts as custodian for the people of the US and UK,” Simmons wrote.
Both organizations also agreed to join the Save Princeton Coalition, an alliance of national and regional conservation and historic preservation organizations united in their determination to preserve the Princeton Battlefield. James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Trust, and a founding member of the Save Princeton Coalition, welcomed the groups to the coalition: “We are delighted that the Battlefields Trust and The Royal Tigers’ Association have become involved in helping us preserve this important site. Although the battle is located on US soil, British soldiers fought there as well as Americans.”
The 12 member organizations of the Save Princeton Coalition are: the American Association for State and Local History; the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati; the Battlefields Trust; the Civil War Trust (through its Campaign 1776 initiative); The Cultural Landscape Foundation; the National Coalition for History; the National Parks Conservation Association; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; Preservation Maryland; the Princeton Battlefield Society; the Royal Leicestershire Regiment Association; and the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The Save Princeton Coalition encourages those who want to preserve the battlefield to express their concern directly to the Institute for Advanced Study by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (609) 734-8000.