The famous Mercer Oak once stood in the middle of the battlefield not far from the spot where General Hugh Mercer fell during the Battle of Princeton.
In one of the fiercest battles of the American Revolution, American troops under General George Washington surprised and defeated a force of British Regulars on the morning of January 3, 1777. American soldiers, pushed back by a strong British assault, were rallied by Washington who rode his horse between the British and American lines, leading his men to his first field victory over British troops. The Battle of Princeton capped 10 days of maneuvering and fighting, including three battles, which began with Washington’s famous December 25, 1776 crossing of the Delaware.
Thomas Clarke, a Quaker farmer, acquired 200 acres in 1772 from his older brother William. He subsequently built a house and lived there with his sisters Sarah and Hannah as well as Susannah, a black woman enslaved by the Clarke Family. The Clarke farm includes the original two-story half-Georgian frame house and enlarged wing, the carriage barn and smokehouse. The house, consisting of seven rooms, is furnished in the period of the Revolution. Much of the original flooring, moldings and windows remain.
Clarke House Hours: Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
On January 3, 1777, the peaceful winter fields of Thomas and William Clarke’s farms were transformed into the site of what is considered to be one of the fiercest fights of its size during the American Revolution. During this desperate battle, American troops under General George Washington surprised and defeated a force of British Regulars. Coming at the end of "The Ten Crucial Days" which saw the well-known night crossing of the Delaware River and the two battles in Trenton, the Battle of Princeton gave Washington his first victory against the British Regulars on the field. The battle extended over a mile away to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).
The historic Mercer Oak, believed to have been present during the Battle of Princeton, once stood on the battlefield near what is now Mercer Road. It collapsed from old age in March 2000. An offspring grown from an acorn of the Mercer Oak in 1981 now thrives next to the large stump of the original tree.
Visitors may partake in various educational programs held throughout the year.
Visitors may tour a number of the historical monuments located within the park, including: Princeton Battlefield, the Clarke House Museum, the Mercer Oak, the Ionic Colonnade and the medallion, a stone patio marking the approximate gravesite of 21 British and 15 American soldiers killed in the battle.
Colonnade and Gravesite
The Ionic Colonnade was originally the facade of a Philadelphia home, later called St. George’s Hall, designed by Thomas U. Walter in 1836. It was re-erected in the park in 1959 as the entrance to the common grave of 21 British and 16 American soldiers killed in the Battle of Princeton. A poem written for the grave by Alfred Joyes in 1916, then a visiting Princeton professor and later Poet Laureate of England, is inlayed in bronze over the grave.
The Princeton Battle Monument
The monument is located on state park property at the corner of Stockton Road and Nassau Street in Princeton borough. Built on the site of British defensive works it was designed by renowned sculptor Frederick MacMonnies and dedicated in 1922 by President Warren G. Harding.
The Stony Brook Friends Meetinghouse
Adjacent to the park, is the still active Friends Meetinghouse. Originally built in 1726, it was rebuilt in 1760 following a fire. Used as a barracks during part of the British occupation of Princeton in 1776, it also sheltered the wounded after the battle. The graveyard contains many unmarked graves of local Quakers as well as soldiers killed in the battle and the grave of Richard Stockton, signer of the Declaration of Independence.
The park’s open lawns and numerous trails along the Institute Woods are suitable for cross-country skiing in the wintertime.
A paved and gravel path travels the perimeter of the park. Adjacent to the park, the Institute Woods is comprised of a 589-acre mixed hardwood, wetlands and agricultural land with a variety of trails that are suitable for hiking. There are no specific ADA trails but most are level to slightly graded. Hiking trails lead to the Delaware and Raritan Canal.
The park’s open fields as well as adjacent wetlands are ideal for observing birds in their natural habitat.
Access for Persons with Disabilities
The Princeton Battlefield State Park and Thomas Clarke House are partially accessible for persons with disabilities. Please contact the Clarke House at 609-921-0074 for further information regarding disability access needs. Text telephone (TTY) users, call the NJ Relay & CapTel Service at 711 or 1-800-852-7897 for English or 1-866-658-7714 for Spanish.
All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
Recreational use of ATVs is not permitted on NJ State Park Service property. This includes state parks, forests, recreation areas, golf courses, marinas, natural areas, historic sites, and preserves. Thank you for your help in protecting New Jersey’s natural and historic resources. [N.J.A.C. 7:2-3.4(d)]
State law prohibits the smoking of tobacco and use of electronic smoking (vaping) devices in all state parks, forests, historic sites, recreation areas, golf courses and marinas. [N.J.P.L.2005, c.383 (C.26:3D-56)]
Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in state parks, forests, recreation areas, golf courses, marinas, natural areas, historic sites, and preserves. [ N.J.A.C. 7:2-2.6 ]
Keep Your Park Clean and Green
Protect plants and animals and care for your parks by taking your trash with you. Whatever you carry into the park, plan on carrying it out too. It’s like crowdsourcing trash management! Bring a bag or two for trash, recycling and cleaning up after your pet. There are no trash receptacles in this park. Thank you!
Pets must always be on a leash no longer than six feet in length and under the control of the owner. Please clean up after your pets.
Use insect repellent, wear light-colored clothing, tuck pants into socks, stay on trails, check yourself when you get home, shower and wash clothes immediately.
Be Bear Aware
Black bears are found throughout New Jersey. Do not approach or attract bears by making food available. Feeding bears is dangerous and illegal. Never run from a bear! To report an aggressive bear, call 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337) immediately. Please report any damage or nuisance behavior to the park office. Visit the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife at www.njfishandwildlife.com for additional information on bear safety.
500 Mercer Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
500 Mercer Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Gate Open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Park Office N/A
Entrance Fee None