By Andrew Schmertz
Ralph Siegel has been following in George Washington’s footsteps for 15 years, providing the play-by-play of the Battle of Trenton, the fight that historians consider the key turning point of the war.
“This is the critical battle where George Washington is able to turn the fortunes of the American Revolution which looked, up until this moment, as if it was going to go out of existence,” he said.
Siegel leads the walking tour each year during Patriots Week, which marks the victory at Trenton and later at Princeton. And while casualties were low, some told us they didn’t know how violent it was.
“It was kind of shocking, like you said. When you think of older wars, you don’t think about it. But it was kind of gruesome,” said Piscataway resident Michael Dickinson.
At the former barracks for British and Continental soldiers, tour guides dress the part as they show visitors what it was like to be stationed here.
“An important thing that we do here at the barracks is we talk about New Jersey’s involvement being part of the British Empire, and within 20 years when we talk about the American Revolution and particularly the Battle of Trenton,” said Ascher Lurie, a tour guide at the Battle Monument Museum.
David Niescior says people are most surprised to learn how good the British Army was.
“The soldiers are very quick to adapt to the countryside they find themselves in. They cut their uniforms down. They adopt loose and open formation so they can move quickly through broken country,” he said.
And while this week is about history, the future of Trenton is also at stake. The museum’s president says as the city’s economy has improved. More people come here and then spend money at local businesses.
“You have next door, the state capital is right there next to us. The museum and the library, they come in and stay here and visit us and then they walk the streets and help build the economy,” said Battle Monument Museum President John O’Sullivan.
Patriots Week will go on through Saturday. Then on Jan. 7, reenactors of the Continental Army will gather and march on foot to Princeton where they will meet reenactors of the British Army.