The 57th annual re-enactment of Col. Edward Hand’s delaying tactics, which held off British and Hessian troops on their way to what would become known as the Second Battle of Trenton, will kick off at 10 a.m. on Jan. 5 at the Lawrence Township Municipal Building.
And for the 38th time, township resident William Agress will portray Col. Hand – right down to the blue-and-buff uniform worn by the Revolutionary War soldier – during the Col. Edward Hand Historic March.
The event is a re-enactment of the American patriots’ delaying tactics before the Second Battle of Trenton on Jan. 2, 1777, Agress said. The event was created in 1961 by the late Robert Immordino, who was the official Lawrence Township historian.
The real Col. Hand and his band of Pennsylvania riflemen delayed the advance of British and Hessian troops on their way from Princeton to retake Trenton from the Americans during the afternoon of Jan. 2, 1777. The battle took place later in the day.
Before stepping off to follow in the footsteps of Col. Hand and the 1st Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, author David Price will discuss his new book, “The Road to Assunpink Creek.”
Price’s book focuses on the Second Battle of Trenton and Col. Hand’s role in slowing down the British and Hessian soldiers’ advance on Trenton, thus protecting Gen. George Washington and his troops while they were encamped in Trenton.
Following Price’s presentation, historic re-enactors will demonstrate the weapons used by American soldiers on the steps in front of the Lawrence Township Municipal Building.
Then, the marchers – led by Agress and Mayor Christopher Bobbitt – will step off and begin the trek toward Trenton. The marchers will include Township Council, former mayors, historic re-enactors, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and other history buffs.
The band of marchers will stop at the sites of two skirmishes between the 1st Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment commanded by Col. Hand, and the British and Hessian troops. The first skirmish occurred on the banks of Five Mile Run, also known as the Little Shabakunk Creek, on Route 206 near Darrah Lane.
Continuing south on Route 206, the marchers will stop at the banks of the Shabakunk Creek, near Notre Dame High School. This was the site of the second skirmish. There will be a brief memorial program honoring Immordino, the former Township Historian who initiated the march.
The Pennsylvania State Navy re-enactors group will fire off their cannon, which will be set up in a field near the Shabakunk Creek at Notre Dame High School. There are no cannon balls, but the cannon still makes quite a “boom,” Agress said.
The march ends on the banks of Shabakunk Creek. The marchers will walk to the nearby Lawrence Nature Center at 481 Drexel Avenue for refreshments, and then the Lawrence Township van will take them back to the Municipal Building.
Now, back to history.
Between August and November 1776, Gen. Washington and his troops suffered a series of defeats by the British, Agress said. The rebels retreated through Maidenhead – as Lawrence Township was originally known – and crossed the Delaware River at Trenton.
On Christmas Day 1776, Gen. Washington and 2,400 soldiers crossed the Delaware River from Pennsylvania and marched to Trenton, where they routed the Hessian troops in the First Battle of Trenton, Agress said.
Several days later after the famous battle, Gen. Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River again and stopped in Trenton. The British and Hessian troops were sent to Trenton to retake the small town from the Americans.
Despite the delaying tactics of Col. Hand and his soldiers, the British and Hessian troops reached Trenton at dusk on Jan. 2, 1777, engaging Gen. Washington and his soldiers in the Second Battle of Trenton.
The Americans retreated and crossed a bridge over the Assunpink Creek. Their British and Hessian pursuers tried three times to cross the bridge, but they were turned back each time. The British were going to continue the fight the next day.
But during the night and into the morning of Jan. 3, 1777, Gen. Washington led his soldiers around the British and Hessian encampment, and followed a back road to Princeton. The Americans surprised the British troops stationed there in what became known as the Battle of Princeton – and a turning point in the American Revolutionary War.