We discover how to reach the section of the D&R Canal south of Trenton (and the Delaware River Heritage Trail) and debate which side of the Delaware River is the nicer bike ride to Philadelphia.
Biking to Philadelphia on the New Jersey side has long intrigued me, especially after having ridden to Philly on the Pennsylvania side. So when a group a sister has started riding with announced a ride from Trenton to Camden and then over the Ben Franklin Bridge to Philadelphia, I was all in (well, at least to Camden.)
We met the other nine riders at the Trenton train station. Right then was a big question mark for me: how to get to the section of the D&R Canal that goes to Bordentown? Google Maps sends you through South Trenton; the Delaware River Heritage Trail just leaves it out. The route isn’t signposted, and we’d heard that you have to find the slip road of NJ 29, a high-speed road.
This is the coolest bike ride of the year so far — pedaling with George Washington (OK, a reenactor) and about 80 “troops” from the site of Battle of Trenton to the Battle of Princeton. All that was missing (beyond Alexander Hamilton) were some Redcoats in hot pursuit (even if that last part isn’t historically accurate). Next year!
This 10-mile “Chasing George” ride (with accompanying historical talks) was organized by the Historical Society of Princeton with help from a number of organizations, including a few of us representing the East Coast Greenway who escorted one company of “soldiers” from the Trenton train station to the Douglass House, site of a Council of War after the Second Battle of Trenton and the starting point for this ride. Some 37 of us took off behind General Washington, followed by 32 others who took a wider view of history. They had ridden out from just south of Princeton to Washington Crossing (site of the Dec. 25, 1776 crossing of the Delaware River) and then onto Trenton.
Yeah, the kids loved it. They made sure they were up front with George!
Our route wasn’t historically accurate; we took the D&R Canal towpath (part of the East Coast Greenway), which wasn’t built until the 1830s. The General and his troops had swung wide to give the Brits the slip that night. We ended up near the Princeton Battlefield as part of Princeton’s annual Ciclovia. Too bad it’s held on the edge of town, so attendance is pretty sparse.
But what was so important about these battles? These are the 10 days that saved the American Revolution. And it really was almost at an end. Washington had suffered one loss after another in the New York area and had essentially fled through New Jersey to just across the Delaware in Pennsylvania. Much of the Continental Army had signed up for one year and could go home at the end of the year. And on Christmas night, the army crossed the Delaware, despite the snow and the cold, and surprised the Hessians in Trenton on the morning of the 26th. They won, shocking the British. (And no, the Hessians weren’t drunk). Soldiers stayed on. There was a second Battle of Trenton on Jan. 2 and Washington’s forces held on as night fell. The British planned to finish them off in the morning, but Washington and his troops slipped out of town on a back road heading for Princeton and places north. British soldiers heading south to Trenton spotted them as dawn broke, and there you have the Battle of Princeton. Another win for Washington, and the Revolution was saved.
Want more? Read “1776” if you haven’t already. And catch the re-enactment of the crossing every Christmas Day, take part in Patriots Week in Trenton the week after Christmas and then watch for the Historical Society of Princeton’s own Battle of Princeton events just after that.