This past weekend marked the Fourth of July, and folks participated in patriotic celebrations throughout the community. While we all think of the Fourth of July as a festive way to celebrate America’s birthday, the story behind this occasion imparts lessons that transcend generations. The Fourth had implications for the nation but also had a tremendous impact on Trenton. Today, let’s explore the importance the first Fourth of July wrought on Trenton and what you can do this summer to celebrate today.

The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4th, 1776, and echoes of freedom ran throughout the nation. Within an instant, a country was then founded on an unprecedented but profound principle: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that their Creator endows them with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As one of the original 13 colonies, New Jersey had much on the line with this bold proclamation. But despite the risks, the fledgling United States banded together and decided that come what may, a country based on these principles and ideals was a nation worth fighting for.

Declaration of Independence, oil on canvas by John Trumbull, 1818

As tensions rose between the British and the United States, the Declaration of Independence signaled a marked escalation in already-ongoing battles between the two nations. As New Jersey was centrally located between New York, a British stronghold, and Philadelphia, which was functioning as the US Capital, it’s no surprise that New Jersey saw much of the Revolutionary War action. George Washington and his troops spent more time here than in any other state throughout the war. As the battle for our nation took place, many of the events you read of in your history books happened up the road. And for those of us who call Trenton home, some of the Revolution’s most critical moments happened in our backyard.

In the City of Trenton, Washington crossed the Delaware and where the US troops officially took charge during the Revolutionary War. Many historians regard the Battle of Trenton as the official turning point of the war. Finally, on the offensive, Washington and his troops successfully launched a sneak attack on Hessian forces that fateful Christmas night, and from that point forward, the momentum was enough to propel the United States to its eventual victory. Of course, the United States would go on to win the Revolution, and our brand-new nation was finally able to begin taking shape.

This painting portrays the surrender of General Burgoyne at an American camp at Saratoga.
“The Surrender of General Burgoyne,” oil on canvas, John Trumbull, 1821

If you’re looking for ways to engage with this vital history today, events and historical sites throughout the city help get you in the revolutionary spirit. A favorite local spot is the Old Barracks, where families can step back in time and see how a soldier during the Revolutionary War may have lived. Suppose you want to hear the famed proclamation for yourself. In that case, the Kiwanis Club of Trenton will also be hosting a public reading of the Declaration of Independence this Friday, July 7th, at noon, which you can read more about here. And even though the Fourth of July has come and gone, you can keep the patriotic fun going all weekend during this year’s Liberty Weekend; additional details are available here. Even with the holiday now in the rearview, in the Capital City, the patriotic fun can continue all year.

We hope this bit of history is red-white and blew your mind!

Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851 paintings)
Washington Crossing Delaware, oil on canvas, Emanuel Leutze, 1851



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