New Jersey Monthly Magazine recently posted an article about the ubiquitous Hamilton. Not the Broadway musical but the man himself, Alexander Hamilton, was right here in Princeton.
When discussing the cannonball legend, it has sometimes been suggested that Hamilton took a certain delight in firing on Old Nassau since he had been admitted to the college and then later denied entrance. The oldest reference to Hamilton’s alleged admission to Princeton is in the narrative of his life as told by Hercules Mulligan, a companion from his time at King’s College, which was later put to paper and printed in John C. Hamilton’s 1834 biography “The Life of Alexander Hamilton.” According to the story recounted by Mulligan, Hamilton met with John Witherspoon in September of 1772 and was granted admission to the College. The decision was then revoked by the Trustees on account of Hamilton’s desire to pursue his studies at an accelerated pace and earn his degree in less than four years. Mulligan reports that Hamilton was notified of the decision through a letter from Witherspoon; however if it ever existed this letter has never been recovered.
If Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterful Broadway distillation of the extraordinary exploits of Alexander Hamilton has you thinking that “the ten-dollar/founding father/without a father” only ventured to New Jersey to meet his untimely end, think again. Hamilton also studied, dreamed, fought and loved on our side of the Hudson.
Arriving from the Caribbean in 1772, the brainy immigrant first lived in Elizabethtown and, like his future nemesis, Aaron Burr, attended Elizabethtown Academy on the grounds of the First Presbyterian Church (42 Broad Street, Elizabeth). He also lived at Liberty Hall, William Livingston’s Georgian-style home in Union.
In 1776, an ailing Hamilton crossed the Delaware to the First Battle of Trenton (bas-relief of Hamilton, 1 West State Street, Trenton, former site of a Revolutionary-era tavern), and his artillery helped Washington surprise British forces at Princeton on January 3, 1777 (Princeton Battlefield State Park, 500 Mercer Road). At the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse (now Freehold) on June 28, 1778, Hamilton had his horse shot out from under him (Monmouth Battlefield State Park, Route 33, Manalapan). As part of Washington’s contingent, Hamilton stayed at the Gothic Revival Hermitage (335 Franklin Turnpike, Ho-Ho-Kus), where Burr later married the widowed Theodosia Prevost. And in the winter of 1778 to 1779, Washington, Hamilton and the rest of the rebels’ military brain trust made their beds at the Wallace House in Somerville (71 Somerset Street).