Sunday, April 21, 2013

I Kid You Not, This May Be The Greatest Holiday Ever!

Now it is no secret the American Revolution is my favorite part of history. From the exploits of George Washington & the Continental Army, the work of the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia, the writings of Thomas Paine, the celebration of Evacuation Day and so on. I always thought I knew everything one could know about the Revolution, especially when it comes to the events and role of my home state, New Jersey. But a few days ago I found out a little known holiday that used to, and still kind of is, celebrated right here in New Jersey and even better, it commemorates the American victory at the Battle of Princeton. It is here I feel obligated to warn you, the name of this holiday is a bit vulgar, and it may be forgotten, but with something this eye catching, it may be just the holiday needed to draw some attention to and re-interest Americans in the American Revolution, ladies and gentlemen, mark your calendars and get ready to party for, Peeing Day.
Ok, this picture says a lot. First, it sucks to be General Mercer (He is the guy about to get bayoneted on the left side of the painting), Second, George Washington is a bad ass for riding straight into the middle of a battle. Third, the Battle of Princeton was pretty brutal. And finally, Peeing Day totally makes sense now...ok it doesn't now but i promise it will. So lets piece together how, the Battle of Princeton, the Continental Army, some loser Redcoats and public urination all fit together to give us America's favorite forgotten holiday, Peeing Day.
The Battle of Princeton took place on January 3, 1777. It was part of Washington's "retreat to victory" campaign, or as I like to call it, "his New Jersey Redcoat stomping tour." After he retook Trenton, Washington knew he had to press on. The British had regrouped at Princeton, effectively painting a huge bulls eye on the city. Washington called together a council of war to see how possible it would be to attack Princeton. Luckily, the Continental Army had Arthur St. Clair & John Cadwalader who had already came up with a sneak attack plan to surprise the British. At dawn, the Americans attacked and of course, everything feel apart. Washington was late, the surprise attack wound up not being that much of a surprise and the British were already pushing the Americans back. However, things were about to change.
The British Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mahwood was easily handling, and out numbering, the American forces lead by Hugh Mercer, you remember that guy getting bayoneted in the first picture. Mahwood had Mercer surrounded and some reports say he shouted, "Surrender you damn rebels!" But in true American fashion, Mercer respectfully declined and continued to fight on and eventually died in the heat of battle. Then fellow American Brigadier General John Cadwalader arrives and see the chaos in the wake of Mercer's death. He then tried attacked Mahwood but the result was the same, pushed to retreat. It was then that George Washington stormed onto the scene and changed the course of the battle. The presence of Washington rallied the troops and the inspired Continental troops began to route the British. It was so bad Washington even had time to glot, shouting, "It's a fine fox chase my boys!,". which was Washington's way of thumbing his nose at the British for the fox hunt comment at the Battle of Harlem Heights. The Redcoats retreated into the town of Princeton and into Nassau Hall, the oldest building at Princeton University. Needless to say the Americans charged into the town, ransacked the British supplies and forced the surrender of the remaining British troops. It was then news came in that Lord Cornwallis was on his way and the Americans hightailed it outta there, live to fight another day tactics.
So I am sure you are wondering, how does Peeing Day fit into this. Well here is how. As the British were talking their walk of shame out of Princeton, the Americans decided to give them a bit of a going away present. Now, it is not clear which regiment did this, or if this was planned or even what George Washington's reaction was, but as Mahwood and his men left Princeton, members of the Continental Army, joyful whipped out their Johnsons and began to urinate on those retreating limey Brits. Now, I know what you are thinking, and yes this is awesome. But why did we forget such an amazing piece of history? Well, I am not sure, but I have a few theories. The holiday wasn't first celebrated until 1877, the centennial of the battle. Another reason is the holiday is only celebrated in Princeton, as it stems from the Battle of Princeton. Thirdly, due to WWI & WWII, the holiday was deemed too anti-British so the holiday was scraped. And finally, how do you even start to explain this to a classroom full of students without them bursting into laughter. But fear not lovers of the Revolution, Princeton and public urination. The holiday is still celebrated in Princeton, New Jersey. Moved from its original day of January 3rd, the holiday is now celebrated on the second Saturday of March. Nassau St. is typically closed as re-enactors  partake in reenactment of the Battle of Princeton which the culminates with 1 Redcoat running from 2 American soliders to a crowd of about 50 to 200 plus people, who, you guessed it, are peeing in the street. Today, the anti-British sentiment is overlooked for the days historical significance. So if anyone is interested, the next second Saturday in March, I will be in Princeton doing my civic duty and patriotic duty,celebrating the birth of our peeing in the street. 


  1. General Mercer is the one in the center of the painting, leaning against his dead horse.

    The one being bayonetted on the left is rather non-descript, and falling back against a canon. Not how you would expect the death of famous General to be painted.

    General Hugh Mercer's face is the most detailed of all the faces in this painting, even more so than Washington, as his death is the subject of the painting.

  2. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.