Wednesday, October 27, 2010


We've been having a lovely fall around here, day after day with chilly mornings followed by warm days and clear skies.  We received enough rain in September to green up the grass and the trees have suited up for their usual glorious display.
On Monday, we had a professional development day.  JT and I loaded up the car, plugged in JoJo, and headed north to George Washington's winter encampment at Morristown, a place called Jockey Hollow.  Though I've been to most of the local Washington sites in New Jersey, I hadn't been here before.  I'm teaching about the Revolutionary War right now and the timing was perfect.
Washington and his troops wintered here for several seasons.  The location, on the spine of the Watchung Mountains  and just 30 miles from the British winter camp in NYC, was chosen because it was secure, with plenty of space, and mountains high enough to offer Washington a vantage point from which he could watch British movement in the city.  Having learned the lessons of Valley Forge, the camp at Jockey Hollow was a great deal better in terms of hygiene.  Cabins were built on the crest of hills, to avoid flooding and swamps.  The encampment was large ----- when occupied it was the 7th largest city in the colonies ----- but it was hardly luxurious.
 Soldiers stayed in bunks built to contain twelve men.  Cozy, if not spacious.

Line officers stayed in a slightly roomier space.
Washington and his fellow commanding officers stayed in surrounding houses, taking over whatever housing space they could find (and eating the proceeds from their summer gardens).

The soldiers suffered from hunger and cold.  The worst winter ever in the history of New Jersey happened during one of the winters that the troops stayed at Jockey Hollow.  That year, 1780, they endured more than 20 snow storms.  For weeks in January and February the temperature never rose above freezing.  And yet they stayed, treating the cold and hunger as the price of liberty.  A price they were willing to pay.  We're fond of talking about the ideas and the sacrifices of our Founding Fathers and no one doubts the skills of George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.  But the hundreds of nameless men and boys who struggled through the winter of 1780 at Jockey Hollow also deserve our praise and our gratitude.  Their names may not be known but their sacrifices earned our liberty just as surely as their more famous leaders.


Shark Butt said...

very cool!

Nichole said...

Wow. Beautiful and historic. Just like me.