Morristown

Above photo: George Washington's headquarters at Morristown. Right: Log huts on the hillside at Jockey Hollow, Morristown National Historic Park.

Morristown

Morristown National Historic Park

We don't know why this is the case, and perhaps alot of it stems from the fact that the America's Best History office is located not far from Valley Forge, but Morristown, the sister site to Valley Forge National Historical Park in many ways, does not get enough attention. It was the winter encampment site of George Washington's army during the winter of 1779-1780, the one two years after the more famous one at Valley Forge, as well as his winter camp in the winter of 1776-1777, and the difficulty shown at both locations in the conditions the men faced were similar. In fact, the winter at Morristown in 1779-1780 was the coldest on record in the 18th century, even worse than two years before in Pennsylvania.



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  • Morristown

    Perhaps it gets less attention because it wasn't the one where the Prussian General Von Steuben created an effective fighting force that took Washington toward more victories than defeats in the years in between and after. Maybe Morristown gets overlooked with all the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and New York City attractions not far from its doorstep. No matter the reason, it does get overlooked by too many and should not. Morristown gains only 20% of the visitors as does Valley Forge. The men who wintered there and would go on to victory in Yorktown down that Revolutionary road, deserve just as much attention.

    Morristown National Historic Site is located in New Jersey, twenty-two miles west of Newark and thirty-one miles west of New York City. It's an easy haul for heritage tourists once you've visited the sites of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, both of which you can get to from the New Jersey side as well as the Manhattan side, BTW.

    It contains over 1,700 acres of land dedicated to the memory and hardships that Washington's men endured during those two hard and long winters. There are four separate parts of the park with the two main areas, Jockey Hollow, where the majority of the men were camped, and the Washington Headquarters area where Washington stayed. It's not far in between, about three miles, but they are two of the four separate parts.

    During the 1779-1780 winter, Washington had a nicer stay than his men, considerably nicer even than his residence in the rather small home at Valley Forge where he made his headquarters. At Morristown, Washington resided in the Ford Mansion while his men were predominatly headquartered in the Jockey Hollow area and lands of the Wick farm from the date of their arrival at Morristown in December. They would stay in camp until June of the next year.

    Photo above: Reenactment of a weapons inspection of Washington's troops at Morristown National Historic Park. Courtesy National Park Service.

  • Morristown

    Morristown Then

    In 1779, much of the property where the soldiers were quartered was owned by the Wick family, whose 1,400 acre farm surrounded the Jockey Hollow area near the current visitor center and their modest home, which was used by General St. Clair as his headquarters during the winter. Six hundred acres of their trees were cut down during the six month stay for fuel and material to build the huts.

    The Ford Mansion grounds were also the location where many of the soldiers set up their quarters (some did use the home) during the winter after the battles of Princeton and Trenton in early 1777. Historic photos courtesy Library of Congress.

    Morristown Now

    Ford Mansion - Located in the Washington Headquarters area of the park in Morristown, the Ford Mansion served as the home of George and Martha Washington for six months during the winter of 1779-1780. You can take a guided tour by a park ranger of this home and see both the main and bedroom floors of the mansion.

    Interior - The interior of the Ford Mansion, which was built in the early 1770's by iron manufacturer, Jacob Ford, Jr., contained two stories, including the kitchen, circa 1905 below. At the time of the second encampment, it would hold the Ford family, George Washington, Martha Washington, plus twenty-three aides and servants of the Washington's.

    Photo above: Washington's office while in Morristown. Courtesy National Park Service.

  • Morristown National Historic Park

    Morristown


    1. The Washington Headquarters Museum, just behind the Ford Mansion. It's where exhibits on his stay are located, plus a thirty minute film about the time. From there, you start your tour of the mansion, which is provided a number of times daily on an hourly basis. Tours are limited to 20 people, and although reservations aren't usually necessary, it's possible for you to wait.

    2. Take the short walk from the Jockey Hollow visitor center to the Wick House and see how the regular folks lived during the time.

    3. Tour the park by car. Log cabins, not as plentiful as at Valley Forge, but still there, show you how the men lived. During the summer months, costumed interpreters can be seen there, as well as at other locations around the park.

    Photo above: Scene along the tour road at the Jockey Hollow section of the park.


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