The importance of George Washington to the history of the United States is paramount. It is said that, without George Washington, there might be no United States. No one person was more critical to the success of the American Revolution and winning the independence of our country than General George Washington. And no other person had the stature and respect to become the first president of our country – no one else was even considered. He is truly America’s father.
During his nine years as military commander of the Continental Army, George Washington spent more time in New Jersey than in any other place. New Jersey was the crossroads of the American Revolution, and, in fact, no less than 50% of the military battles were fought here. General Washington twice picked Morristown to be his headquarters, rest his soldiers (during Revolutionary times, wars were not fought in the winter), and await the battles that lay ahead. His headquarters were visited by many of our founding fathers and figures such as the Marquis de LaFayette and Alexander Hamilton who was stationed at the Headquarters as Washington’s aide,
In the winter of 1777, Morristown became the chosen strategic location for the first of two military encampments. It was the ideal place because of its logistical, geographical and topographical advantages: the extensive agricultural country could sustain the troops while cutting off those same provisions for the British encamped in New York City; its proximity to many forges, furnaces and iron works for armaments; and its location among the Watchung Hills which was difficult to attack and provided a clear view and warning system of British activities.
Because of this strategic strength, Washington chose to once again settle in Morristown during the winter of 1779-1780, the fourth year of the war. The Jacob Ford Mansion became his official headquarters, and Jockey Hollow, the “wintering grounds” for the Continental Army. This cruel winter, known as “the hard winter,” was the worst in eastern United States’ history, setting records of bitter cold and a total of 24 snowstorms. When the troops arrived, many of the dwindling forces had no shelter, blankets, clothing, food or other essential provisions. Some of the men were actually barefoot and all had tattered clothing. The cohesiveness and sustainability of the army was in severe peril, and Congress was slow to react to Washington’s pleas for funds and his accounts of the dire situation.
Yet despite all odds, the troops endured. Almost everyone has heard of the Boston Tea Party, the famous ride of Paul Revere, the encampment at Valley Forge and the battle and subsequent British surrender at Yorktown. Yet oddly, the significance of the Continental Army at Jockey Hollow in Morristown, New Jersey, remains relatively unknown. Most Americans tend to think of the winter at Valley Forge as the ultimate test of the army’s resolve but in actuality it was here in Morristown where Washington’s and his troops’ true mettle shone. It was here in Morristown where the mistakes of previous encampments were rectified. It was here in Morristown under George Washington’s watchful eye and direction where the ragtag army under the most adverse conditions built an elaborate, carefully structured, sanitary grid of 1,000 log cabins where they could persevere and live on to continue the war. Its story must be preserved and known.