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       THE POWER OF ONE small black logo
STORY BY CHRIS POH  -  PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID McBRIDE
 Ford Mansion in Morristown National Historical Park as seen in American Public House Review
FORD MANSION IN MORRISTOWN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK


George Washington as seen in American Public House ReviewRecently my friend David and I spent a pleasant afternoon at a local café along the banks of the Delaware River. The setting was fitting considering the topic of conversation. We were just a few miles north of where General Washington launched his Durham Boats on Christmas Day of 1776, in order to take the Hessian stronghold at Trenton. We spoke at length about his Excellency and those other titans of the eighteenth century that promoted and prosecuted the American cause.

At some point the question was raised as to why we no longer have men of that capacity, competence or caliber charting the course of the republic. As we grappled over the decision of which ice tea to drink and what kind of artificial sweetener to use, the answer, to borrow a phrase from Doctor Franklin, became self evident. The age of reason has been overshadowed by the age of distraction.

The British military understood the power and reach of the handful of individuals that were at the forefront of the revolution. By hanging just a few of these unruly upstarts they reasoned that the rebellion could be quelled with minimal impact upon their treasury or troops. The whole of the Continental Congress and one particular gentleman from Mount Vernon were undoubtedly in the English crosshairs.

During the brutal winter of 1779-1780, Washington for the second time during the war headquartered at Morristown, New Jersey. The general along with his wife, family servants and several aides-de-camp shared the home of Mrs. Jacob Ford along with her four children and household staff.  The bulk of Washington’s forces were stationed at Jockey Hollow a few miles southwest of his position. There the soldiers faced disease, constant hunger, unrelenting cold and a series of blizzards that left the army snowbound for much of that winter.


George and Martha Washington's bedroom at the Ford Mansion as seen in American Public House Review
Washington's Office in the Ford Mansion as seen in American Public House Review
GEORGE AND MARTHA SLEPT HERE  
    THE GENERAL'S OFFICE


George Washington wrote the Marquis de Lafayette on March 18th, 1780 from the Ford Mansion. "... The oldest people now living in this Country do not remember so hard a winter as the one we are now emerging from. In a word the severity of the frost exceeded anything of the kind that had ever been experienced in this climate before. "

What the general was describing has been referred to by some climatologists as “The Little Ice Age,” a period of extreme cold spikes that lasted into the middle of the nineteenth century. During the early part of 1780 New York Harbor was completely frozen, thus creating an ice bridge from which either of the opposing armies could easily cross in order to stage foraging raids or attack fortifications.

British Major John Graves Simcoe, the commander of the elite Queens Rangers had successfully conducted mounted operations in New Jersey during the fall of 1779. He knew the terrain well, and he was also aware of Washington’s vulnerability at Morristown. He made plans to stage a raid on the headquarters during the first week of February in 1780. Those plans were supplanted by Hessian General Wilhelm von Kynphausen who had taken over command of the British forces in New York from General Henry Clinton, who had moved a large part of the army south in order to attack Charleston.


Officers' quarters in the Ford Mansion as seen in American Public House Review
Officers' beds in the Ford Mansion as seen in American Public House Review
OFFICERS' QUARTERS  
   OFFICERS' BEDS


Knyphausen favored an alternate plan suggested by his own aide-de-camp. Simcoe would stage a diversionary infantry attack on the rebel posts at Woodbridge and Rahway, while the hussars of the Queen’s Rangers would be reassigned to a separate force that would set off from Staten Island to attack Morristown.

In this particular instance nature, which had so many times dealt a cruel hand to Washington’s army, intervened on behalf of the Continental cause. The heavy accumulation of snow greatly limited Major Simcoe’s effectiveness, and an unexpected rainstorm left the snow encrusted with a layer of sharp ice that cut the fetlocks of the horses, forcing the cavalry to abandon the campaign.

There has been considerably speculation by writers and historians as to what effect the absence of Washington might have had on the American effort to secure independence. There are those who have questioned Washington’s military prowess and judgment. And while he had his detractors in the congress, among them John Adams on occasion, I firmly believe the loss of this one individual would have meant eventual capitulation by the colonies to English rule.

colonial flag starfield as seen in American Public House ReviewIn this one man the American cause had found a leader, administrator, statesman, diplomat, tactician and soldier. At no point in America’s history had the fate of its citizens been so inexorably tied to the actions and wellbeing of one man. And at no point had one man been more deserving of the love and respect of a grateful nation.


The kitchen at Ford Mansion as seen in American Public House Review
THE KITCHEN AT FORD MANSION





MORRISTOWN NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK

30 WASHINGTON PLACE
MORRISTOWN, NEW JERSEY 07960-4299

(973) 539-2016  extension 210

http://www.nps.gov/morr/index.htm


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