Friday, November 16, 2007
Morristown: An Equal to Valley Forge
Most of us are aware of the stories that surround Valley Forge. The horrible winter camp of 1777-1778 claimed the lives of roughly 2000 men. Suffering from hunger as much as they were disease, Washington's Army was even forced to eat the leather from their shoes. Joseph Plumb Martin comments that the British could have tracked the Continental Army by simply following the blood trails left from the barefoot soldiers.
Apart from the suffering, one of the principal reasons that Valley Forge is seen with such intense historical fervor is because that winter can be seen as a turning point in the war. Benjamin Franklin's efforts to gain French support were about to be solidified, and Friedrich Baron von Steuben had installed new discipline to Washington's army.
In contrast, the winter camp at Morristown in 1780 receives less attention. The winter of 1780 has been recorded as the coldest of the entire American Revolution (not to mention one of the coldest recorded in American History). In terms of suffering, Morristown equals Valley Forge. Though more men died at Valley Forge, the winter of 1778 was mild compared to 1780. It was while at Morristown that Washington learned that the French aid had primarily gone to the Caribbean, causing the Commander-in-Chief additional panic. It was also at Morristown that Benedict Arnold, Washington's former comrade was court martialed, causing additional psychological and emotional strain. Though Valley Forge receives most of the attention, let us not forget Morristown. It was just as important (and trying) as was Valley Forge.