They were fighting fellow countrymen. But they were also fighting the elements. In the winter of 1779-1780, Washington’s Army set to work building huts to weather the winter at Morristown, New Jersey.
Replicas still stand today in Jockey Hollow at Morristown National Historical Park. In the middle of summer, and from a distance, the huts are charming enough.
But step inside and imagine what life must have been like, through the long cold winter. You have little food. Your clothes are old, your boots nearly worn through.
Nearly 1,200 huts stood at the cusp of the hill and nestled among the trees, a bustling mass of unwashed humanity with all their associated waste and odors.
Twelve men slept in each 14 by 16 foot hut. Their bunks that were little more than shelves set across tree trunks.
They warmed themselves at stone fireplaces that doubled as cook-stoves. Warmth was hard enough to come by. The Union had not seen fit to supply them with hats.
The winter was bitter. Washington himself called it “intensely cold and freezing,” in a 1780 Diary entry. December brought seven blizzards.
The cold and discomfort led to threats of mutiny. As many as 1000 soldiers deserted.
Major General John Kalab wrote, “Those who have only been in Valley Forge or Middlebrook during the last two winters, but have not tasted the cruelties of this one, know not what it is to suffer.”