BACKTRACK

Backtracking … back to Washington.

During the Revolutionary War, Martha Washington often joined her husband on the road – especially in the winter when the army stayed in one location. The major goals? To reevaluate their tactics and for the army to simply survive.

Two of those winters were spent in Morristown, New Jersey.

One soldier wrote: On the 14th of December we reached the wilderness, about three miles from Morristown, where we are to build log huts for winter quarters. Our baggage is left in the rear for wagons to transport it. The snow on the ground is about two feet deep, and the weather extremely cold.

During that winter, 1,000 14 x 16 huts were built – each housing 12 soldiers. Little food was available and loose straw was gathered in piles to make their beds. Some soldiers didn’t take off their down jackets until April. (Can you imagine the smell? Though maybe their noses were so frozen, they couldn’t smell.) A thousand men deserted the army that winter, but most didn’t. It is said that if the army hadn’t stuck together through those long, cold months – the war would’ve been lost to the British.

Meanwhile, a widow with four young children offered her home – the finest in Morristown to General and Mrs. Washington. Here Washington had daily meetings with his officers to plan strategy and solve problems.

This was not a successful visit. Again this was on our October 2001 trip and GPS systems weren’t common. We arrived in Morristown early in the morning, wanting to visit Washington’s HQ and then go on to other places. But the first five people we asked had no idea where the house was located, indeed, none of them even spoke English. We finally found a policeman who steered us sort of in the right direction.

We finally found it, looked at some exhibits, watched a video and then had a tour by a guide who absolutely told us nothing. Seriously, you can usually pick up something from a tour – but not this one. One other family took the tour with us and they had a ten-year-old boy. For some reason this guy totally focused on the kid as if the rest of us weren’t even in the room. I’ve been on a lot of tours with schoolkids and have really enjoyed them because the guides often bring out interesting stories, etc. But nothing here. Ken, knowing quite a bit about history, asked some great questions, but didn’t get any real answers.

We gave up.

But this was Washington’s house – at least for a winter. Here Ken and Kelli at least try to get something out of the exhibits.


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