george washington and saint patrick's day

The winter of 1779 - 1780 was brutal around Morristown, New Jersey. We often think about Valley Forge and a brutal winter. That was two years before. Valley Forge was no cakewalk but the winter in Morristown was much worse. Approximately six feet of snow fell that winter making supply to the camp impossible at times. Men were housed in log huts bedded with straw. Keeping warm was a challenge.

Men went without food for days at a time. Moral had suffered terribly.

Washington wanted to boost the spirits of the men. He needed to. His army was coming apart at the seems.

The make-up of the Continental Army was about a quarter Irish or "Scotch-Irish". These men immigrated mainly from Ulster, the northern part of Ireland. They were mostly Presbyterians who left to come to America to avoid British oppression. They were more than willing to fight for independence from the British Crown. Generals who were born in Ireland or who had Irish parents commanded seven of the eleven brigades stationed at Morristown.
Support for the American cause was made clear by the citizens of Ulster. This was one way to "get back" at King George III.

In an effort to give at least some relief from the bad winter, Washington issued a general order on March 16, 1780. This order allowed that all work and detail parties cease for the day of March 17. The order also mentioned that no rioting take place and order was to be maintained.

The soldiers drank rum mostly. One Pennsylvania regiment enjoyed rum purchased by their commander. March 17 had a special place in Washington's heart. On March 17, 1776 the British evacuated Boston mostly because of the brutal winter and a smallpox outbreak. The British Army sailed to Nova Scotia.
Map of Morristown
Washington had done a good deed. There was still not much to do militarily at Morristown. The Continental Army was at a strategic point that Washington did not want to give up. The strategic location between Philadelphia and New York was where Washington wanted to be.

About 10,000 men were camped at Morristown. The conditions put the fighting force at 8,000 men. The demoralized state of the army did not go unnoticed by Washington. He had written to Congress about the scarcity of supplies. This did little good and Washington allowed his soldiers to forage the country to obtain food. New recruits were scarce as well.

Despite these hardships Washington stayed at Morristown to wait for better weather and good news. News did come from Marquis de Lafayette in May. Lafayette met Washington at Morristown to tell him that the French were sending a second fleet to assist the Americans.

Sources for this post: Morristown, NJ
                                   George Washington's St. Patrick's Day
                                   Washington's Encampment