“The Hard Winter” - Revolutionary War Winter of 1779

In November of 1779, General George Washington moved his entire Continental Army to a location just outside of Morristown, New Jersey, to spend the winter. The location, Jockey Hollow, was chosen for its proximity between New York and Philadelphia and for its supply of timber and other resources.

There was already a foot of snow on the ground while the soldiers began to construct their winter headquarters. What lay ahead was one of the coldest winters on record and became known by the name “The Hard Winter”.

The winter of 1779 was so cold that in January of 1780 all of the saltwater inlets, harbors and sounds of the Atlantic coastal plain from North Carolina to New York froze and remained closed to navigation for about a month.

During the army’s time at Jockey Hollow, there were at least 20 snowstorms and 6 blizzards. One blizzard on January 3rd lasted 2 days and left 4 feet of snow on the ground. Temperatures were often below freezing and snowdrifts piled up making it difficult to obtain provisions and feed the army. The army lacked proper clothing to stay warm and enough food to eat. General Washington worried about the health of his soldiers, mutinies and deserations.

In spite of the brutal conditions, Valley Forge became an important turning point in the War as the soldiers emerged from the winter with a new sense of perseverance and determination gained from overcoming the challenges they faced that winter.

The Hard Winter genealogy research