Morristown National Historical Park commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental army’s winter encampment of December 1779 to June 1780, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record. This exhibit features a guided tour through The Jacob Ford Jr. Mansion.
During the winter of 1779-1780, General George Washington made his headquarters at Mrs. Theodosia Ford’s house while his 10,000 man army camped five miles to the south in Jockey Hollow. The widow Ford and her four children were familiar with the army as her husband had been a colonel in the New Jersey Militia before his death in 1777. Washington and his army had wintered in Morristown from February to the end of May. At the time, Washington stayed in a local tavern while soldiers from Delaware quartered in the Ford Mansion. In 1779 however, for almost seven months, she shared her house not with the common solider, but with the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and his staff.
George Washington's Conference Room
During the 1779-1780 encampment, Washington’s six aides worked here drafting letters, transcribing orders, copying documents and holding meetings with army personnel. Washington, his wife, aides, and guests also ate their meals here.
For the Ford family, this room was used as the front parlor or gathering room. Rooms such as this were a marker of status and wealth. Prized family heirlooms, artwork and furniture would often have been on display. Here, Mrs. Ford and her husband would entertain guests and receive visitors.
Here, General Washington carried out much of the daily business and correspondence that fell to him as Commander in Chief, and allowed the army to survive the winter.
As it was used during the time of Washington’s stay, this room functioned as an office for the Ford family as well as prior to and after Washington’s occupancy.
Mrs. Ford's Room
During Washington’s stay, Mrs. Ford and her four children moved into two ground floor rooms. This room served as the bedroom for Mrs. Ford and her twelve year old daughter, Elizabeth. The family also dined and entertained in this room.
Prior to the winter of 1779-80, the Fords used this room for dining, a function to which it returned to following his departure in June of 1780.
The kitchen was very crowded during Washington’s stay, as it was used by both Washington’s servants and those of the Ford family. Mrs. Ford’s cook and Washington’s two cooks attempted to make separate meals for their respective families using the single kitchen fireplace. Some of the crowding was finally relieved when a separate log kitchen was completed in February. The function of this room was the same before, during, and after the war.
Mrs. Ford filled this room with enough food to get her and her family through the winter. Barrels, crocks, bags, and jugs were filled with smoked and salted meats, dried fruits and vegetables, flour, salt, and cider. Washington used the cellar for his food storage. The small door at the far end of the room leads to the buttery. Here, servants would churn fresh butter.
The Boys' Room
Mrs. Ford’s three sons, Timothy age 17, Gabriel age 15, and Jacob III age 8, occupied this room during the winter.
Prior to the war, this room was most likely used as a sitting room or a library. However, at one point, four generations of the Ford family lived in the Ford Mansion, so it is possible that it was used as a bedroom for some of the family.
Morristown National Historical Park division of Cultural Resources;
Special thanks to intern Allison Alecci (summer 2015)