At Home with George: Washington’s Morristown Winter, 1779–1780

At Home with George

Washington’s Morristown Winter, 1779–1780

“I shall be in Morris-town tomorrow and shall be obliged by your ordering me a late dinner. I understand my Quarters are to be at Mrs. Fords.”
—George Washington to Major General Nathanael Green, November 30, 1779

Explore the halls of an 18th-century mansion in the British colony of New Jersey. Morristown (population 250) was home to the recently widowed Theodosia Ford, manager of the only gunpowder mill in the colony. For six months, from December 1779 to June 1780, her Ford Mansion was the military headquarters of the Continental Army. General George Washington, his wife Martha, and his enslaved servants shared the home with Theodosia, her four children, and her staff. The second floor housed an administrative contingent of seven men—Washington’s aides-de-camp and secretaries—who corresponded with local and foreign military leaders and managed supply requisitions. 250 sentries assigned to guard the Ford Mansion were quartered separately in fourteen nearby huts.

The influx of Continental military nearly doubled the population of Morris County. Walk the fields where an estimated 10,000—12,000 soldiers encamped in Mendham, Harding, Mount Kemble, and Bernardsville, regions adjacent to the village of Morristown. The snow began falling before their huts were completed; the season was the coldest in recent memory with nearly thirty storms and impassible frozen rivers.

Many made their home in Morristown during the winter of 1779—1780. The Continental Army uniform, displayed in the Morristown National Historical Park’s re-created soldier’s hut, reminds us that each resident’s experience of the war was unique. The conflict impacted individuals of different classes, nationalities, races, and generations. This exhibition is their architectural narrative.

Every jacket tells a story.


2023 marked the 90th anniversary of the establishment of Morristown National Historical Park as the first historical park in the National Park Service.

By the 1920s, the term “national park” described vast tracts of land in the western regions of the United States preserved for future generations. Fifty years earlier, Yellowstone had been designated the first national park and within decades more than a dozen sites including Yosemite, Sequoia, and Grand Canyon were recognized by Congress.

The idea of a national historical park, and the preservation of historic and cultural sites by the federal government, first gained recognition at the National Park Service in 1931. Preservation of history was also on the minds at the time of many in Morristown, New Jersey, as over-development threatened local areas associated with George Washington’s Revolutionary War winter encampment. Mayor Clyde Potts, together with businessman Lloyd W. Smith, offered Fort Nonsense and the Jockey Hollow encampment grounds to the National Park Service in late 1931 for a new historical park.  The Washington Association of New Jersey, which managed the general’s headquarters at the Ford Mansion since the 1870s, transferred the property and museum collections in 1933 and, together with Fort Nonsense and Jockey Hollow, resulted in the first National Historical Park.

To celebrate this anniversary, the Morristown National Historical Park commissioned the photo-artist Xiomáro to document the architecture of the Ford Mansion and the Jockey Hollow site “to reintroduce the park to the rapidly changing global and local communities it serves in the 21st-century.” The artist’s innovative use of natural light and access to areas of the buildings typically unseen by the public resulted in photographs which capture the Ford Mansion’s dual role as domestic space and Washington’s 1779-1780 Revolutionary War headquarters.

About the artist

Xiomáro (SEE-oh-MAH-ro) specializes in photographing iconic historical sites to raise awareness of their history, culture, and natural beauty. He is the author of Weir Farm National Historic Site with a foreword by Senator Joseph Lieberman. Xio’s work has been exhibited at venues such as Harvard University, Fraunces Tavern Museum, Long Island Museum, Fruitlands Museum, and galleries in Scotland and Italy. His work has been reported by The New York Times, Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, PBS and other major television news networks, and publications in the United Kingdom and Greece.

At Home with George: Washington’s Morristown Winter, 1779–1780 is curated by Anne Ricculli, Ph.D., Director of Exhibits and Collections with the support of Curatorial Interns Emily Rainbolt, Elizabeth Shack, and Jamie Zurek.

The related video was generously provided by State of the Arts. State of the Arts is a co-production of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and Stockton University, in cooperation with PCK Media.

Exhibition support is provided by The Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation.

Image Caption: Xiomáro, Hut Display – Inside close-up view of hanging uniform jacket on bunk, 2022. Jockey Hollow MNHP Photography: © 2022, Image used with permission of the artist.
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