Jockey Hollow (Morristown) - Soldiers' Log Huts

Morristown, New Jersey, where over a thousand acres of revolutionary war sites have been preserved since 1933, is home to America‘s first national historic park. Known as the “military capital of the Revolution,” Morristown has park lands stretching from Harding to Mendham and Morris Townships. Morris park lands are recognized for their beautifully preserved wooden cabins, the Ford Mansion, Fort Nonsense, the New Jersey Brigade Encampment, and the green hills of Jockey Hollow. Several interpretive centers and exhibits display artifacts and information on the time period.

Jockey Hollow, an area containing legendary burial grounds, war sites, and Revolutionary-era homes, was chosen by George Washington as a location for an encampment during the winter of 1779-1780.(1) Washington had arrived at Morristown with ten to twelve thousand men in bitterly cold weather and severe conditions of wartime hardship. Traveling with little food, the men of Washington’s troops were war weary.(2) Living on a variety of horse feed, the soldiers had marched in deep snow without shoes, using only simple cloth bandages to protect their hands and feet from frostbite.

Simple log huts were constructed for shelter and as the malnourished men settled in, thieving became an issue. Those who were caught stealing were punished with a hundred lashes. The encampment endured a winter more harsh than that of Valley Forge, where thousands died the same year. In December alone, seven blizzards covered the encampment, yet only a hundred soldiers perished.(3) Men of the eight infantry brigades, hailing from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island, passed time around campfires or drilling on the grounds of what is now the park.(4)

One particular company of men is commemorated at Sugar Loaf Hill where a plaque states, “the two thousand men of the Pennsylvania line served as the backbone of Washington’s army.”(5) Washington’s Pennsylvania troops had fought in almost every battle of the war and were revered as the company’s most experienced men. However, during a second encampment at Jockey Hollow, the Pennsylvanians decided to march to Philadelphia to demand overdue wages from Congress.

(Elizabeth Parsons)

Replicas of the simple log huts constructed for soldiers during the revolutionary war, Jockey Hollow, Morristown. Soldiers’ huts, Jockey Hollow, Morristown. Photograph courtesy of Blaine Rothauser.

New Jersey Boy Scout Troop 41 exploring solders’ hut at Jockey Hollow, Morristown.

Soldiers’ bunks in log hut, Jockey Hollow, Morristown.

Today, Sugar Loaf Hill displays five replicated soldiers’ huts – the simple log shelters that protected Washington’s troops from snowy winter weather so many years ago. Workers at an archeological dig at the site begun in the 1930s investigated claims of a mass grave of men buried beneath the cabins. Although no bones were found, a bullet extractor and a bitten bullet used as war time anesthesia were uncovered, leading researchers to believe a hospital may have been located there.(6) Cemeteries hadn’t become popular until later during the Civil War; according to oral reports, men during the revolution were buried in unmarked graves where they fell.

The grounds at Jockey Hollow also include the site of the New Jersey Brigade encampment, an area where nine hundred New Jerseans built almost one hundred log huts in 1779. The lands are now preserved as a wildlife sanctuary.(7). Another historic structure at Jockey Hollow is the Joshua Guerin house at the north entrance to the park. Guerin was a sergeant in the Morris County Militia; he drove wagons and was a blacksmith in his time. At the south end of Jockey Hollow is the historic Tempe Wick house, which is discussed separately on this web site.

(1,4-7) Mark Di Ionno, A Guide to New Jersey’s Revolutionary War Trail for Families and History Buffs (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000).

(2,3) NJ Skylands web site (see link below).

Additional Reference: web site (see link below).

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