Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence

By John Ferling | Go to book overview

14
“A BAND OF BROTHERHOOD”:
THE SOLDIERS, THE ARMY,
AND THE FORGOTTEN WAR IN 1779

CONGRESS no longer attempted to dictate to Washington and it said nothing when, following the departure of the French fleet in November 1778, he divided and dispersed the army for the winter. He posted some infantrymen at Danbury, Connecticut, others at West Point in the Hudson Highlands, and the remainder in Middlebrook, New Jersey, where he established his headquarters. The cavalry, which was to locate forage, was spread from New England to the Shenandoah Valley.1

The men were quickly put to work building their huts, so that at the outset each encampment took on the same feverish air that had characterized the startup at Valley Forge. But this winter was to be considerably different. The wisdom of scattering the army in several camps was quickly borne out. Supplies flowed relatively smoothly into each post, though that was due to more than Washington's good judgment. The winter was mild—“scarcely a … fall of snow, or a frost” for three months, reported an officer posted in New Jersey—and Clinton, with an army only about half the size that Howe had possessed the previous winter, was in no position to harass the Continentals' supply system. Substantive French aid had also poured in during the autumn, one of the first rewards of the alliance and commercial pact. The army especially welcomed the vast shipments of French clothes and uniforms (some coats were blue, others brown, and the states drew lots to determine which received the coveted blue). So much arrived that ill-clad soldiers were no longer seen—for a time, anyway— and Washington had to take the deliciously unaccustomed step of establishing proper storage facilities for the surplus.2

-326-

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