Lace up your dancing shoes, because for today's stop on our tour of Hamilton history, we're going across the river to New Jersey. Not to the dueling grounds, but to the site of a much happier occasion: Morristown, where the Continental Army spent the winter of 1779-80.
This encampment was actually the second by G.Dubs and his squad in Morristown: they also spent the winter of 1777-1778 here, bunking downtown in Jacob Arnold's tavern on the village green (which is now a Charles Schwab office, boo). However, the soldiers managed to spread smallpox throughout the town—whoops!—so when the army returned to Morristown after the grueling winter at Valley Forge, they stayed out beyond city limits lest they infect the general population once more.)
Though most of the soldiers suffered through the winter in makeshift log cabins in the surrounding woods at Jockey Hollow, enduring bitterly cold conditions even worse than at Valley Forge, Hamilton didn't have it quite so bad. As Washington's aide-de-camp, he slept and worked at the swanky Ford Mansion alongside fellow officers and partook of the privileges afforded to the higher ranks.
"Washington and his officers, despite their discomfort and sufferings, managed to extract a considerable amount of pleasure from life, and there appears to have been a great deal of gayety, which was participated in by a merry collection of young people…." writes Allan McLane Hamilton, the grandson of Alexander, in The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton.
Indeed, as a way to pass the time during the winter break when armies took a hiatus from battles, the young officers really did host balls—like summer camp dances—as a way to meet the LA-DIES! and relieve the drudgery and despair of the cold months.
And as it so happened, on February 2, 1780, Elizabeth Schuyler rolled into Morristown to stay with the family of Dr. Jabez Campfield, a surgeon who was also hosting Washington's personal physician, Dr. John Cochran. Dr. Cochran's wife happened to be Eliza's aunt, so she invited her to come south to Morristown and "help out"—and by which I mean meet some eligible officers and maybe make a love connection.
Morristown was fairly lit with the sparks flying between Alex and Eliza, so quickly that according to the Chernow biography, the two had already become engaged by March 1780. Chernow also recounts the famous story where, upon his return to camp after a night of makeout sessions (my words, not Chernow's), Hamilton couldn't remember the password to make it past the sentinel at the gate.
You can now visit the site of the winter encampment as part of Morristown National Historical Park, which features tours of the Ford Mansion (now known as Washington's Headquarters Museum) and hike or cycle through the Jockey Hollow campgrounds. Get logistical details here.
And you can visit the Schuyler-Hamilton House, as the Campfield house is now called, and sit in the same parlor where they courted. Get logistical details here, and see more photos of the house in this New York Times piece where the OG Schuyler Sisters pay a visit.
Bonus Fun Fact! The widow who owned the Ford Mansion (and whose family was relegated to two rooms within the house while the army commandeered it) was named Theodosia Ford. Theodosias abound!
All images courtesy Dan Cichalski.