Life in Washington’s Army (1776 – 1777)


~ by James Still ~

Soldiers often endure hardships and make many sacrifices while serving their country. During America’s struggle for Independence, for example, many soldiers went without adequate food or sleep; clothing or bedding. Most of General Washington’s troops, however, endured without a single complaint. “It will be a terrible night for the soldiers who have no shoes… but I have not heard a man complain.” An Officer, Diary of an Officer on Washington’s Staff, December 25, 1776

William Hull, an officer serving with Washington, provided a good description of the soldier’s life in 1776 – 1777. “When we left the Highlands [Hudson River, NY], my company consisted of about fifty, rank and file. On examining the state of the clothing, I found there was not more than one poor blanket to two men: many of them had neither shoes nor stockings; and those who had, found them nearly worn out. All the clothing was of the same wretched description.

These troops had been almost a year in service, and their pay which was due, remained unpaid. Yet their privations [lack of provisions] and trials were only equaled by their patience. They knew the resources of their country did not admit of their being more comfortable; yet. In a noble spirit of patriotism, they served her in her greatest need without compensation, and almost without the hope of more prosperous days…

In the attacks at Trenton and Princeton we were in this destitute situation, and continued to sleep on the frozen ground, without covering, until the seventh of January, when we arrived at Morristown, New Jersey, where General Washington established his winter quarters. The patient endurance of the army at this period, is perhaps unexampled in this or any other country.” William Hull, Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull, January 1777

James Still (Jan 2017),

“In recounting the hardships and fatigue which my company encountered, and the patience and fortitude [courage] with which they endured them, you will have a representation of the situation and conduct of the whole American army at that time.” William Hull, Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull, January 1777

“… during the inclement month of December, we marched through New Jersey, [and] slept on the cold ground, until we joined the army of General Washington in Pennsylvania. Here we remained a few days, but found no relief from our sufferings, unless it was relief to join companions in similar distress.” William Hull, Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull, January 1777

“… should we wander from [The Founding Principles]… let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.” Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801