My colleagues and I gave a presentation at the National Historic Site in Morristown, New Jersey earlier this month. I’m on the left (the blogger Janet Wedge); Landa Freeman is in the center; and Louise North is on the right, We three are the compilers/editors of In the Words of Women. The museum and the auditorium were lovely. Unfortunately the lure of the Jersey shore on that hot Sunday resulted in a rather small audience, nevertheless our presentation was well received. Louise North was able to include quite a lot of material from her new book The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston. And I got to read this wonderful letter to her sister-in-law by MARTHA DANGERFIELD BLAND who joined her husband, a member of George Washington’s staff, in Morristown in 1777 during a lull in the fighting. Considering this was after a severe winter and in the middle of a war with Britain, everyone seemed to be having a rather nice time.
May 12, 1777. . . . I left Philadelphia last month (the first day) & came to Morristown where Genl Washington keeps Headquarters. Mrs. Washington had arrived three weeks before me, so that I could with a good face make a visit to Camp. . . . I had many Qualms of consiance about visiting a camp. . . . I found Morris a very clever little village, situated in a most beautiful valley at the foot of 5 mountains. It has three houses with steeples which give it a consequential look . . . it has two familys—refugees from New York in it otherwise it is inhabited by the errentest rusticks you ever beheld—you cannot travil three miles without passing through one of these villages all of them having meeting houses and court houses &c &c, decorated with steeples which gives them a pretty Airy look & the farmes between the mountains are the most rural sweet spots in nature, their medows of a fine luxuriant grass which looks like a bed of velvet interspersed with yellow blue and white flowers. They represent us with just such scenes as the poets paint Arcadia: purling rills, mossy beds &c but not crying swains & lovely nymphs tho there are some exceeding pretty girls. . . . realy I never met with such pleasant looking creatures, & the most inhospitable mortals breathing; you can get nothing from them but “dreadful good water” as they term everything that is good. Desperate and dreadfull are their favorite words, you’d laugh to hear them talk. . . .
Assending from small to great things—now let me speak of our Noble and Agreable Commander (for he commands both Sexes) one by his Excellent Skill in Military Matters, the other by his ability politeness and attention. We visit them twice or three times a week by particular invitation—Ev’ry day frequently from Inclination—he is generally busy in the forenoon—but from dinner till night he is free for all company. His Worthy Lady seems to be in perfect felicity while she is by the side of her Old Man as she calls him, we often make partys on Horse Back the Genl his lady Miss [Susan] Livingstone & his Aid de Camps who are Colo Fitz Gerald . . . Colo Johnson . . . Colo Hamilton a sensible Genteel polite young fellow a West Indian—Colo Meade—Colo Tillman . . . Colo Harrison . . . Capt Gibbs. . . . These are the Genls family all polite sociable gentlemen who make the day pass with a great deal of satisfaction to the Visitors—but I had forgot my subject almost, this is our riding party Generly—at which time General Washington throws off the Hero—and takes on the chatty agreeable companion—he can be down right impudent sometimes—such impudence, Fanny, as you and I like. . . .
God Bless you, adieu
The letter can be found on page 109 of In the Words of Women.