11. The winter encampments were not times of rest for the troops
Eighteenth century armies did not, for the most part, engage in campaigning during the winter. There was little food available for foraging parties to feed an army on the march, roads became impassable, and living in bivouacs was brutal. Small raiding parties from either side harassed their enemies, but for most of the troops the winter was spent in encampments, in wooden huts on the part of the Americans, in confiscated civilian housing for the British and Hessians in and around New York (or Philadelphia in 1778-79). Washington based most of his army at Morristown, New Jersey, during the winters, using Valley Forge in Pennsylvania but once, the winter during which the British occupied Philadelphia.
During the winter of 1776-77, at Morristown, Washington inoculated his army in stages (since the process induced a mild case of smallpox, rendering the troops too ill to serve), and kept the operation secret to ensure the British would not move against his weakened army. Congress wasn’t informed of the process for over a month, an indication of Washington’s attitude over that body’s ability to keep a secret. Later winter encampments were periods of extensive military drill, during which the army learned a new manual of arms. Soldiers in the encampments were forced to follow the same routine as those of the summer, fatigue duty, guard duty, drilling, and foraging, regardless of the harshness of the weather or the low quality of shelter and food.