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Welcome to New Windsor Cantonment
State Historic Site

The final winter encampment of the 
Revolutionary War

October 1782—June 1783

A year after the American victory over the British at Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781, General George Washington moved a large part of his army to New Windsor for winter quarters or a “cantonment.” Here, some 7,000 troops, accompanied by about 500 women and children, built log huts for shelter, drilled and kept ready for a possible spring campaign, if peace negotiations in France where not successful.

At the same time, the army’s grievances over long-promised pensions, land bounties and back pay threatened to erupt in rebellion. Fortunately, army discipline prevailed. Following the news of a provisional peace treaty, Washington issued cease-fire orders, effective April 19, 1783, bringing the eight year war to an end. The army was peacefully furloughed home.

Today, this state historic site preserves 120 acres of the original 1,600-acre cantonment. In season, interpreters in period dress demonstrate military and camplife activities.

(Cantonment Marker)





The New Windsor Cantonment is the last encampment made by General Washington's army before the end of the war. In October of 1782, a year after the American victory over the British at Yorktown, Virginia, General George Washington moved his army to New Windsor for the winter. Some 500 women and children (camp-followers) accompanied his 7,000 troops. They transformed 1,600 acres of forests and meadows into a substantial military enclave or “cantonment.” By late December 1782, they had erected nearly 600 log huts.

High-ranking officers, including Major General Horatio Gates, the commandant of the Cantonment, and Major General Henry Knox, Artillery Commander, were quartered in nearby private homes. Washington made his headquarters in the Jonathan Hasbrouck house (now Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site) six miles away in Newburgh.

Although the army was better housed, fed and clothed than any other time in the war, life at the Cantonment was still difficult. Peace negotiations in Paris progressed very slowly and there was concern that Congress still had not resolved issues relating to the army’s back pay, pensions, and land bounties. Rumors of mutiny rumbled through the ranks and threatened to ruin the cause of independence.

The Temple or New Building

In December 1782, at the suggestion of the Reverend Israel Evans, chaplain to the New Hampshire regiments, General Washington ordered the troops to construct a large building that would serve as a chapel for Sunday services. The resulting Temple of Virtue, as it was known — also called the New Building and Public Building — was 110 feet by 30 feet. It was used also for courts-martial hearings, commissary and quartermaster activities and officers’ functions.

On March 15, 1783, an officers’ challenge to General Washington and Congress, now known as the Newburgh Addresses, was countered by Washington at a dramatic meeting held in the Temple Building. A month later, news of the provisional peace treaty and Congress’s “Proclamation of the Cessation of Hostilities” enabled Washington to issue cease-fire orders. A copy of the proclamation was posted on the door of the Temple Building. In June 1783, the troops were furloughed home.

The original Temple Building was damaged by lightening in June 1783, and was sold when the army auctioned off many of the huts and surplus equipment. Today’s structure is a representation built in 1964-1965.

(Cantonment Marker)

The problem reached a peak on March 15, 1783 when Washington was forced to confront the disgruntled soldiers at a meeting in the Cantonment’s Temple Building. At this meeting he gave what is now known as the Newburgh Addresses. His speech was dramatic and effective.

Shortly afterward, there was long-awaited progress in the peace negotiations. Congress declared a “Proclamation of the Cessation of Hostilities” and enabled Washington to issue cease-fire orders, effective April 19, eight years to the day when the first shots rang out at Lexington and Concord. The army gradually disbanded, though still largely unpaid, and returned back to their homes or to new pursuits out west.

“Disbanding of the Continental Army,” by H.A. Ogden was published in Harper’s Weekly in 1883, commemorating the centennial of the end of the Revolutionary War.

(Cantonment Marker)

Today, at the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site, military drills and demonstrations, together with camp life activities, recall the critical months of the last encampment of Washington's Army of the North over 200 years ago.

On the first floor of the Visitor Center, there is an exhibit on the Purple Heart. The Purple Heart Award was created by George Washington in a memo penned at his Headquarters in Newburgh in 1782. In 1944 the award was re-established to honor soldiers who were wounded in combat. In the future, the visitor center plans to have an exhibit that will list all recipients of the Purple Heart.

The Figure of a Heart in Purple Cloth

Headquarters, Newburgh, Aug. 7, 1782. The General, ever desirous to cherish a virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species of Military merit, directs that “whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward … The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all,” George Washington.

(Visitor Center Exhibit)



The Visitor Center also contains exhibits and an audio-visual show on the final chapter of the Revolutionary War, when the Army of the North encamped at the New Windsor Cantonment from October 1782 to June 1783. The basement of the Visitor Center contains an artillery museum from the Revolutionary War.

This detail shows the huts of the 7th Massachusetts Regiment as drawn by Private Tarbell, 1783. Tarbell identified his hut with his initials, “W. T.” This illustration is from an 1890 copy of Tarbell’s original drawing. Courtesy of Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site, Newburgh.

(Cantonment Marker)


In the encampment area there are exhibits including log working and shingle making as well as the Von Steuben camp, the regimental garden, the blacksmith shop, the Mountainville hut, a diorama of troops on the march and other exhibits. The parade ground is often used for musket and artillery demonstrations. The Temple Building, a large building adjacent to the parade ground, is a reproduction of the original building that was constructed by the soldiers primarily for use as a chapel. It was here where Washington addressed his officers on March 15, 1783, to defuse a possible mutiny. Behind the temple is a tall stone monument placed in memory of the Masons who served here, including George Washington himself.

The cantonment is open to the public from Mid-April through Oct., Wed.-Sat. 10 AM - 5 PM, Sun. 1-5 PM.


Freedom Road — The road from the Cantonment is also called Freedom Road. This is the same route traveled by the 52 American hostages from Stewart Airport to West Point after their release from captivity in Iran, January 25th, 1981. Americans were able to celebrate their freedom along this road in both the 18th and 20th centuries.

Edmonston House  — Like the Ellison House (Knox’s Headquarters), the Edmonston House was also used to quarter officers while the American army was encamped nearby at the New Windsor Cantonment.


Built in 1755, by William Edmonston, used as a headquarters for Generals St. Clair and Gates in 1782-83 and as a medical staff headquarters during the army encampments at New Windsor.

New Windsor Town Historian

(Edmonston House Marker)

From the Edmonston house, one can see and hear the New York Thruway just a short distance away. The thruway actually passes through part of the original cantonment where New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Maryland troops were encamped.

With our country’s history so close to the thruway, one wonders why there are no historical signs it. They have signs for every route, town, restaurant, motel and gas station off the thruway, but few for the very important historical attractions that are just off the highway.

Onto Newburgh

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