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By Bob Valen 

General Washington saved by winter weather

Weather Watcher


Recently, I came across an interesting story about spies, kidnappings and winter storms. It was all happening during our war for independence from the British more than two hundred years ago. The characters are many, some British, some Colonists and many Loyalists of one side or the other. The protagonist, at least for me, was the weather.

In February 1780, a British general and a British spy living in the colonies planned and attempted to capture General George Washington. Washington, at the time, was living in Morristown, New Jersey. The brain and man behind the scheme was Lt. Colonel John Simcoe. Simcoe was the commander of the elite Queen’s Rangers and had recently been released from being held captive by the Americans.

It was winter, the Hudson River was frozen, and winter storms swiped through the east. Most all British forces were east of Morristown and New Jersey. The frozen Hudson would make passage easy from New York into New Jersey. The first attempt was in early February. A storm stopped it. Later, a mix of troops moved out, facing snowdrifts, American patriot troops and sentries. Fighting occurred, though the British planned to use these attacks as a trick. All this was a diversion, along with a few other attacks.

Following the trick attacks, the British forces regrouped and headed for Hackensack, New Jersey, to carry out the mission of kidnapping General Washington. Leaving Hackensack for Morristown, these troops were blocked by the winter weather. Rain fell on the snow and froze solid. The horses the British rode ended up with fetlocks that were actually cut by the heavy crust, rendering them almost incapable of moving. Eventually, the whole mission fell apart. Word got out to the loyalist; the newspaper carried the story “The dragoons went out last night with an intent to take Washington.” The British commanders continued to keep themselves informed of Washington’s location and his protection strength (source: “The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Summer 2017”).

Well, let’s move on from historic winter weather. Time to recap what we experienced in June. Precipitation was light, at 0.52 inches of rain here at the home weather station. That’s well below our all-time mean for June of 1.04 inches. The high temperature for June was 97.3˚F on the 26th. The low temperature was 41.9˚F on the 10th. We had a mean temperature of 66.8˚F. The all-time high for June was 105˚F in 1938, while the all-time low was 36˚F in 2001. The all-time mean is 65.5˚F. For these first few days of July, I’ve already recorded two days over the 100˚F mark. Will July be a scorcher?

While we have these clear night skies, let’s see what our friends at EarthSky are saying about the July night sky: “Three of the five bright planets are easy to see in July 2017: Jupiter, Saturn and Venus. Bright Jupiter is the first “star” to pop into view at nightfall and stays out until late night. Golden Saturn is up in the east at nightfall and stays out for most of the night. Elusive Mercury is not as easy to catch after sunset, because it appears low in the west at dusk. Brilliant Venus rises before the sun. Red Mars, buried deep in the glare of evening twilight, cannot be seen from Earth this month.”


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