New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site is where the Continental Army under General George Washington spent the last winter and spring of the Revolutionary War. In October 1782, General Washington moved his northern army to New Windsor to establish winter quarters. Some 7,500 soldiers and 500 women and children civilian refugees encamped here. By late December 1782, they had erected nearly 600 log huts into a "cantonment," a military enclave. It was at the New Windsor Cantonment that the cease fire orders were issued by Washington ending the eight-year War of Independence on April 19, 1783.
From mid-April through October visitors will find costumed staff demonstrating musket drills, blacksmithing, military medicine and other 18th century skills, with additional demonstrations in July and August. Buildings include the reconstructed "Temple of Virtue," which served as a chapel and office and the Mountainville Hut, perhaps the only surviving example of original timber construction by the Continental Army. Year round, guests can view two exhibits at the Visitor Center on the stories of the men and women who lived at the 1782-83 cantonment, and on General Henry Knox's New Windsor Artillery Park that stood nearby in 1780-81.
Special events include an encampment by Revolutionary War reenactors each April, Memorial Day and Independence Day activities and a Children's Day of fun activities remembering the 219 children that once lived here. Annual living history programs take place in cooperation with nearby Knox's Headquarters State Historic Site.
New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site is also home to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. To honor the service of his troops, General Washington chose a select few to receive a small purple cloth Badge of Merit, inspiring creation of the present day Purple Heart medal. In 1932, the new Purple Heart medal was presented to nearly 138 veterans of World War I on these same historic grounds. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is dedicated to preserving the stories of Purple Heart recipients from all branches of service and across generations.
The New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site is co-located with the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor at 374 Temple Hill Road (Route 300) in New Windsor, NY, just three miles south of the intersection of I-87 and I-84. The historic site is closed holidays except Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day. Costumed living history demonstrations are available from mid-April to the end of October, from Wednesday to Saturday, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. The visitor center is open except for the above mentioned holidays year round Monday - Saturday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.
Museum and Grounds open year round, Tues - Sat 10AM -5PM and Sun 1PM - 5PM
Living history closes for the season at the end of the day on October 31. The site will have a Christmas event on Saturday December 13 and Saturday December 20 as well as tours at 10AM, 11AM, 1PM, 2PM and 3PM, December 26-28. The site will also have the Presidents weekend event in February. Any other visits by appointment. The Visitor Center along with Purple Heart is open all winter.
Visitor Center Exhibits are open year round Monday-Saturday from 10am-5pm, Sunday from 1pm-5pm.
April-October: Wednesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm, Sunday from 1 pm-5 pm, closed on Monday and Tuesdays.
Explore the Cantonment at your own pace enjoying the beautiful semi-wooded grounds and trails. From late spring through early fall enjoy talking with a soldier or soldier's wife along with occasional demonstrations of musket firing or blacksmithing. With summer the site is alive with costumed soldiers and civilians demonstrating period skills like 18th century medicine, drilling with muskets or cannon, cooking over an open fire, laundering clothing, or hewing timbers for log huts. It's not all work though, and you'll be invited to try your hand at period games and sports, along with occasional celebrations such as Independence Day. Guided tours with living history demonstrations are available for organized groups by advance arrangement only. Please contact the Interpretive Programs office at New Windsor Cantonment (845-561-1765 ext. 22) for more information on tours.
African American History Month
Across this nation and throughout the Empire State, African Americans have helped to shape American history, fight for independence, and secure freedom. The efforts of these individuals stand as a testament to their courage and an inspiration to us all.
In observance of African American History Month, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation gives special recognition to some of the many stories associated with the African American experience at state historic sites.
On display, New Windsor Cantonment has an account of an African American soldier who was briefly stationed there during the Revolution in addition to an encompassing overview of the war and the many contributions the thousands of African Americans who served during the American Revolution made as soldiers, laborers, and spies. Learn more about their contributions at New Windsor Cantonment.
Behind Every Great Man
The Continental Army in Winter, 1782-83. Just as General George Washington praised the service of the officers and soldiers under his command, the New Windsor Cantonment today remembers those men whose names and stories might otherwise be forgotten. Life size conjectural portraits recall an officer who died under tragic circumstances, a private held back only by his race, a soldier called upon to use his skills as a blacksmith, and even the wife and child of a soldier who abandoned his family in camp. Some 8,000 souls lived at the cantonment, and their stories and the artifacts they left behind come together to tell what life was like at the dawn of a new nation. Follow the story to the present as the New Windsor Cantonment is preserved and opened as a historic site.History is hands-on in this exhibit. While touring take a look inside a soldier's knapsack, a washerwoman's tub, and an officer's trunk filled with reproductions of the tools, clothing and other items that were used each day by the residents of the Cantonment. Peer through "peepholes" to see how soldiers' children living at the army camp might have dressed. Read the stories of the men and women in their own words in a special section of eyewitness accounts.
"The Last Argument of Kings"
Revolutionary War Artillery Artillery in the 18th century made a bold statement of national prestige and power. Decorated with the coat of arms or cipher of the monarch, the cannons spoke when diplomacy failed. Learn the history of muzzle-loading artillery, with 14 original artillery pieces, ranging in date from the early 18th to the mid-19th century, two of which are rare trophy guns captured from the British in 1777, following the Battle of Saratoga, New York.Another part of the exhibit features the New Windsor artillery encampment of 1780-81. From nearby Knox's Headquarters, General Henry Knox supervised the assemblage of the heavy siege artillery needed to attack the British in New York City, sixty miles to the south. In the spring of 1781, the hills around New Windsor echoed to the sound of cannon fire as the artillery gunners practiced. During their training, they created detailed artillery tables, recording the distance varying charges of powder gave to their shots. Taking advantage of French naval strength in the south, Washington ordered General Knox to follow him not to New York City, but Yorktown, Virginia, in the summer and fall of 1781. Trapping the British inside defensive works, with their backs to the York River, the siege of Yorktown was an artillery battle, where the importance of the training at New Windsor became apparent. The Continental artillery could now drop exploding shells "just over the enemy's parapets destroying them where they thought themselves most secure."
Beyond the two exhibits in the site's Visitor Center, New Windsor Cantonment's grounds house additional exhibit and landmark features. The Cantonment ceased to exist when a 1783 auction raised much needed funds for the army by selling off army surplus equipment including the nearly 600 timber buildings that made up the Cantonment. The auction took place in the former army chapel known as the "Temple of Virtue", also the scene of a dramatic speech by George Washington to his officers in March, 1783, as well as the declaration of cease-fire one month later. The area where the building once stood became known as "Temple Hill" and served as a working dairy farm and creamery into the 20th century. A massive stone Centennial Monument marking the Cantonment site was completed in 1891. In 1933 the National Temple Hill Association was founded to preserve the site and the Mountainville Hut, a log building believed to be built from an original Cantonment hut, was moved to the grounds. By 1964 a conjectural reconstruction of the Temple of Virtue was built on the site along with a Blacksmith Shop and other structures to house living history programming.