The winter of 1779-1780 had been fairly cold in the New York City area, with ice flows recorded on the North River – now known as the Hudson and the East River through the start of January 1780. But on January 15 the ice flows started to harden and merge together all the way out to the south of the city in the main harbor of New York freezing solid. The rivers and New York Harbor would see the ice thicken and hold firm all the way through the end of February. In fact, the ice became so thick that not only could sleigh and wagons move from Long Island to Manhattan and from Manhattan to Staten island and to New Jersey. With the Revolutionary War still in full swing the ice was even strong enough to support the movement of heavy cannons from place to place.
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