Gilbert Tennent, the son of religious leader William Tennent, became pastor of the Presbyterian Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He soon met and was inspired by Dutch Reformed minister Theodorus Frelinghuysen, who emphasized piety and conversion in his sermons. Both Tennent and Frelinghuysen stirred religious fervor and revivalism among their congregations.
In December 1779, the Continental Army under George Washington made camp at Morristown, New Jersey, where they suffered through the “Hard Winter” of 1779–1780. The army faced unrelenting snow storms, sub-freezing temperatures, lack of supplies, and hunger.