For over a century and a half, until 1934, the Indian account of George Washington’s divine protection in the Battle of Monongahela in the French and Indian War was standard in our history textbooks until removed, presumably by those skeptical or dismissive of God’s intervention in the affairs of man. Today few Americans know of it as those in the above category and the enemies of the Republic seek to belittle our Founders. We celebrate the birthday of George Washington Feb. 22, by returning our attention to this miraculous event.
In the French and Indian War 1,400 British troops marched over the Appalachian Mountains to seize French Fort Duquesne, near present-day Pittsburgh. Col. George Washington, then 23, took the rear of General Edward Braddock’s army mostly because he considered American soldiers inferior. Problem was, the European style of warfare was to march into a clearing facing an opponent who did the same: stop, load and fire never breaking rank – the British in bright red uniforms, made perfect targets. Hiding behind trees or rocks was considered cowardly.
Both Indians and Americans considered this warfare style suicidal but Washington, who had warned the general of this, had to obey orders. On July 9, 1755, the Battle of Monongahela began when Braddock passed through a ravine and an army half his size, hiding behind boulders and trees, annihilated him. Officers were mounted targets. Washington rode back and forth on the line through a hail storm of musket balls delivering Braddock’s orders as he was the only officer still on horseback. He could not take command until the wounded Braddock was carried from the field. Unfortunately, the three-hour ambush left 976 casualties before Washington could save what was left.
A British soldier recorded, “I expected every moment to see him fall. Nothing but the superintending care of Providence could have saved him,” according to David Barton’s “The Bulletproof George Washington,” from WallBuilders Press in 2003.
Surrounded by slaughter, the British Regulars “broke and run as sheep pursued by dogs,” Washington later said.
His Virginia militia continued to die attempting to aid the fleeing British. The pursuing Indians were slowed only by their thirst for battlefield scalps and booty. Of his approximately 100 volunteers “there is scarce 30 men left alive.” Washington was angry and said, “the dastardly behavior of thos⟨e⟩ they call regulars, exposed all others that were inclined to do their duty to almost certain death.”
The first miracle of the battle was that Washington was everywhere in it although extremely ill.
“I was scarcely able to do, as I was not half recovered from a violent illness that had, confin’d me to my bed, and a waggon, for about 10 days; I am still in a weak and feeble condition,” he later said in a letter to his mother Mary, telling her that he needed another two or three days to recover a “little strength” just to start his journey home but expected many weeks yet to recuperate fully, according to the “Mackellar” maps in Stanley Pargellis’ “Military Affairs in North America.”
When safely at Fort Cumberland, Washington wrote his younger brother John Augustine Washington, July 18, 1755, “By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me.”
Washington wrote the same to his mother Mary Ball Washington.
Fifteen years later, Washington and Dr. Craik, a personal physician and close friend, were traveling through those same woods near the Ohio river and Great Kanawha river. They were met by an old Indian chief, who addressed Washington through an interpreter with the following story:
“I am a chief and ruler over my tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the Great Lakes and to the far blue mountains. I have traveled a long and weary path that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on the day when the white man’s blood mixed with the streams of our forests that I first beheld this chief. I called to my young men and said, mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of the red-coat tribe – he hath an Indian’s wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do – himself alone exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies. Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for you, knew not how to miss – ‘twas all in vain, a power mightier far than we, shielded you.”
One warrior declared, “I had 17 fair fires at him with my rifle and after all could not bring him to the ground. Seeing you were under the special guardianship of the Great Spirit, we immediately ceased to fire at you.”
Then his prophecy: “I am old and soon shall be gathered to the great council fire of my fathers in the land of shades, but ere I go, there is something bids me speak in the voice of prophecy: Listen. The Great Spirit protects that man and guides his destinies – he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire. I am come to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of heaven, and who can never die in battle,” according to “‘The man who could not be killed,’ George Washington Parke Curtis Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington, Philadelphia,” by J.W. Bradley in 1859.
The chief’s prophecy came true. Perhaps it is time to be less dismissive and more inclusive of the hand of God in the affairs of this nation.
Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and to applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.