"Our rifles were leveled—rifles which, but for him, knew not how to miss. Twas all in vain; a power far mightier than we shielded him from harm. He cannot die in battle. The Great Spirit protects that man, and guides his destinies. He will become chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him the founder of a mighty nation" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 128)
These were the words of a Native American chief as he reminisced with George Washington and others about a battle 15 years previous when they were on opposite sides during the French and Indian Wars.
Washington Miraculously Spared
It was the Battle of Fort Duquesne in July 1755 when 1,459 British soldiers were ambushed by a large contingent of Native American warriors who had joined the French in their fight with the British for control of the North American continent.
It proved to be one of the bloodiest days in Anglo American history with 977 British soldiers killed or wounded. It was a day, however, when Washington's reputation for bravery began to spread throughout the land.
Washington, in his early 20s, had been recruited by the British because of his knowledge of the ways of the wilderness and the American Indians. He had acquired this knowledge in his work as a surveyor of wilderness territory.
Assigned to travel with the British General Braddock to take Fort Duquesne (present day Pittsburgh), Washington found his advice for traveling through the wilderness and dealing with the Indians ignored by Braddock who considered him a young, upstart colonist.
But when the ambush occurred and Braddock himself was wounded, Washington took charge and organized an orderly retreat while at the same time putting his own life at risk, rescuing the many wounded and placing them in wagons. During this time, two horses were shot out from under him and his clothes were shredded with bullets.
He emerged unscathed and gave glory to God, saying, "I was saved by the miraculous care of Providence that saved me beyond human expectation." His reputation for bravery spread among both the English and the Native Americans.
Years later, according to historian George Bancroft, Washington and a friend were exploring an area along the Ohio River when they encountered a group of Native Americans. Recognizing Washington, the natives invited the men back to their camp to meet with their chief, whom it turned out had fought on the side of the French in the Battle of Duquesne. They had a cordial visit and then the old chief, pointing to Washington, spoke these amazing words.
"I am chief and ruler over all 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 forest 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 redcoat tribe—he hath an Indian's wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do—himself alone is exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies.' Our rifles were leveled—rifles which, but for him, knew not how to miss. Twas all in vain; a power far mightier than we shielded him from harm. He cannot die in battle. The Great Spirit protects that man, and guides his destinies. He will become chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him the founder of a mighty nation" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 127-28).
The prophecy came to pass. Washington was later appointed commander in chief of the colonial army, and at great sacrifice, led his outnumbered, outgunned troops to an amazing victory over the British through numerous providential events. He later presided over the Constitutional Convention, was unanimously elected the first president of the United States and known as “the father of his country.”
Washington the Devout Christian
Washington was very devout in his Christian faith and respectful toward the Native people and culture, but he never allowed the two to be in conflict. He clearly expressed this in a 1779 meeting with chiefs from the Delaware tribe who had expressed a desire for their children to be trained in American schools.
Washington responded by assuring them that the new nation would look upon their children as their own. He then commended the chiefs for their decision and said,
“You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.”
Washington was not a multiculturalist and did not promote religious pluralism. He was tolerant of those who held differing views but was uncompromising in his belief that only Jesus Christ and Christianity offered a belief system that would serve as a basis for national stability and individual happiness.
This was expressed in many ways, including his Farewell Address in which he warned the nation to guard Christianity and morality, which he described as “indispensable supports” for political prosperity and human happiness. This utilitarian view of Christianity was why he once prayed in public, “Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy Son, Jesus Christ” (Hyatt, Pilgrims andPatriots, 138).
Just as we remember George Washington on his birthday (Feb. 22), let us not forget that we, as a nation, owe our very existence to the Providential mercies of Almighty God. And let us not suppose that we can continue as a nation without His Providential care, as Washington warned in his Farewell Address.
Let us, therefore, pray for America as the Psalmist prayed for the people of Israel in Psalm 85:6-7. He prayed, "Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in you? Show us Your mercy LORD, and grant us Your salvation."