By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
If there was an equivalent to Las Vegas in early American history, the oddsmakers surely would have had the colonies on the eastern seashore listed as the underdogs.
How was it that 13 very different colonies were able to rise up against a superpower and earn independence? How did that fledgling nation thwart another battle with that same superpower a few years later?
Is it true that the Father of our country, George Washington, had four bullet holes in his coat and two horses shot from under him, but he was never shot?
Some would call these events luck, others would rely on science and the odds. But there are those who relate these events to something else — divine intervention.
Before we explore that possibility, let’s review the historic facts, and see if it was merely coincidence, or if there is something more to the story.
We have to go back to July 9, 1755, 21 years before the Declaration of Independence, where a 23-year-old Colonel George Washington was fighting for the British in the French and Indian War. In a two-hour battle, Washington was the only officer on horseback to survive.
This is what Washington wrote to his brother:
“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 I escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me!”
The Indian chief who led the attack met Washington 15 years later and said, “Our rifles were leveled, rifles but for you, knew not how to miss-twas all in vain, a power mightier far than we shielded you. Seeing you were under the special guardianship of the Great Spirit we immediately ceased to fire at you.”
On Aug. 27, 1776, General Washington found himself fighting another losing cause when the entire Continental Army was trapped along the banks at Jackson Heights in New York. The British were moments away from ending the American uprising just as it was starting, but a strange, thick fog, which was unusual for August, drifted between the British and Americans, and yet the rest of New York was perfectly clear. The British waited it out, and by the time the fog had lifted, Washington had escaped with his 9,000 men who survived, which meant the Revolution survived.
Let’s move forward to Aug. 24, 1814, when the British marched on Washington, D.C., and took the nation’s capital. The citizens fled the city as the British troops set building after building ablaze.
After First Lady Dolly Madison fled the White House with the portrait of Washington, the British torched the presidential mansion.
And then the weather changed.
The book, “Washington Weather” recounts events like this:
“The tornado tore through the center of Washington and directly into the British occupation. Buildings were lifted off of their foundations and dashed to bits. Other buildings were blown down or lost their roofs. Feather beds were sucked out of homes and scattered about. Trees were uprooted, fences were blown down, and the heavy chain bridge across the Potomac River was buckled and rendered useless.
“A few British cannons were picked up by the winds and thrown through the air. The collapsing buildings and flying debris killed several British soldiers. Many of the soldiers did not have time to take cover from the winds and they laid face down in the streets. One account describes how a British officer on horseback did not dismount and the winds slammed both horse and rider violently to the ground.”
Of the 4,000 occupying troops, 3,000 were killed in the storm, and the rest fled the city the next day.
A month later, the British navy formed the largest armada in history up to that time to destroy Baltimore’s Fort McHenry.
More than 1,800 rockets were fired at the tiny star-shaped citadel as the Americans hunkered down and took the strongest punch the British had. One of the bombs fired at the fort could have ended the entire battle. A 186-pound shell penetrated the fort’s magazine where kegs of gunpowder were stored. But the bomb was a dud and did not explode. If it had, the entire fort would have went up in a massive explosion.
The next morning, the British fleet sailed out of the Baltimore Harbor, and yes, our flag was still there.
It comes as no surprise that early Americans believed in divine intervention on their nation, and until the 1930s, these events were part of history’s textbooks.
Maybe there was a reason Americans used to “cling to their guns and Bibles.”
When the odds are against us, what do we cling to today?