The Christian Broadcasting Network

Related Links
Read more Church history on the Spiritual Life Channel.

The Spirit Behind '76

By Richard Klein

At the dawn of American history, the faith of our founding fathers was intricately woven into the very fabric of this nation's freedom.

In honor of President's Day, we want to turn the spotlight on the first president of the United States whose faith, humility and courage helped to establish the destiny of our great nation.

From his youth, George Washington firmly believed that God's hand was upon him personally. As a 23 year old soldier during the French and Indian wars, he had four bullets pass through his coat and two horses shot out from under him.

Yet he survived the conflict unscathed. Washington credited God for his survival. Asked to serve as Commander in Chief of the Continental army, General Washington incorporated his deep personal faith in the very commands he issued to the newly formed forces.

In one of his earliest general orders dated July 9, 1776, Washington outlined his personal convictions for the men who served under his command.

"General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live, and act, as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country. To the distinguished character of Patriot it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."

Not content to merely inspire with high ideals, Washington included in his general orders specific directives for regular and earnest prayer.

The earliest days of the Revolution provided unparalleled opportunities for Washington to act upon his forthright faith. It was the events of one extraordinary day in August of 1776 that definitely underscored the miraculous intervention of God in the course of America's destiny.

Faced with a fact of America's declared independence, the British military command determined that the key to suppressing the rebellion lay in the domination of New York.

The army that controlled access to the Hudson River would control the lines of supply for the colonies north and south of this strategic zone.

Under the command of General William Howe, the British quickly established a formidable presence in New York. The only impediment was the American-held town of Brooklyn.

It was there on the western end of Long Island that General Washington found himself nearly surrounded, outnumbered more than three to one by a better trained, better equipped enemy.

However, when circumstances seemed to spell defeat, a miraculous series of events began to unfold. Amazingly, the very capable and seasoned General Howe failed to capitalize on his obvious military advantage. Throughout the afternoon, the evening, and the following morning, Washington's forces tensed for an attack that never materialized.

By the afternoon of August 28, northeast winds drove a chilling rain across the East River, preventing the British fleet from launching any offensive maneuver.

Inspired by the delay, General Washington formulated a daring strategy of escape. Under the storm's cover, he began to remove his beleaguered army by small boats, enabling them to join other American forces a full mile behind enemy lines. As night fell, the inclement weather dissipated and still, Washington's army continued its evacuation without detection. But as the morning sun dawned, the Americans calculated that at least three more hours were needed to transport the last of the 8,000 troops.

One who was actually there best describes what happened next. Major Ben Talimadge, a member of the Continental army, wrote:

"At this time a very dense fog began to rise, and it seemed to settle in a peculiar manner over both encampments. I recollect this providential occurrence perfectly well, and so very dense was the atmosphere that I could scarcely discern a man at six yards' distance. We tarried until the sun had risen, but fog remained as dense as ever."

What the British discovered when the fog lifted was an empty and abandoned encampment. Washington's army had seemingly vanished, along with all their provisions, cannons and even horses. Instead of defeat, the Americans experienced a temporary setback and regrouped to fight on at a future successful date.

How did General George Washington portray his personal role in the Revolutionary War?

"I was but the humble agent of a favoring heaven, whose benign influence was so often manifested in our behalf, and to whom the praise of victory alone is due."

  • Translate
  • Print Page

Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?

A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.

Do You Know Jesus
Grow In Your Faith

Need Prayer?

Call 1-800-700-7000
Email your prayer request

Email iconSign up for E-mail Updates Full List