February 13, 2012
George Washington Sought Divine Help and Received it
With President's day coming up, I thought I'd write today about George Washington, the first President of the United States of America. He was a remarkable man. He was a man of God, which helped him be successful in his endeavors. Some say that God protected him through a number of miracles. It's fitting that we honor him on President's Day.
Young George was taught to believe in God and to rely on Him. He was often seen praying for help when he needed it, even as a young boy. When he was General George Washington leading the Continental Army and helping the American colonies to become free of British rule, he prayed often. He would retreat to his tent to pray for guidance and sometimes he would go into the woods to pray.
Several miracles show that Heavenly Father heard his prayers and answered them with help from above. I want to share a couple of them with you. The first happened when the British had cornered and trapped the army in New York. They were stuck on Long Island and all ways to retreat were blocked except for the East River. Going that way was risky because they'd be out in the open and easily shot one by one in the boats. The first miracle is that the British didn't come in and kill them all while they were trapped for 2 days. The British had 32,000 soldiers; Washington had only 8,000. No one knows why the British delayed. The delay allowed Washington to gather up all of the boats in the area and plan an escape. At 8 pm on August 29, 1776 Washington started sending boats out onto the East river with soldiers aboard. It was raining heavily and winds were strong. The bad weather kept the British from attacking and rendered all boat travel impossible, except for row boats. Slowly but surely, boat after boat rowed away into the darkness filled with our soldiers. To speed things up, at 11 pm, the wind died down and the waters calmed, allowing more boats to fill up and row away. They rowed back and forth all night long but the evacuation wasn't finished when the sun began to rise the next morning. Many soldiers remained. Would they get away? Slowly a fog arose, so thick that one could barely see anything a few feet away. The soldiers kept rowing away until all had been evacuated under the cover of darkness, then blinding fog.
A nosy British sympathizer saw the evacuation and wrote a note to the British army. Miraculously the note was held up by German soldiers fighting for Britain who couldn't read English. When the British got the note, checked to see if it was true, they found Long Island empty and the last rowboats in the distance, out of harms way. It was the most amazing retreat in American history! Eight thousand men slipped past all blockades.
Another miracle was when Washington crossed the Delaware and conquered the British in a surprise attack Christmas day 1776. Washington was again completely outnumbered. He knew he didn't have a chance against the Germans fighting for Britain in normal circumstances, but thought that a surprise might do it. After praying for success, the army of 2400 soldiers began crossing the Delaware river. It was dangerously icy with chunks of ice threatening to break the overloaded boats. The weather was awful; it was raining, then sleeting. One soldier described it as a hurricane. The other groups had called it off, but Washington's army pressed on. At 4 am, the whole army was ashore and they had yet to march 9 miles to get to the British soldiers. The storm hadn't let up, yet Washington's army nearly ran the distance, racing to their foe. When they arrived around 8 am, they found the exhausted Germans asleep and easily overwhelmed them. One thousand British soldiers were captured, 83 wounded and 22 killed. Of Washington's' army, only 3 deaths and 6 injuries were reported. "It may be doubted whether so small a number of men ever employed so short a space of time with greater and more lasting effects upon the history of the world," British historian George Trevelyan wrote. This and another victory at Princeton a few weeks later became the turning points of the Revolutionary war.
At one point over the next winter, his army was hungry. They had run out of food and were facing starvation. George prayed for help and suddenly the nearby Schuylkill river began to seemingly boil. The soldiers found that large amounts of fish were migrating upstream surprisingly early in the year. So many fish were in the river that they were clogging it! Soldiers simply reached in and plucked fish from the water. The army was saved, starvation averted.
Earlier in his life, George was shot at many times and never wounded. He wrote to his brother, who had heard incorrectly that George was dead the following: "As I have heard since my arrival at this place, a circumstantial account of my death and dying speech, I take this early opportunity of contradicting the first and of assuring you that I have not as yet composed the latter. But 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!" This event occurred in 1755, many years prior to Washington's pivotal involvement in the Revolutionary War. Heavenly Father protected him because he had important things to do. In fact, Washington was never wounded in all of the battles in which he fought. It was almost like Samuel the Lamanite of The Book of Mormon!
George Washington was successful as a General because he relied on Heavenly Father for help. He reminds me of Captain Moroni of The Book of Mormon. We would be wise to ask for help from our loving Heavenly Father when we are outnumbered and fighting for a good cause.
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