Providence is the name of Episode 8 in Season 2 of AMC’s TURN, airing tonight, Memorial Day.
Today, Providence often means good luck. During the American Revolution, Providence was “a firm belief of God’s universal presence, and a constant attention to the influence and operation of his providence,” as explained by John Witherspoon, a minister and signer of the Declaration of Independence. To Witherspoon and others, Providence meant “. . . to walk with God, and to endure as seeing him who is invisible.”
Below is an excerpt of a future patriot’s close call with death and his belief in Providence, based on his original letter and adapted from my book: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War.
1. Angels Watching Over Me
The news was false. He was not dead.
“Dear Jack,” he began his urgent letter, dated July 18, 1755, to his brother.
Fatigue swept over this English soldier, but rumors of his death drove him to write no matter how weary his hand or heavy his heart. Explaining the truth was the only way to prevent the smoke of misinformation from needlessly suffocating his family.
“I take this early opportunity of contradicting both [my death and final words] and of assuring you that I now exist and appear in the land of the living by the miraculous care of Providence, that protected me beyond all human expectation,” he explained.
After the indescribable battle in the Ohio Valley, this young colonel fell into the warm embrace of Maryland’s Fort Cumberland. The terror he had just experienced plagued him worse than any nightmare. He couldn’t shake the sight of his bullet-pierced coat.
“I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, and yet escaped unhurt,” he recounted to Jack of how Providence had protected him.
Although he felt no physical injuries, the battle left his heart wounded. This new war was partially his responsibility. His earlier expedition for the British had resulted in the death of a French diplomat. The incident had caused England’s problems with the French and native tribes to escalate faster than a ship could carry British soldiers to the American colonies. When the war came, he dutifully joined General Edward Braddock and his Virginia regiment. Their mission had been to protect America’s boundaries against the trespassing French and Indians in the Ohio Valley. But they had failed.
“We have been most scandalously beaten by a trifling body of men; but fatigue and want of time prevents me from giving any of the details till I have the happiness of seeing you at home; which I now most ardently wish for,” he wrote, knowing he would need a few days to regain his strength before traveling again.
Fort Cumberland’s position along the Potomac River likely reminded him of another estate, a place he considered home. Located one hundred and fifty miles down the same river in Virginia was the house and farm of his deceased brother Lawrence. He had no idea how important that place would one day become to him.
“I may thereby be enabled to proceed homewards with more ease; You may expect to see me there on Saturday or Sunday,” he wrote.
“I am Dr. Jack, y’r most Affect. Broth’r.”
And with that, twenty-two-year-old George Washington closed his letter, dated July 18, 1755. The awe of Providence’s protection had sparked something inside him. Why had he survived? What was the meaning behind the four bullet holes in his coat and the horses shot from under him? What was his purpose in life to come? While he recovered, he reveled in the mystery and meaning behind the miracle, evidence of the fingerprints of angels.[i]
“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).
Prayer: Lord, be my shield and protector. May I live today knowing you have given my life purpose and meaning.
[i] George Washington, “Letter to John Augustine Washington, July 18, 1755,” in The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. ed. John C. Fitzpatrick. Library of Congress. Printed from http://memory.loc.gov/ [accessed June 2006].
Author Jane Hampton Cook is known for making history memorable and relevant to today’s news, current events, and modern-day life. A frequent guest on the Fox News Channel and other outlets, Jane is the author of eight books, including American Phoenix, America’s Star-Spangled Story, and Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War. Jane is also a former White House webmaster. She lives with her husband and three sons in Fairfax, Virginia.