American Minute by William Federer
British General Burgoyne’s troops marched down from Canada through New York, but were amazingly forced to surrender to the Americans at the Battle of Saratoga, October 7, 1777.
Philadelphia was effectively the capitol of the United States. In European warfare, when an army captured it enemy’s capitol, the war was considered over.
Rather than surrender, the Continental Congress quickly evacuated Philadelphia.
They even took the down the Liberty Bell and carried it with them so the British could not melt it into musket balls.
Congress’ last order, December 12, 1776, was:
“… until Congress shall otherwise order, General Washington shall be possessed of full power to order and direct all things relative to ... the operations of the war.”
Soldiers at Valley Forge
Though most were of European descent, some were African American and American Indian.
–Marquis de Lafayette,
-Colonel “Mad Anthony” Wayne.
-future Chief Justice John Marshall,
-Lutheran pastor turned Major-General John Peter Muhlenberg, and
-George Washington’s Jewish physician, Dr. Philip Moses Russell.
Lacking food and supplies, soldiers died at the rate of twelve per day.
In addition, hundreds of horses perished in the freezing weather.
President Calvin Coolidge told the Daughters of the American Revolution, April 19, 1926:
“We have been told of the unselfish devotion of the women who gave their own warm garments to fashion clothing for the suffering Continental Army during that bitter winter at Valley Forge.
The burdens of the war were not all borne by the men …”
Dr. Benjamin Rush, Surgeon General of the Continental Army, was tending wounds and treating soldiers at Valley Forge.
Two days before Christmas, George Washington wrote:
The Continental Congress talked of replacing General George Washington with General Horatio Gates, but the Maryland delegate Charles Carroll, the only Catholic to sign the Declaration, helped persuade Congress not to.
The Boy Scout Handbook, 5th edition (1948), in the section ‘Duty to God’:
“You worship God regularly with your family in your church or synagogue … faithful to Almighty God’s Commandments. Most great men in history have been men of deep religious faith. Washington knelt in the snow to pray at Valley Forge.”
President Dwight Eisenhower broadcast from the White House for the American Legion’s Back-to-God Program, February 7, 1954:
“We remember the picture of the Father of our Country, on his knees at Valley Forge seeking divine guidance in the cold gloom of a bitter winter.
Thus Washington gained strength to lead to independence a nation dedicated to the belief that each of us is divinely endowed with indestructible rights.”
A Christmas carol that would have lifted country’s spirits at this time was “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” first published in 1760 on a broadsheet in London as a “New Christmas carol.”
Lutheran Pastor Henry Muhlenberg, whose sons Peter and Frederick served in the First U.S. Congress, wrote in The Notebook of a Colonial Clergyman:
Rev. Muhlenberg continued:
“From all appearances General Washington does not belong to the so-called world of society, for he respects God’s Word, believes in the atonement through Christ, and bears himself in humility and gentleness.
Therefore, the Lord God has also singularly, yea, marvelously preserved him from harm in the midst of countless perils, ambuscades, fatigues, etc., and has hitherto graciously held him in his hand as a chosen vessel.”
Washington successfully kept the army intact through the devastating winter, and gave the order at Valley Forge, April 12, 1778:
“The Honorable Congress having thought proper to recommend to the United States of America to set apart Wednesday, the 22nd inst., to be observed as a day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer,
that at one time, and with one voice, the righteous dispensations of Providence may be acknowledged, and His goodness and mercy towards our arms supplicated and implored:
The General directs that the day shall be most religiously observed in the Army; that no work shall be done thereon, and that the several chaplains do prepare discourses.”
On May 2, 1778, Washington ordered:
While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion.
To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to laud the more distinguished Character of Christian.”
President Dwight Eisenhower stated December 24, 1953, lighting the National Christmas Tree:
“George Washington long ago rejected exclusive dependence upon mere materialistic values. In the bitter and critical winter at Valley Forge, when the cause of liberty was so near defeat, his recourse was sincere and earnest prayer …
As religious faith is the foundation of free government, so is prayer an indispensable part of that faith.”
During the crisis of the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover stated at Valley Forge, May 30, 1931:
“If, by the grace of God, we stand steadfast in our great traditions through this time of stress, we shall insure that we and our sons and daughters shall see these fruits increased many fold …
If those few thousand men endured that long winter of privation and suffering … held their countrymen to the faith, and by that holding held fast the freedom of America, what right have we to be of little faith?”
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