The Selection of George Washington as Commander-in-Chief

The earliest authenticated portrait of George Washington shows him wearing his colonel's uniform of the Virginia Regiment from the French and Indian War.

The earliest authenticated portrait of George Washington shows him wearing his colonel’s uniform of the Virginia Regiment from the French and Indian War.

Part two

And the ending of part one of this article I said that George Washington’s character traits were not the only thing which made him a good candidate to be commander-in-chief of the Continental army. If he didn’t have any military experience, the members of the Continental Congress would not have been able to consider him. Therefore, his military experience was also important.

What was Washington’s military experience? During the French and Indian War, he had been an officer in the Virginia militia. One of the things that was particularly helpful in preparing him for what was to come was the problems he faced:

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While in charge of Virginia’s western defenses from 1755 to 1758, Washington suffered from shortages of powder and food and inadequate numbers of troops with whom he was to guard a 350 mile line.[1]

These shortages certainly would have prepared him for what he would face in the Revolutionary War years. In learning how to deal with them, he would be better prepared to face those kinds of problems again.

I don’t know how well-known Washington’s experience in dealing with these shortages was to the members of the Continental Congress, but during the French and Indian War he did serve for a time with the British regulars under General Braddock. Just about everyone was aware of that. They were also aware of Braddock’s devastating defeat in the wilderness and what came to light about Washington at that time. That event, which Washington participated in, forever marked him as a man of courage and as a man marked by God for divine protection. I say this because of what happened on July 9, 1755.

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In the midst of the French and Indian War, he faced an extremely close brush with death. British General Edward Braddock was in charge, leading 1300-1400 British soldiers on their way to Fort Duquesne.

Only a few miles south of that location, as they crossed the Monongahela River, their path into the forest suddenly came alive with gunfire.[2]

In his book, The Bulletproof George Washington, David Barton reports:

Washington, Braddock’s only uninjured staff member, rode over every part of the field carrying the general’s orders.

Carrying the general’s orders to subordinates in all parts of the field made him a particularly conspicuous target for the enemy, who did not fail in their attempts to take advantage of it. As one eye witness exclaimed: “I expected every moment to see him fall. Nothing but the superintending care of Providence could have saved him.”

Of the 1,300 British soldiers, 714 were killed or wounded; and of eighty-six officers, sixty-two were killed or wounded. [3]

Later, on July 17th, what was left of the British regulars and the Virginia militia arrived at Fort Cumberland. And from there George Washington wrote the following letter to his brother John:

As I have heard since my arrival (at Fort Cumberland) 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 miraculous care 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.[4]

I want you to really consider what George Washington said here because this was a testimony of God’s miraculous protective providence. He said he was protected beyond ALL human probability. It wasn’t within the scope of what anyone would or even could consider probable under any earthly circumstances. Therefore, from an earthly perspective there was no way to explain what happened.

Why did Washington say that? He had had four bullets shot through his coat, two horses shot out from under him, and his fellow soldiers were dropping like flies all around him, while he remained unharmed.

Notice he doesn’t say it was luck, because it was beyond everything humans would consider as a probable explanation. Instead, he said it was the miraculous care of Providence. So in his letter to his brother, he was testifying to the miraculous care of God in his life.

Consider what happened fifteen years later. In 1770, George Washington and his friend, Dr. James Craik, went back to the Fort Dusquesne region. While they were there, they ran into an Indian chief who had been at the battle in 1755. And that chief declared:

It was on the day when the white man’s blood mixed with the streams of our forests that I first beheld this chief (referring to Washington):

I called my young men and said, “Mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of the red-coat tribe—he hath an Indian’s wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do—himself alone exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies.

Our rifles were leveled, rifles which 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[5]

Notice here, “A power, mightier far than we, shielded you.” George Washington truly was being protected by God. While only people who Dr. Craik told heard the part of the story about meeting with the Indian chief; and this included some officers in the Continental army, it was something Dr. Craig testified to before the end of the war.

What precipitated the testimony from Dr. Craig was the concern of the officers that General Washington be prevailed upon to not put himself in harm’s way. They were deeply concerned that Washington was too willing to put himself at risk. It was then, to give Washington’s officers assurance and put their minds at peace, that Craig told the story and included this prophecy given by the Indian chief:

The great Spirit protects that man, (again indicating Washington) and guides his destinies—he will become the chief of nations , and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire.

I am come to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of Heaven and who can never die in battle.[6]

Now, does that story sound like it was made up, contrived to fit in with American history? To the skeptic, yes, it does. But the problem with that interpretation is that other people testify to it. A Rev. Samuel Davies preached on it only weeks after the battle. A Mary Draper Ingels who had been kidnapped by a band of Shawnee Indians heard about it while she was with them and reported it after she escaped. Early on, Dr. Craik told what happened to Washington’s adopted grandson, and we have the grandson’s record.

In any event, while the members of the Continental Congress were probably only aware of what happened at the battle with the French and the Indians, still that alone marked Washington as a man of courage under fire and marked by God for divine protection. Perhaps this is why Christopher Ward, in speaking of Washington in his book, The War of the Revolution, said,

His reputation as a military man was more widespread throughout the colonies than that of any other colonial.[7]

But these were not the only things the members of the Continental Congress had heard about Washington. There were other things, things he learned about himself. He learned how he dealt with danger and hardship and how he felt about adventure. Take the following example as just one of many that could be cited:

In 1753, Virginia Gov. Dinwiddie gave the twenty-one year old Washington the extraordinary task of trekking across the vast unopened mountainous reaches of what is today the state of Pennsylvania. His mission was to travel to Fort LeBoeuf near modern day Erie, Pennsylvania to tell the French military stationed there that they were trespassing on British land, and they would need to leave.[8]

And Washington went. A twenty-one year old Washington went through the mountains of Pennsylvania to a post controlled by the French to tell them to depart. What does that tell you about him? Was he for adventure? Was he willing to face danger and hardship? Yes, he was. He showed it by his deeds, this being just one example.

Washington was clearly a man of character, a man who no one doubted was fearless in battle, and a man who had demonstrated the intellect and administrative skill to lead an army. Not only was he the right kind of person, but he looked like and conducted himself like a general.

Don Higginbotham, in his book, The War of American Independence, says:

Washington more than looked the part of his new role. Height, proportions, bearing, and composure suggested the commander, a man who created trust and confidence by calmness and dignity.[9]

Indeed this is the kind of person he was. In addition to being a picture of physical strength, he was a man who, because of his great character, created trust and confidence. You could just tell this was a man who would make a good general.

Knowing all that they knew about him, and having experienced his character themselves, the members of the Continental Congress were confident that he was the right choice. Therefore, Washington was selected.

[1] Don Higginbotham, The War of American Independence (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 1971), p. 87.

[2] Peter Lillback, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, p. 161.

[3] David Barton, The Bulletproof George Washington (Aledo, TX: Wallbuilders, 1990) p. 48-49, 51

[4] Ibid., p. 59.

[5] David Barton, The Bulletproof George Washington, p. 67.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution, p. 99.

[8] Peter Lillback, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, p. 158.

[9] Don Higginbotham, p. 86.

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Bob Wittstruck was a pastor for 33 years, was the associate director of the Black Hills Creation Science Association, and is a supporter of both Christian schooling and home schooling. His latest book, The Forgotten Factor of History God Rules, is being printed in February or March of 2016. His email address is [email protected]
Bob Wittstruck
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