Who doesn’t need a story of a Christmas miracle? I never tire of reading about the courage of our forefathers at Christmastime as they built our nation. Their suffering, perseverance, willingness to die rather than surrender, and their hope for a better future speak volumes. They stepped up to the plate when all hope seemed lost and delivered home runs. They were never between a rock and a hard place because they always found a way out.
I compare their resolve to ours today. We seem relatively soft as a nation by comparison.
Let’s grab a little help from one of my favorite historians, author Bill Federer, in his recent AmericanMinute.com article, “Freezing Valley Forge, 1777, & Starving Ships. “If those few thousand men endured that long winter of suffering…what right have we to be of little faith?” (December 20, 2022). This question kind of sums it up.
As I write this, the nation is now freezing cold with high winds. Think about the coldest you have ever been. Then, consider the following circumstances:
Federer tells us that on December 12, 1776, Congress left the cause of independence in General George Washington’s hands. Washington led 11,000 troops to Valley Forge. We are told that an equal number of American prisoners died on British “starving ships.” Picture that, out in the icy Atlantic, starving to death. I had no idea that the British captured Americans to put on six starving ships.
Now, back to Valley Forge, where the soldiers were anywhere from 12-60 years old and included African Americans and American Indians. My knees hurt in the cold. Does anyone else’s joints tell them the weather? These American soldiers knew no weather excuses. They knew a just cause. I guess they found sore knees to be nothing in light of a ship of death.
Things got real very quickly. Lacking food and supplies, Federer tells us 2,500 soldiers at Valley Forge froze to death in the bitter cold or perished from disease. Remember, they chose to defend their nation. Federer quotes a Congressional Committee report, “Feet and legs froze till they became black, and it was often necessary to amputate them.”
I learned that women and children followed the army and tried to help by mending, gathering food, caring for the sick, and even giving their clothing as material. Women died serving the troops. I don’t recall learning these details in school.
As the winds howl outside, I can’t help but consider my comfort with the Valley Forge suffering. How firm is my resolve? What would I do to help? Why did they even try against all odds? Federer writes, “Hessian Major Carl Leopold Baurmeister noted the only thing that kept the American army from disintegrating was their “spirit of liberty.” How strong is my spirit of liberty? I can type about it, but anyone can do that. Can I muster resolve so deep that no one can break it?
Washington’s Way to a Christmas Miracle
Enter the picture of George Washington kneeling in the snow, praying. People today are hesitant to say they pray or have faith that others might be offended. The world is still a hard, cold place with weather challenges, brutal world leaders, and people who are imprisoned for their beliefs. Liberty is in the heart of human beings still to this day. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, of things not yet seen.” That must be what our forefathers knew as they bowed their heads and bent their knees to a Creator they couldn’t see for help that had to come from another place.
Today, I stand in awe of our forefathers’ faith in a Power beyond themselves as I say a prayer for our nation. I believe Christmas miracles are still possible and that the Divine accomplishes what mere humans can not. Our forefathers, under humble yet bold leadership, triumphed over unbelief against all odds. That’s a Christmas miracle in our nation’s history. I believe that if we humble ourselves, we can too.
Merry Christmas from Common Sense Civics and Citizenship!
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