This time of year when Americans have holiday events on their minds, it behooves us to set aside time to reflect on other important factors/events. First and foremost, remembering the One whose birthday Christmas is meant to celebrate. Be sure you acknowledge Him in your festivities.
Something else to remember and reflect on would be the events at Christmas during the American Revolution – without which the United States may not exist. When these topics are mentioned in the same paragraph, many recall thoughts of Washington crossing the Delaware; definitely an incredible event that required God’s hand on it to obtain success. In this article, I want to share an event that took place a few days prior to the historic crossing.
Christmas 1777, our fledgling country was in the midst of the American Revolution during a bitterly cold winter. On the morning of December 23rd, George Washington and the Continental Army were headquartered within the hills of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The day dawned, laced with frigid temperatures against a white backdrop. General Washington’s heart and mind were heavy with respect to his current situation. Pacing in his tent, he dictated important information to be sent to Congress. He needed help, desperately!
In the area surrounding Washington’s tent, 12,000 soldiers were erecting approximately 2,000 crude structures with whatever tools and wood they had available. With few oxen or horses to help, men would yoke themselves together to form makeshift carts. They wore minimal clothing and had little to eat. These six months at Valley Forge, though difficult, would transform the Continental Army.
At a time when Washington’s efforts to expel the British army were at an all time low, he concocted his boldest and riskiest plan ever – an attack on Christmas Eve. Washington knew that British General Sir William Howe was headed in his direction, leading a force of 8,000+ British and Hessian troops. After raiding the area’s farms for livestock and hay, Howe had moved within 20 miles of the Continental Army. Washington sensed Howe would soon turn north and likely overpower the exhausted troops he currently commanded.
Washington’s frustration towards Congress and Pennsylvania’s legislature regarding their lack of action for the Continental Army reached an all time high. His requests for blankets, clothes, food and medicine seemed to fall on deaf ears. The situation had reached such dire straits that if Congress did not act immediately, it would force the army into one of three situations: 1) starve, 2) dissolve or 3) disperse to obtain rations the best they could. Having been tasked by Congress to dissolve the restraints which bound the colonies to the world’s greatest super power of that time, their lack of provisions for the Continental Army troubled Washington greatly.
Washington’s plan was to first create a hoax. The patriots staking out General Howe’s soldiers would suddenly appear on the British troops’ left flank, creating the illusion of a pending attack. Washington felt this would force General Howe to send the majority of his force back to Philadelphia and have those who remained to cover the northern fords of Schuylkill. The 6,000 British troops in Philadelphia would now quickly move to aid General Howe. In the meantime, Continental Army troops would overtake British fortifications north of the city.
Prior to carrying out his plan, Washington met with various aides and chose to heed the wise counsel offered to him by General Nathanael Greene, who understood how strong Washington’s desire was to send the British packing. Greene reminded Washington of the danger he would face should he “consult our wishes rather than our reason.”
Washington understood the wisdom of Greene’s advice and put aside his plans; realizing it would be better to bypass what seemed to be a great opportunity at the moment and live to fight another day.
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God,
to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits
and humbly to implore His protection and favor.
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