Washington: Miracle on a Horse


Several years ago, a friend who was older than I assured me the following story was in her American history book when she was a child. Since that time, today’s school children have missed so many true stories about early American history.

So, in case you missed reading this in elementary school—as I did—here is a true account about George Washington as a soldier in what was known as the French and Indian War.

In the mid 1700s, the French were fighting the British for control of what later became America’s interior land east of the Mississippi River. Those in America sided with the British, while the Native Americans sided with the French. (Will you forgive me for using the politically incorrect term Indians? That’s the term the history books used back then.)

General Edward Braddock came from England with two full regiments of troops to expel the French forces camped along the Ohio Valley. He heard about an exemplary 23-year-old named George Washington and recruited the young man to serve as a major in the war.

In May of 1755, General Braddock marched toward Fort Duquesne, which was occupied by the French, and later became Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

And this is where an interesting military fact came into play. Braddock was accustomed to European-style warfare, where opposing sides in uniforms lined up and faced each other, then fired in full sight of both sides. Imagine Braddock’s surprise when the French and Indians employed guerilla-style warfare instead, hiding and firing from behind trees and rocks. Expecting different battle strategy, Braddock unknowingly marched his soldiers into an ambush.

An Indian chief named Red Hawk instructed his warriors to shoot all officers who were mounted on horses that day. All officers accordingly were shot except one—George Washington. After Braddock was shot, Washington led the troops in a retreat.

What happened next was indeed remarkable. After the battle, Washington wrote a letter to his mother and brother, assuring them of his safety. He attested, “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…” He also recounted brushing bullet fragments out of his hair after the battle.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Fifteen years later, in 1770, Washington and a friend were exploring the same region where the battle took place. An old Indian chief approached Washington, saying he wanted to meet the “young warrior of the great battle.”

Recalling that day fifteen years earlier, Chief Red Hawk told Washington, “I called to my young men and said, ‘Quick, let your aim be certain he dies!’ 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. I have come to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of heaven and who can never die in battle.

And that, my friend, is the story of one of our military heroes. He wasn’t perfect, didn’t claim to be, but knew the protecting hand of the God of heaven.

From The Bulletproof George Washington, by David Barton.