“The Miraculous Care Of Providence”
George Washington’s Narrow Escapes
February/march 1982 | Volume 33, Issue 2
At the outskirts of the town, the British regulars had drawn up in their famous line, against which Washington’s soldiers had never been able to stand. The Americans who faced them were wavering in confusion when a big man on a white horse appeared at a gallop. “Parade with us, my brave fellows!” Washington shouted. “There is but a handful of enemy and we shall have them directly.” His troops obediently got into a line of their own, facing the enemy. Then Washington galloped in front of his troops, to the very center. He waved his men forward, and as they advanced, he continued to move before them. The enemy were ever closer. Now Washington and his followers were mounting a rise and came within musket range. Although most of the enemy held their fire, a few bullets zinged around the tall target on horseback. Within thirty yards of the British line, Washington shouted, “Halt,” and gave the order to fire. Both sides fired simultaneously, with Washington between them.
His aide, Colonel Edward Fitzgerald, covered his face with his hat, for he could not bear to see the commander in chief killed. When all the guns had been emptied, the firing ceased. Fitzgerald lowered his hat. Around him, many men lay writhing. But Washington sat on his horse, untouched.
The enemy broke and fled. Now, at long last, Washington had a chance to chase regulars across an open field. Shouting, “It’s a fine fox chase, my boys!” he started after the enemy on his powerful charger so unexpectedly and so quickly that no one followed him before he disappeared from sight. As time passed and he did not return, anxiety mounted among his fellow generals and his aides. It is hardly prudent military practice to have your commander chasing around after the enemy all by himself on a battlefield. Had Washington been hit? But of course not. The general was preserved, then as always, to serve his two terms as President and to die in bed.