Monday, July 06, 2015

I love the 4th of July.  For me it is right up there with Christmas as the best of all holidays because of the spiritual feelings I feel when I consider the circumstances surrounding the founding of this great nation.  Americans are somewhat prone to hubris, it is true, and while I personally have felt a tinge of embarrassment for some of the bravado I have seen both home and abroad showcased by some of my fellow Americans, there is a rational basis, in my opinion, for a sentiment of American exceptionalism.  I love all nations and peoples, but there is something incredibly special, even divine, about this nation and her founding. 

In 2005 I attended a BYU Devotional given by Dr. David McCullough, America's preeminent historian and biographer, where he spoke about his book 1776.  I found his address (and subsequently his book) to be riveting and fascinating wherein he described just how unlikely a victory by the rag-tag American army was, how many incredible mistakes were made, how fast Washington learned from those mistakes, and how the hand of the Lord - combined with the courage of these imperfect but exceptionally courageous men - delivered the American forces from the seemingly inevitable defeat that appeared to lay in wait almost everywhere.

My favorite story from his talk (and from the book) is the story of the Battle of Brooklyn.  Before hearing this talk and reading his book I had never considered in all my trips to NYC the miraculous deliverance that God provided our soon-to-be nation that happened right where I have walked so many times.

The Battle of Brooklyn was both a huge battle (Over 6 miles and 40,000 soldiers) and a tremendous defeat for the Americans.  The only thing that prevented this battle from being the fatal blow to the founding of our nation was the almighty hand of God.  After being outflanked and surrounded on land a strong storm (that had been occuring for several days) was the only thing keeping the British war ships from coming up from the New York harbor into the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn and cutting off the last hope of escape for Washington and the 19,000 American soldiers who were with him - an occurrence which would have meant certain defeat for the dream of the American nation.  Then, when all seemed to be lost, Washington made what would normally have been an ill-advised decision to retreat back into Manhattan under the cover of darkness:

"Washington ordered that every possible small craft be rounded up and be made ready to bring the army back to New York. It was to be done at night. An organized retreat for an experienced army is the most difficult maneuver of all when faced by a superior force. But for this amateur pick-up team, this rude, crude, un-uniformed, undisciplined, untrained American army of farm boys—some of whom had been given a musket and told to march off only a few weeks before—for that kind of an army to make a successful retreat across water at night, right in the face of the enemy without the enemy knowing, was a virtual impossibility. And yet they did it.

When they went down to the shores of the East River, right where the Brooklyn Bridge now stands, to start the crossing, the same wind that was keeping the British from bringing their fleet up was keeping the river too rough for them to make the crossing. It looked as though they weren’t going to be able to pull it off. Then, all of a sudden, almost like the parting of the waters, the wind stopped. The makeshift armada started going back and forth, back and forth, all night long, ferrying men, horses, cannon—everything—back across the river to New York. And they succeeded. Nineteen thousand men and all their equipment—horses, cannon, and the rest—were taken across the river that night without the loss of a single man and without the British ever knowing it."  

What Dr. McCullough fails to mention in this address (but does describe in his book) is that not only did the waters "part" but a mysterious fog also arose that hid not only the retreating regimens from the view of the British soldiers but also covered the mistake made by men on the front lines who almost retreated too early because of a misunderstood order - which would have also foiled the entire plan.

I have no doubt that God directed the founding of this great of all nations.  From the more good than bad that America has done in the world to the establishment of religious freedom that allowed for the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this nation was truly established by the hand of the Almighty.  

Here is a link to his talk in its entirety, as well as a link to the audio of his speech.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.


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