I believe that there is purpose in every life. For some, that purpose results in greatness. Many early Americans subscribed to this same view. Among those Americans who seemed to have had a grand purpose in life, George Washington stands out for his leadership of the Continental Army in the War of Independence. But he almost did not live long enough to even fight in that war. You may be surprised to learn that young George Washington quite narrowly escaped death while fighting Indians in the western wilderness of Pennsylvania in 1755. You may further be unaware of the fact that he gave the credit for his survival to God’s divine providence. Perhaps when you hear the full story you will agree with my belief in a purpose for every life.
Almost twenty years before the American Revolution, war broke out between the two greatest superpowers in the world at the time, England and France. The fighting quickly spilled over to the New World, where both nations fought to control the rich and vast North American continent. The thirteen American colonies, as loyal British subjects, joined the English, while the majority of Native American tribes joined the French.
As part of their military strategy, a large British Army reinforced by militiamen from four colonies, which included Lieutenant Colonel George Washington of Virginia, moved to drive their rivals, the French and the Indians, out of the hotly contested Ohio Territory. On the hot afternoon of July 9, 1755, near the site of what is today Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, however, a joint force of French and Indians ambushed the advancing British-colonial army, and a desperate battle ensued. Caught in the middle of the vicious attack, the youthful Washington moved to the front of the action in an attempt to help direct the fighting. Suddenly, an Indian warrior appeared out of the dense smoke, aimed at the mounted figure silhouetted by the afternoon sun, and fired his musket directly at the future first President. The musket ball ripped through the red and blue coat the Virginian was wearing, missing his heart by a mere hair’s length. So caught up in the battle was Washington though that he failed to even realize that he had just literally slipped from the grasp of death.
More and more Indians began to take notice of the large man in the red and blue coat, and they too pointed their guns at him. Another bullet tore open his hat, just missing his skull, and again he did not even notice it. A third shot hit his horse a moment later and killed it. Young George jumped to his feet as the animal collapsed to the ground. He immediately ran over and climbed on another horse a few feet away, but that horse too was killed only seconds later even as two more bullets ripped open his coat. He struggled off the dying horse and raced for a third horse as he shouted encouragement to his fellow soldiers. He had only been on his third horse for a matter of minutes before that horse too sank to the ground from a bullet.
Chaos continued to erupt all around Washington, and more shots punctured his hat and coat until there was almost nothing left of either. Through all of this, not a single musket ball actually touched his body. As the battle raged around him, Washington heard a loud echo near him. He instinctively looked to the nearby British commander, only to see the general fatally shot in the back. With their commander down, the panicked and disheartened British soldiers began to retreat in confusion. As one of the few officers not killed or wounded, George Washington took command of the troops and rallied the remnants of the army in an organized withdrawal back to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the future birthplace of the United States. The story of his bravery under fire and his miraculous escape from death followed him and soon spread throughout the thirteen colonies, making him a national hero to many.
When he discovered in the aftermath of the battle that his body was untouched but his hat and coat had been ripped apart by the multiple shots taken at him by the Indians, young George Washington began to realize that a higher power was directing his footsteps. He later attributed his survival in the Pennsylvania wilderness to the will of God, or the mercy of “Divine Providence” as he called it. It would only be the first of many times where he realized that there might be a greater purpose for his life. That grand purpose would become clear nearly twenty years later when he was asked to command the Continental Army in the struggle for independence. Even in his acceptance of command, the man who came to be called “the father of his country,” spoke of God’s divine protection and how he prayed for God to give him success. Had God not spared his life in western Pennsylvania, it is very possible that the future United States of America would not only have lost a good and capable man to lead the struggle for American independence, but the country would also have lost a man who served as a reminder that there is purpose in every life.