Cover image: Washington Rallying the Americans at the Battle of Princeton by William Ranney (1848)

The Bulletproof George Washington, a book summary by Mark Albright  (warning, much of this material has been removed from American classrooms and may be unknown to your children):

On February 20th, 1755, General Braddock and his forces arrived in Virginia.  This was the first substantial body of British regulars ever to land in America and the colonists were elated. They believed that all that was needed to drive the French from the country was the presence of the formidable and highly respected English army.

The campaign of General Braddock against Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian War was the one in which the young George Washington, just 23, participated. When Braddock arrived in America, he heard numerous favorable reports about Colonel Washington, so in April 1755 he invited Washington to join him as his military aid. Young Washington was eager to study military tactics under a professional soldier of such high standing as Braddock. With the assistance of Benjamin Franklin, 150 wagons and 259 horses were soon located and the army was on their march for the camp. In the latter part of April, General Braddock set out from Alexandria Virginia to expel the French from Fort Duquesne.

Braddock’s army numbered almost 2,000 men, most of whom were British veterans who had served in the wars of Europe. Ahead of him were no roads on which to travel, so Braddock sent an advance party of 700 men to open a path for the army and wagons over the rugged, forested land. Braddock, while not deficient in courage or military skill, was totally unacquainted with the style of warfare necessary for the American woods.  

As the British army continued its march toward Fort Duquesne, a band of Shawnee and Delaware Indians, allies of the British and Americans, appeared, wanting to help.  But Braddock was confident in his own British soldiers and he saw no need for Indian warriors.  Washington knew that the Indians would be invaluable in battle and strongly urged General Braddock to accept their offer.  The General did so, but with such a cold indifference that he offended the Indian volunteers who soon left when they saw that Braddock neglected them.  

Thoroughly skilled in the tactics of European warfare, he mistakenly believed that battles could be fought in America as they had long been found in Europe –  that soldiers would march directly against their opponents on an open field of battle, just as if both were on a military parade ground before an arena of spectators.

Furthermore, Braddock – arrogant, proud, self-willed  – generally held the suggestions of the Americans in contempt. Even Ben Franklin had tried to warn him about the Indian style of warfare. Braddock smiled at Franklin’s ignorance and replied, “These savages may indeed be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia, but upon the King’s regular and disciplined troops, it is impossible that they should make any impression.”

Braddock ignored Ben Franklin’s warning just as he had those of other Americans. In fact, when Colonel Washington repeated the same warning and pointed out the danger of ambushes and the need for scouting parties, Braddock flew into a rage saying that “the Indians may frighten Continental troops, but they can make no impression on the King’s regulars!”

Washington, who knew the terrain well, was recovering from a terrible case of dysentery as Braddock’s force reached the Monongahela River ten miles from Fort Duquesne. The day before the ambush occurred, Washington again warned Braddock of the Indian’s style of warfare, of laying ambushes, and of fighting from behind trees.  He recommended that scouts be sent to reconnoiter the woods to uncover any waiting ambush.  Braddock again scorned the idea.

The next day, in a wooded ravine on the far side of the river, Braddock’s leading force of 1,300 men was suddenly attacked and defeated by a smaller French and native force on July 9, 1755 at the Battle of Monongahela.

During the attack, most of the senior British officers, including Gen. Edward Braddock were killed or severely wounded. With panic in the air, George Washington quickly rode into the fray and helped to reestablish some amount of order. During the savage fight, Washington had two horses shot out from underneath him and his coat was pierced by four musket balls. Washington’s cool leadership helped many of the surviving soldiers to effectively escape the onslaught.

Despite the British loss of 977 killed or wounded, Washington was lauded as the “hero of Monongahela” by Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie and was given the rank of colonel in command of the 1,200 man Virginia Regiment.

The night before the battle, the French Commander of Fort Duquesne, with great difficulty, had persuaded the Indians to join in an ambush against the British. The next morning, the combined forces of 72 French regulars, 146 Canadian militiamen, and 637 Indians (a total force of 855) set out from the fort to harass and annoy the 1300 English soldiers, not intending to face them in a serious battle or actually defeat them.

Hidden in the trees and heavy forest, they showered a volley of shots and balls onto the first company. A storm of bullets, piercing flesh and shattering bones, swept the astounded ranks. To the British, it was like a supernatural attack from invisible spirits; not a musket was seen; the enemy was completely hidden. The blue smoke rising after every discharge revealed that the firing came from the trees, so the British soldiers wildly fired back into the woods but did a little more than sliver bark and cut saplings. The Indians, however, were skilled marksman, experienced in the art of ambush and guerrilla warfare, and they had clearly visible red targets at which to fire.

The British ranks were in confusion. One of the greatest difficulties was that the advancing soldiers, just like the retreating ones, were unable to see whom they were fighting. In fact, in the Court of Inquiry held by the British authorities after the battle, none of the English involved in the fight could say that they had even seen much of the enemy, and many of the officers who were in the heat of the battle were not sure that they had seen even one enemy.

During the battle, the Indians targeted the officers intentionally, and as the battle continued, nearly every member of Braddock’s staff, including his secretary and two of his military aides, were shot down. Washington, Braddock’s only uninjured staff member, rode over every part of the field carrying the general’s orders. Significantly following the battle, Indians confirm that they had specifically singled out Washington and repeatedly shot at him but without effect. They, therefore, became convinced that he was protected by an invisible power and that no bullet could harm him. Indeed even though hundreds of victims fell all around him, shielded by God’s hand, Washington escaped without a scratch, untouched by bullet or bayonet, arrow or tomahawk. He later credited this miracle to divine providence.

Braddock was eventually shot because the Indians knew that if they could shoot down the officers they could scatter the remaining troops and easily destroy them. Consequently, every mounted officer, except Washington, had been slain before Braddock fell. One famous Indian warrior, who was a leader in the attack, was often heard to testify, “Washington was never born to be killed by a bullet! I had 17 fair shots at him with my rifle, and after all that, I could not bring him to the ground.”

When one considers that a rifle aimed by an experienced marksman rarely misses its target, his utterance seems to have been prophetic and confirms that an invisible hand from Heaven had indeed turned aside the bullets. Another witness who had spoken with Red Hawk, an Indian chief, after the victory, said he had shot 11 different times at Washington without hitting him and because his gun had never before missed its mark, Red Hawk ceased firing at him, convinced that the Great Spirit protected Washington.

Washington’s survival was so obviously miraculous that special mention of it was made in a famous sermon preached by the Reverend Samuel Davies only weeks after the battle. Davies, considered one of the greatest pulpit preachers in America, was an active leader in the American revival known as the Great Awakening and later became the president of Princeton University. In his 1755 sermon, Davies commended the military qualities that the Virginia soldiers had displayed during the fight and then added: “I may point out here to the public that the heroic youth, Colonel Washington, whom I cannot but hope Providence has hitherto preserved in so signal a manner for some important service to his country.”

In 1770, 15 years after the crushing defeat of the British, Washington and Dr. James Craik (Washington’s close friend and personal physician) were traveling toward the western territories to explore uninhabited regions. A company of Indians led by an old respected chief arrived at the camp and asked to speak with General Washington. The council fire was kindled and the chief said this through an interpreter to Washington, “It was on the day when the white man’s blood mixed with the streams of our forest (the Battle where Braddock was killed) that I first beheld this chief, George Washington. I called to my young men and I said  ‘Mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of the red-coat tribe. He has an Indian’s wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do. Himself is alone exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain. Our rifles were leveled- rifles which, but for you, knew not how to miss. It was all in vain; 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 am old and soon will be gathered to the great council fire of my fathers in the land of shade, but before I go there is something that bids me speak in the voice of prophecy. The Great Spirit protects that man, George Washington, and guides his destiny. He will become the chief of Nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire. I am come to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of heaven and who can never die in battle.”

True to these predictions and because of God’s divine protection of him, Washington did not die in 1755 but he was not even wounded in that or in any of the numerous subsequent battles in which he fought thereafter.

Nearly two centuries later President Calvin Coolidge tried to explain the impact of George Washington in the various battles of the great Revolutionary War. He said “Washington was the directing spirit, without which there would have been no independence, no Union, no constitution, and no Republic.… We cannot yet estimate him. We can only indicate a reverence for him and thank the divine providence which kept him to serve and inspire his fellow man.”    

Washington was indispensable to the American Revolution and to the first years of our fledgling Republic. Instance after instance was attested to by him and others of what they recognized as divine intervention to protect him for a purpose: the creation of a new nation and a godly society.

In a letter to his wife Martha, written after the Continental Congress selected him to lead the Continental Army, he said, “I shall rely, therefore, confidently on that Providence which has heretofore preserved and been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you.”

Throughout his extensive military career, Washington was never wounded in battle.He wrote to his brother John as follows: “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.”

As to religion, consider this statement Washington made in 1783: “I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would…most graciously be pleas’d to dispose us all to do Justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves, with that Charity, humility & pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion & without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.”—Washington’s Circular Letter to the States, June 8, 1783.

The Bulletproof George Washington, by David Barton, 1990  

Note: David Barton is the founder of WallBuilders, an organization dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built – a foundation which, in recent years, has been seriously attacked and undermined. Some material from other sources was used also for this summary.