George Washington and the Angel
According to an early account,
USA first president was given
a divine vision of his country's future.
September 5, 2006: By Johanna Skilling
In the darkest, most difficult days of the American War of Independence,
Anthony Sherman, a young aide to General George Washington, was standing
outside the home of his commander-in-chief. It was in the winter of 1777 at
Valley Forge, where Washington had retreated with his ragged troops after
several defeats by the British army.
Sherman saw Washington leave his house that chilly afternoon, looking pale
and distracted. When the General returned, he fell into conversation with
his aides and told them an incredible story. Many years later Sherman
recounted the story to an old friend, and his account was published in the
National Review of December, 1880, and mentioned in Sherman's biography.
According to Sherman, this is what Washington said:
"I do not know whether it is owing to anxiety of my mind,
or what, but this afternoon, as I was sitting at this table engaged in
preparing a dispatch, something seemed to disturb me. Looking up, I beheld
standing opposite me a singularly beautiful female. So astonished was I, for
I had given strict orders not to be disturbed, that it was some moments
before I found language to inquire the cause of her presence. A second, a
third, and even a fourth time did I repeat my question, but received no
answer from my mysterious visitor except a slight raising of her eyes.
"By this time I felt strange sensations spreading through me. I would have
risen but the riveted gaze of the being before me rendered volition
impossible. I assayed once more to address her, but my tongue had become
useless, as though it had become paralyzed.
"A new influence, mysterious, potent, irresistible, took possession of me.
All I could do was to gaze steadily, vacantly at my unknown visitor.
Gradually the surrounding atmosphere seemed as if it had become filled with
sensations, and luminous...”
The woman stood before him, silently, in a silver-blue dress. Finally she
spoke. "Son of the Republic,” she said, “look and learn!”
Washington continued: “I now beheld a heavy white vapor at some distance,
rising fold upon fold. This gradually dissipated, and I looked upon a
strange scene. Before me lay spread out in one vast plain all the countries
of the world; Europe, Asia, Africa and America. I saw rolling and tossing
between Europe and America the billows of the Atlantic, and between Asia and
America lay the Pacific.
"At that moment I beheld a dark, shadowy being, like an angel, standing, or
rather floating in mid-air, between Europe and America. Dipping water out of
the ocean in the hollow of each hand, he sprinkled some upon America with
his right hand, while with his left hand he cast some on Europe.
“Immediately a cloud raised from these countries, and joined in mid-ocean.
For a while it remained stationary, and then moved slowly westward, until it
enveloped America in its murky folds. Sharp flashes of lightning gleamed
through it at intervals, and I heard the smothered groans and cries of the
"A second time the angel dipped water from the ocean, and sprinkled it out
as before. The dark cloud was then drawn back to the ocean, in whose heaving
billows it sank from view.
“A third time I heard the mysterious voice saying, 'Son of the Republic,
look and learn.' I cast my eyes upon America and beheld villages and towns
and cities springing up one after another until the whole land from the
Atlantic to the Pacific was dotted with them.
"Again, I heard the mysterious voice say, 'Son
of the Republic, the end of the century cometh, look and learn.' At this,
the dark shadowy angel turned his face southward, and from Africa I saw an
ill-omened spectre approach our land. It flitted slowly over every town and
city of the latter. The inhabitants presently set themselves in battle array
against each other. As I continued looking I saw a bright angel, on whose
brow rested a crown of light, on which was traced the word `Union,' bearing
the American flag which he placed between the divided nation, and said,
'Remember ye are brethren.' Instantly, the inhabitants, casting from them
their weapons became friends once more, and united around the National
"And again I heard the mysterious voice saying, 'Son of the Republic, look
and learn.' At this the dark, shadowy angel placed a trumpet to his mouth,
and blew three distinct blasts; and taking water from the ocean, he
sprinkled it upon Europe, Asia and Africa. Then my eyes beheld a fearful
scene: from each of these countries arose thick, black clouds that were soon
joined into one. Throughout this mass there gleamed a dark red light by
which I saw hordes of armed men, who, moving with the cloud, marched by land
and sailed by sea to America. Our country was enveloped in this volume of
cloud, and I saw these vast armies devastate the whole country and burn the
villages, towns and cities that I beheld springing up. As my ears listened
to the thundering of the cannon, clashing of swords, and the shouts and
cries of millions in mortal combat, I heard again the mysterious voice
saying, `Son of the Republic, look and learn.' When the voice had ceased,
the dark shadowy angel placed his trumpet once more to his mouth, and blew a
long and fearful blast.
Instantly a light as of a thousand suns shone down from above me, and
pierced and broke into fragments the dark cloud which enveloped America. At
the same moment the angel upon whose head still shone the word Union, and
who bore our national flag in one hand and a sword in the other, descended
from the heavens attended by legions of white spirits. These immediately
joined the inhabitants of America, who I perceived were well nigh overcome,
but who immediately taking courage again, closed up their broken ranks and
renewed the battle.
"Again, amid the fearful noise of the conflict, I heard the mysterious voice
saying, 'Son of the Republic, look and learn.' As the voice ceased, the
shadowy angel for the last time dipped water from the ocean and sprinkled it
upon America. Instantly the dark cloud rolled back, together with the armies
it had brought, leaving the inhabitants of the land victorious!
"Then once more I beheld the villages, towns and cities springing up where I
had seen them before, while the bright angel, planting the azure standard he
had brought in the midst of them, cried with a loud voice: 'While the stars
remain, and the heavens send down dew upon the earth, so long shall the
Union last.' And taking from his brow the crown on which blazoned the word
'UNION,' he placed it upon the Standard while the people, kneeling down,
"The scene instantly began to fade and dissolve, and I at last saw nothing
but the rising, curling vapor I at first beheld. This also disappearing, I
found myself once more gazing upon the mysterious visitor, who, in the same
voice I had heard before, said, 'Son of the Republic, what you have seen is
thus interpreted: three great perils will come upon the Republic. The most
fearful is the third, but in this greatest conflict the whole world united
shall not prevail against her. Let every child of the Republic learn to live
for his God, his land and the Union.’
“With these words the vision vanished, and I started from my seat and felt
that I had seen a vision wherein had been shown to me the birth, progress
and destiny of the United States."
Washington was a devoutly religious man, who prayed even in the harsh
outdoor conditions in which his army camped. If Sherman’s story is true,
perhaps Washington received a vision not only of the Revolution, but of the
Civil War and a later conflict that imperiled the Republic. Was it the First
or Second World War? Vietnam? Or the more recent terrorist attacks on
Whatever the answer, it’s clear that, like Moses on Sinai, Washington may
have been granted a vision of the nation which even now reveres him as the
“Father of our Country.”