I recently heard a story about a great man…
During the War for Independence, a man on horseback and dressed in civilian clothing came upon a group of tired soldiers who were trying to repair a fortification and were struggling to lift a heavy log. Their commanding officer, who was also on horseback, barked orders at the exhausted men. As the “civilian” came closer, he asked the officer why he wasn’t down helping the men. He replied “Sir, I am a Corporal. I give orders.” Seeing they needed an extra hand, the “civilian” got down off his horse and assisted the weary men. When the job was finished, the man gently told the Corporal, “The next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your Commander-in-Chief and I will come and help you again.”
The “civilian” was General Washington.
In today’s “pick everything apart” version of history, I’m a little reluctant to include anecdotal stories about historical figures on my blog. However, with just a tiny bit of Googling to verify its validity, I found that this story about our first president was included in a speech at the groundbreaking ceremony for the National Library for the Study of George Washington, so I felt pretty confident about including it here.
Long before I heard this story, I had a great deal of respect for George Washington. Despite jokes over where he slept, he was a faithful, loving, and devoted husband. Despite claims by current historians that he was a deist, Washington was a man of devout Faith in Almighty God. Historians now say that his praying at Valley Forge may have also been a legend, even though it was recorded by Rev. Nathaniel Snowden, an ordained minister and graduate of Princeton, as it was told to him by the Quaker Pennsylvania senator Isaac Potts. And then, of course, there’s the cherry tree story… We all know that was “fabricated” by that rascal Parson Weems (also an ordained Protestant Episcopal minister) in his biography of Washington published in 1800. Weems claimed that he was told the story by a elderly female relative of Washington, who had spent time with him as a child. It’s interesting to note that sometime between 1770 and 1790, years before Weems “made up” that story, a vase was made in Staffordshire, Germany that depicts a young boy, a hatchet, and a cherry tree, and with the initials “G.W.” to honor the hero of the American Revolution. (There’s a picture of that vase on page 97 of George Washington’s Sacred Fire.)
It’s really good.
One thing I know for sure, is that George Washington, our first President, embodied what Christ considered to be the most important quality of greatness… to serve others.
Happy President’s Day!