For Decades Rumors Have Swirled That George Washington Had a Vision of Mary At Valley Forge
For decades -- actually now centuries -- rumors have swirled that George Washington, the father of our country, experienced an apparition of an angelic female and possibly the Virgin Mary herself during the harsh trial at Valley Forge.
Whether the vision was authentic and if so whether the figure he supposedly saw in it was Mary are two matters that will probably never be answered.
There are, however, some intriguing hints -- and at the very least Washington (known to offer up his suffering and to have a woman "say the beads" for him) was far more spiritual than most of our history teachers taught
Most tantalizing was a report in volume 4, number 12 of an old nineteenth-century veterans publication known as the National Tribune. Now known as Stars and Stripes, the publication quoted a man named Anthony Sherman as describing a vision that allegedly occurred in 1777.
It was said that as the chilly wind murmured through leafless trees, Washington, who was known to wander alone praying, spent nearly the entire afternoon in his quarters, allowing no interruptions. "When he came out, I noticed that his face was a shade paler than usual, and there seemed to be something on his mind of more than ordinary importance," claimed Sherman, who reputedly fought alongside Washington.
Returning just after dusk, he dispatched an orderly to the quarters of the officer who was presently in attendance. After a preliminary conversation of about half an hour, Washington, gazing upon his companion with that strange look of dignity which he alone could command, said to the latter: "I do not know whether it is owing to the 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 order not to be disturbed, that it was some moments before I found language to inquire into the cause of her presence. A second, 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. Even thought itself 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 visitant."
While there is plenty of room for skepticism (it was claimed Sherman remembered all this at the age of ninety-nine), there is no doubt that such a legend was in print by 1880 if not before.
"Gradually the surrounding atmosphere seemed as though becoming filled with sensations, and luminous, " Washington was quoted as saying. "Everything about me seemed to ratify, the mysterious visitor herself becoming more airy and yet more distinct to my sight than before, I now began to feel as one dying, or rather to experience the sensations which I have sometimes imagined accompany dissolution. I did not think, I did not reason, I did not move; all were alike impossible."
It was then that Washington was said to have heard a voice, "Son of the Republic, look and learn," said the apparitional woman, extending an arm eastward.
It was claimed Washington then beheld a white vapor that gradually dissipated, revealing "all the countries of the world," and saw a cloud rise from Europe and America, a cloud that moved westward...
prior to July 2002
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