NOTE: The following was originally published by Wesley Bradshaw in the National
Review, Vol. 4, No. 12, December 1880.
The last time I ever saw Anthony Sherman was on July 4, 1859, in Independence
Square. He was then 99 years old, and becoming very feeble. But though so
old, his dimming eyes rekindled as he gazed upon Independence Hall, which
he came to visit once more.
Let us go into the hall, he said. I want to tell you an
incident of Washingtons life - one which no one alive knows of except
myself; and, if you live, you will before long, see it verified.
From the opening of the Revolution we experienced all phases of fortune,
now good and now ill; one time victorious and another conquered. The darkest
period we had, I think, was when Washington, after several reverses, retreated
to Valley Forge, where he resolved to spend the winter of 1777. Ah! I have
often seen our dear commanders care-worn cheeks, as he would be conversing
with a confidential officer about the condition of his poor soldiers. You
have doubtless heard the story of Washingtons going to the thicket
to pray. Well, it was not only true, but he used often to pray in secret
for aid and comfort from God, the interposition of whose Divine Providence
brought us safely through the darkest days of tribulation.
One day, I remember well, the chilly winds whistled through the leafless
trees, though the sky was cloudless and the sun shone brightly, he remained
in his quarters nearly all the afternoon alone. 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. Returning just after dusk,
he dispatched an orderly to the quarters of the officer I mention 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 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.
Presently I heard a voice saying, Son of the Republic,
look and learn, while at the same time my visitor extended her arm
eastwardly. 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.
Son of the Republic, said the same mysterious voice
as before, look and learn. At that moment I beheld a dark, shadowy
being, like an angel, standing, or rather floating, in the hollow 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 American people.
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 head 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 Standard.
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. And 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, which country was enveloped
in the volume of cloud. And I dimly saw these vast armies devastate the whole
country, and burn the villages, towns and cities that I beheld springing
As my ears listened to the thundering of the cannon, clashing
of swords, and the shouts and cries of millions in mortal combat., I again
heard 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, plating 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 was blazoned the word Union, he placed it upon the Standard,
while the people, kneeling down, said Amen.
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.
(The comment on his word third is: The help against the
THIRD peril comes in the shape of Divine assistance; passing which, the whole
world united shall not prevail against her. Let every child of the Republic
learn to live for his God, his land and 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 me the birth, progress,
and destiny of the UNITED STATES.
Such, my friends, concluded the venerable narrator, were
the words I heard from Washingtons own lips, and America will do well
to profit by them.