But for some summer rain and dense fog, an independent America may never have been.
It was late in the day on Thursday, August 29, 1776 – 246 years ago. General George Washington and his fledgling Continental Army were trapped in Brooklyn Heights, NY., along the East River, across from the island of Manhattan.
Great Britain’s Redcoats, a well-trained army twice in size and far better fortified than the colonists’ ragtag militia, had been pummeling the Americans for days during what would become known as the Battle of Long Island. General William Howe’s British forces were positioned on Staten Island, and on 400 ships across New York Harbor – readying and raring to ignite the fatal and final blow.
During this most recent attack, nearly twenty percent of Washington’s troops had been either killed, injured or captured. Only 9,000 American soldiers remained.
Barring a miracle, the Revolutionary War was all but over.
And a miracle is exactly what happened next.
Just as the American troops fell back in Brooklyn, likely assuming their sorry fate sealed, the clouds rolled in, the skies darkened, rain began to fall, the wind shifted – and a dense fog rolled in as day became night.
Recognizing an opening to escape across to Manhattan, Washington ordered his troops to seize the moment. Soldiers were ordered into boats. The oars were wrapped in towels in order to help muffle the sound of the wood smacking the water. According to accounts of that night, the fog was so thick the men couldn’t see more than six feet in front of them.
By the time morning came and the fog had lifted, all 9,000 troops were safely across the East River and into Manhattan and points beyond.
In the days following the daring escape, George Washington and his troops talked up the “providential” and “miraculous” fog. Previously bedraggled and demoralized, they took the night’s turn as a sign that God’s favor was upon them – and it gave them energy and hope to keep going.
Secularists and even cynical Christians may scoff at the suggestion that the Lord sent the fog to aid the Americans in 1776. But as Christians, we know the Lord can do anything – and has repeatedly demonstrated His willingness to step in from time to time in supernatural ways and shape, direct or determine earthly outcomes.
In the Bible, we read about God sending angels to do His bidding (2 Chronicles 32:21) in war, or literally splitting the Red Sea in two (Exodus 14:26-28) and then closing the raging, drowning waters onto Pharoah’s army. Then there was the time He stopped the sun and moon from spinning so that Joshua and the Israelites could continue fighting with the aid of daylight (Joshua 10:12-14). In the New Testament, we know that Jesus can easily control the wind and the waves (Matthew 8:23-27).
But that was then, and this is now, right? Does the Lord still intervene in the mundane affairs of men and women?
Of course He does.
Instead of seeing circumstances as matters of coincidence, we should be willing to see them as signs of God’s sovereignty. Rather than calling it luck – why not interpret it as the Lord’s perfect plan?
Perhaps we already have enough holidays, but in the pantheon of significant American dates, the 29th of August should rank high on our list to remember and give thanks for.