America, America ... ‘tis a strange and wondrous name, having the distinctive quality of attracting attention as well as a certain mystique (an aura of heightened value), that appeals to the senses. One thinks of greatness and of divine intervention, since the nation and its people have risen to the occasion, whatever it entailed, time and again, thus bravely facing the inevitable demons that continuously seek to put the nation asunder while additionally performing with honor and dignity, thus ever increasing its prestige in diplomatic circles which eventually led unto one of supreme prominence.
None knew nor did they even suspect it at the time, but in the very beginning when they were merely referred to as British colonies and were still dealing with the French and Indian problem who were striving to reclaim some of the land forcefully taken from them, certain situations, as well as personages, were already being developed and groomed for future prodigious happenings that would decisively determine whether the fledgling nation would remain a British possession or become an independent, democratic state whose government by and for the people would formulate unto greatness that would inspire freedoms unto the people of the world.
On July 9, 1755, during the French and Indian War, the Battle of the Mongahela took place near Fort Duqesne, now the city of Pittsburgh. A force of 1,459 British soldiers (trained for European warfare), marching shoulder to shoulder in an open field, clad in bright red uniforms thus fully revealed in the morning sun, faced a mix of Ottawa, Chippewa and Huron Indian warriors, as well as French soldiers, who were well concealed in a nearby forest.
The Indian chief, from the safety of the forest cover, looked scornfully at the British soldiers. How foolish of them to fight as they did fully revealed and clad in bright red while their foe remained hidden. The ensuant result was wholesale slaughter of 1,000 British soldiers killed or wounded at the Mongahela River, which lasted for some two hours.
During the battle, however, the chief was also quick to notice that the British officers were exceedingly foolish about their own safety, for they fully exposed themselves high above the troops on the ground by mounting themselves on horseback. Forthwith, he ordered his marksmen to concentrate on the British officers, which resulted in all but one killed or wounded. He had two horses killed from beneath him and was mounted on a third riding back and forth behind the British line, giving orders and inspiring the men.
The chief and his warriors stared in disbelief. They had shot round after round, some had fired 13 times at this British officer and still he remained unhurt. The Great Spirit protects him, the chief told his warriors, and ordered them not to fire any more in his direction. As the firing slowed, the lieutenant colonel promptly led what was left of the British contingent from the battlefield and retreated. His name was George Washington and he had five holes through his coat — three through the very back of the coat, which could only happen if one was shot in the chest — and two were in the sleeve. Yet the man was untouched.
Some 20 years later, having learned how the British fought, he would lead his countrymen, a ragtag army of farmers and townsmen, through many a battle resulting in miserable defeats before a miraculous victory occurred in the dead of winter and the trend was inexplicably reversed and total victory was eventually secured. Thus was a great nation born.
Come July the Fourth, let’s remember whence came our freedoms and our beloved nation. The Washington Monument points the way unto His kingdom.
Valkey Midkiff Tiernan of Albany is a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, served in the Air Force 20 years and retired from Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany in 1997.