Since the early days of the Church, Latter-day Saints have celebrated America for its divinely inspired and Constitutionally protected right to religious freedom. The Church was founded and is headquartered in the United States, so this freedom was and remains instrumental in the creation, organization, and continuation of God’s kingdom on the earth. Consequently, Church leaders commonly echo what we learn in Nephi’s vision: God had a hand in the creation of America.
In this rapidly changing social climate, sometimes it’s difficult to determine how much of a role religion should play in politics and legislation—for though the Founding Fathers were largely united in their beliefs, the America of today is home to proponents of countless theologies and doctrines.
Still, we learn from the Book of Mormon that a people who collectively fail to recognize God’s hand are a people in danger. This incredible true story from colonial times, adapted from Chris and Ted Stewart’s Seven Miracles that Saved America, can remind us all of the Lord’s infinite love and grand design.
In July of 1776, the colonies were divided. The Continental Congress had declared independence from Britain—but not everybody agreed. Though the elected officials had chosen to rebel against the crown, “loyalists were to be found in every colony. In some areas—specifically New York [among others]—they were probably in the majority.”
Unfortunately for George Washington’s underdog war effort, New York proved to be a crucial location in the impending conflict with the British fleet. The success of the colonial armies—if they could even be called that—was dependent on their ability to guard the Long Island shore. Simply put, “to save their nation, they had to defend New York.”
At this critical juncture, the morale of the American troops had never been lower—and neither had their numbers. “Washington had an army of about 15,000, of which fewer than 7,000 were fit for duty, for a multitude of sicknesses had fallen upon his men like a blanket of death and disease.” All the while, “more and more British ships were sailing down.”
Shortly thereafter, the fighting commenced with numerous casualties—but Washington held his ground. The sparsity of the American troops, however, would soon rear its ugly head. But “for a few moments, the Americans actually thought that they were winning.”
What they didn’t know was that the British General Henry Clinton had discovered a weak spot in Washington’s defenses—Jamaica Pass—where only a few colonial soldiers stood guard. A massive crowd of redcoats overtook the soldiers and surprised the Americans with a flank attack. “The [ensuing] battle was fierce and deadly. Deafening sound, blinding smoke, and bloody gore engulfed both sides. Despite their best efforts, the Americans were quickly overwhelmed.”
Many were killed, many more taken prisoner, and by the time the fighting had ceased, Washington could only repeat one statement: “Good God, what brave fellows I must this day lose!” The American generals knew there was only one viable option—retreat.
At terrible risk to their own safety, the depleted American armies began their withdrawal under cover of dark. They marched through the night silently, thousands of soldiers and their gear. Though exhausting, the process went off without a hitch—until the sun came up. Many colonial soldiers were still stuck on the Long Island side of the river, surrounded by over 20,000 troops.
“It was then that a dense fog settled over the Long Island side of the river. Thick and heavy, it muffled every sound and made it impossible to see. Trees and men were obscured at five feet and disappeared completely at ten. And though the sun grew higher, the fog didn’t burn off. The orderly retreat continued, this time under the cloak not of darkness but of the thick shroud of fog. Working frantically beside his men, Washington offered direction and encouragement until the last of the American troops had made their way to safety.”
What if that fog had not set in? Colonial morale, already at an all-time low, would likely have been dropped even lower than the levels of their manpower. “Also sobering is the question as to what would have happened had George Washington been killed or captured on Long Island—a possibility that was very likely.”
To read the full account of this miracle and six others like it, check out Chris and Ted Stewart’s Seven Miracles That Saved America: Why They Matter and Why We Should Have Hope at Deseret Book!