The Fish That Saved George Washington's Army

Miracles involving fish didn't just happen in Biblical times. In fact, one such miracle occurred during the Revolutionary War as well.

While in Valley Forge, American soldiers suffered greatly, many even died, for lack of food. Congress heard their pleas but was helpless to provide. Washington warned Congress that if food did not arrive soon, his army faced three choices: “Starve—dissolve—or disperse.” With no mortal on earth able to come to their aid, prayer was the only option. Perhaps the soldiers remembered that the Lord had once before provided His hungry disciples with fish in a miraculous way. It was about to happen again.

Suddenly, in the midst of the winter famine, there was an unexpected warming of the weather, too early to accredit to springtime. The “false spring” tricked the shad fish into beginning their run up the Delaware River early. Thousands of shad—some described them as “prodigious in number,” others said they came in “Biblical proportions”—swam up the Delaware. The overabundance caused thousands more to make a turn up smaller streams and rivers, seeking any space to spawn. One of those rivers was the Schuylkill. At a certain bend in that river, the water rose only knee-deep—perfect for catching fish. And that very bend in the Schuylkill just happened to run right by Washington’s camp at Valley Forge.

The famine ended instantly, as thousands upon thousands of pounds of fish were caught and eaten. Hundreds of barrels were filled and salted down for future consumption. Even today, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service gives credence to the claim that the shad were responsible for “saving George Washington’s troops from starvation as they camped along the Schuylkill River at Valley Forge.”

Shortly after the miracle of the fish, Washington wrote the following from Valley Forge:

“Providence has a just claim to my humble and grateful thanks for its protection and direction of me through the many difficult and intricate scenes which this contest has produced, and for its constant interposition in our behalf when the clouds were heaviest and seemed ready to burst upon us. . . . Since our prospects have miraculously brightened, shall I attempt the description of the condition of the army, or even bear it in remembrance, further than as a memento of what is due to the great Author of all, the care and good that have been extended in relieving us in difficulties and distresses?”

Learn more about the inspiration and miracles surrounding George Washington in Timothy Ballard's new book, The Washington Hypothesis. Available at Deseret Book stores and deseretbook.com.

Image titleWe know that George Washington was a moral man and an inspiring leader, but did he possibly know more than we suppose? Was he a national covenant maker like Moses, Abraham, Lehi, or Captain Moroni? Did he understand that he was fighting for the liberty of a promised land protected by God, a place where the Lord's holy temples could be built? The Washington Hypothesis explores the intriguing evidence that Washington and the other Founding Fathers knew the Lord had a greater purpose for America. It takes us on a fascinating historical journey through the miracles of the Revolutionary War to the foundational documents of this great nation to the symbolism evident in every corner of the nation's capital. Exploring how Washington's beliefs framed his every action, author Timothy Ballard draws compelling conclusions about the divinity of that great leader's calling. As we see the evidence of the Lord's hand in Washington's life, we may discover a much grander design at work in the founding of our nation—and thus a greater desire to strive to preserve those promised blessings.

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