The Christmas season is often a time of reflection of the year, spending time with family and friends, and of course for most of the country, navigating the cold winter snow and freezing temperatures.
As I write this from my living room, I look at our Christmas Tree, decorated with homemade farm type ornaments, the Idaho snow falling for a second time already today, and our horses off in our west field. Feeding our chickens, goats, alpacas, cows, kangaroos, pigs, llama, and horses is a daily chore (twice in fact), but as the wind slapped the snowflakes on my face and down my coat, I admit, I was a bit chilled.
It wasn't too horrible as I dressed accordingly, which allowed me to spend a few extra minutes with our newest farm addition, a baby Scottish Highland cow. We haven't settled on a name yet, but I always refer to him as "Curly." The wind picked up and although he is beyond adorable, his cuteness didn't outweigh the fact I was ready to get back inside my warm home.
After shoveling the porch and walkway, kicking off the snow from my boots, I came inside and removed the layers of sweatshirts, coat, hats and gloves, stoked the fire, poured another cup of coffee and sat on the couch. Bringing a blanket to my lap brought with it several dogs, which was fine, as they serve as little heaters, which is a nice thing to have on a day like today. We have 2 Chihuahuas, 2 German Shepherds and an Italian Greyhound. We apparently don't have enough animals outside, we have to have a farm inside our home too.
Again, being outside wasn't super terrible, but it was far from being comfortable. I've finished two books recently, and now reading "Victory at Yorktown" by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen, which I've read a couple times already. I mention these books as all of them, some more in-depth than others, discuss Valley Forge.
I've been to Valley Forge, but not in winter, and trying to really imagine what it was like in the dreary, cold, snow-packed area, I'm quite certain I fell short, way short. Valley Forge is 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia, and was the third winter encampment, out of eight, that took place during the Revolutionary War.
Valley Forge is where George Washington spent his Christmas in 1777. Thinking about what he, and roughly 12,000 troops went through that winter, made me feel greatly inferior. I have all that I need to remain warm in cold weather, most of the occupants of Valley Forge did not, in fact, many didn't have shoes, let alone snow boots. Over 2,000 brave souls died there, and the rest suffered greatly, all during the snow and cold.
I have all the food and beverages I could ever want, most of them did not, resorting to eating soles of shoes to try and ease massive hunger pangs. I have a warm bed, blankets furnace and fireplace to keep the entire house warm, most of them had a 12' x 12' hut, which was drafty, cold and miserable. Who am I to whine about it being "cold" outside?
In a couple of days, most of us will be with family, opening presents, watching holiday classic movies, eating too much and perhaps, even a nap or two. I wondered, specifically, how George Washington spent his Christmases. After a bit of searching, my favorite place to visit, Mount Vernon, had published an article describing (by year) what he did do. This is an excellent, insightful and well done article that I hope you take a few minutes to enjoy. You can read it here.
The prayer at Valley Forge, also known as the "Prayer of George Washington," is a famous prayer attributed to George Washington, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. The prayer is believed to have been written during the winter of 1777-1778, when the Continental Army was encamped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Some say the prayer never took place and it was created to cause a stir or sell a painting. For those who do not believe this event happened, keep in mind that it was observed and documented by a British Loyalist Tory, whose name was Isaac Potts. Washington used Potts home to stay in during part of the winter at Valley Forge, and also requisitioned all of his grain to try and feed his army. There would be no reason to make something up that could elevate Washington, or make him look better. There would be no reason for someone, at the time, was against the Continental Army and whose food and house had just been taken over by Washington, to invent this.
Potts, after witnessing Washington pray, was so touched and moved by the event, that he defected to the American cause. I'm 100% this took place, without a doubt. I cannot confirm if the now famous painting reflects how it really happened, but regardless, it happened. A nice article about Valley Forge and Potts can be read here.
The prayer is as follows:
"O Eternal and Almighty God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb and purge my heart by Thy Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more into the likeness of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, that living in Thy fear, and dying in Thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life.
Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy Son, Jesus Christ. Let the religions of all nations become one with Thee. Preserve the health of my body and the vigor of my mind for the continuing struggle that I must wage for the good of mankind. Grant me a calm and disciplined spirit, a strong and courageous heart and the wisdom to know what is right. I ask these things in the name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. Amen."
Furthermore, you will see from countless "reputable" sources, that Washington wasn't a religious man or he didn't believe in God and was a Deist. After countless years of studying him, reading his diary and journals, and sifting through records from hundreds of other first hand witnesses (including family,) the overwhelming evidence and fact is he did believe in God and prayed to Him often. I for one hope Washington didn't belong to a religion, as Jesus himself said He despised religion.
Perhaps, the next time you are outside despising the cold or snow, you will think back to those who suffered greatly at Valley Forge, and know that it isn't likely as bad as you think it is, I know I will.
The main reason I felt compelled to write this was to share the article from Mount Vernon describing what Washington did each Christmas, but as you have seen, it veered off and took some detours, I hope you don't mind. This is why people can't bring up anything relating to the Revolution, I'll go on and on and on. :-)
May your Christmas be blessed and your 2023 be prosperous, filled with laughs, happiness and beautiful memories.