Happy Thanksgiving!

Arnold Friberg, The Prayer at Valley Forge

Of all the Founding Fathers, it is said that George Washington was the man "most likely to be interrupted at prayer." Here is the famous Isaac Potts account of the prayer at Valley Forge, taken from the diary of Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden. Potts was shaken in his Quaker pacifism and convinced that America could win against the British by Washington's piety.

"I was riding with him (Mr. Potts) in Montgomery County, Penn'a near to the Valley Forge, where the army lay during the war of ye Revolution. Mr. Potts was a Senator in our State & a Whig. I told him I was agreeably surprised to find him a friend to his country as the Quakers were mostly Tories.

He said, "It was so and I was a rank Tory once, for I never believed that America c'd proceed against Great Britain whose fleets and armies covered the land and ocean, but something very extraordinary converted me to the Good Faith!"

"What was that," I inquired?

Potts explained:
"Do you see that woods, & that plain?" It was about a quarter of a mile off from the place we were riding, as it happened. "There," said he, "laid the army of Washington. It was a most distressing time of ye war, and all were for giving up the Ship but that great and good man. In that woods pointing to a close in view, I heard a plaintive sound as, of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling & went quietly into the woods & to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis, & the cause of the country, of humanity & of the world.

Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying. I went home & told my wife, I saw a sight and heard today what I never saw or heard before, and just related to her what I had seen & heard & observed. We never thought a man c'd be a soldier & a Christian, but if there is one in the world, it is Washington. She also was astonished. We thought it was the cause of God, & America could prevail."

I have published Washington's first Thanksgiving Day proclamation here previously. You probably couldn't legally teach it to school children today, nor do I think many of our national leaders could pray it honestly. But we can aspire to it. In addition to the great grace of Faith and the blessings of Hubby & Weedlets and friends and liberty, I am grateful for the life and enduring witness of George Washington, without whom so much we take for granted would not be.

Update: President Obama cites Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation in his own first one. If you can bear it, you may wish, as Fr. Z. has already done, to compare President Obama's first Thanksgiving Proclamation this year with President Bush's last. In the interest of the feast, we'll leave it at that.