Originally published by
Copied from a reprint in
the National Tribune, Vol. 4, No. 12, December 1880. Later reprinted in THE STARS AND STRIPES newspaper owned by the NATIONAL TRIBUNE, in 1931 and on December 21, 1950. Also published in 'Will our president die in Office" by Gordon Lindsay,
last time I ever saw Anthony Sherman was on the Fourth of July, 1859, in
Independence Square. He was then ninety-nine years old, his dimming eyes
rekindled as he gazed upon Independence Hall, which he had come to visit
once more. "I want to tell you an incident of Washington's life -- one
which no one alive knows of except myself; and which, if you live, you
will before long see verified."
said, "From the opening of the Revolution, we experienced all phases of
fortune, good and ill. The darkest period we ever had, I think, was when
Washington, after several reverses, retreated to Valley Forge, where he
resolved to pass the winter of 1777. Ah! I often saw the tears coursing
down our dear commander's careworn cheeks, as he conversed with a
confidential officer about the condition of his soldiers. You have
doubtless heard the story of Washington's going to the thicket to pray.
Well, he also used to pray to God in secret for aid and comfort.
"One day, I remember well, the chilly winds whistled through the leafless
trees. Though the sky was cloudless and the sun shone brightly, he
remained alone in his quarters nearly all afternoon. When he came out, I
noticed that his face was a shade paler than usual, and there seemed to be
something on his mind of more than ordinary importance. Returning just
after dusk, he dispatched an orderly to the quarters of the officer I
mentioned who was in attendance at the time. After preliminary
conversation of about half an hour, Washington, gazing upon his companion
with that strange look of dignity that he alone could command, said to the
do not know whether it is due to the anxiety of my mind, or what, but this
afternoon, as I was preparing a dispatch, something seemed to disturb me.
Looking up, I beheld, standing opposite me, a singularly beautiful being.
So astonished was I, for I had given strict orders not to be disturbed,
that it was some moments before I found language to inquire the cause of
the visit. A second, a third, and even a fourth time did I repeat my
question, but received no answer from my mysterious visitor, except a
slight raising of the eyes. By this time I felt strange sensations
spreading through me, and I would have risen, but the riveted gaze of the
being before me rendered volition impossible. I assayed once more to
speak, but my tongue had become useless, as though it had become
paralyzed. A new influence, mysterious, potent, irresistible, took
possession. All I could do was to gaze steadily, vacantly at my unknown
visitor. Gradually the surrounding atmosphere seemed to become filled with
sensations, and grew luminous. Everything about me seemed to rarefy,
including the mysterious visitor.
began to feel as one dying, or rather to experience the sensations which I
have sometimes imagined accompany dissolution. I did not think, I did not
reason, I did not move; all were alike impossible. I was only conscious of
gazing fixedly, vacantly at my companion.
"`Presently I heard a voice saying, "Son of the Republic, look and learn,"
while at the same time my visitor extended an arm eastwardly. I now beheld
a heavy vapor at some distance rising fold upon fold. This gradually
dissipated, and I looked out upon a strange scene. Before me lay spread
out in one vast plain all the countries of the world -- Europe, Asia,
Africa, and America. I saw rolling and tossing between Europe and America
the billows of the Atlantic, and between Asia and America lay the Pacific.
"`"Son of the Republic," said the same mysterious voice as before, "look
and learn." At that moment I beheld a dark, shadowy being as an angel
standing, or rather floating, in mid-air between Europe and America.
Dipping water out of the ocean in the hollow of his hand, he cast some on
Europe. Immediately a cloud raised from these countries, and joined in
mid-ocean. For a while it remained stationary, and then moved slowly
westward until it enveloped America in its murky folds. Sharp flashes of
lightning gleamed through it at intervals, and I heard the smothered
groans and cries of the American people. A second time the angel dipped
water from the ocean and sprinkled it out as before. The dark cloud was
then drawn back to the ocean, in whose billows it sank from view.
third time I heard the mysterious voice saying, "Son of the Republic, look
and learn." I cast my eyes upon America and beheld villages and towns and
cities string up one after another until the whole land form the Atlantic
to the Pacific was dotted with them. Again I heard the mysterious voice
say, "Son of the Republic, the end of the century cometh; look and learn."
"`And this time the dark, shadowy angel turned his face south ward, and
from Africa I saw an ill-omened specter approach our land. It flitted
slowly over every town and city of the latter. The inhabitants presently
set themselves in battle against each other. As I continued looking, I saw
a bright angel, on whose brow rested a crown of light on which was traced
the word "Union," bearing the American flag, which he placed between the
divided nation. He said, "Remember, ye are brethren." Instantly the
inhabitants, casting down their weapons, became friends once more, and
united around the National Standard.
"`Again I heard the mysterious voice saying, "Son of the Republic, look
and learn." At this the dark, shadowy angel placed a trumpet to his lips
and blew three distinct blasts; and taking water from the ocean, he
sprinkled it on Europe, Asia, and Africa. Then my eyes beheld a fearful
scene. From each of these countries arose thick black clouds that were
soon joined into one; and throughout this mass there gleamed a dark red
light by which I saw hordes of armed men, who, moving with the cloud,
marched by land and sailed by sea to America, which country was enveloped
in the volume of cloud. And I dimly saw these vast armies devastate the
whole country and burn the villages, towns, and cities that I had beheld
"`As my ears listened to the thundering of the cannon, the slashing of
swords, and the shouts and cries of millions in mortal combat, I again
heard the mysterious voice saying, "Son of the Republic, look and learn."
When the voice had ceased, the dark angel placed his trumpet once more to
his mouth and blew a long and fearful blast.
"`Instantly a light as of a thousand suns shown down from above me, and
pierced and broke into fragments the dark cloud which enveloped America.
At the same moment the angel upon whose head still shown the word "Union"
and who bore our national flag in one hand and a sword in the other
descended from the heavens attended by legions of white spirits. These
immediately joined the inhabitants of America, who I perceived were
well-nigh overcome, but who, immediately taking courage again, closed up
their broken ranks and renewed the battle. Again, amid the fearful noise
of the conflict I heard the mysterious voice saying, "Son of the Republic,
look and learn." As the voice ceased, the shadowy angel for the last time
dipped water from the ocean and sprinkled it upon America. Instantly the
dark cloud rolled back, together with the armies it had brought, leaving
the inhabitants of the land victorious.
"`Then once more, I beheld the villages, towns, and cities springing up
where I'd seen them before, while the bright angel, planting the azure
standard he had brought in the midst of them, cried with a loud voice:
"While the stars remain, and the heavens send down dew upon the earth, so
long shall the Union last." And taking from his brow the crown on which
blazoned the word "Union," he placed it upon the standard while the
people, kneeling down, said "Amen."
"`The scene instantly began to fade and dissolve, and I, at last, saw
nothing but the rising, curling vapor I had at first beheld. This also
disappeared, and I found myself once more gazing upon the mysterious
visitor, who in the same voice I had heard before said, "Son of the
Republic, what you have seen is thus interpreted. Three great perils will
come upon the Republic. The most fearful for her is the third. But the whole world united shall not prevail against her. Let every child of
the Republic learn to live for his God, his land, and his Union." With
these words the vision vanished, and I started from my seat and felt that
I had seen a vision wherein had been shown me the birth, the progress, and
the destiny of the United States.'
"Such, my friends," said the venerable narrator, "were the words I heard
from Washington's own lips, and America will do well to profit by them."