Did the Supernatural Affect History?

The first week of July is when I get to celebrate two holidays, Canada Day and America’s Independence Day, the 4th of July! Why both? I’m an American, who was expatriated to Canada during my childhood and then repatriated during my teen years. I have family and friends in both places, so I celebrate the 1st and the 4th!

The U.S. and Canada are pretty good buddies, and some Americans are eyeing it as a good place to resettle these days, but did you know that America and Canada once went to war? Well, to be accurate, it was war with Great Britain, but Canadian and Native-American troops participated with the British effort against the United States for 32 months.

Catalysts of the War of 1812 were British attempts to limit U.S. trade, the Royal Navy’s impressment (forcibly taking American seaman into their naval service) of sailors, and America’s growing desire to expand her territory to the north. In fact, at the very beginning of the war, America launched a failed attempt to invade Canada! Can you imagine star-spangled maple leaves?

What does that have to do with the usual weird things and things that go bump in the night on this blog, you ask? I’m getting there.

Perhaps one of the most shocking incidents of this war came in August of 1814. A British force led by Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn overtook and occupied Washington, D.C. It is the only time in history that the U.S. Captial has been occupied by a foreign military. They burned most of the city, including the White House and other government sites. A dark day for Americans, but before you take up pitchforks and head north, understand that the attack was spurred in part as retaliation for the American destruction of Port of Dover in Ontario, Canada. Tit-for-Tat, the usual business of war, but I digress.

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Rear Admiral George Cockburn. Behind him is the US Treasury and Capital Building in flames.

Here, my friends is where things get juicy.

Perhaps a coincidence, or supernatural divine intervention, the occupation would only last 26 hours.

While the invading troops were busy setting fires, the skies began to turn dangerous. The

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Tornado*

gathering storm clouds blotted out the sun plunging the city into darkness. The blackened sky came alive with lightning and sheets of rain began to fall. The howling winds joined forces in a swirling tornado that ripped through the center of the town headed directly for the British on Capitol Hill. The tempest picked up cannons, tore buildings apart, and tossed trees aside like toothpicks. The torrential rains continued for two hours, dousing all the fires. Several British troops were killed by flying debris or crushed by toppling buildings. In the wake of the storm, the British withdrew from the city and returned to their ships that had also been ravaged by the storm.

Many American commentators at the time saw it as divine intervention and favor for the U.S. They invoked stories from the Bible for comparison, such as in the book of Joshua. God hurls hailstones at Isreal’s enemies during a battle, killing many. The British would disagree with that assessment. As reported in the meteorological book Washington Weather:

As the British troops were preparing to leave, a conversation was noted between the British Admiral and a Washington lady regarding the storm: The admiral exclaimed, “Great God, Madam! Is this the kind of storm to which you are accustomed in this infernal country?” The lady answered, “No, Sir, this is a special interposition of Providence to drive our enemies from our city.” The admiral replied, “Not so, Madam. It is rather to aid your enemies in the destruction of your city.”**

Tornadoes are a rare occurrence in Washington, D.C. Since the storm of 1814, that spawned three tornadoes, I can find data on only seven other reports. Do the math, that’s a total of eight tornadoes in the past 200 years or so!

Coincidence? Proof that God loves the U.S.? A show of favor for the British? Meddling from something/someone else? Maybe God just hates to see his kids fighting, and he sent everyone to their room. You will have to come to your own conclusions. This may not be as weird as some of the stuff I write about here, but any way you slice it, it was a very strange occurrence.

For me, it’s a good reminder that there are forces that all mankind is subject to. Powerful militaries or not.

Happy Canada Day! God Save the Queen! God Bless the U.S.A., and may we always remain friends.

Happy 4th of July everybody.

fireworks

 

* Photo by Justin1569 at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5943918

**“NMAH | The War of 1812.” Accessed July 3, 2016. http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/the-war-of-1812.aspx.

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The 4th of July, Angels, and Other Weird Stuff You Should Know

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America’s birthday is upon us once again. To most folks it means bar-b-cues and fireworks. Some of those folks might recall that way back when someone dumped some tea in a harbor and George Washington kicked the British out after a long cold winter at Valley Forge. Oh yeah, and a guy named Paul Revere rode a horse warning that the British were coming so George could kick them out. Clearly, there is quite a bit more to it than that and the American revolution really is a very compelling story. As with any major event in world history, there are many myths surrounding this period. Some of them with a supernatural twist.

Considered by many to be the “Father of our Country,” from the cherry tree story to the composition of his dentures, George Washington boasts numerous myths and legends, second only to Benjamin Franklin. One such story comes out of the harsh and deadly winter at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. Washington and the Continental Army wintered there in 1777-1778 under brutal conditions. 10,000 men began the winter and only 7,500 remained to see the spring thaw thanks to freezing temperatures, food shortages, and disease.

As the unverifiable (according to Snopes, likely fabricated) story goes, Washington was sitting at a table in his tent writing a communique when a beautiful otherworldly woman appeared to him. Referring to him as “Son of the Republic” she showed him a vision of the “birth, progress, and destiny of the United States”. Seeing that the Union would prevail and prosper gave him the renewed strength to endure the current and coming challenges.

You can’t think about the Revolutionary War without thinking about the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration is not just the famous “we hold these truths to be self evident” part but basically an indictment of the King. Signing the document would be an act of treason and these men’s property and very lives were at stake. There were tense moments of debate when the adoption of the document almost stalled.

There is a legend that says it was during one of these pivotal moments when an unknown person stood and gave a deeply rousing speech. When he finished the group erupted and even the most hesitant signed the document. When they turned to congratulate the man on his words, he had vanished. Was he a very humble patriot, an angel, a time traveler, or something else? Here’s an excerpt from his oration:

“Sign that parchment! Sign, if the next moment the gibbet’s rope is about your neck! Sign, if the next minute this hall rings with the clash of falling axes! Sign, by all your hopes in life or death, as men, as husbands, as fathers, brothers, sign your names to the parchment, or be accursed forever! Sign, and not only for your selves, but for all ages, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the bible of the rights of man forever.’’

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There is one strange coincidence that is verifiable, three of the first five Presidents passed away on July 4.  Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died in 1826 and James Monroe died on that day in 1831.

The birth of America is a truly fascinating and dramatic period. Personally, I like to learn about history from perspectives other than the commonly accepted “text book” versions. Kenneth C. Davis wrote a really great read, Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know about American History but Never Learned. Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is another.

New perspectives on commonly known events provide deeper understanding about history and the people who lived it, and even those who keep re-living it. After all, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, is said to be haunted by none other than Benjamin Franklin.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia. Photo by: Rdsmith4, Wikimedia Commons

Independence Hall, Philadelphia. Photo by: Rdsmith4, Wikimedia Commons

Happy Independence Day!