General George B. McClellan slumped wearily over his desk. Before him lay campaign maps, battle reports and
a large scale map on which all the known Confederate positions had been marked.
It was September 1862, and
the green Yankee troops had been shattered in battle after battle by the sharp-shooting, determined Johnny Rebs. President
Lincoln had called on McClellan to take charge of the chaos. He had appointed him to whip the troops into shape and to rally
against the Rebel-yelling, bulls-eye shooting boys in gray.
The general yawned and stretched in near-exhaustion.
If he did not catch a little sleep, he would not be able to direct a wrestling match, let alone a war. McClellan's eyelids
drooped, and soon he had slumped forward on his desk.
His slumber did not last long. A booming voice suddenly
filled his campaign tent: "General McClellan, do you sleep at your post? Rouse yourself, or before. you can prevent it, the
foe will be in Washington!"
Wondering if some bold messenger had arrived with news of impending Confederate
attack, McClellan snapped to groggy attention. His eyes opened wide when he beheld the luminous countenance of George Washington.
As General McClellan later told the story for the Portland, Maine, Evening Courier, March 8, 1862, the commanding
spirit of the nation's first President wasted no time in delivering his message: "Had God not willed it otherwise, 'ere the
sun of tomorrow had set, the Confederate flag would have waved above the Capitol and your own grave! Note what you see. Your
time to act is short!"
At a gesture from Washington, McClellan seemed to be envisioning a living map of all
the Confederate troop positions. He grabbed a quill from his desk and began to jot down all that he could see. Then, as if
they were figures performing in a pageant, he saw the Confederate troops advancing toward Washington, D.C.
Rebs are on their way to try and take the capital!" McClellan growled. "Why, if they took Washington, they'd break the spirit
of the entire Union!"
At once the strange, living tableau changed, and McClellan saw Confederate manuevers
of the future. Again, his pen furiously marked positions on campaign maps. "We must act at once!" he told the specter of George
"The warning has come in time, General McClellan," Washington said softly. "Before I go, I wish
to tell you of the days ahead and of other perils which shall befall our nation in the 20th century."
described the Civil War as America's "passing from childhood to open maturity," and that now she must learn "that important
lesson of self-control, of self-rule, that in the future will place her in the van of power and civilization."
The spirit of the first President of the United States then told the Union general that America would be saved in that
century, but the great test was yet to come:
"Her mission will not be finished, for 'ere another century shall
have gone by, the oppressors of the whole earth, hating and envying her exaltation, shall join themselves together and raise
up their hands against her.
"But if she be found worthy of her calling, they shall be truly discomfited, and
then will be ended her third and last struggle for existence."
With those words, the ghostly image of George
Washington began to fade, and McClellan once again found himself alone in his tent.
At first he thought the
experience had been merely a vivid bit of dreaming on his part, but then he saw the markings and the symbols of Confederate
manuevers on his campaign-maps.
The general paused for just a moment. Could he actually act upon advice given
to him in a dream? Were the Confederate troops really advancing toward Washington?
With a purposeful blow of
his open palm on the desk top, McClellan decided to act. Men had been guided by dreams since the days of the Old Testament
prophets. He would give the orders to move out at once.
Because of the knowledge which McClellan had gained
in this unusual precognitive experience, the Union troops were able to halt the Confederate invasion of Washington at Antietam
and to pursue General Robert E. Lee by "anticipating" several of his subsequent maneuvers.
later wrote of his vision in these words: "Our beloved, glorious Washington shall rest .. until perhaps the end of the Prophetic
Century approaches that is to bring the Republic to a third and final struggle, when he may once more become a Messenger of
Succor and Peace from the Great Ruler, who has all nations in his keeping."
General McClellan never repudiated
this account, and it was reprinted in The Individual Christian Scientist, Vol. XI, No. 2.