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George Washington's Ghost

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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.
 
"The 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 Washington.
 
"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."
 
Washington 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.
 
General McClellan 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.

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