The story of the occurrence and the content of this vision was first published in the American war veterans’ paper The National Tribune in December, 1880. That paper is now known as The Stars and Stripes. The vision account was reprinted again in the Stars and Stripes dated December 21, 1950. The occasion of the vision, as told to the publisher Wesley Bradshaw, is as follows:
The last time I ever saw Anthony Sherman was on the fourth of July, 1859, in Independence Square he was then 99 years old, and becoming very feeble. But though so old, his dimming eyes rekindled as he gazed upon Independence Hall, which he had come to visit once more.
“Let's go into the hall,” he said. “I want to tell you of an incident of Washington's life-one which no one alive knows of except myself; and if you live, you will before long see it verified.
“From the opening of the revolution we experienced all phases of fortune, now good and now ill, one time victorious and another conquered. The darkest period we had, I think, was when Washington after several reverses, retreated to Valley Forge, where he resolved to pass the winter of 1777. Ah! I have often seen the tears coursing down our dear commander’s care-worn cheeks, as he would be conversing with a confidential officer about the condition of his poor soldiers. You have doubtless heard the story of Washington's going to the thicket to pray. Well, it was not only true, but he used often to pray in secret for aid and comfort. And God brought us safely through the darkest days of tribulation.
“One day, I remember it well, the chilly winds whistled through the leafless trees, though the sky was cloudless and the sun shone brightly. He remained in his quarters nearly all the afternoon, alone. 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 an officer, who was presently in attendance. After a preliminary conversation of about half an hour, Washington, gazing upon his companion with that strange look of dignity which he alone could command, said to the latter:
An Uninvited Guest
“ ‘I do not know whether it is owning to the anxiety of my mind, or what, but this afternoon, as I was sitting at this table engaged in preparing a dispatch, something in the apartment seem 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 the question, but received no answer from my mysterious visitor except a slight raising of the eyes.
“ ‘By this time I felt a strange sensation spreading over me. I would have risen but the riveted gaze of the being before me rendered violation impossible. I assayed once more to speak, but my tongue had become useless, as is paralyzed. A new influence, mysterious, potent, irresistible, took possession of me. All I could do was gaze steadily, vacantly at my unknown visitor.
“ ‘Gradually the surrounding atmosphere seemed to fill with sensations, and grew luminous. Everything about me seem too rarefy, the mysterious visitor also becoming more airy and yet more distinct to my eyes then before. I began to feel as one dying, or rather to experience the sensations which I have sometimes imagine accompany death. I did not think, I did not reason, I did not move. All were like impossible. I was only conscience of gazing fixedly, vacantly at my companion.
The Revolutionary War as Seen in the Vision
“ ‘Presently I heard a voice saying, “Son of the Republic, look and learn,” while at the same time my visitor extended in arm eastward. I now beheld a heavy white vapor at some distance rising fold upon fold. This gradually dissipated, and I looked 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, like an angel, standing, a rather floating in mid-air, between Europe and America. Dipping water out of the ocean in the hollow of each hand, he sprinkled some upon America with his right hand, while with his left he cast some over Europe. Immediately a cloud arose from these countries, and joined in mid-ocean. For a while it seemed stationary, and then it moved slowly westward, until it enveloped America and its murky folds. Sharp flashes of lightning gleamed through it at intervals, I heard the smothered groans and cries of the American people.[This may be interpreted to have been the Revolutionary war than in progress].
“ ‘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 heaving billows it sank from view.
Prediction of the Civil War
“ ‘A third time I heard the mysterious visitor saying, “Son of the Republic, look and learn.” I cast my eyes upon America and beheld villages and towns and cities springing up one after another until a whole land from 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 southward. From Africa I saw an ill-omened spectre approach our land. It flitted slowly and heavily over every town and city of the latter. The inhabitants presently set themselves in battle array 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.” He was bearing the American flag. He placed the flag between the divided nation and said, “Remember, ye are brethren.”
The Republic Develops as “A Nation”
“ ‘Instantly, the inhabitants, casting down their weapons, became friends once more and united around the National Standard.
Forceful-Incredible-World War III
“ ‘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 mouth, and blew three distinct blasts; and taking water from the ocean, he sprinkled upon Europe, Asia and Africa.
“ ‘Then my eyes beheld a fearful scene. From each of these continents arose thick black clouds that were soon joined into one. And through this mass there gleamed a dark red light by which I saw hordes of armed men. These men, moving with the cloud, marched by land and sailed by sea to America, which country was enveloped in the volume of the cloud. And I dimly saw these vast armies devastate the whole country and burned villages, towns and cities which I had seen springing up.
“ ‘As my ears listened to the thundering of a cannon, clashing 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 this voice had ceased, the dark shadowy angel placed his trumpet once more to his mouth, and blew a long and fearful blast.
Heaven Helps the U.S.A.
“ ‘Instantly a light as of a thousand suns shone 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 join the inhabitants of America, who I perceived were well-nigh over-come, 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.
The Destiny of the United States
“ ‘Then once more, I beheld the villages, towns and cities springing up where I had seen them before, while the bright angel, planting the azure standard he had brought in the mist 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 blazened 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 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 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 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 destiny of the United States.”
“Such, my friends,” the venerable narrator concluded “were the words I heard from Washington's own lips, and America will do well to profit by them.”