— By Michelle Avery, Editorial Assistant at Herald and Banner Press, Inc.
In December of 1776, a commander of the United States revolutionary forces wrote to his brother, “I think the game is pretty near up.” His men were sick, ill-equipped, despairing, and retreating in sub-freezing temperatures. This commanding officer feared their noble cause was lost.
But the commander was General George Washington, and he knew he had to try again. His plan was to take his quickly dwindling army across the icy Delaware River and surprise the Hessians in their warm quarters in Trenton on Christmas Day. The battle was a success for the American forces, and although it did not end the war immediately, it stopped the British advance toward Philadelphia and restored hope to the revolutionary forces. British Field Commander Charles Cornwallis told Washington at the end of the War for Independence, “This is a great victory for you, but your brightest laurels will be writ upon the banks of the Delaware.”
During the First World War an equally horrendous situation presented itself in the Argonne Forrest. General John J. Pershing had committed his untested troops to what was looking like an unwinnable battle. The fight for the first day’s stated objective took three weeks and cost more than 100,000 American casualties. The “Iron General” was beginning to melt.
Then one of Pershing’s officers demanded time to rest and regroup his men. A fresh division was brought forward, and for ten days they attacked the opposing forces. In those ten days the tired soldiers collected themselves and the officers corrected their strategies. When they attacked, they drove back the enemy so quickly it had no chance to regroup. American soldiers overran each new post before it could be secured. Ten days later, at eleven o’clock on the morning of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Armistice went into effect. The Great War had been won.
Long before either of these battles, another army faced a turning-point battle when all seemed lost. Approached by an overwhelming force, every man but their leader fled in terror. The commander was captured, interrogated, tried, and sentenced to death. His men returned slowly, but still fearful, they hung back and made no rescue attempts. Their dreams of victory and freedom died with their leader. It must have been the worst day of their lives.
They passed the next day in hiding. They dared not go out into the city where they would surely be hunted down and executed as their leader had been. Their confidence had led to no plan for defeat, so they did not know what to do. Then Sunday dawned and some of the soldiers quietly walked toward the grave where their leader had been laid to rest. They would honor his tomb, then retreat and try to reclaim whatever life had been left to them.
But something was wrong. The grave had been robbed during the night! Their fear forgotten in surprise, they dashed forward to investigate then stopped suddenly at the appearance of an angel.
“Be not affrighted:” he commanded, “Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.”
Suddenly all fear was gone. The enemy had been forever defeated! The worst day of their lives became good!