David Barton Embellishes George Washington Story in New LDS Movie Project

Funds permitting, David Barton will provide some stories for a new project called Miracles: The Movie (not to be confused with Miracle: The Movie). The movie is a project of LDS film producer Ken Cromar. Via Indiegogo, the Cromar is seeking funds for a December release.
Cromar posted four clips yesterday, one of which has Barton telling a story about George Washington and British sharp shooter Patrick Ferguson. According to Barton, Washington escaped death in a miraculous manner in 1777. Roll the tape:

Barton says:

Major Ferguson, he and three of his sharp shooters were at one location, they’re up high in the trees, and they’re just picking off American officers at will, they’re just popping and dropping these guys, and they’d been doing it all morning. And suddenly a guy comes riding in the picture and they’re actually two American officers. And for whatever reason, Major Ferguson, he said, he just had this impulse came over him and he said, ‘I’ve shot enough guys this morning, I don’t think I need to shoot any more,’ and so he had his rifle lined up on this officer and he’s lined up and he’s about to pull the trigger, and he said this impulse suddenly came over him not to shoot, and so he didn’t shoot and he said the officer looked up full in his eyes and they stared at each other, the officer looked him right down the barrel, he looked at him in the tree where he’s sitting there with the barrel, sitting with his rifle. He didn’t pull the trigger and the officer looked at him and then slowly turned his back to him and walked off on his horse, the two officers going off. The officer turned out to be George Washington. Later, his men that were with him said, ‘don’t you know who that was? You could have ended the American revolution right there. So those are the kind of miracles you see that are inexplicable unless you understand that there is divine hand directing the counterplan, and that’s the way American history is written.

Well, not exactly.
There was a British officer named Patrick Ferguson who did consider shooting at an unidentified pair of Americans, one an officer and the other an aide, but the facts are at odds with Barton’s account and the outcome can be explained without appeal to direct divine intervention.
Ferguson was a Scottish soldier who was the leader of a rifle corp with the British army. Ferguson was wounded during a battle at Brandywine, PA and while in recuperation, he wrote a letter which is apparently the only account of the story Barton embellished. From Ferguson’s memoir:

He [Ferguson] lay with a part of his riflemen on the skirts of a wood, in the front of General Knyphausen’s division of the army, the following circumstances happened, which he relates in a
letter to a friend :
We had not lain long,’ he says, “when a rebel officer, remarkable by a hussar dress, passed towards our army, within a hundred yards of my right flank, not perceiving us. He was followed by another dressed in dark green, or blue, mounted on a bay horse, with a remarkably large cocked hat. I ordered three good shots to steal near to them, and fire at them ; but the idea disgusted me. I recalled the order. The hussar, in returning, made a circuit, but the other passed again within a hundred yards of us, upon which I advanced from the wood towards him. On my calling, he stopped ; but, after looking at me, proceeded. I again drew his attention, and made signs to him to stop, leveling my piece at him, but he slowly continued his way. As I was within that distance at which, in the quickest firing, I could have lodged half a dozen of balls in or about him before he was out of my reach, I had only to determine; but it was not pleasant to fire at the back of an inoffending individual, who was acquitting himself very coolly of his duty; so I let him alone. The day after I had been telling this story to some wounded officers who lay in the same room with me, when one of our surgeons, who had been dressing the wounded rebel officers, came in and told us they had been informing him, that General Washington was all the morning with the light troops, and only attended by a French officer in a hussar dress, he himself dressed and mounted in every point as above described. I am not sorry that I did not know at the time who it was.

While the evidence indicates it is possible the officer was Washington and apparently Ferguson believed it was Washington who he did not shoot, the attribution of a miracle does not fit the facts. First of all, the identity of the American officer cannot be confirmed; it may not have been Washington. Also, Ferguson does not say that the sharpshooters had been “popping and dropping” American troops all morning long. Furthermore, Barton’s claim that Ferguson said he was tired of killing American is at odds with Ferguson’s description of his actions. Ferguson’s behavior, while seemingly odd by today’s standards, was more common then and reflected the belief that shooting a man in the back was not honorable.
When it comes to arranging history to suit a preferred narrative, few are as convincing as Barton. This project looks like a Latter Day Saint version of Kirk Cameron’s Monumental. The facts didn’t matter in that one either.
 

18 thoughts on “David Barton Embellishes George Washington Story in New LDS Movie Project”

  1. Well then, miracles don’t exist.
    The Japanese had their “Kamikaze” or “divine wind” which wasn’t so divine was it?
    Maybe it was centuries ago..who is to say?
    So tell me….the atomic bombs didn’t end WWII…they helped. Do you really know about the “luck” or the “miracle” that ended it ?
    If it wasn’t a miracle, it certainly was a blessing to millions of Japanese and Americans.

  2. With all do respect to contemporary opinions, “history” is far more concerned with what George Washington thought:

    “[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.
    In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.
    And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage.
    These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.”

    http://www.pbs.org/georgewashington/milestones/inaugural_address_about.html

  3. Good observation, Mr. Van Dyke.
    I’ll cut to the chase with the ending of WWII in short shrift:
    It was eight days after Hiroshima and hostilities were still in full throttle.
    Orders were given for another raid on the island of Honshu by our first “stealth” squadron of bombers (B-29s with their underneath painted a dull, un-reflective black…the shiny aluminum was a give away to klieg searchlights during night raids).
    The men didn’t want to go. “Was this necessary? Surely the Japanese will capitulate?” was the general sentiment.
    Orders were orders.
    The Last Mission took off.
    Emperor Hirohito had decided that his people deserved peace after much debate. A recording of his voice calling for surrender was made at the Imperial Palace to be broadcast on Japanese radio the next day.
    The Japanese Army garrison in Tokyo had other plans. To be specific, a palace “coup” to place Hirohito in “protective custody”, honor the Bushido code, and continue the war to the bitterest of ends. The plan was the brainchild of a 22 year old Major Hatanaka.
    The 315th Bomber Wing had been in the air for quite some time on its mission to Akita, where Japan’s much needed and last oil refineries were located. This was to be the longest duration raid of the war also…15 hours in the air. Its IP was Tokyo.
    At the PRECISE time the palace coup was to take place, the 315th approached Tokyo from the east, and the Air Warden in charge of blackouts threw the SWITCH to all of Tokyo’s electricity, leaving Hatanaka’s coup in total darkness and confusion WHICH resulted in the recordings being kept safe and delivered for the broadcast the next day.
    The men of the 315th completed their mission, unknowingly making the ultimate factor in bringing the war to an end.
    These facts were not declassified until 1985.
    Just think of all the “what ifs”.
    Miracle, happenstance, chance, lady luck…call it what you will…but again for those who have FAITH it is easy to see the “hand of Providence”.

  4. Good observation, Mr. Van Dyke.
    I’ll cut to the chase with the ending of WWII in short shrift:
    It was eight days after Hiroshima and hostilities were still in full throttle.
    Orders were given for another raid on the island of Honshu by our first “stealth” squadron of bombers (B-29s with their underneath painted a dull, un-reflective black…the shiny aluminum was a give away to klieg searchlights during night raids).
    The men didn’t want to go. “Was this necessary? Surely the Japanese will capitulate?” was the general sentiment.
    Orders were orders.
    The Last Mission took off.
    Emperor Hirohito had decided that his people deserved peace after much debate. A recording of his voice calling for surrender was made at the Imperial Palace to be broadcast on Japanese radio the next day.
    The Japanese Army garrison in Tokyo had other plans. To be specific, a palace “coup” to place Hirohito in “protective custody”, honor the Bushido code, and continue the war to the bitterest of ends. The plan was the brainchild of a 22 year old Major Hatanaka.
    The 315th Bomber Wing had been in the air for quite some time on its mission to Akita, where Japan’s much needed and last oil refineries were located. This was to be the longest duration raid of the war also…15 hours in the air. Its IP was Tokyo.
    At the PRECISE time the palace coup was to take place, the 315th approached Tokyo from the east, and the Air Warden in charge of blackouts threw the SWITCH to all of Tokyo’s electricity, leaving Hatanaka’s coup in total darkness and confusion WHICH resulted in the recordings being kept safe and delivered for the broadcast the next day.
    The men of the 315th completed their mission, unknowingly making the ultimate factor in bringing the war to an end.
    These facts were not declassified until 1985.
    Just think of all the “what ifs”.
    Miracle, happenstance, chance, lady luck…call it what you will…but again for those who have FAITH it is easy to see the “hand of Providence”.

  5. Good observation, Mr. Van Dyke.
    I’ll cut to the chase with the ending of WWII in short shrift:
    It was eight days after Hiroshima and hostilities were still in full throttle.
    Orders were given for another raid on the island of Honshu by our first “stealth” squadron of bombers (B-29s with their underneath painted a dull, un-reflective black…the shiny aluminum was a give away to klieg searchlights during night raids).
    The men didn’t want to go. “Was this necessary? Surely the Japanese will capitulate?” was the general sentiment.
    Orders were orders.
    The Last Mission took off.
    Emperor Hirohito had decided that his people deserved peace after much debate. A recording of his voice calling for surrender was made at the Imperial Palace to be broadcast on Japanese radio the next day.
    The Japanese Army garrison in Tokyo had other plans. To be specific, a palace “coup” to place Hirohito in “protective custody”, honor the Bushido code, and continue the war to the bitterest of ends. The plan was the brainchild of a 22 year old Major Hatanaka.
    The 315th Bomber Wing had been in the air for quite some time on its mission to Akita, where Japan’s much needed and last oil refineries were located. This was to be the longest duration raid of the war also…15 hours in the air. Its IP was Tokyo.
    At the PRECISE time the palace coup was to take place, the 315th approached Tokyo from the east, and the Air Warden in charge of blackouts threw the SWITCH to all of Tokyo’s electricity, leaving Hatanaka’s coup in total darkness and confusion WHICH resulted in the recordings being kept safe and delivered for the broadcast the next day.
    The men of the 315th completed their mission, unknowingly making the ultimate factor in bringing the war to an end.
    These facts were not declassified until 1985.
    Just think of all the “what ifs”.
    Miracle, happenstance, chance, lady luck…call it what you will…but again for those who have FAITH it is easy to see the “hand of Providence”.

  6. Good observation, Mr. Van Dyke.
    I’ll cut to the chase with the ending of WWII in short shrift:
    It was eight days after Hiroshima and hostilities were still in full throttle.
    Orders were given for another raid on the island of Honshu by our first “stealth” squadron of bombers (B-29s with their underneath painted a dull, un-reflective black…the shiny aluminum was a give away to klieg searchlights during night raids).
    The men didn’t want to go. “Was this necessary? Surely the Japanese will capitulate?” was the general sentiment.
    Orders were orders.
    The Last Mission took off.
    Emperor Hirohito had decided that his people deserved peace after much debate. A recording of his voice calling for surrender was made at the Imperial Palace to be broadcast on Japanese radio the next day.
    The Japanese Army garrison in Tokyo had other plans. To be specific, a palace “coup” to place Hirohito in “protective custody”, honor the Bushido code, and continue the war to the bitterest of ends. The plan was the brainchild of a 22 year old Major Hatanaka.
    The 315th Bomber Wing had been in the air for quite some time on its mission to Akita, where Japan’s much needed and last oil refineries were located. This was to be the longest duration raid of the war also…15 hours in the air. Its IP was Tokyo.
    At the PRECISE time the palace coup was to take place, the 315th approached Tokyo from the east, and the Air Warden in charge of blackouts threw the SWITCH to all of Tokyo’s electricity, leaving Hatanaka’s coup in total darkness and confusion WHICH resulted in the recordings being kept safe and delivered for the broadcast the next day.
    The men of the 315th completed their mission, unknowingly making the ultimate factor in bringing the war to an end.
    These facts were not declassified until 1985.
    Just think of all the “what ifs”.
    Miracle, happenstance, chance, lady luck…call it what you will…but again for those who have FAITH it is easy to see the “hand of Providence”.

  7. With all do respect to contemporary opinions, “history” is far more concerned with what George Washington thought:

    “[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.
    In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.
    And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage.
    These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.”

    http://www.pbs.org/georgewashington/milestones/inaugural_address_about.html

  8. Well then, miracles don’t exist.
    The Japanese had their “Kamikaze” or “divine wind” which wasn’t so divine was it?
    Maybe it was centuries ago..who is to say?
    So tell me….the atomic bombs didn’t end WWII…they helped. Do you really know about the “luck” or the “miracle” that ended it ?
    If it wasn’t a miracle, it certainly was a blessing to millions of Japanese and Americans.

  9. Also important is the problematic appeal to Providence, which is readily accepted as a Christian historical perspective, but doesn’t take into account either the nature of history or the nature of God. History is full of “miracles”–things that appear extraordinary, but actually happen all the time. They are then imbued with meaning by someone on the outside who believes they are significant. The classic example is the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, which clearly demonstrated God’s hand (and blessing on England) since the English were outnumbered and a storm came up unexpectedly. But how do we explain all those miraculous events that happen to the other side? This brings us to the other probably, which is theological. If we take Scripture at its word, we understand that our very existence, moment to moment, requires God’s ever present attention. The historical miracle argument implies a deistic universe into which God selectively chooses to intervene. This is not to say that God doesn’t work in ordinary and extraordinary ways, but Scripture also teaches us, we don’t and can’t know the mind of God in these matters. It’s sheer hubris to declare that God acted a certain way at a certain time in history for a particular reason.

    1. Paul – Well said; a point which needs emphasis is the problem of the good things that happen to those viewed as enemies. The history as providence believer is compelled to find some other explanation or to distort history to make our side more miraculous than the other side. Enter Barton.

  10. Miracle or not, at least he was “charmed” again….like Braddock’s Defeat (four musket ball holes in his coat), Jumonville Glen and the 12th of November, 1758…then of course there are all the close calls during The Revolution…so, for those who “believe”, it is a simple choice to see “the Hand of Providence”.
    Such are the Fortunes of War.
    Take “God” out of the equation and call it “Lady Luck”.

  11. Also important is the problematic appeal to Providence, which is readily accepted as a Christian historical perspective, but doesn’t take into account either the nature of history or the nature of God. History is full of “miracles”–things that appear extraordinary, but actually happen all the time. They are then imbued with meaning by someone on the outside who believes they are significant. The classic example is the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, which clearly demonstrated God’s hand (and blessing on England) since the English were outnumbered and a storm came up unexpectedly. But how do we explain all those miraculous events that happen to the other side? This brings us to the other probably, which is theological. If we take Scripture at its word, we understand that our very existence, moment to moment, requires God’s ever present attention. The historical miracle argument implies a deistic universe into which God selectively chooses to intervene. This is not to say that God doesn’t work in ordinary and extraordinary ways, but Scripture also teaches us, we don’t and can’t know the mind of God in these matters. It’s sheer hubris to declare that God acted a certain way at a certain time in history for a particular reason.

    1. Paul – Well said; a point which needs emphasis is the problem of the good things that happen to those viewed as enemies. The history as providence believer is compelled to find some other explanation or to distort history to make our side more miraculous than the other side. Enter Barton.

  12. Miracle or not, at least he was “charmed” again….like Braddock’s Defeat (four musket ball holes in his coat), Jumonville Glen and the 12th of November, 1758…then of course there are all the close calls during The Revolution…so, for those who “believe”, it is a simple choice to see “the Hand of Providence”.
    Such are the Fortunes of War.
    Take “God” out of the equation and call it “Lady Luck”.

  13. I’m pretty sure Washington was dead by 1977, Warren, so I think you have a typo in your post 🙂

Comments are closed.