We owe the earliest reports of a vision[1] allegedly received by George Washington in Christmas Eve of 1777 to Wesley Bradshaw. He reports receiving the detailed account of that vision on the 4th of July of 1859 from Anthony Sherman, then a 99-year-old veteran of the Independence War. As far as I have been able to research, at least one man named Anthony Sherman enlisted with the Continental Army. In his pension application he declares to have served in Saratoga under Benedict Arnold towards the end of 1777, joining the main forces in 1778 in time for the Battle of Monmouth. This slight difference may be the result of a failing memory or a convenient rearrangement of the service record to obtain a better pension. For the purposes of this analysis we could only affirm honestly that there was one Anthony Sherman alive at the time of the conflict. The rest of the information is blurry at best.

What else do we know about this man, Anthony Sherman? Bradshaw declares in his introduction that he was 99 years old by the 4th of July of 1859. That is an unusual old age for the mid 19th century, more so for someone who endured the rigors of war at the end of the previous century. In any case the Anthony Sherman of our story must have been only 17 years old at the time when the alleged vision was received. That it is not enough to disqualify the story. The Revolutionary Forces accepted very young recruits throughout the duration of the conflict. The man could have been even a low rank officer if he was proficient in the use of weaponry and could read and write. All things considered I have reason to believe that the Anthony Sherman mentioned here is a fictional character. The name may have been selected merely by chance for an equally fictional story. It is more likely that Bradshaw wrote sort of a patriotic moral fable, an uplifting piece intended to give hope to his readers in the dark days of the American Civil War.

Wesley Bradshaw was the pen name of Charles Wesley Alexander (1836-1927) the publisher of The Soldier’ s Casket a periodical for Union veterans of the Civil War. He authored a number of fictional “vision style” articles featuring diverse historical figures.

Given the context and the genre cultivated by the author, those who read Washington’s Vision in 1861 were likely to understand the fictional character of the story and its moral intention. Bradshaw wrote similar articles featuring Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, and others including General McClellan’ s Dream, in which the Union Army General awakens to a vision of George Washington who then reveals to him the plans of a secret Confederate attack on Washington D.C. Those are by no means his most fantastic stories; there were others, which could gain him a place in contemporary fantastic realism. Obviously Bradshaw was a fiction writer with a fertile imagination and a mystical vein.

The first time I read this “vision” I did not have any background or information about it. “If this is a true document then it should be a national treasure,” I thought. Knowing that it was not I quickly dismissed it as an ingenious fantasy. At the time I was also learning about the visions of Fatima, and then I noticed there were many common elements between Bradshaw’s historical fantasy and the visions reported by the three little shepherds of Fatima.

Now, the visions of Fatima are by no means a figment of someone’s imagination. Any doubts were dispelled by October 13, 1917 by the Miracle of the Sun, seen by more than 70,000 witnesses, many of them unbelievers that converted that day. The account of the prophecies of Fatima is out of the scope of this article. I will only attempt to point at some details of Bradshaw’s invention that are similar to the imagery and language of the visions presented to the world in Fatima more than 50 years later.

The similarities are just a few but very suggestive.

The Vision of George Washington by Jon McNaughton (detail)

First the person in the vision is “a singularly beautiful female” not a prophet of old, neither Jesus, nor a ghost of some sort but a woman. Knowing the devotion Washington had for Our Blessed Mother it is a remarkable choice for the story.

Another detail “a light as of a thousand suns shone down from above me,” could be an apt description of a nuclear attack stopped just in time by the angelical forces. Obviously this came from Bradshaw’s imagination but the image is still remarkably similar to a neutron bomb attack, something the author could not possibly describe in 1860.

Then we have the “azure standard” which is not a fit description of the Stars and Stripes. What is that “azure” (sky blue) flag? Some have seen there the United Nations flag but remember Our Blessed Mother has appeared frequently dressed in that color. I wonder if there is some sort of “Marian code” there hinting at Mary’s age of peace.

I could add a number of other details but I only selected three that could not have been lifted from the Bible or copied from some other prophetic book. The “vision” has a familiar atmosphere and ends up describing a world united against America, something that certainly could not be foreseen in the mid 19th century but that is so real, so possible today.

I would not use this “vision” for guidance but I am quite intrigued by its structure and some of its similarities with the visions of Fatima presented to the world half a century after.


[1]  The vision of George Washington by Wesley Bradshaw

The father of our country, George Washington, was a man of prayer. Many of us have read of how he went to the thicket many times to pray during the winter his army was at Valley Forge. However, little publicity has been given to the vision and prophecy he received at that time.
The account of this vision was given in 1859 by an old soldier. He gave it to a writer, Wesley Bradshaw, who published it. In the vision God revealed to George Washington that three great perils would come upon the republic. He was given to know that America was going through the first peril at that time. The old soldier who told the story of the vision said the nation would soon see the account verified by the second peril descending upon the land.
We give the account here as printed in the U.S. war veterans paper The National Tribune, in December 1880. The National Tribune became, “The Stars and Stripes”, and this article was later reprinted in that publication.

This afternoon, as I was sitting at this table engaged in preparing a dispatch, something seemed to disturb me. Looking up, I beheld standing opposite me a singularly beautiful female. 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 her presence. A second, a third and even a fourth time did I repeat my question, but received no answer from my mysterious visitor except a slight raising of her eyes.

By this time I felt strange sensations spreading through me. I would have risen but the riveted gaze of the being before me rendered volition impossible. I assayed once more to address her, but my tongue had become useless, as though it had become paralyzed.

A new influence, mysterious, potent, irresistible, took possession of me. All I could do was to gaze steadily, vacantly at my unknown visitor. Gradually the surrounding atmosphere seemed as if it had become filled with sensations, and luminous. Everything about me seemed to rarefy, the mysterious visitor herself becoming more airy and yet more distinct to my sight than before. I now began to feel as one dying, or rather to experience the sensations which I have sometimes imagined accompany dissolution. I did not think, I did not reason, I did not move; all were alike impossible. I was only conscious of gazing fixedly, vacantly at my companion.

Presently I heard a voice saying, “Son of the Republic, look and learn,” while at the same time my visitor extended her arm eastwardly, I now beheld a heavy white vapor at some distance rising fold upon fold. This gradually dissipated, and I looked upon a stranger 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 or 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 hand he cast some on Europe. Immediately a cloud raised from these countries, and joined in mid-ocean. For a while it remained stationary, and then moved slowly westward, until it enveloped America in its murky folds. Sharp flashes of lightning gleamed through it at intervals, and I heard the smothered groans and cries of the American people.

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 in sank from view. A third time I heard the mysterious voice 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 the 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.” At this the dark shadowy angel turned his face southward, and from Africa I saw an ill omened specter approach our land. It flitted slowly 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,” bearing the American flag which he placed between the divided nation, and said, “Remember ye are brethren.” Instantly, the inhabitants, casting from them their weapons became friends once more, and united around the National Standard.

“And 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 it upon Europe, Asia and Africa. Then my eyes beheld a fearful scene: From each of these countries arose thick, black clouds that were soon joined into one. Throughout this mass there gleamed a dark red light by which I saw hordes of armed men, who, moving with the cloud, marched by land and sailed by sea to America. Our country was enveloped in this volume of cloud, and I saw these vast armies devastate the whole county and burn the villages, towns and cities that I beheld springing up. As my ears listened to the thundering of the cannon, clashing of sword, and the shouts and cries of millions in mortal combat, I heard again the mysterious voice saying, “Son of the Republic, look and learn” When the voice had ceased, the dark shadowy angel placed his trumpet once more to his mouth, and blew a long and fearful blast. “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 shone 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 joined the inhabitants of America, who I perceived were well nigh overcome, 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!

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 midst 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 blazoned 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 disappearing, 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 have seen is thus interpreted: Three great perils will come upon the Republic. The most fearful is the third, but in this greatest conflict the whole world united shall not prevail against her. Let every child of the Republic learn to live for his God, his land and the 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 to me the birth, progress, and destiny of the United States.