December 26: Two Good Guides

Two Good Guides
by Rev. David T Myers

The situation was bleak. Barely into the American Revolution in the colonies, British forces in the future United States of America were winning everywhere. If something could be done even by a small military victory, it might revolutionize the American people to continue on to win their independence. That need was supplied by the military victory at Trenton, New Jersey on December 26 1776.

Reeling from their defeat on Long Island, New York, General George Washington realized the need for a victory over the British Forces. Choosing the 900 member Hessian mercenary force in Trenton, New Jersey might be the answer. But to march in frozen conditions was a challenge to a hungry and decimated army. At best, Washington could summon somewhere around 2400 soldiers. And there was a “little” matter of a Delaware River in winter to cross to get to the German encampment. For that reason, Washington instructed that “two good guides” be furnished with each brigade, to guide them to their target.

Among those “good guides” were three privates in the colonial militia of the area, all members of the Presbyterian Church of Pennington, New Jersey. Their names were David Laning, John Guild, and John Muirhead. All three were commanded by Gen Washington to dress in civilian clothes for their important mission and ride ahead of the American forces.

David Laning had actually been captured by the British forces several days before the intended mission and put under guard in Trenton. He took advantage of a distraction by his German guard and made his escape to the house of a friend. The next day, disguised as an elderly wood cutter, he was able to cross the Delaware River again and rejoin his fellow Presbyterian members back in camp.

We have all seen the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware on his way to Trenton. Each year, it is a scene which is recreated by American citizens in the area. On that night, we know the story of complete surprise to the celebrating Hessian troops, some 900 of whom were captured by the victorious American patriots. Actually, it was David Laning the Presbyterian guide who signaled the attack to take place. And the rest is history, as they say.

The small victory brightened the horizon of the colonists. The next battle fought was that of Princeton, New Jersey, which was also a victory of the American revolutionaries. The tide was beginning to turn.

Words to Live By:
Time and time again in these posts of Presbyterian History, we have seen faithful and courageous Presbyterian men and women take their place in important missions for God and country. Don’t think, Presbyterian reader, that all such opportunities for service are only in the past. Look around in your area and see with the eyes of faith, opportunities to glorify God and serve Him in church and state. Then, give of yourself, your gifts, and talents, to be that one to “stand in the gap” for Christ.

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