In 1776, muzzle-loading smooth bore “firelock” muskets were carried by the rank-and-file military of the
day. But Major Patrick Ferguson, of the British Army, was no average soldier. And his custom-made
breach-loading rifle with its seven-grooved bore that could spin a ball with pinpoint accuracy was no
Major Ferguson was the most accomplished English marksman of the time, and with his excellent eye and
personalized weapon of choice, he could hit a piece of paper 200 yards away, four times a minute. When
Ferguson put something in his sights, he did not miss. This 18th Century sniper, was a lethal weapon.
One brisk morning, on September 11, 1777, Major Ferguson was out on a reconnaissance mission to
scout out the US Rebel forces position along the Brandywine Creek valley just south of Philadelphia.
From his hidden position, he spotted two easy targets riding towards him only 100 yards away—an easy
shot for Ferguson. Judging by their dress, the two unsuspecting men were obviously officers in the
Continental Army, and they were riding towards the most decorated British marksman of a generation.
As the Major readied his weapon, Ferguson, ever the gentleman warrior, cried out a warning to the riders.
Should they continue, they would meet a swift end. The US senior officer remained composed and calm.
Without wavering or withdrawing, the mounted US Rebel continued coolly about his business.
Presenting Fergusson with no sporting challenge, no fleeting or retreating target to fire upon, this stately
British officer felt it would be wrong to kill him. Though he could have fired half a dozen rounds into his
enemy before he could escape to safety, Fergusson aloud his enemy to carry-on. He chose to not take his
shot, and allowed the riders to live.
Later that same day, Fergusson learned that the man that he held in his sights that morning was none other
than General George Washington and his aide-de-camp. Had the British Major known, his gentlemanly
code of honor may have been neglected. 1 (Story adapted from Brumwell)
Take a moment to imagine how the outcome of history may have been different if Fergusson had made
another choice. Simply stop and consider that question. Washington had no idea that he was in the sights
of the deadliest shooter in the world’s most powerful army. By some act of Providence, his life was
spared, and I for one am eternally grateful for that fact.
As you go about your day today be encouraged at the thought that God’s Sovereign hand of protection
may very well be over your life…working in unseen ways…keeping ‘enemies” at bay.
– Just a few thoughts from a Patriotic Pastor