|Reflections On The Past
by Mike Bailey
Reflections On The Past:
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As I sat at my computer the other day in the warmth and security of my home in Marietta, GA
awaiting yet another glorious Christmas season to bless my house with laughter, gifts of love,
friendships renewed and memories of loved ones who have passed that gave all of us still here today
a true feeling of home, love, and the meaning of Christmas, I paused and thought of another time in
In my mind’s eye, I could see men huddled in large groups before the towering statute of a man on a
horse in front of them, talking to them as they sat or stood there in tattered clothing and were
shivering in the biting, wet cold that tore away at their bodies and minds as well. They were tired,
hungry, some were dealing with vicious wounds, and many were simply longing to just get up and
leave this place and forsake the efforts underway and just go home.
It was just two days before Christmas and the dreams of a peaceful time with their family and
friends in a warm, secure house filled their minds also of days long since passed.
About the only person in the United States on that cold, wintry evening in 1776 that could be
there and address them in a way that they would respect was the man on the horse in front of
them –- General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.
The Continental Army had been driven out of New York after their defeat on Long Island in
August of 1776 and had retreated back into New Jersey and even back into Pennsylvania. Morale
was at an all time low as over 90 percent of the men who had fought at the battle of Long Island
had deserted the army and gone back home. Even General Washington had expressed some doubts,
writing to his cousin in Virginia, "I think the game is pretty near up.”
However, not to be stopped in his effort to drive the British out of the newly formed United
States and to eventually end the war, Washington pressed on and on this cold night in December,
he was preparing to launch his attack on the Hessian garrison stationed along the Delaware River
at Trenton, New Jersey.
As the men gathered around their Commander-in-Chief, they watched him pull a paper pamphlet
from his coat pocket and then heard him start to speak.
“These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this
crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and
thanks of man and woman.”
Washington was reading from the first of 16 pamphlets written by Thomas Paine that were
entitled “The American Crises.” Paine and his earlier writings entitled “Common Sense” probably
did as much for the patriot’s morale and understanding of the entire situation involving the cause
and reasons for our determined break and independence from the British Crown than any other
thing in our history at the time.
Needlessly to say, we all know what happened next -– Washington crossed the Delaware River
Christmas night and in the early morning on December 26, he and other units of his army
successfully attacked the garrison at Trenton and defeated the Hessian troops who were
This battle was a major turning point in the fight for independence as it gave faith to the patriots
that yes, they can win this war.
However, what draws me to this time in history is not Washington crossing the Delaware and the
Battle of Trenton, but what Washington so prophetically said when he read the opening statement
to Thomas Paine’s latest writing about “The American Crisis.”
“These are the times that try men's souls…”
How sad and prophetic that statement has been in the course of our nation’s history.
Think how our souls were soon tried again in the War of 1812, then the nation ripping Civil War
of the 1860s, then soon followed by the Spanish American War in 1898, followed by WWI in
1914, the dreadful Depression of the late 20s and early 30s, then WWII in 1939, the Korean War
in 1950, Vietnam in the 60s, the Gulf Wars in the 90s followed by Iraq again in 2003 and now
Afghanistan as we speak.
How many times must our souls be tried?
Where are the Thomas Paines of today who can tell us, in Common Sense, what the hell is going on
with our country and how we need to be so very aware of the new dangers facings us as the new
entitlement in power tries to change everything fundamentally that has been a part of our heritage
since that night when George Washington read to his troops that meaningful sentence, “These are
the times that try men's souls…”?
How do we fight this almost invisible enemy within our nation that is so determined to destroy
and/or radically change it forever?
Where is our “common sense” today?
Copyright © 2013 by Mike Bailey
All Rights Reserved