George Washington (1732–1799) was the first President of the United States, 1789–97; Chancellor of the College of William and Mary, 1788–99; President of the Constitutional Convention, where the United States Constitution was formulated, Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, 1775–83; delegate to First and Second Continental Congress, 1774–75; Justice of Fairfax County, 1768.
On July 20, 1775, General Washington issued the order:
The General orders this day to be religiously observed by the Forces under his Command, exactly in manner directed by the Continental Congress. It is therefore strictly enjoined on all Officers and Soldiers to attend Divine Service; And it is expected that all those who go to worship do take their Arms, Ammunition and Accoutrements, and are prepared for immediate action, if called upon.
On March 6, 1776, from his headquarters at Cambridge, General Washington issued the command for a Day of Fasting, Prayer and Humiliation:
Thursday, the 7th instant, being set apart by the honorable Legislature of this Province as a day of fasting, prayer and humiliation, “to implore the Lord and Giver of all victory to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness, and that it would please Him to bless the Continental army with His divine favor and protection,” all officers and soldiers are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverence and attention on that day to the sacred duties at the Lord of hosts for His mercies already received, and for those blessings which our holiness and uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through His mercy obtain.
On May 15, 1776, General George Washington issued the order:
The Continental Congress having ordered Friday the 17th instant to be observed as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, humbly to supplicate the mercy of Almighty God, that it would please Him to pardon all our manifold sins and transgressions, and to prosper the arms of the United Colonies, and finally establish the peace and freedom of America upon a solid and lasting foundation; the General commands all officers and soldiers to pay strict obedience to the orders of the Continental Congress; that, by their unfeigned and pious observance of their religious duties, they may incline the Lord and Giver of victory to prosper our arms.
On May 2, 1778, General George Washington issued these orders to his troops at Valley Forge:
The Commander-in-Chief directs that Divine service be performed every Sunday at 11 o’clock, in each Brigade which has a Chaplain. Those Brigades which have none will attend the places of worship nearest to them. It is expected that officers of all ranks will, by their attendance, set an example for their men. While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to laud the more distinguished Character of Christian. The signal instances of Providential goodness which we have experienced and which have now almost crowned our labors with complete success demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of gratitude and piety to the Supreme Author of all good.
William J. Federer, Great Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced According to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).