As a young militia officer and aide-de-camp to the ill-fated General Braddock at the Battle of the Monongahela, George Washington had three horses shot out from under him and four bullet holes through his coat. His friend, Dr. James Craik, later said "I expected every moment to see him fall. Nothing but the superintending care of Providence could have saved him." Every single mounted officer was killed or wounded that day, yet his flesh saw not a scratch from musket ball, knife or tomahawk.
Years later, coming off his suprise victory at Trenton, Washington evaded Cornwallis and attacked Princeton. Riding up to his faltering line he rallied his men. He led them forward on a white charger, and at less than 30 yards from the redcoat line he gave the order to fire, while he was in front of them, and at the same time as a volley was fired from the British line. One American officer pulled his hat down over his eyes to avoid the horror of seeing the Commander-in-chief blown out of his saddle, but when he raised his eyes again as the smoke cleared, there was Washington, yelling"Parade with us my brave fellows!" as he led the counter-charge to victory.
Lest we consider this to be aberrant behavior, Washington pulled the same stunt upon arriving at the front during the battle of Monmouth. Again, not so much as a scratch.
Wyatt Earp is, of course, most famous for what came to be called the gunfight at the OK Corral. Most people know that three cowboys were sent into eternity that October afternoon, but did you know that Wyatt was the only participant bullets did not touch? Virgil was shot in the calf, Morgan had a very dangerous wound across his back at the shoulder blades, and even Doc Holiday got skinned at the hip by a shot. Some say it was because Wyatt stood still during the fight. In a multi-gun battle, people tend to shoot at what's moving.
A fluke? perhaps... But then we have the death of "Curly Bill" Brocious. Curly Bill and some cowboys ambushed Wyatt's posse near Iron Springs, Arizona. Instantly seeing a cross-fire setup, Doc Holiday, "Texas Jack" Vermillion and "Turkey Creek Jack" Johnson lit out. Not Wyatt... With bullets whizzing all about he calmly dismounted, only to realize he had loosened his gun belt for ease of riding, and it was now around his thighs. He cinched that back up around his waist, and reached around his horse for a double-barreled shotgun he had hitched to his saddle. Curly Bill spotted him, and advanced with his own shotgun. Curly Bill fired first, but in his haste had not brought the barrel up far enough, and the pellets went harmlessly all around Wyatt's legs. Wyatt carefully leveled his own gun, pulled both triggers and nearly cut Bill in half. When the smoke cleared, Wyatt had a bullet hole through the heel of his boot, the pommel of his saddle had been blown off, and his duster was shredded by buckshot. Again not a scratch, not even in the legs. Not then and not ever during his long life did a bullet touch him.
Given our history it is easy to understand the "hand of Providence" saving George Washington for purposes preordained, if one is of such a faith. But why Wyatt? Perhaps it is because legends crystallize culture - if you doubt that, read Homer. In later life Wyatt set out to create his own legend, and met with little success, until he found a writer named Stuart Lake. Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshalhad little to offer the "objective" historian, but it went far in preserving the Old West as an essential element of what it means to be an American. And to those who hate us and everything we stand for, there is only one thing left to be said:
"Yippee-ki-yay, m------ f-----...."