Anthony "Mad Anthony' Wayne was born on January 1, 1745, in Waynesborough, Chester County, Pennsylvania. He died on December 15, 1796, in Presque Isle, Pennsylvania (now Erie).
Parents: Isaac Wayne and Elizabeth Iddings
Spouse: Mary Penrose
Vocations: Military leader, Politician.
“Mad” Anthony Wayne, born January 1, 1745, in Waynesborough, Chester County, Pennsylvania, has been regarded as one of the most important Generals of the Revolutionary War. Following only a brief respite as a politician, Wayne was asked to return to military service in order to secure America’s frontier against hostile Native American tribes. In the famous Battle of Fallen Timbers, Wayne led his army to victory, and in 1795 he negotiated the treaty of Greenville to make peace with the Native Americans. Only a year later, on December 15, 1796, Wayne was struck with a severe attack of gout and died in present day Erie, Pennsylvania.
Born on January 1, 1745, in Waynesborough, Chester County, Pennsylvania, Anthony Wayne was one of three children and the only son of Isaac Wayne and Elizabeth Iddings. As a boy, Wayne often clashed with his father, and it became clear that young Wayne was not—as his father had originally envisioned—destined for a career in agriculture. With a taste for the outdoors but a spirit too strong to be tied down by life on the farm, Wayne wanted something more, and he made sure his father knew it. Yet, despite his son’s reluctance to follow in his footsteps, Isaac Wayne was determined to “indulge the bent of his son’s genius” as it was put in the biographical memoirs authored by Anthony Wayne’s son.
By his father’s orders, Wayne was sent to study with his uncle, Gabriel Wayne, and although with some trouble, he managed to become a successful student. At the age of sixteen, he went on to pursue an academic education at the Philadelphia Academy, but his taste for the outdoors never diminished. With a military career in the British Army out of reach without strong family connections (such that Wayne’s family did not have), Wayne resorted to becoming a surveyor. As such, he lead an adventurous life and in the words of Charles J. Stille, President of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the training Wayne received from the “dangers, hardships, and constant vigilance which made up part of his daily occupation, formed an excellent preparation for his future work as a soldier.”
Wayne established himself as a surveyor remarkably quickly and his skills attracted the attention of none other than Benjamin Franklin. The prominent Philadelphian employed Wayne in 1765 in surveying large tract of land in Nova Scotia purchased by him and his associates in Philadelphia. However, business was not the only thing that flourished in Anthony Wayne’s life. That same year, Wayne began courting Mary “Polly” Penrose, and within a year they were married and had settled on his family’s estate in Easttown, located in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Contrary to the strong dispassion for agricultural pursuits that characterized his early life, Wayne established himself as a successful farmer and businessman and as his fortunes grew, so did his family. Margaretta, or “Peggy,” as Wayne nicknamed her, was born in 1770, and two years later a son, named Isaac, came into the world. Still, Wayne by no means settled into a quiet life on the farm. As tensions escalated between the Colonies and the Mother Country, Wayne was very much a part of the political resistance that emerged.
To Anthony Wayne there was a perceived republicanism that had emerged out of the liberty that existed in Colonial America. To him, and indeed to many of his countrymen at the time, their republic was under siege from “a despotic Parliament,” as Wayne put it, and he was not shy in voicing his fiery opinions on the subject. In a speech to the Provincial Assembly as a candidate from Chester County, Wayne expressed his willingness to oppose this encroachment by the British “by every moderate, constitutional, means within our reach,” or, if necessary, by arms he later added.
Wayne’s actions bore power equal to that of his words. He was chairman of several committees condemning the British actions and a strong advocate of organizing a military. In June of 1775, he became a member of the Provincial Committee of Safety, in July, a member of the Provincial Convention, and in October, the Committee of Correspondence. His display of loyalty and unhesitating service finally had given him the opportunity which had previously been denied to him. On January of 1776, he was unanimously recommended by the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety for Command of the 4th Battalion of the Pennsylvania Line. Anthony Wayne was now a Colonel, marking the beginning of his illustrious military career.
From this beginning, and indeed throughout the rest of the Colonists struggle, Wayne’s confidence in the American cause never faltered. He also had an unabashed confidence in his own ability, being described, by writer and officer in the Pennsylvania Line Captain Alexander Graydon, as “addicted to the vaunting style of Marshall Villars,” Villars being one of the most boastful yet ablest soldiers of the French army. Yet, Wayne’s attitude was no mask of incompetence, as his leadership in the Canadian Campaign demonstrated. The fledgling Continental Army, inexperienced but overconfident, marched into Canada in 1775, hoping to gain control of the British Province Quebec. The military offensive quickly and disastrously screeched to a halt, but according to historian Glenn Tucker, despite the demoralizing failure of the invasion, it was due to the skillful actions of Anthony Wayne and Benedict Arnold that saved the American Army from encirclement and capture.
Wayne’s retreat landed his battalion at Fort Ticonderoga, where they remained from July, 1776 to May of 1777. Waiting for Wayne at Ticonderoga were Brigadier General Arthur St. Clair and General Horatio Gates at Ticonderoga, but before winter ensued, they departed to assist Washington in New Jersey. With St. Clair’s and Gates’ absence, command of “Old Ti” was left with Wayne, who was soon thereafter promoted to Brigadier General. Now in command of the entire Pennsylvania line, Wayne contributed his tactical prowess and inspirational leadership to the battles of Brandywine, Paoli, and Germantown.
Despite the decisive victory for the British at Brandywine, It was no blunder on Wayne’s part that led to the American’s retreat. Wayne and his Pennsylvania line yielded nothing and held their position at Chadd’s Ford over the whole course of the battle. Despite being vastly outnumbered by a force of seven thousand Hessian mercenaries under General Knyphausen, and “notwithstanding the weight and vigor of [Knyphausen’s] attack,” in the words of Major General of the Pennsylvania militia John Armstrong, Wayne remained rooted to his position. Battle raged with no ground gained or lost until dusk. At that point, the right American flank had been turned by British forces under Cornwallis, and Wayne was directly ordered by General Washington to withdraw to Chester.
Wayne’s success as a commander did not go unnoticed, and at Paoli, in September of 1777, Wayne was tasked with assailing the British rear guard. Although he took the greatest care in hiding the movements of his army, his position was betrayed by Tory spies. An overwhelming force of British troops stormed the vulnerable camp of Continentals in a battle more aptly termed the “Paoli Massacre.” Responsibility and blame immediately fell heavily upon Anthony Wayne, who, in turn, demanded a court-martial to investigate the matter. Despite the tragedy, It was the unanimous opinion of his court-martial that Wayne “did every duty that could be expected from an active, brave and vigilant officer,” and Washington soon assigned him to spearhead the attack on Germantown, evidencing that his faith in Wayne was still strong. At the battle, Wayne once again exemplified leadership, and although the battle was lost, Wayne was optimistic, writing to Washington that “our people have gained confidence and have raised some doubts in the minds of the enemy.”
That winter of 1777 to 1778, the Continental Army, along with Wayne’s command took refuge at Valley Forge. Little refuge was found, however, as biting cold, disease, and vermin assaulted the encamped battalions. Even the reliable optimism of General Wayne seems to have been broken, or at least upset. As he reveals in his letters, the shortage of food as well as clothes, among other difficulties, prompted him almost to “give it up” and return home. Wayne’s troubles did not end at Valley Forge, however. In June of 1778, at the Battle of Monmouth, Wayne showed the shortcomings of his feverous and perhaps overzealous nature.
As at Paoli, Wayne’s orders were to assail the rear of the British withdrawing force. Wayne’s actions were masterfully executed initially, but his folly lay in misjudging the size of the rapidly reinforcing enemy force. More quickly than Wayne had anticipated, the rear guard of the British force had turned into “the whole flowr of the British Army,” as General Charles Lee put it. Still, it is important to remember that Wayne acted under the assumption that he would receive reinforcements from General Lee, who was still in command of the bulk of American forces. Lee, believing the situation to be hopeless from the beginning, refused any aid to the distressed General Wayne. Thus, perhaps Monmouth was a blunder on Lee’s part rather than one to be blamed on Wayne. That seems, at least to have been the opinion of Washington, who commended and praised Wayne for his bravery, while having General Lee arrested on charges of disobedience. Wayne’s actions at Monmouth, although perhaps unwise and reckless, granted him considerable fame and prestige.
Perhaps Wayne’s greatest and most lasting contribution to the war effort came in 1779 when General Washington gave him command of the light corps, a conglomeration of veteran troops from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Virginia. Wayne and his light corps’ orders from Washington were “to make some attempt” upon enemy positions on Verplanck’s Point and Stony Point in southern New York. The two points in enemy hands not only severed communication and supply lines down the Hudson, but also posed a threat to the main civilian and military crossing, which was within range of artillery poised at either position. Wayne coordinated and executed a brilliant attack, and while Monmouth may have made him famous, his victory at Stony Point made him, at least for a time according to historian Glenn Tucker, “the hero of the war.” Benjamin Rush wrote that the “streets, for many days, rang with nothing but the name of General Wayne,” and General Greene concurred with his ceremonious opinion that the battle “will forever immortilize Gen. Wayne.” Rather unceremoniously, though, Wayne was thrust back into the Pennsylvania Line. Outranked by the newly promoted Major General Arthur St. Clair, Wayne had lost his command of the Pennsylvania Line, essentially demoting him to a mere brigade commander. His next major campaign would not come until 1781 when he was ordered to assist the distressed forces of the Marquis de Lafayette in Virginia.
But Wayne’s troops did not provide the stunning relief perhaps envisioned by the Marquis. Mutiny within the ranks of Wayne’s command had rendered his army reluctant and slow on the march. To their benefit, though, General Cornwallis failed to take advantage of their disorganized condition and allowed the American troops to regroup without disturbance. That mistake proved to be a grave one, for it spelled the end of Cornwallis’s campaign, and indeed the end of the war. The combined forces of Lafayette and Wayne, although still small in numbers, mounted a vigorous and innovative opposition and foiled the hopes of a successful British campaign in the South. Finally, on October, 1781, Cornwallis found himself cornered at Yorktown with the bulk of American and French troops bearing down upon him. His surrender marked the end of the British War effort, prompting negotiations for peace. It was not until September 3 of 1783, however, that the Treaty of Paris was signed.
The glory bestowed upon Wayne continued after the war. In October of 1783, he was finally promoted to Major-General by Congress, and after only a brief interlude in civilian politics, namely serving on Pennsylvania’s state legislature in 1784 and as a delegate to Pennsylvania’s state convention that ratified the Constitution in 1787, Wayne was recalled into military service by President Washington. Washington gave Wayne the title of Commander-in-Chief of the army and the command of a newly formed Legion Army to counteract any hostile actions taken by Native Americans in Western Pennsylvania. What made the task exceptionally difficult for Wayne, however, were the strict ceasefire orders imposed by Washington as he fought a losing battle to reach a diplomatic solution. Wayne knew that the outcome would be war, but his recruits were not convinced and discipline was lacking.
Wayne’s frustrations with Washington’s stifling orders came to an end in 1793 as negotiations with the various Native American tribes fell apart. Washington’s peace commissioners Timothy Pickering, Benjamin Lincoln, and Beverly Randolph returned from Detroit that year, where they had unsuccessfully attempted to reach a peace agreement with the Indians. In the midst of these talks, which Wayne had little patience for, the Legion had been trained and readied for the war that their commander was sure would come. Showing his innovative nature and impeccable talent for leadership, Wayne established what became known as “Legionville” in 1792. It was little more than a makeshift military encampment about twenty seven miles north west of Pittsburgh—far enough to escape the city’s temptations of vice. But here, as Wayne told his second in command James Wilkinson, he sought to “make an army from the rawest heterogeneity of materials, that were ever collected together.” And create an army he did, the success of which was measured and proven thereafter in the coming war.
The Legion moved into Ohio to face the Indian confederacy in October of 1793, but the aggression pent up in the army seemed to manifest only within their own ranks. Wayne’s harsh methods of discipline and blatant favoritism among the officers created dangerous tensions and discontent, but Wayne continued to extend the reach of his Legion, trying to strangle the Indians into submission. Wayne moved his troops north along the frontier, creating a line of fortifications that pressed the Indians westward. These fortifications were little more than trenches and barricades in many cases, but Wayne nonetheless gave them names—Fort Greenville, his main base of operations, Fort Recovery, Fort Adams, Fort Defiance. By May of 1794, Wayne had begun receiving intelligence that the British had furnished the Indian Confederacy with artillery, as well as reinforcements, and had take up position at Fort Miami. Gathering up the full force of his Legion Army—still only about nine hundred men strong—Wayne made hasty march toward Fort Miami, where he would clash for the first time in a major engagement against the Indians.
As the Americans under General Wayne neared Fort Miami, located near the mouth of the Maumee River in Ohio, it became clear that the Indians intended to make their stand. The two forces finally met on August 20, 1794, at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, named so because the battlefield, carefully chosen by the Indians to make cavalry unusable, was scattered with a tangle of uprooted trees and underbrush. Still, the Indians proved no match against Wayne’s disciplined troops, who, as Wayne related in a letter to Robert Knox, “obeyed [his orders] with spirit & promptitude.” Without firing a shot, they charged into the disorganized Native American lines, who “were driven back by the sharp ends of the guns,” as one warrior chieftain recounted after the battle. The decisive victory marked both the first and last major engagement of the Northwest Indian War, but Wayne did not slow his offensive. Confident, yet sure that the enemy was not yet defeated, Wayne marched his men along the Maumee River, destroying Indian crops and villages within a fifty mile radius. His estimations were not wrong, as Indian raiding parties continuously harassed his troops both day and night.
On September 15, Wayne and his Legion Army made a final push westward into what is now Indiana and in the heart of enemy territory, he erected Fort Wayne, currently the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Wayne had made his military presence painfully evident to his enemies, even deep within their land. It had the desired effects, and the Indians finally began to look favorably upon peace talks. On July, 1795, chieftains of the Wyandots, Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Delawares, Miami, and other Indian tribes had arrived at Fort Greenville to reach a peace agreement and end hostilities in the Northwest. The resulting Treaty of Greenville, orchestrated by General Wayne himself, compensated the Indians with gifts valued at about $25,000 in return for an end to hostilities and a vast tract of land encompassing much of Ohio and Indiana. Without the security of British troops, which were to leave the area, as stipulated by the recently agreed upon Jay Treaty, the Indian chieftains had no choice but to comply with the terms.
By this time in the general’s life, illness had taken its toll on Anthony Wayne, and he suffered from sporadic attacks of gout. Still he carried out his final duties with honor and determination. As negotiator of the Treaty of Greenville, it fell upon Wayne to travel to various posts in order to supervise the smooth removal of British and Indian forces. On his final voyage, a sail to Presque Isle, Pennsylvania, Wayne was struck with yet another attack of gout, which on December 15, 1796, proved fatal. He was buried at Fort Presque Isle, now Erie, Pennsylvania, but in 1809, his remains were moved to their final resting place in St David’s Episcopal Church cemetery in Radnor, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
By the time of his death, Wayne had accrued not only, honor, heroism, and military titles but also a plethora of epithets to accompany his name: “the blacksnake,” “the chief who never sleeps,” “Big Wind,” “Dandy,” and the “Hotspur of the Revolution.” Known to his contemporaries, and especially to his Native American enemies, by so many names, Wayne’s fame escaped no one. Perhaps the most famous of all his sobriquets, though, was “Mad” Anthony Wayne. But one important question remains unanswered. How did the general, whom by most standards was a reasonable and successful commander, become known so ubiquitously and notoriously as “Mad” Anthony Wayne?
It is interesting to note that, contrary to popular belief, it was not rash behavior and impulsive actions on the battlefield that earned him such a nickname. Rather, it was the angry ravings of “Jemmy the Rover,” a spy for the Americans but a common deserter, who bestowed this name upon Wayne. Upon becoming particularly troublesome during the Virginia Campaign, he finally exceeded the brink of Wayne’s patience. Although the particular details of the story vary slightly, the historian Glenn Tucker writes that so “bitterly aggrieved” was Jemmy over an uncommon lashing from his beloved General, that he exploded into a fit, shouting “Mad Anthony Wayne!” Despite their small significance, those words echoed through the ranks for as long as Wayne was General, and indeed for centuries to come.
As with any great general or soldier, Anthony Wayne’s motivation for the lifestyle he chose was remembrance. From his youth, passionately reading Caesar’s “Commentaries,” Wayne fostered a romantic drive that, according to historian Paul David Nelson, left anything but a military career unsatisfying to him. But “the paths of glory lead but to the grave,” as it was so frankly put by Thomas Gray in his Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard. As it would seem, Anthony Wayne’s life was fated to match Gray’s somber proclamation, but the great general’s legacy has withstood the test of time. In 1809 the Society of the Cincinnati, a society founded to preserve the ideals of the Revolution, erected a monument in his memory at the site of his final burial. His funeral that year, on July 4, was attended by an “immense concourse” of people, a procession that stretched for more than a mile and escorted by the Philadelphia City Troop. A century later, Valley Forge became yet another permanent landmark honoring the long passed general with the construction of a statue there in his honor.
Further honoring General Wayne’s accomplishments, Wayne County, Pennsylvania, is a testament to his lasting importance. Because there is little evidence linking Anthony Wayne directly to what is now Wayne County, its name was most likely “simply a way to honor a public figure” according to Gloria McCullough of the Wayne County Historical Society. There are, in fact, several Wayne Counties in the United States, none of which bear any tangible connection to the historical general for which they are named. However, it is known, according to writer of regional histories Alfred Mathews, that in Pennsylvania, the area of Northampton, later to become Wayne and Pike County, was often a center for war operations during the Revolutionary War. Of course, among the prominent military and civil leaders who met there was Anthony Wayne, providing perhaps the missing link to his namesake county. He is remembered for his victories, his services, and his sacrifices. Anthony Wayne was a soldier, a commander, and a politician of Pennsylvania. He left behind a nation independent of Great Britain, a nation with a secure frontier (at least for a time), and a nation capable of defending itself.
Sixteen US states have named seventeen counties in General Wayne's honor: Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Waynesboro, an Independent City (county equivalent) in Virginia, is also named in his honor. Wayne County and Defiance County in Ohio are both named in his honor.
Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Waynesborough (Paoli), Chester County; Wayne County.
Acknowledgements: This biography was prepared by Viktor Tollemar, Fall 2009.
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Categories: This Day In History December 15 | This Day In History January 01 | Namesakes US Counties | American Founding Fathers | Battle of Brandywine Creek | Battle of Germantown | Battle of Monmouth | Battle of Paoli | Battle of Fallen Timbers | Continental Army Generals, American Revolution | Pennsylvania, American Revolution | NSSAR Patriot Ancestors