General Anthony Wayne

Anthony Wayne was born on January 1, 1745 in Paoli, Pennsylvania, approximately five miles from Valley Forge. At the beginning of the American Revolution, Wayne was a prosperous tanner. He had received two years of schooling at his uncle’s academy in Philadelphia and spent a year (1765) in Nova Scotia as a surveyor and agent for a land company. During 1774 and 1775, he was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature and served on the committee of safety. On January 3, 1776 he was appointed as colonel of the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion and was sent to Canada with William Thompson’s brigade and fought at Trois Rivieres on June 8, 1776. After this he was assigned to a command at Fort Ticonderoga. During this time he learned about holding together ill-disciplined troops and handling a mutiny. After this, he was promoted to Brigadier General and ordered to join Washington’s army at Morristown, New Jersey. As commander of the Pennsylvania Line, Wayne saw action at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown in the fall of 1777. After a British night assault on his position at Paoli, Wayne requested a court martial to clear his name; the court acquitted him of negligence. In June of 1778, at Monmouth Courthouse, he commanded 1,000 men in the opening phase of the battle, and he held the center of the final American defensive position. At Stony Point, New York, in June of 1779, Wayne recorded one of the more notable victories of the war. Although this operation had little strategic value, it was a morale boost for the Americans, and had the opposite effect on the British. After the revolution, Wayne was appointed the Commanding General of the Legion of the United States in 1792. This military group was successful in defeating the Indians and opening up the Northwest Territory to settlement.

Considering the prominent contributions of Anthony Wayne to the history of the United States, it is unfortunate that he is often only remembered for his nickname of “Mad” Anthony Wayne. The “madness” in Wayne was temper, not impetuousness. Therefore, the question is, how did Anthony Wayne obtain his nickname? One possible explanation is that his designation was bestowed upon Wayne by a shadowy figure of the American Revolution who was known only as “Jemy the Rover.” This person, under Wayne’s approval, flitted in and out of the Pennsylvania Line, and would seek out information of military value. In fact, Jemy was Wayne’s principal spy during the Valley Forge encampment and often thereafter. During Wayne’s Virginia campaign prior to Yorktown, Jemy had disappeared. When he finally returned to camp, he became unruly and Wayne had him incarcerated and sentenced to receive twenty-nine lashes. When Jemy found out that Wayne, his old friend, was the person that had put him under arrest, he exploded, “Then Anthony is mad, stark mad!” Again and again, he repeated, “Mad Anthony Wayne! Mad Anthony Wayne!” Jemy could not believe that Wayne could act in this manner toward him. After Jemy received his punishment he parted company from the Pennsylvania Line and was heard of no more, but the memory of him lingered for as long as Wayne’s veterans survived, and the nickname is still with us today.

Despite the misnomer of “madness,” Wayne was nevertheless a careful and prudent officer, whose military record attests to this fact. He was a systematic organizer who paid careful attention to basic military problems such as the supply, training, and comfort of his men in the field. In the undertaking of any military operation, he always paid close attention to all of the minute details. Wayne had learned from experience and his study of military history to avoid many of the mistakes of generals who had preceded him. While it is true that Wayne was first and foremost a dashing military figure, he nevertheless possessed the necessary leadership qualities to inspire men on the battlefield, and his first ambition was always to be in the thick of the fight where the danger was greatest. Wayne’s notion of a soldier was that he should not be governed by rash foolhardiness, but instead should maintain a steady, bold self-confidence. Wayne firmly believed that the successful outcome of any military operation depended upon, as he said, “not on the numbers, but the vigor of the men engaged.” It is apparent that Washington appreciated Wayne’s abilities, as can be seen by the commander in chief’s constant reliance upon Wayne to carry out difficult and important assignments during the American Revolution, as well as the Northwest Campaign in the 1790’s.

Wayne understood the importance of a soldier’s appearance, and always took great pains to appear in a splendid uniform. During his Canadian campaign, he issued orders that a barber be assigned to each company to shave the soldiers and dress their hair. He also stated that he would punish any man who came to parade with a long beard, was dirty, or slovenly dressed. Due to Wayne’s preoccupation with military appearance, he became known as “Dandy Wayne” in some circles. Wayne wrote Washington shortly before the raid on Stony Point and stated “I have an inseparable bias of an elegant uniform and soldierly appearance, so much so that I would rather risk my life and reputation at the head of the same men in an attack, clothed and appointed as I could wish, merely with bayonets and a single charge of ammunition, than to take them as they appear in common with sixty rounds of cartridges,” for good uniforms promoted among the troops a “laudable pride … which in a soldier is a substitute for almost every other virtue.” Wayne deeply believed that neatness and discipline were invaluable.

During the winter of 1777-1778, with the army in winter quarters at Valley Forge, Wayne was obliged to turn his attention to providing suitable clothing for his men, and recruiting men to replace those lost to sickness and desertion. It is difficult to determine which situation, clothing or recruiting, was the biggest problem for Wayne. Either way, it meant dealing with the Pennsylvania state authorities. In retrospect, it appears that many of the army’s problems (particularly those of the Pennsylvania troops) were related to the inefficiency and lack of administrative capacity of the states.

At the beginning of 1778, Wayne’s clothing problem was not cosmetic, but a fundamental deficiency of coats, breeches, shoes, stockings, blankets and shirts – everything needed to keep his men warm. Completely disgusted with the Pennsylvania Assembly regarding his request for clothing, he received permission from General Washington to visit Lancaster and York, Pennsylvania in search of clothing for his men. He had success in finding some bolts of cloth, which he intended to take back to camp and have his men tailor into uniforms, but the cloth was not issued. James Meese, the state clothier general, refused to let Wayne take the cloth because he had no authority from the Assembly to draw these goods. Therefore, Wayne returned to Valley Forge with no clothing. Over the next few months the situation worsened. In a letter to his friend, Secretary of War Richard Peters, Wayne stated

I would most cheerfully agree to enter into action once every week in place of visiting each hut of my encampment (which is my constant practice), and where objects strike my eye and ear whose wretched condition beggars all description – the whole army is sick. For God’s sake give us – if you can’t give us anything else – give us linen,” so that he might protect his “worthy fellows from vermin which are now devouring them.

The only response Wayne received from Mr. Peters, on May 15th, was this: “Vast quantities of clothing have been ordered, and I cannot tell why they have not been distributed.” Wayne later found out that the non-receipt of clothing was a delay caused by a “want of buttons.”

However, by this time, he had secured enough clothing for about a quarter of his men. This was very far from Wayne’s desire to lead a division of men bedecked with an “elegant uniform” and presenting the clean, neat, short-haired, well-groomed appearance that he thought fulfilled the soldierly ideal.

While the clothing situation of his troops at Valley Forge was a consistent problem, the recruitment of new men also weighed heavily on Wayne’s mind. In March of 1778, Wayne wrote to President Thomas Wharton of the Pennsylvania Assembly and made these comments:

It’s at last concluded to throw the Pennsylvania troops into one division after reducing them to ten regiments – which I believe will be as many as we can fill – I have but little hopes of being supplied with many recruits – unless the officers in the back counties meet with more success than those in Philadelphia and Chester – an officer from the latter came in yesterday after being out five weeks without a single recruit – I fear all our exertions in this way will fall far short of our wishes – and that nothing but a draft will be adequate to the business.

By May of 1778, Wayne was very upset and lashed out in a letter to John Bayard, speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly. In this letter, he stated:

You will find that by death, sickness, desertion, etc., we are much reduced, and it will require great exertions to complete the regiments. I can only say you’re your consequence as a state in a great degree depends on your making a respectable appearance in the field – more especially as the enemy are in possession of your capital – in which case any supineness gives ground for censure which if I am rightly instructed some states are very liberal in bestowing – calling us dead weight on their hands – with other language not quite so respectful as this state at one day had a right to expect – your troops are second to none in the field – they have stepped the first for glory – for God’s sake by some means complete your regiments.

Meanwhile, all Wayne could do was to maintain his own recruiting service, and instruct his recruiters to enroll practically any man who was strong enough to walk and carry a weapon. The Assembly’s only response was to appoint a committee to study the recruitment “problem” and to have President Wharton write letters to Wayne expressing skepticism that the general’s burdens were as weighty as he proclaimed.

In addition to the major problems of clothing and recruiting soldiers during the Valley Forge encampment, Wayne also had to procure arms for his troops. In February of 1778, in another letter to Richard Peters, Wayne stated:

I would also wish to exchange a number of rifles for muskets and bayonets – I don’t like rifles – I would almost as soon face an enemy with a good musket and bayonet without ammunition – as with ammunition without a bayonet for although there are not many instances of bloody bayonets yet I am confident that one bayonet keeps off another – and for the want of which the chief of the defeats we have met with ought in a great measure to be attributed – the enemy knowing the defenseless state of our riflemen rush on.

In Mr. Peter’s reply, he agrees with Wayne’s reasoning, but could not fulfill his request because of the lack of muskets in the American armories to make the swap. Nevertheless, Wayne kept up his efforts to obtain muskets, both to arm new recruits and replace as many rifles as he could.

In early February of 1778, Wayne was ordered by Washington to lead several hundred of his men on an extended foraging expedition into New Jersey. Washington had received information that there were thousands of “fat” cattle in the rural areas south and east of Philadelphia. Washington believed that Wayne could round up cattle to help feed the hungry army at Valley Forge (this was also done to keep the British from getting them). Wayne and his men moved south out of Valley Forge to approach Wilmington, and seeing that the Delaware River was clear of enemy shipping, they crossed over to the Jersey shore. They searched throughout the south, then turned north to cover central New Jersey. Covering nearly 350 square miles, they commandeered all of the horses and cattle they found. This was not easy work for Wayne, because the citizens of the area had learned from experience that if they were going to keep their animals from the redcoats or patriots, they had to hide them in the forests. After many days of searching, Wayne and his men had rounded up 150 cows and 30 horses.

Wayne moved his men and cattle in a northward direction by quiet country roads. Far to the east of Philadelphia, Wayne wanted to reach Coryell’s Ferry where he could recross the Delaware into Pennsylvania. One night, a New Jersey militiaman awoke Wayne and advised him of the approach of about 4,000 British troops. Wayne deployed his troops and sent a message to Count Casimir Pulaski, in command of a body of dragoons at Trenton, to come to his assistance. Immediately, Pulaski set out with fifty horsemen, and with their combined troops, they attacked the British position with such vigor that the badly shaken British commander “took the horrors” and that night withdrew to Philadelphia, convinced, said Wayne, that he had been assaulted by a vastly superior American army. After this small battle with the British, Wayne collected his cattle and horses and continued marching toward Valley Forge. Unfortunately, they arrived at camp with only 45 to 50 head of cattle, although they were able to deliver about 30 horses. These horses were put to good use by Wayne’s young friend “Lighthorse Harry” Lee for the remounting of his dragoons. All told, this assignment had taken nearly a month to complete.

It should be clear that Anthony Wayne made enormous contributions, not only to the American Revolution, but also in the settlement of the Northwest Territories. Anthony Wayne deserves a reputation as being one of America’s great soldiers. During the Valley Forge encampment, Washington relied heavily on Wayne. In fact, Wayne was required to perform the duties normally discharged by a major general and two brigadier generals. As Washington once remarked “In Wayne, the spark of daring might flame into rashness, but it was better to have such a leader and occasionally to cool him to caution than forever to be heating the valor of men who feared they would singe their plumes in battle.”

by Troy Shirley, Park Ranger

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