Last updated: July 7, 2023
Anthony Wayne served as an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. His military exploits earned him the nickname "Mad Anthony". During the Revolution, Wayne played an important role in the 1777 Philadelphia campaign, the Battle of Monmouth, and the southern campaign. Arguably his most significant military contribution for the new nation was his campaign against American Indians in the Northwest Territory in the 1790s. His victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 and the resulting Treaty of Greenville secured the future state of Ohio for white American settlement.
Wayne was born at his family home in Chester County, Pennsylvania on January 1, 1745. He attended the Philadelphia Academy and became a surveyor, eventually working with Benjamin Franklin and others in land speculation in Nova Scotia. As tensions with Great Britain mounted in the colonies, Wayne joined the Pennsylvania legislature and his local Committee of Public Safety, and by January 1776 he received a commission as a colonel in the Pennsylvania Line of the Continental Army.
The Continental Congress sent Wayne’s Pennsylvanians to reinforce the army in retreat in Canada. His combat service began at the defeat at the Battle of Trois-Rivières in June 1776. His men joined in the retreat back to New York, and Wayne spent the following winter in command of Fort Ticonderoga. In February 1777, he was promoted to brigadier general.
When spring arrived, Wayne and his command returned southward to General George Washington’s army as it maneuvered to shield Philadelphia from General Sir William Howe’s army. American intelligence failures and British maneuvers spelled defeat for the Americans at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, but staunch defensive fighting by Wayne’s division against a Hessian force twice its size for two hours kept the defeat from being even worse. On September 20, the British launched a surprise nighttime attack on Wayne’s men at Paoli Tavern near his home estate, leading to dozens of American casualties and Wayne barely escaping capture. The British commander, General Charles Grey, acquired the nickname "No Flint" for his orders to use the bayonet against the Americans. The lopsided casualties led many patriots to label the attack a massacre. Wayne was cleared of any wrongdoing by a military court of inquiry, but the defeat hurt his reputation.
The Continentals now focused on ousting the British from Philadelphia, resulting in the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777. Washington’s battle plan called for Wayne’s command to lead the offensive against the center of the British lines. Confusion set in as the fighting began in thick morning fog inside the town. The Pennsylvania Line came under fire from other American forces and Wayne’s men retreated in some disorder, exposing the flanks of other American units. Defeated once again, the Continental Army established winter quarters at Valley Forge.
At the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, the Continentals shadowed the British as they marched from Philadelphia to the coast of New Jersey. Wayne’s command, serving under Major General Charles Lee, made first contact with the enemy. The cautious Lee refused to supply Wayne with reinforcements and Wayne pulled his men back from the full force of the British onslaught and fought a desperate defensive battle.
In 1779, as the northern theater settled into stalemate, Wayne led a surprise assault on a British garrison at Stony Point, along the Hudson River in New York, inflicting over 100 British casualties and capturing over 400 prisoners. Wayne was briefly stunned by a musket ball to the head during the battle, but he was able to provide the Americans with a tactical victory critical for raising morale.
Following two years of relative inactivity marred by a few outbreaks of mutiny over pay, Washington transferred Wayne’s command to the Southern Department in the summer of 1781. Wayne's Pennsylvanians barely escaped a trap by General Charles Cornwallis at the Battle of Green Springs. Discovering he was vastly outnumbered, Wayne ordered a bayonet charge followed by a rapid retreat. After the American victory at Yorktown, Wayne and his men moved to the Southern Department under the command of Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene. Wayne’s men defeated the Creek Indians allied to the British in Georgia in June 1782. Wayne's Pennsylvanians then secured Savannah after the British evacuation that same summer. As the British completed their evacuation of Charleston, South Carolina on December 14, 1782, Wayne's Pennsylvanians were the first American troops to march in and reclaim the city.
Command in the Northwest Indian War
Following the war, Wayne was belatedly promoted to major general. He became a planter in Georgia and was elected to Congress from his new home. The infant nation, however, called upon his military service again.
As the United States expanded west of the Appalachian Mountains, the Western Confederacy, a loose confederacy of American Indian nations in the old Northwest, including the Shawnee, Ottawa, Miami, and Delaware, resisted white encroachments on their lands fiercely. They inflicted costly defeats on poorly trained and ill disciplined American armies sent to conquer the region, most famously the defeat of an army under Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair in November 1791. President Washington called Wayne out of retirement in the spring 1792 to command the newly formed Legion of the United States to secure the Northwest Territory for white American settlement. Wayne was now the senior commander in the United States Army.
Wayne rebuilt an army, training his men and planning a campaign while negotiations dragged on with Native American nations. When diplomacy failed, in 1793, Wayne constructed a fort and further prepared the Legion, while waiting for militia support. The following summer, the fort repelled a combined attack by American Indians and Canadian settlers, and Wayne took the offensive. On August 20, 1794, Wayne’s Legion defeated a combined force of American Indians and Canadians in a storm-ravaged section of forest in present-day Maumee, Ohio. Following the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Wayne's Legion marched on British Fort Miami. Unwilling to attack a British fort and provoke a potential conflict with Great Britain, Wayne's men burned Indian towns and crops in the area. Wayne then oversaw construction of Fort Wayne, stockade forts in present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana. A few American veterans of the Battle of Fallen Timbers would rise to fame in later years, including William Henry Harrison and William Clark.
Wayne died of complications from gout while returning from a military inspection of Detroit to Pennsylvania. He was buried at Fort Presque Isle. His son, Isaac Wayne, disinterred the body in 1809 and boiled the corpse to remove any flesh from the bones. Isaac buried his father's bones in the family plot in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Wayne's other remains were reburied, giving Wayne two known grave sites.
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