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Across the pages of history recording mighty conflicts that rock nations and governments to their foundations, flash certain grand characters whose career adds a charm to the dreary and often prosaic narrative. Some bright particular star, whose lustre flings romance over dry facts, firing the hearts of all patriots with enthusiasm and national fervor. Honoring the great commanders of the wars of the ages for their noble deeds, here and there sparkles out the brilliant genius of a warrior with less responsibility, but whose name inspires the ardor of men, the love of women, and the fervor of the poet and novelist. Such a character, such a man, was "Mad" Anthony Wayne, an able, fearless soldier of the American Revolution, so thoroughly patriotic such an earnest, honest believer in the righteous cause for which he fought, that he was mad indeed with all found arrayed against the interests of the Colonists, or with those who, having donned the Continental uniform, were indisposed to fight.
Anthony Wayne was born in Waynesborough, Easttown Township, Chester County, Penn., on January 1, 1745. He sprang from good English stock. His grandfather resided in Yorkshire, England, but during the reign of Charles II. purchased an estate in the County Wicklow, Ireland, and settled on it. Being a thorough Protestant he espoused the cause of King William III., and in the service of that monarch fought in the Battle of the Boyne, as a captain of dragoons. In 1722 he came to America with his four sons, and procured some one thousand six hundred acres of land in Chester County, Penn., upon which he settled in 1724. His youngest son, Isaac, the father of Anthony Wayne, received as his share of his father's estate five hundred acres of land near Paoli. Born and brought up amid the charming surroundings of this most beautiful country, it is easily understood why Anthony Wayne became so thoroughly imbued with tastes for the beautiful. His neatness in dress, and earnest advocacy of a brilliant uniform for the officers and men of the Revolutionary Army, had its foundation in the very atmosphere he lived in, this magnificent Chester Valley. "Dandy" Wayne indeed, but only so far as neatness in dress and delicacy of taste were concerned, for a nobler-minded, more unselfish patriot never entered the army of a nation. Wayne was educated at the Philadelphia Academy, and he became a surveyor of some note. He attended closely, however, to his magnificent farm, and took a lively interest in all affairs affecting his fellow-citizens. In 1765 and 66, only just of age, he was sent to Nova Scotia to survey some lands belonging to Benjamin Franklin and others.
In May, 1766, he married Mary, the daughter of Bartholomew Penrose, a Philadelphia merchant, and settled down to the life of a farmer. He was a stirring man in his neighborhood, fond of an active and out-door life. He was filled with military impulses; his choice of a profession, that of surveyor, evidently arose from his taste for exploration, and for the excitement incident to plunging into trackless wastes of forests and mapping out new boundaries. His love of military pursuits led him to study all the great works on the art of war, and when the time came he was prepared, as few soldiers of the revolution were, for the conflict with the trained soldiers of Great Britain. He formed companies with the men in his neighborhood, and drilled them assiduously. This gave him prominence and popularity, so that he is found a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature in 1774-75. Wayne seemed to have prescience of what was coming, and when the conflict came he was ready. In September, 1775, he raised a regiment of soldiers, of which he became the colonel in the January following, and joined General Sullivan's command in Canada in the spring of 1776. At the battle of Three Rivers, May, 1776, Wayne displayed remarkable military knowledge, and was enabled to extricate his command from difficulties that seemed almost insurmountable. In a letter to Dr. Franklin and others he gives a graphic description of this engagement. Of his men engaged he says, "I have lost more than the one-quarter part, together with a slight touch in my right leg, which is partly well already." This was Wayne's first battle. He displayed such remarkable coolness and excellent judgment throughout this engagement, as to command the respect and admiration of all in the army; his entire career during this unfortunate Canadian campaign exhibited clearly his soldierly qualifications. Recognizing these, General Schuyler, in November, 1776, appointed Colonel Wayne to the command of Fort Ticonderoga and Mt. Independence, which military post Wayne considered the second most important in the country. While stationed here, Wayne busied his men in rendering the place as nearly impregnable as possible, and by warm, fervid letters implored the "powers that be" in Pennsylvania, to send proper clothing, food, and arms to the men of that State serving in his army. So negligent did the State seem to the needs of its men, that this warm-hearted, high-spirited warrior, seriously thought of resigning his commission, being unable to longer witness the impoverished condition of his troops.
Colonel Wayne was appointed Brigadier General in February, 1777, and ordered to join General Washington's army at Morristown, N. J., in April of the same year. He was given command of the "Pennsylvania Line" consisting of two brigades of four regiments each, with a total strength of about 1,700 men. His activity and alertness during the summer, in harassing and annoying the enemy, went far toward ridding the State of that enemy, and gained for him the praise of Washington, who publicly acknowledged his "bravery and good conduct." The British, unable to force their way through New Jersey, determined to go around by sea to Philadelphia, and after embarking at Staten Island were next heard from within the Chesapeake Bay. Washington moved his army to Wilmington, Wayne having been sent ahead to organize the militia rendezvousing in Chester County, Penn. He rejoined the army at Germantown and marched with it to Wilmington.
In the battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777, Wayne was particularly distinguished. He occupied the left of the American line at Chad's Ford, and had opposed to his forces, the Hessians commanded by Baron von Knyphausen. He fought all day, holding his ground tenaciously, repelling every effort made by the enemy to cross the ford and worrying them by repeated attacks of his light infantry, which he frequently sent over the creek for the purpose. The right wing of the enemy having been turned, Wayne, at sunset, retreated in good order, without the loss of any artillery or stores. On the evening of September 20th, Wayne, with a detachment of twelve hundred men, was suddenly and impetuously attacked at Paoli Tavern by a very large force of the rear guard of the British army, which rear guard he had been sent to annoy. By the betrayal of Tory spies at the time of the attack, the forces "were not more than ten yards distant." Notwithstanding the impetuosity of the attack, by largely overwhelming numbers, Wayne succeeded in extricating his command without loss of artillery, ammunition, or stores. Some sixty-one Americans were killed. A court of inquiry was instituted to inquire into Wayne's conduct of this affair, which resulted so distastefully to him that he demanded a court martial. This court acquitted "him with the highest honors," a conclusion approved by General Washington.
Wayne's residence was searched by the British immediately after the Paoli fight, with the hope of capturing the general. The officer, in his zeal, ripped open a feather-bed with his sword. Mrs. Wayne indignantly exclaimed, "Did you expect to find General Wayne in a feather-bed? Look where the fight is the thickest!"
Wayne led the right wing at the battle of Germantown, October 4, 1777, and forced the enemy back a distance of two miles. The British claim that "this was the first time we had ever retreated from the Americans." The balance of the army, failing to accomplish the end desired, Wayne was compelled to retreat, but this he did in good order, and when General Howe, who "could not persuade himself that we had run from victory," as Wayne puts it, followed the Americans, Wayne drew up in line. "When he advanced near we gave him a few cannon shot with some musketry--which caused him to break and run with the utmost confusion." Wayne lost a horse in this engagement, and received slight wounds in the hand and foot. The memorable winter at Valley Forge followed. General Wayne, ever active, devoted his time to procuring necessary supplies for the army. His earnest appeals to the State authorities and men of influence, for the welfare of the brave men at Valley Forge, tell a tale of suffering and endurance hard to realize. Early in the spring of 1778 he successfully raided the British lines, carrying off horses, cattle, forage, and other supplies. After the evacuation of Philadelphia, Wayne kept up a constant annoyance around the rear of the British army, fighting whenever the opportunity came.
The American army re-entered New Jersey in June, 1778, and moved across that State in a line parallel with the route taken by the British army. These lines encountered each other on June 28th, at Monmouth; an engagement fought, in the main, on a plan suggested to General Washington by General Wayne. General Charles Lee's half-hearted action, to call it no more severe name, resulted in the battle of Monmouth being less of a disaster to the British army than it promised. Wayne did his part gloriously. Lee, who with his own command was in full retreat when he should have earnestly supported Wayne, ordered Wayne to retire. This the latter did, chagrined and mortified, until the mortification was turned into delight upon meeting the Commander-in-Chief, who immediately ordered Wayne to advance to the attack again. This was just what Wayne wanted, and with three Pennsylvania regiments, one from Maryland, and one from Virginia, he stayed the assaults of the flower of the English army, the corps d'elite, and successfully held his line, causing the enemy to retire with great loss. General Washington commended General Wayne in the highest terms for his "good conduct and bravery through the whole action." Writing of this engagement to the Secretary of War, Wayne says, "Tell the Phila ladies that the heavenly, sweet, pretty red coats--the accomplished Gent-n of the Guards and Grenadiers have humbled themselves on the plains of Monmouth."
The enemy retreated to New York and remained in that city the balance of the year. Wayne occupied the time in urging active operations and trying to infuse a more aggressive spirit into the management of affairs. At this time public affairs were very much hampered by a feeling of indifference as well as an illusive notion that peace would soon follow. This affected the nation and the army. Wayne baffled these false ideas with all his powers. He urged the Government to forward needed supplies of clothing and food. He could not be inactive; fervid, earnest, and aggressive, he must be ever doing. The American Army kept a close watch upon the movements of the British in New York during the summer and fall of 1779. General Washington organized a Light Infantry Corps and put General Wayne in command. It was considered one of the finest bodies of troops attached to the Continental Army, and was composed, besides "the choicest sons of Pennsylvania," of two Connecticut and one Virginia regiment. The Commander-in-Chief was extremely desirous of driving the British from the forts commanding King's Ferry on the Hudson, at Stony Point, on the western bank of the river, and at Verplanck's Point, directly opposite. This dangerous business was confided to Wayne and his Light Infantry Corps, the plan of operations being carefully prepared by General Washington. This plan was followed by Wayne, except in one particular, which change Washington declared to be an "improvement on his own plan." Wayne, after the most careful preparations, moved to the assault on Stony Point, a fortification strongly built on a rocky eminence, one hundred and fifty feet above the Hudson River, at 12 o'clock at night, on July 16, 1779. Wayne's report to Washington tells the story of the fight most graphically--he says he "gave the troops the most pointed orders not to attempt to fire, but put their whole dependence on the Bayonet--which was most faithfully and Literally Observed--neither the deep Morass, the formidable and double rows of abatis or the high and strong works in front and flank could damp the ardor of the troops--who in the face of a most tremendous and Incessant fire of Musketry and from Artillery loaded with shells and Grape-shot forced their way at the point of the Bayonet thro' every Obstacle, both Columns meeting in the Center of the Enemy's works nearly at the same Instant." Before entering the fort Wayne was struck in the head by a musket-ball; he fell stunned, but soon rallied, and by the assistance of two of his aides, was helped into the fortification and shared the capture with his troops. The Stony Point achievement roused the patriotic spirit of the Americans. It was deemed the most brilliant affair of the war. Congratulations from the Commander-in-Chief, and all the prominent generals, as well as foremost citizens and Assemblies, were heaped upon Wayne, and Congress voted him a gold medal to commemorate his gallant conduct, besides thanking him "for his brave, prudent, and soldier-like conduct in the well-conducted attack on Stony Point."
After the treachery of Arnold, in 1780, the charge of the fort at West Point was committed to General Wayne. He marched his division over the mountain in a dark night, a distance of sixteen miles, in four hours, "without a single halt or a man left behind." In January, 1781, owing to the broken promises of Congress, a large number of the men in the Pennsylvania line mutinied, an event that threatened serious consequences to the American Army. This defection was suppressed peaceably, mainly through the excellent tact of General Wayne. He was idolized by his soldiers, who knew him as the soul of honor, and who placed implicit trust in his statements. Washington in a letter certifies to his "great share in preventing worse extremities" and thanks him for his exertions. In February, 1781, Wayne was ordered to join General Greene's Army, then operating in South Carolina, but upon Lord Cornwallis' rapidly transferring his forces to Virginia, this order was changed, and Wayne was directed to reinforce Lafayette. This he did at Fredericksburg in June. The enemy seemed intent upon destroying all military stores they could reach, and for this purpose continually sent raiding parties through the State. The efforts of Wayne were ever put forth to suppress these raids. Believing, on July 6, 1781, that Cornwallis's forces were divided by the James River, Wayne was sent forward to attack them at Green Springs. He found a great force of the British Army in his front. Too late to retreat, Wayne with true soldierly instinct, having faith in the courage and discipline of his men, boldly charged a force five times as large as his own, threw them into disorder and safely brought his men away under cover of the enemy's confusion.
Cornwallis hastened to Yorktown, the investiture and siege of which Wayne aided in furthering, first, by occupying the ground south of the James River to prevent the enemy's reaching North Carolina; and then in opening the first parallel with six regiments on October 6, 1781. A few days afterward he, with two battalions, covered the Pennsylvania and Maryland troops while they began the second parallel. Wayne, with the Pennsylvania regiments, supported the French troops in the attack of the 14th, and was present at the surrender on the 19th. Notwithstanding a wound in the fleshy part of the leg, early in the siege, caused by a sentry mistaking him, Wayne remained active, and participated in the glory of the capture of Cornwallis and his army. This operation over, Wayne joined the army of General Nathaniel Greene, in South Carolina, in January, 1782, and was instrumental in quelling the disturbances in that section. A very large force of Indians threatened the destruction of his command on the night of June 23, 1782. These Indians were skilfully handled by a noted Creek Chief, as well as by a British officer. They surrounded Wayne's forces and held his artillery. Wayne fiercely attacked, using only the bayonet, and so impetuous was his onslaught, that he broke the lines of the Indians, and routed them completely. The dead body of the Creek leader, who, it is said, was felled by Wayne's own sword, was found on the ground the next day.
Wayne commanded the forces that took possession of Savannah and Charleston, after their evacuation by the British. Having freed the South from all marauders, Wayne returned, much shattered in health from the effect of a low fever, to his old home in Pennsylvania, and settled down to civil life, desiring, as he puts it, "to pass many happy hours in domestic felicity with a few of our friends, unfettered by any public employ and consequently unenvied." He was, however, made a member of the Council of Censors, and in 1784 represented his county in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania. He was likewise, in 1787, a member of the Convention of the State called to ratify the Constitution of the United States.
To better look after an estate given him by the State of Georgia, in recognition of the services he rendered that State, Wayne settled there, and was elected a member of Congress on January 3, 1791. He served from October, 1791, to March, 1792, when, a contest being made, Congress decided his election illegal and declared his seat vacant. Almost immediately after this action, on April 3, 1792, President Washington appointed Wayne Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army, with the rank of Major-General; an appointment confirmed by the Senate on the same day. No more signal act could have marked the approval of Wayne's great services to the nation in the War of the Revolution, than this great mark of approbation conferred by his illustrious Chief. To him was intrusted the settlement of the difficulties then existing with the Indians in the Northwestern Territory. These savages, stirred up by the British, armed with British guns, and often led by British officers, continued the warfare on the Americans after peace had been declared between the contending countries. Efforts to subjugate them under Generals Harmar and St. Clair had failed.
General Wayne, whose entire life clearly shows a man prepared for what may come, wisely drilled the force he collected to undertake this work, for a year. He knew the value of a well-drilled and disciplined army. Having perfected his troops, he, by easy stages, advanced into the disturbed territory, establishing posts at various points, which he cleverly fortified, and upon every occasion and opportunity offered the savages peace. These offers were as often rejected. From Fort Defiance, a fort he built and named, at the junction of the Miami and Le Glaize rivers, he, in August, 1794, went down the Miami River, with about one thousand men, until he came close to a British post, at the foot of the rapids of the river. Here he sent a last overture to the Indians, promising peace if they would lay down their arms. Upon their rejecting this, he, on August 20th, moved to the head of the rapids, and attacked them with such vigor, using again his favorite weapon, the bayonet, that their defeat was overwhelming. The entire surrounding country was laid waste. The army advanced to the junction of the St. Joseph's and St. Mary's rivers, where a strong fort was built and named Fort Wayne. The present flourishing city of that name in Indiana now stands upon this spot. The winter was spent in Greeneville, at which place the Indians, on August 3, 1795, against the wishes of their leaders and English allies, signed a treaty of peace, in which twelve tribes took part--a peace which was never broken, and by which an immense territory was ceded to the United States and opened up for settlement. Wayne returned early in 1796, on a short visit to Pennsylvania, and everywhere en route received the plaudits of his fellow-citizens. His reception in Philadelphia was exceedingly brilliant. The unsettled condition of affairs in the Northwest, however, made his stay brief. Having been appointed sole commissioner to treat with the disaffected parties there, and directed to take possession of all forts held by the British in that country, he returned in June of the same year. With great tact he performed wisely and well the difficult mission intrusted to him. In November he left Detroit to visit the last of the posts included in his orders. This was then called Presque Isle, but is now the site of the city of Erie. When within a short sail of this post a severe and sudden attack of the gout came on. He was carried into the block-house at Presque Isle, in a dying condition, and lingered in great agony until December 15, 1796, when he died. By his own desire he was buried "at the foot of the flag-staff on a high hill called 'Garrison Hill,' north of the present Soldiers' Home." (Stille, 343.) In 1809, his son, Colonel Isaac Wayne, removed the body to the family burying-ground at St. David's Church, Radnor, Penn., where, on July 4th of the same year, the Society of the Cincinnati erected a monument in his honor.
So lived, so died, Anthony Wayne; gentleman, soldier, statesman, patriot. "Mad," "Dandy," "Black Snake," "Tornado." Angry with traitors--Neat-Courageous--Irresistible. None can study his life without feeling the nobleness of his character. Courtly in manners, honorable to a degree, high in aspirations, unselfishly for country, magnanimous in victory, loyal to authority, affectionate to family, pure in morality, and earnest for the right, Anthony Wayne's life is a bright example and legacy to the American youth of all times.