General Anthony Wayne

In 1722, the grandfather of Anthony Wayne arrived in Chester County, Pennsylvania. His youngest son, Isaac, received five hundred acres of land as his share of his fathers estate. His home on the property from the bequest was Waynesborough*, in Easttown Township, Chester County (approximately five miles from Valley Forge). It was here that Anthony Wayne was born in 1745. Wayne received a good education, and his penchant for mathematics led to his training as a surveyor. He worked as a surveyor for a number of years, which conditioned and disciplined him for physical endurance. In 1765, he was sent by Franklin and several others who owned land in Nova Scotia, Canada to survey the land and catalogue the natural resources there. He was there for a year, and returned home with accolades from his employers. At Waynesborough, he worked on developing the farm and established a tannery, while continuing his surveying. He was regarded as a leader in Chester County — serving in the Pennsylvania Legislature in 1774-1775. With the outbreak of war in 1775, Wayne raised a Regiment and was made its Colonel in 1776. He and his regiment were sent to Canada and at the Battle of Three Rivers he was wounded. His service resulted in the promotion to brigadier-general in February 1777.

On September 11, 1777, the American and British forces met in battle, eventually to become the Battle of Brandywine. Wayne and his forces were located at Chadd's Ford, along Brandywine Creek, where he was supported by Proctor's artillery. The British and Hessian forces made a feint attack early in the day, without making an effort to cross the creek. As a result of faulty information received by Washington, the Americans were driven back from the fords of Brandywine by the forces of Howe and Cornwallis — and though the Americans fought back, they were outnumbered. They retreated, fighting as they withdrew. The Americans, however, held the British in check east of Birmingham Meeting House, and as night fell, Washington ordered the army to withdraw. Knyphausen's Hessian and British troops crossed the Brandywine at Chadd's Ford...where Wayne contested the advance, but his force was too small. He withdrew to the rear of General Green's troops. The American army eventually retired to Chester. From Chester, Washington wrote the President of Congress in Philadelphia: "The troops withdrew, but there was no panic, and they are in fine spirits, ready to meet the enemy...In the midst of the attack on the right, that body of the enemy, which remained on the other side of Chadd's Ford, crossed it, and attacked the division there under the command of General Wayne, and the light troops under General Maxwell, who after a severe conflict, also retired."

In the meantime, Washington was trying to maneuver his troops to a favorable position to launch an attack against the British. He assigned Wayne and approximately 1500 men to harass the enemy's rear. On the night of September 20th, Wayne established camp about three miles southwest of the British lines. (Now the borough of Malvern.) The British and American forces were playing a cat and mouse game. Prior to camp, on the 18th, Washington had warned Wayne, "Take care...watch out for ambushes..." The British discovered Wayne was nearby as deserters or captured couriers arrived in their camp. Wayne was changing positions, knowing the British knew he was there. The British under General "No-Flint" Gray surprised Wayne and his forces...where a number of the pickets were massacred without warning. The darkness was a handicap for the Americans as well as the layout of the camp. The troops, without warning had no real place to retreat. The scene was confusion and chaos. General Gray had ordered his regiments not to fire (thus the nick-name "No-Flint"), figuring anyone firing their weapon would be a rebel. The British used swords, bayonets, and their firearms as clubs. They were totally brutal. The 7th Pennsylvania Regiments, at the end of the column at camp lost the most soldiers, being at the head of the attack. In total, the casualties numbered 158.

General Wayne requested his own court martial, as the rumors were flying. Washington yielded to the request on October 24th. The members of the Court of Inquiry were General Sullivan, President, and Generals Muhlenberg, Weedon, Conway and Huntington; Colonels Stephens, Dayton, McClennachan, Stewart, Bradley, Davis, DeHart and Thackston. After due consideration, the court unanimously decided that Wayne "did every duty that could be expected from an active, brave and vigilant officer, under the orders which he then had. The Court do acquit him with the highest honor." Washington heartily approved the verdict.

October 4, 1777: the Battle of Germantown. Wayne wrote a letter to his wife in which he gave the following comment about the battle: "Upon the whole it was a Glorious day — Our men are in the Spirits — and I am confident we shall give them a total defeat the next Action; which is at no great distance." The battle actually was a loss for the Americans, who were actually on the verge of victory. The army retreated to the west, camping at White Marsh, Gulph Mills and eventually Valley Forge on December 19th. Wayne sent numerous appeals during the encampment to the Pennsylvania authorities, without results. It wasn't until April that Wayne received a favorable reply. Although Waynes' home was but a few miles from Valley Forge, he preferred to take up residence closer to the encampment, so he moved in with his cousin, Mrs. Joseph Walker and her husband. (Opposite Pulaski's Quarters on the south side of Walker Road.)

In February, 1778, Washington sent Wayne to New Jersey in search of food for the troops. He and his forces had minor skirmishes with the British, returning to camp in March — "I shall begin my march for Camp tomorrow morning. It was not in my power to move until I could procure shoes for the troops almost barefoot."

When the British evacuated Philadelphia June 18, 1778, Washington withdrew his troops from Valley Forge the following day. By the 24th, the two armies were within a few miles of each other. As result of a council of war, Wayne wrote Washington urging an immediate attack. Wayne was in the minority, but Washington followed Wayne's advice. However, General Charles Lee failed to carry out Washington's orders and ordered a retreat...leaving Wayne in a precarious position. Washington advanced with additional troops and Wayne reformed the lines, catching the British between the hills. The enemy advanced, but were checked by the Americans and eventually the British retired in disorder. During the night, the British withdrew and eventually reached New York. Washington reported to Congress: "I cannot forbear mentioning Brigadier-General Wayne, whose good conduct and bravery through the whole action deserves particular commendation." This was the Battle of Monmouth.

On the Hudson River, at King's Ferry was a strong British fort, Stony Point. This fort was an important facet of the British defense along the Hudson. The fort was about one hundred and fifty feet high, on a rocky bluff on the western side of the Hudson. Three sides were surrounded by water and the fourth by a swamp. There were a series of redoubts and a large number of cannon — placed to drive off attack. The fort was garrisoned under the command of Colonel Johnston with a force of 500 men. For some time, Wayne had contemplated the capture of Stony Point, and eventually convinced Washington it could be done. The plan was kept unusually secret — a plan that had to be swiftly executed. The soldiers selected came from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. Washington approved of Wayne's carefully investigated plan and wrote to him: "That is should be attempted by the Light Infantry only, which should march under cover of the night and with the utmost secrecy to the enemy's lines, securing every person they find to prevent discovery." On the night of July 15, Wayne and his men gathered at the foot of Stony Point. As they approached, the garrison was aroused and began to shower cannon and musketry fire into the ranks of the assailants. However, the carefully planned attack was continued as each man knew exactly what his duty was. Wayne received a severe scalp wound, stunning him, but he pushed on ahead. The plan was so carefully laid out that the American forces met at the center of the fort at practically the same time. The British flag was hauled down and the fort was surrendered by the British commander. The British prisoners numbered 543. Sixty-three British were killed, and the number of wounded is unknown. The Americans lost fifteen, while eighty-three were wounded. Wayne sent Washington a message when the fort had been captured: "The fort and garrison with Col. Johnston are ours. Our officers and men behaved like men who are determined to be free." The victory of the capture was a surprise to friend and foe alike. It was an outstanding victory of the Revolution and the most brilliant victory of "Mad Anthony's" career. On July 16, Washington congratulated Wayne, the officers and troops on their outstanding victory. Congress unanimously passed resolutions praising Wayne and his men and awarded Wayne with a gold medal commemorative of his gallant service.

Wayne later was ordered southward by Washington in February 1781, but Wayne was held up in York, Pennsylvania and did not begin his march south until May. He met up with Lafayette's forces on June 7 at Fredericksburg. During the following weeks, the Americans eventually blockaded Cornwallis and his army by land and sea, and after some fighting, Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown October 19, 1781. Wayne, exulting in the American victory wrote to Robert Morris on the 26th, "Yet the resources of this country are great & if councils will call them forth we may produce a conviction to the world that we deserve to be free — for my own part, I am such, an enthusiast for independence, that I would hesitate to enter heaven thro' the means of a secondary cause unless I had made the utmost exertions to merit it."

After the surrender of Cornwallis, Wayne was ordered to take troops to South Carolina and thence to Georgia to drive the British out. His first objective was Savannah. As a result of several battles, Savannah was evacuated by the enemy on July 11, 1782. Greene wrote to Wayne under date of July 14: "I am very happy to hear that the enemy have left Savannah, and congratulate you most heartily on the event. I have forwarded an account thereof to Congress and the Commander-in-Chief expressive of your singular merit & exertions during your command and doubt not that it will merit their entire approbation as it does mine." Georgia was so appreciative of his service that thirty-nine hundred guineas were appropriated to purchase an estate for Wayne.

From Georgia, Wayne marched to South Carolina and after the British deployment from Charleston in December, Wayne marched in. In October 1783, Congress promoted Wayne to Major-General...a promotion long overdue. He returned home to Waynesborough in 1783, in poor health. His time in the field had taken its toll on his body. When he recovered, he took an active part in the Pennsylvania Assembly and was a member of the Constitutional Convention. Some financial difficulties led to the loss of his Georgia plantation.

In later years, General Wayne was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army by President Washington to subdue the Indians in the northwest territory. Wayne began at once to reorganize the army. In May 1793, he established his camp at Fort Washington (near the present location of Cincinnati.) He established a camp, Greeneville, in honor of his friend, Nathanael Greene, and another fort, Fort Recovery. After fighting for some time, the Indians in August, 1795, concluded a treaty at Greeneville. Wayne returned home after a three year absence for a short time. He was given a unusual welcome in Philadelphia and his native Chester County. He returned west to conclude some national business, where he died at Fort Presque Isle in 1796. In 1809, his son, Colonel Isaac Wayne, removed his remains and with appropriate ceremonies, they were reinterred at St. David's Church in Radnor, Pennsylvania.


Abridged from the article by Charles William Heathcoate, Ph.D., The Picket Post, Valley Forge Historical Society; July 1954


Suggested additional reading about Wayne:

Courtesy National Center for the American Revolution/Valley Forge Historical Society

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