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Title: Anthony Wayne, 1745-1796

Author: Randolph C. Downes

Creator: Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County

Release date: May 21, 2021 [eBook #65397]

Language: English

Credits: Stephen Hutcheson and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

Anthony Wayne, 1745-1796

Anthony Wayne


Prepared by the Staff of the
Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County

Boards of the Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County

One of a historical series, this pamphlet is published under the direction of the governing Boards of the Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County.


Mrs. Sadie Fulk Roehrs
B.F. Geyer, President
Joseph E. Kramer, Secretary
W. Page Yarnelle, Treasurer
Willard Shambaugh


The members of this Board include the members of the Board of Trustees of the School City of Fort Wayne (with the same officers) together with the following citizens chosen from Allen County outside the corporate City of Fort Wayne:

James E. Graham
Arthur Niemeier
Mrs. Glenn Henderson
Mrs. Charles Reynolds


After Harmar and St. Clair had been disastrously defeated by the Indians in the Old Northwest Territory, President Washington appointed General Anthony Wayne to reorganize the American forces, to subdue the savages, and to protect the scattered white settlements along the frontier. Wayne’s campaign culminated in his decisive victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794. General Wayne then marched his men westward to the headwaters of the Maumee at the junction of the St. Mary’s and St. Joseph rivers. Here, on ground commanding the adjacent area, a fort was constructed and named Fort Wayne in his honor. If Wayne’s campaign had failed, settlement in this section might have been indefinitely delayed, and our city might be known by another name.

The following biographical sketch of Anthony Wayne was written by Randolph C. Downes. It was published in 1936 by Charles Scribner’s Sons in the DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY, volume nineteen. Both the American Council of Learned Societies, the copyright holder, and the publisher have graciously accorded permission to reproduce the article in its entirety. The portraiture, the best brief biography of Wayne, has been reprinted verbatim; citations and bibliography have been omitted.

The Boards and the Staff of the Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County present this publication in the hope that the life of the founder of Fort Wayne will prove entertaining and informative to library patrons.


Anthony Wayne (Jan. 1, 1745-Dec. 15, 1796), soldier, was born at Waynesboro, Pa., the only son of Isaac and Elizabeth (Iddings) Wayne. Isaac Wayne with his father Anthony Wayne, of English ancestry, emigrated from Ireland and about 1724 settled in Chester County, Pa., where he acquired some 500 acres of land and a thriving tannery. At the age of sixteen the boy attended a private academy kept by his uncle, Gilbert Wayne, in Philadelphia, where he is said to have been more proficient in feats of mock warfare, suggested no doubt by the Indian wars in progress, than in his classroom subjects. He learned enough mathematics to qualify as a surveyor, with some further application after he left school two years later. In 1765 he was sent by a Philadelphia land company to supervise the surveying and settlement of 100,000 acres of land in Nova Scotia. On Mar. 25, 1766, after the venture had failed, he returned to Pennsylvania and married Mary Penrose, the daughter of Bartholomew Penrose, a Philadelphia merchant. They had two children. He went to live on his father’s estate and took charge of the tannery. In 1774 his father died, and Anthony succeeded to the ownership of a profitable establishment that provided him a very comfortable competence. He was of medium height, had a handsome, well-proportioned face with a slightly aquiline nose and high forehead. His hair was dark, his eyes dark brown and penetrating, giving to his face a very animated appearance.

During the early Revolutionary movement he was chairman of the committee appointed in the county on July 13, 1774, to frame the resolutions of protest against the coercive acts of the British government. He was later made chairman of the county committee appointed to supervise the carrying out of the association drawn up by the first Continental Congress. He represented his county in the provincial assembly that met during 1775. On Jan. 3, 1776, he was appointed by Congress to be colonel of a Chester County regiment engaged in continental service, and as a soldier he served through the war. His youth and lack of formal training in the arts of war prevented him from being on friendly terms with many of his colleagues, and he had 2 personal difficulties with St. Clair, Charles Lee, and James Wilkinson. Contemporaries agreed that he was impetuous, yet Alexander Graydon, who called his manner “fervid,” admitted that he could “fight as well as brag.” Washington admitted his bravery and his self-possession in battle but feared his impetuousness, when, seventeen years later, he chose him to lead the army against the northwestern Indians. In the spring of 1776 he was sent with the Pennsylvania brigade commanded by Gen. William Thompson to reinforce the faltering Canadian expedition. When the Pennsylvanians met the retreating remnants of Montgomery’s army at the mouth of the Sorel River, they were sent down the St. Lawrence to attack what was thought to be the advance guard of the British army at Three Rivers. It turned out to be the main army numbering 3,000, and Wayne, whose regiment was in the front of the attack, found himself sustaining a hot exchange with the enemy in order to cover the retreat of his outnumbered countrymen to Fort Ticonderoga. He was placed in command of the garrison of over two thousand men there and had his first taste of wretched provisioning, of sickness, starvation, and mutiny.

On Feb. 21, 1777, he was appointed to the rank of brigadier-general and was called, on Apr. 12, to join Washington at Morristown, N. J., and to take command of the Pennsylvania line. After a season of training and drill his division took an active part in resisting the British in their campaign against Philadelphia. In the battle of Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777, he occupied the center of the defense opposing the British at their main point of crossing. He was obliged to retreat when the American right was flanked by Cornwallis, who crossed the creek higher up. When Washington then withdrew to the north of the Schuylkill, he sent Wayne to circle around the rear of the British and to surprise and destroy their baggage train. Wayne, however, was himself surprised and, in the battle of Paoli, Sept. 20, received a drubbing. Being accused of negligence in this action, he demanded a court martial and was acquitted. Rejoining Washington, he played a conspicuous part in the battle of Germantown, on Oct. 4, leading a spirited and almost victorious attack, but was forced back, when difficulties in the rear turned the victory into confusion and defeat. He wintered with Washington at Valley Forge and led the advance attack against the British at the battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1788.


leading an attack in the battle of Germantown


In a reorganization of the army late in 1778, he was transferred to the command of a separate corps of Continental light infantry. This corps, under his leadership, on July 16, 1779, captured by surprise the garrison at Stony Point, the northernmost British post on the Hudson. Over five hundred prisoners, fifteen cannon, and some valuable stores were taken. For his conduct in this affair Congress ordered a medal to be struck and presented to him. Early in 1780 he led some desultory movements against the British on the lower Hudson, aimed to embarrass their collecting of supplies and cattle and to alleviate the attacks being made on Connecticut. When Arnold attempted to deliver West Point to the British on Sept. 25, 1780, Wayne’s prompt movement to that post prevented a British occupation. After the Pennsylvania line mutinied in December 1780, Wayne was instrumental in presenting the soldiers’ demands for pay and release to Congress and in getting Congress to redress their grievances. In the Yorktown campaign he was ordered south to serve under Lafayette, who was opposing Cornwallis on the lower James River. When Cornwallis withdrew from Williamsburg, Wayne was ordered to attack part of the British army that was mistakenly supposed to be separated from the rest. With some 800 men he attacked the British army of perhaps 5,000 at Green Spring, Va., on July 6, 1781, and, upon discovering the mistake, he led a charge into the British lines that deceived Cornwallis long enough to permit Wayne to extricate himself with only minor losses.

After the British surrender at Yorktown, Wayne, serving under Gen. Nathanael Greene, was sent to oppose the British, Loyalist, and Indian hostiles in Georgia. He had the tact to divide the Indian opposition by spreading news of the American victory so that, when the Creek irreconcilables attacked his small force in May 1782, he was able to rout them. He negotiated treaties of submission with the Creek and Cherokee in the winter of 1782 and 1783. In 1783 he retired from active service as brevet major-general.


Wayne’s horse was shot by Indians in Georgia....


From 1783 to 1792 he was engaged in civil pursuits in which he was less fortunate than in military affairs. The state of Georgia conferred upon him an eight-hundred-acre rice plantation, and he borrowed the necessary capital to work it from Dutch creditors, who subsequently foreclosed on the lands. In politics he was a conservative; he had a militarist’s contempt for the radicals who took advantage of the revolt against Great Britain to fashion liberal constitutions like that of Pennsylvania, which he considered “not worth Defending.” During the war military affairs were his major consideration; but he said, “let us once be in a Condition to Vanquish these British Rebels and I answer for it that then your present Rulers will give way for better men which will produce better Measures.” Accordingly, as a member of the Pennsylvania council of censors in 1783, he favored the calling of a new constitutional convention. He was a representative of Chester County to the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1784 and 1785. In 1787 he supported the new federal Constitution in the Pennsylvania ratifying convention. He was elected to Congress as a representative from Georgia and served from Mar. 4, 1791, to Mar. 21, 1792, when his seat was declared vacant because of irregularities in the election and in his residence qualification.


Battle of Fallen Timbers


After the failure of Harmar and St. Clair to subdue the Indian tribes of the Wabash and Maumee rivers in 1791, Wayne was named by Washington as major-general in command of the rehabilitated American army. He was strongly opposed to the peace maneuvers of 1792 and 1793 but improved his time constructing a reliable military organization at his training camp at Legionville, Pa., and, later, near Fort Washington and Fort Jefferson in the Northwest Territory. On Aug. 20, 1794, he defeated the Indians at Fallen Timbers on the Maumee River near what is now Toledo, Ohio. This victory was the result of several factors. Wayne had far more resources at his command than had Harmar or St. Clair. He did not hazard an autumn campaign after he received news of the final failure of peace negotiations in August 1793. He was fortunate in that the Indians threw away their opportunity to isolate him, when they made a futile attack on Fort Recovery on June 29 and lost many discouraged tribesmen, who went home. He made every effort to avoid offending the British, thus robbing the Indians of the aid they fully expected in the moment of conflict. Finally, when the Indians had assembled at Fallen Timbers to fight, he delayed battle for three days. Therefore, when he attacked, a large part of the Indians were at a distance breaking their three-day fast, and the rest were in a half-starved condition. The complete submission and surrender at Greenville in August 1795 was made possible by Jay’s treaty, the British desertion of the Indians, and Wayne’s skill in convincing the tribesmen of the hopelessness of their cause without British support. He died at Presque Isle, now Erie, Pa., on his return from the occupation of the post of Detroit.

Transcriber’s Notes