General “Mad” Anthony Wayne

General “Mad” Anthony Wayne


Marianne E. Brokaw

HIST 375

20 March 2017


“I hereby pledge upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.”

General “Mad” Anthony Wayne


Anthony Wayne, an American General and patriot, was born on January 1, 1745, in Chester County, Pennsylvania. It could be said that Anthony Wayne, the younger, was born to the military life. Wayne’s grandfather, also Anthony Wayne, served under William of Orange in 1690 as a dragoon commander before emigrating to the American colonies.

Anthony Wayne served the United States in the capacity of soldier and civil servant from 1775 until his death in 1796 at the age of 52. He fought the British during the American War for Independence and afterward would lead President George Washington’s forces of the newly formed Legion of the United States in skirmishes against the Native American Indians on the western frontier. In the years between the American War for Independence and his role as Commander of the Legion of the United States, Wayne served in Pennsylvania’s state legislature and after moving to Georgia, served a short stint as a representative for Georgia to the United States Second Congress in 1791. Wayne’s performance as a military leader during the American Revolution was above average but his ego and aggressive nature made him difficult to work with. In addition, his civil service career was tainted by scandal, yet President George Washington appointed him Commander of the Legion of the United States, entrusting him to resolve the conflict with the natives on the United States’ western frontier. It was in this endeavor that Wayne proved highly successful and secured for himself a place in American history.

From a young age, it appeared that Anthony was destined for a military career. As a student at his Uncle Gilbert Wayne’s school Anthony was disinterested in learning. The exception to this disinterest was mentioned to Anthony’s father in a letter home from his Uncle Gilbert. “He may perhaps make a good soldier. He has already distracted the brains of two-thirds of the boys under my charge by rehearsals of battles, sieges, etc.”[1] Later, Anthony’s father sent him to be educated at the Academy at Philadelphia after which he was employed as a surveyor. Wayne, employed by a Pennsylvania syndicate, was sent to Nova Scotia in 1765 to survey 200,000 acres of land. In 1766 tensions were mounting between Great Britain and its North American colonies to the point that the syndicate lost interest in land acquisition in Nova Scotia.[2] Wayne returned to his home in Waynesborough, Pennsylvania and his young bride, Polly. There Wayne spent the next few years farming and raising a family. Successful in his own right, Wayne inherited his father’s estate in 1774 increasing his own wealth.[3]

Wayne was a handsome man of medium height but his “commanding presence” made him appear taller.[4] Prior to his father’s death, he was self-confident but inheriting his father’s fortune increased this confidence. Wayne possessed great leadership qualities and natural good looks. The combination of these traits along with his education made Wayne a favorite within his community. Wayne soon found himself elected chairman of his county’s committee of safety in response to the boycott by the First Continental Congress of British goods.[5] It is from this point in 1774 that Wayne entered public service for his country. A service that would end with his death in 1796.

War between the British colonies of North America and their motherland would begin on April 19, 1775. Wayne, an active militia man, was not commissioned an officer until January 3, 1776. Colonel Anthony Wayne was assigned to the Fourth Battalion of the Pennsylvania line which was ordered to join General George Washington near New York. Upon receipt of the orders “Wayne complained that at least half his men were armed with little more than ‘damned tomahawks.’”[6] Whether Wayne’s men were properly outfitted or not, the Pennsylvanians were sent from Long Island to relieve the Canadian expedition that had been sent to secure Quebec in December of 1775. During this expedition, Brigadier General Richard Montgomery lost his life to the British and General Benedict Arnold, still loyal to the patriot cause, retreated with his small force from Quebec to Montreal.[7]

The first objective for Wayne and his Pennsylvanians, under the command of General William Maxwell, was to secure halfway down the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec the “lightly-held” post of Trois Riviéres. At approximately three in the morning, while disembarking from their small boats, the Americans were fired upon by enemy vessels in the river. Wayne and his men spent the next five hours lost, traipsing through thick swamp. When Wayne and his men finally emerged from the swamp they encountered regular redcoats awaiting them. The American force held off the British troops until British artillery joined the skirmish and fired from their position on the river.  A second British force was sent to cut the Americans off up stream. Wayne and his remaining troops were forced to retreat through the swamp and back across the New York border.[8] For Wayne, this is likely his first experience with what Prussian military theorist Karl von Clausewitz labeled the “fog of war”. Wayne had not anticipated the swamp or the awaiting British forces. True to Wayne’s self-confident nature, he bragged of his success regarding his mission down the St. Lawrence in a letter to Benjamin Franklin stating, ‘“I believe it will be Universally allowed that Col. [William] Allen & myself have saved the Army in Canada.’”[9]

Wayne was appointed the commandant of Ticonderoga in the fall of 1776. Ticonderoga was a key fortress located on the lakes in northern New York. Wayne made ready his troops for ‘“Death or Glory”’ while at the same time trying to instill discipline and uniformity among the ranks.[10] The atmosphere within the walls of the fort was dire at best. The troops were without proper clothing, food, and warmth. The morale was low as the British were expected to descend upon the Americans when the arrival of spring would bring better weather. The atmosphere was ripe for a troop uprising. When whispers of mutiny met the colonel’s ears, the ringleader was sent to Albany to be court-martialed.[11]

While Wayne was away fighting for independence, his family and home front suffered. In the spring of 1777, Wayne received news from home that the family farm was failing. Unfortunately, Wayne’s opinion of his military success was such that he left his wife Polly to deal with the domestic issues at home. Besides, in February of that same year, Wayne had been promoted to brigadier general and reassigned to Washington’s army in Morristown.[12] He was not likely to give up yet another opportunity to prove himself on the battlefield.

Yet, organized battle was not where Wayne’s next success, albeit small, occurred. As British General Howe was evacuating New Jersey, Nathanael Greene’s division of which Wayne and his men were attached were dispatched to harass the retreating British. Wayne’s troops and those of Daniel Morgan were the only troops to arrive in time to execute the order. General Washington praised both Wayne and Morgan for their success. However, when Wayne’s wife, Polly, begged Anthony to come home and deal with the serious problems she was facing alone, he told her that he was ‘“peremptorily forbid by His Excellency to leave the Army.”’[13] He had also told her that he was doing the work of three general officers. Whether that claim was true, it was true that at the time of his reply to Polly, he was serving as a division commander in Washington’s main army.[14]

Wayne’s first truly shameful performance as a military leader occurred in September 1777. While awaiting General Howe’s British forces, Wayne and his men were ambushed as they slept near Warren’s Tavern a short three miles from Wayne’s home. Wayne had believed that the British were easy prey and reported that he was not alarmed as the ‘“enemy are quiet, washing and cooking.”’[15]

Wayne had been warned at nine o’clock on the night of 20 September by a local man that the British had planned a surprise attack. Wayne dismissed the intelligence and ordered the reporting officer, Major Francis Nicholas, to bed. At eleven o’clock that night, the intelligence proved to be true. British troops snuck into the American camp, bayonets at the ready, catching the Pennsylvanians asleep and off guard. Although Wayne maintained that he had some order of the situation, neither British nor casualty accounts supported his claim. British Major John André implied that the British attack was a complete surprise. A fellow officer of André’s referred to the attack as the Paoli Massacre. Not one shot was fired as the British relied solely on bayonets to carry out the attack. According to historians, the casualty count was high for Wayne: 150 losses. It is believed that the British did not lose more than ten men.[16] Not only would Wayne suffer from a deflated ego following the ambush, he was subjected to a court of inquiry. Wayne was exonerated but was plagued by wounded pride and the criticism of others. He demanded a court martial to defend his honor and was once again exonerated. Hoping to rebuild his reputation, Wayne continually pleaded with Washington to be permitted to lead assaults against the British.[17]

On October 4, 1777 Wayne got his chance to reclaim his reputation at the Battle of Germantown. Wayne attacked the British while they slept in the early morning hours. His motivation was to avenge the losses suffered at Warren’s Tavern. However, the Battle of Germantown was not a success.  Victory alluded Wayne once again. In Wayne’s defense, the orders given by Washington were reported as confusing. Also, the early morning fog caused the American units to become separated from each other and difficult to identify. In the confusion of the battle and the fog, Wayne’s men inadvertently fired upon American troops under the command of Adam Stephens. Stephens was accused of drunkenness on the day of the battle while Stephens accused Wayne and his troops of firing on British regulars who were surrendering. In the end, Stephens was dismissed from military service for drunkenness and conduct unbecoming an officer[18] and Wayne was still without his victory.

Wayne’s glory finally found him on June 28, 1778 at the Battle of Monmouth near Monmouth Court House, New Jersey. Washington’s plan was for the army to aggressively attack the British, a tactic that Wayne had long been pushing for. Wayne’s forces, within Washington’s army, maintained their position and held off the British forces three times by holding fire until the last possible moment which resulted in the infliction of heavy casualties. From this point forward in the American War for Independence, Wayne enjoyed continued success. In June of 1779 he was appointed commander of an elite corps of Continental infantry over another contender, Daniel Morgan. Wayne was successful in taking the British fort at Stony Point near West Point in July of 1779. Regardless of the elite corps’ success, Washington ordered it detached. Wayne retired from military service in December of 1779 and returned to Waynesborough.[19]

Wayne’s retirement lasted a short six months. On May 18, 1780 Wayne received a letter from General Washington stating, ‘“I shall be happy to see you in camp again, and hope you will, without hesitation, resume your command in the Penn’a line.”’[20] Wayne’s return to the army tasked him with doing what he did best: harassing the enemy. Washington set him to work harassing the British along the lower Hudson and into New Jersey. Washington also ordered him to attack the enemy position at Bull’s Ferry in Bergen. On July 21, 1780 Wayne and his troops did just that. However, the battle would prove to be a stalemate. It was following this aggressive attack on the British that Anthony Wayne was first referred to as “Mad”. It is believed that the nickname was given to Anthony Wayne by British Major John André, a self-proclaimed poet.[21]

Shortly after the stalemate at Bull’s Ferry, Wayne found himself facing a different type of battle. Troop morale was at an all-time low and it appeared as if mutiny was on the horizon. The men were hungry and without adequate clothing. Many had not been paid for months. Wayne kept peace amongst his men and assured them that he would support and advise them in their concerns. True to his word, Wayne negotiated with Congress in Philadelphia on behalf of his men. Although some of the troops decided to take the pay settlement reached through negotiations with Congress and leave military service, some took the settlement and stayed on.[22]

Following the attempted mutiny of the troops, Wayne travelled south with his men to Virginia and on into Georgia. It was in Georgia that Wayne had his first military encounter with American natives. On February 19, 1782, Wayne and his men waylaid a party of Indians who were taking provisions to their British allies in Savannah. Wayne confiscated the provisions and sent the natives back to their tribes. He told them that Savannah would soon fall to the Americans. The British evacuated Savannah almost five months later July 11, 1782. When the British evacuated Charleston, on December 14, 1782 Wayne was awarded the privilege of leading the American troops into the city.[23]

Wayne returned to Pennsylvania after the war and became a member of the Pennsylvania Convention that ratified the Federal Constitution. With his finances in a critical state and creditors trying to collect the debts owed to them, in 1788, he returned to Georgia to try and manage the plantation that had been given to him from the grateful citizens of that state following the war. After a political campaign shrouded in suspicion of fraud, Wayne was elected to Georgia’s House of Representatives. His opponent protested to the point that the election was declared void. Wayne left the political battlefield of Georgia and was soon thereafter thrust into yet another. The young nation was facing a new and formidable foe: the Indian.[24]

Hostilities along the United States’ western border began to heat up shortly after the American’s defeated the British in their war for independence. The need for a standing army was an ongoing debate amongst the Founding Fathers. Some, including James Madison, who would be president during the War of 1812, felt that the states’ militias were more than adequate protection. Some of the country’s leaders believed that there was no need to invest a large amount of capital developing and maintaining a standing army. While this debate was ongoing, the Indians were protecting what they felt were their rights to the Ohio territory by attacking settlers who had encroached westward across the Ohio River from the Pennsylvania border and from the south in Kentucky.

Out of concern for the citizens who were willing to move westward and settle the young country, President George Washington developed a new army that he hoped would deal with the Indian problem. Also, the unsuccessful attempts to control the Indians previously, especially in 1790 when General Hamar’s army was deployed to the western frontier only to be attacked and thwarted by the natives,[25] motivated the establishing of such a force. In April of 1792, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne was appointed by President Washington as Commander in Chief of the newly formed Legion of the United States.[26] Given Wayne’s on-again, off-again military performance throughout America’s War for Independence and his questionable ethics involved in his short political career, it is somewhat curious as to why Washington would choose Wayne for such a task.  Possibly Washington knew better than anyone Wayne’s personal character and was not persuaded by rumors. Wayne’s obvious desire to serve his country and to do so using aggressive strategies and tactics made him the prime choice to lead the legion and suppress the natives. Wayne’s aggressive nature was indeed what made him successful, by the standards of his day, in dealing with the natives and their allies.

When establishing the Legion of the United States, Washington was clear as to the structure of the corps. There was to be one Major General, four Brigadier Generals along with their staffs and commissioned officers, and 5,120 non-commissioned officers and privates.[27] Wayne himself came to this new army with a stipulation of his own; The campaign should not begin until his legion was adequately manned and trained.[28] In June of 1792, with the terms agreed upon, Wayne began to recruit and organize his legion. Recruitment was the first obstacle Wayne faced. The good officers who had served under him during the American War for Independence were either retired or had been killed while serving with Hamar and St. Clair. Additionally, the young men feared the natives and their guerilla type warfare. The second obstacle that Wayne faced, because of the men’s inexperience and fear, was a desertion rate of almost fifty percent. However, as training improved, troop morale increased as did the number of troops.[29]

In the fall of 1792, Wayne decided that to assess the situation with the Indians, he would need to enter the territory.  Wayne settled his army twenty-seven miles south of Pittsburg on the Ohio River. The army wintered at this site, Legionville, recruiting, training, and negotiating with the natives. By the end of March 1793, Wayne reported to the Secretary of War that his legion consisted of approximately two thousand, five hundred men. In May of 1793, Wayne moved his men to Fort Washington, the site of present day Cincinnati. From his location in Cincinnati, Wayne easily recruited volunteers from Kentucky, adding to his numbers.[30]

By midsummer 1793, the Indians were demanding that the Ohio River be the western boundary for the United States and would not be persuaded otherwise. By September 1793, Secretary of War, General Knox was advising Wayne to expect war with the Indians. Wayne prepared for mobilization of his army into native territory on October 5, 1793 after negotiations with the Indians failed.  On October 7 Wayne’s army was on the move. On October 13, 1793, the Legion of the United States arrived in Greeneville, Ohio. Wayne’s army wintered in Greeneville receiving no communication nor orders from the government.[31]

While tensions between the Americans and natives were increasing, so were tensions between the United States and its former sovereign. The British were supporting the Indians for self-serving purposes such as trade. The British navy was capturing and impressing American merchant sailors into service in the British Royal Navy. And British military forts were still scattered throughout the territories of the United States even after the victory of the United States against Great Britain and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

On June 30, 1794, near Fort Recovery, the site where St. Claire was defeated in 1791, a small body of riflemen were attacked. This attack was followed by a full assault on the fort. The Americans held the fort with limited casualties. A few days later, Major General Scott who had served with Wayne at Monmouth arrived with a force of Kentucky volunteers. Bolstered by this increase in troop numbers, Wayne advanced seventy miles further north into Indian territory where he established a new fort, Fort Defiance at the junction of the Miami and Le Glaize Rivers.[32]

On August 20, 1794, near present day Maumee, Ohio the last great battle was fought in the western Indian wars. General “Mad” Anthony Wayne commanded a total of three thousand men: two thousand from his legion and one thousand Kentuckians led by General Scott. The Indian force, numbered at two thousand and defending what they believed was their rightful territory, was led by Chief Black Wolf composed of Shawnees, Chippewas, Ottowas, and Potawatomis under Chief Blue Jacket. Wayne’s force attacked hard and the Indians were unable to hold their position. The Ottowa chief was killed in the battle. The Indians retreat north to Lake Erie after losing fifty men in battle. The American dead was numbered at thirty.[33] Eight days after the American victory, Wayne dispatched a letter to General Knox detailing the tactics he deployed during the battle. In the letter, he explained the ineffectiveness of his cavalry due to “the ground being covered with old fallen timber probably occasioned by a tornado.”[34]

One year after Wayne’s victory at the Battle of Fallen Timber at Fort Defiance, the Treaty of Greeneville was drafted and forced upon the Indians. After a three-year absence from Pennsylvania visiting British forts still not abandoned by the British in compliance with the Treaty of Paris, Wayne returned home for a short visit.[35] Wayne continued to serve his country by involving himself in political and military affairs until his death on December 15, 1796. He died and was buried at Presque Isle, now modern day Erie, Pa. Thirteen years after his death, his remains were exhumed and reinterred in the family’s burial plot at St. David’s Church near Waynesborough, Pa.[36]

General “Mad” Anthony Wayne left a legacy that spans over two-hundred years. There are numerous counties and towns across the mid-west and even into the south that are named after the general, thus sharing in his legacy. In Ohio, the second county named was named after Wayne. Wayne was a zealous military officer that at times allowed his exuberance to get in his own way. However, it was because of this zeal that President George Washington witnessed during America’s War for Independence, that he chose General “Mad” Anthony Wayne to lead the Legion of the United States into war against the Indians. His success at the Battle of Fallen Timbers allowed him to play an influential role in the military and politics until his death.



Billias, George Athan, ed. George Washington’s Generals. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1964.


Independence Hall Association. Historic Valley Forge Who Served Here? General Anthony Wayne. Accessed 18 March 2017.


Michno, Gregory F. Encyclopedia of Indian Wars: Western Battles and Skirmishes, 1850-1890. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2003.


Nelson, Paul David. Anthony Wayne: Soldier of the Early Republic. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1985.


Nunally, Michael L. American Indian Wars: A Chronology of Confrontations Between Native Peoples and Settlers, and the United States Military, 1500s-1901. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2007.


Ohio History Central. Anthony Wayne. Accessed 18 March 2017.


Stille, Charles J. Major-General Anthony Wayne and The Pennsylvania Line in the Continental Army. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, Inc., 1968.


Tucker, Glenn. Mad Anthony Wayne and the New Nation: The Story of Washington’s Front-line General. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1973.


Utley, Robert M. and Wilcomb E. Washburn. The American Heritage History of The Indian Wars. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., 1977.











[1] George Athan Billias, ed., George Washington’s Generals, 1964 (New York: William Morrow and Company), 260.

[2] Ibid., 261.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 262.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid., 263.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 264.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 265.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., 266.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., 267.

[18] Ibid., 268.

[19] Ibid., 275.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., 276.

[22] Ibid., 280.

[23] Ibid., 284.

[24] Ibid., 287.

[25] Charles J. Stille, Major-General Anthony Wayne and The Pennsylvania Line in the Continental Army, 1968 (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, Inc.), 319.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid., 321.

[28] Ibid., 322.

[29] Ibid., 322-3.

[30] Ibid., 325.

[31] Ibid., 327-8.

[32] Ibid., 330.

[33] Michael J. Nunnally, American Indian Wars: A Chronology of Confrontations Between Native Peoples and Settlers, and the United States Military, 1500s-1901, 2007 (Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company), 1794.

[34] Stille, 331.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Paul David Nelson, Anthony Wayne: Soldier of the Early Republic, 1985 (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press), 301.