Gen. Anthony Wayne helped the nation grow west


If CNN had been around in the 1790s it probably would have assigned "hot spot" reporter Wolf Blitzer to the Northwest Territory, the area that includes present-day Fort Wayne.

And, without a doubt, Gen. Anthony Wayne was the Gen. Schwartzkopf of the day.

Had he not died in 1796 at the age of 51 he might easily have given John Adams or Thomas Jefferson stiff competition in their runs for the presidency in 1796 and 1800.

World powers watched the Northwest Territory with covetous interest during the 1790s. "Lack of authority . . . left the nation a natural prey for the colonial vultures of Europe," wrote Richard Knopf in "Anthony Wayne, A Name in Arms."

''Britain had never given up hope of regaining her lost colonies. Spain eyed with envy the trans-Allegheny West . . . France became more and more inclined toward the establishment of a new empire in the new world."

Had it not been for Anthony Wayne's victories in Ohio in 1793 and 1794 and the founding of Fort Wayne in October 1794, the western border of the country might never have made it even to the Mississippi River.

Wayne's interest in the military began at an early age. His grandfather and father had both been soldiers. Wayne read avidly of battles and ancient military heroes, and he organized his friends and cousins into armies to fight mock battles.

Sent to Philadelphia to be educated by his uncle, Gabriel Wayne, Anthony Wayne didn't take to education right away.

His exasperated uncle wrote to Wayne's father:

''I really suspect that parental affection blinds you, and that you have mistaken your son's capacity. What he may be best qualified for, I know not - one thing I am certain of, he will never make a scholar, he may perhaps make a soldier, he has already distracted the brains of two-thirds of the boys under my charge by rehearsals to battles, sieges . . ."

Isaac Wayne, Anthony's father, had a long talk with his son, who thereafter applied himself to his schoolwork, especially mathematics. Within 18 months, Gabriel Wayne advised his brother to continue the young man's education.

Wayne eventually became an excellent surveyor and served Benjamin Franklin for a short time as an agent in Nova Scotia. But he never lost his interest in the military, and when the Revolutionary War began he was eager to serve.

In 1775 the Second Continental Congress asked Pennsylvania to recruit four battalions for the Continental Army.

One of the four men chosen to head up the battalions was 30-year-old Anthony Wayne. One of the other four was Arthur St. Clair, who would cross Wayne's path several times during the Revolutionary War and the conquest of the Northwest Territory.

The new Col. Wayne's regiment of volunteers first served in the disastrous campaign against Quebec. During the retreat, Wayne found himself in command after St. Clair stubbed his toe on a tree root. Wayne himself had received a painful leg wound during the fighting retreat, but he paid no attention to it.

''Wayne's leg wound was much worse than St. Clair's stubbed toe, but he stayed on his feet during the march of anguish through the woods," Glenn Tucker wrote in his "Mad Anthony Wayne and the New Nation."

For a time he commanded Fort Ticonderoga, N.Y., and he was raised to the rank of brigadier general in 1777 for his services there. St. Clair, however, had been inexplicably promoted to brigadier general ahead of Wayne, despite his own poor showing in the defense of Ticonderoga.

Wayne and St. Clair feuded intermittently throughout the war.

Wayne's most brilliant exploit of the Revolutionary War was the storming of the British fort July 16, 1779, at Stony Point, N.Y. His forces took the strongest British post on the Hudson River with a surprise night attack.

Descriptions of Wayne vary from impetuous to vain. He inspired loyalty among his men. He was a shrewd politician but a weak businessman. He was a meticulous dresser and was nicknamed "Dandy" before he became "Mad Anthony."

Several versions with common threads exist on how Wayne earned his "Mad Anthony" moniker.

Glenn Tucker's book says Wayne was named by a character called "Jemy the Rover," a "nondescript character" who served as Wayne's principal spy during the Valley Forge campaign. Wayne called him "Commodore."

At one point during the winter of 1781 Jemy became unruly, and Wayne, "not in good spirits," ordered him to receive 29 lashes across the back for his behavior.

''Anthony is mad, stark mad," Jemy exclaimed. "Mad Anthony Wayne" he yelled again and again.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, Great Britain agreed that the Mississippi River would be the western boundary of the United States and that the Great Lakes would serve as the border on the north. Presumably this meant British troops would withdraw from these areas into Canada. In fact, they did not.

The new nation, operating under the Articles of Confederation, was weak, and the Northwest Territory was a lucrative source of furs for the British. The British found a strong ally in the Indians of the area, to whom they supplied shot, powder and guns in exchange for furs.

Passage of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 sent American settlers into the Ohio Valley area at the rate of 10,000 a year. Problems protecting these settlers were among those that proved the weakness of the Articles of Confederation and led to ratification of the new Constitution June 21, 1788.

By 1790, Congress yielded to the appeals for protection from Indians by the new residents of the Northwest Territory.

Brigadier General Josiah Harmar was dispatched to the new territory with an army and instructions to punish the Wabash and Miami Indians for their raids on river traffic. Harmar commanded 320 regular troops, 1,133 Kentucky militiamen and a battalion of Pennsylvania infantrymen.

On Oct. 22, 1790, four years to the day before the founding of Fort Wayne, Harmar's army was ambushed and soundly defeated by Indians led by Chief Little Turtle.

In their defense, the Indians believed they owned the land by moral right and previous treaty.

Harmar's defeat was a national humiliation and a major setback to President Washington's plans for the Northwest Territory. Congress quickly authorized higher troop levels, and another army of men was dispatched to Miami Village, now Fort Wayne, to punish the Indians.

In November 1791 the army was attacked by Indians again led by Little Turtle, around what is now Fort Recovery, Ohio. The general leading the army had been warned by Washington to be careful of surprise attacks. He didn't listen.

More than 700 Americans died in the fighting, including 56 women who had accompanied their soldier husbands to the frontier. By comparison, about 200 soldiers died at Custer's Last Stand in 1876.

The general who failed to heed Washington's warnings was Arthur St. Clair himself, Wayne's Revolutionary War nemesis. The debacle became known as "St. Clair's defeat."

''President Washington's western policy was in shambles," G. Danforth Hollins wrote in his "General Anthony Wayne, Northwest Conqueror and Diplomat."

''The citizens of every state questioned the effectiveness of the government and the Constitution. The crisis facing the United States was critical, for the government's credibility was almost destroyed.

" Foreign powers who were aware of the problems were likely to take the opportunity to invade within its borders."

Into this arena of national despair strode "Mad Anthony" Wayne, whom President Washington named Commanding General of the newly formed Legion of the United States. Calling the country's newly approved standing army a "legion" seemed more acceptable to much of the nation who still felt a republic should not have a large standing army.

Wayne went to Pittsburg (its correct spelling at the time) in July of 1792 and began training his men. He moved his forces to the Cincinnati area in the summer of 1793 and waited for orders to attack. Washington was still trying to resolve problems through negotiation.

In the fall of 1793 negotiations failed. The United States refused to ban any settlement by its citizens beyond the Ohio River. The Indians refused to allow intruders upon their lands. On September 11, 1793, Wayne received word to attack.

Defying his reputation for impetuosity, Wayne settled in at Fort Jefferson, some 75 miles north of Cincinnati. In the spring he planned to launch attacks against the Indians.

Indian scouts, spying on Wayne, called him "the Chief who never sleeps." Shortly before the Christmas of 1793, Wayne led a small group of men north to the area of St. Clair's defeat and built Fort Recovery. In June of 1794, 2,000 Indians attacked the fort.

''Although the Indians vastly outnumbered the defenders," Hollins wrote, "the well-trained dragoons and riflemen within the professionally built fort held out against overwhelming odds. The Indians were forced to retreat."

Their defeat at Fort Recovery shook the Indians' confidence. Little Turtle relinquished his leadership. Two of the Great Lakes tribes decided to return to their camps.

Wayne continued moving north, establishing Fort Defiance (now Defiance, Ohio) in August 1794. Ahead of him were some 1,300 Indians outside of Fort Miami, the British-held stronghold near the present-day Toledo. Wayne sent one more letter to four Indian tribes with a last offer to negotiate. There were no positive responses.

On Aug. 20, 1794, Wayne's army attacked the Indians at Fallen Timbers, just south of Toledo. The battle lasted less than an hour. Fleeing Indians raced toward Fort Miami, where the British had promised protection. They were turned away because the British did not want to risk war with the United States.

Wayne moved south and built a new fort near the three rivers. Fort Wayne was officially dedicated Oct. 22, 1794. Peace with the Indian tribes was achieved with the Treaty of Greenville on Aug. 3, 1795.

Wayne's victory at Fallen Timbers ended for all time the power of the British on American soil. A third American defeat might have led to ceding the area to Great Britain or invasion by Spain or France.

Failure also would have threatened the power of the new government, diminished because of its inability to protect its citizens.

So Wayne's victory in the Northwest campaign had far-reaching implications. He returned to a hero's welcome in Philadelphia.

In June 1796, Wayne was back in the frontier overseeing the surrender of British forts to the United States. In November he became ill with gout. On Dec. 16, 1796, he died.

At his request he was buried in a plain oak coffin near a blockhouse at Erie, Pa.

Reading list

These books about Anthony Wayne are available at the Allen County Public Library:

"Anthony Wayne, Soldier of the Early Republic," by Paul David Nelson, Indiana University Press, 1985.
"General Anthony Wayne, Northwest Conqueror and Diplomat, 1792-1796," by G. Danforth Hollins, MacMillan Publishing Company, 1985.
"Mad Anthony Wayne and the New Nation," by Glen Tucker, Stackpole Books, 1973.
"Anthony Wayne: Washington's General," by Adele DeLeeuw, Westminster Press, 1974.
"Wayne - Ohio's Wilderness Warrior," by Norm Isaac, Norm Isaac, 1982.

--Jan. 24, 1994

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