Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Wayne, Anthony
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

1745–96, American Revolutionary general, b. Chester co., Pa. Impetuous and hot-headed, Wayne was sometimes known as “mad Anthony,” but he was an able general.

Early Career

Not inclined toward academic studies, Wayne became a surveyor in 1763. In 1765 he was engaged to survey the land for, and promote the settlement of, a proposed colony in Nova Scotia, a venture from which he withdrew in 1766. He returned to the business of farming and tanning at Waynesborough, on the farm that his grandfather had established and that he inherited. He represented Chester co. in the Pennsylvania assembly (1774–75), was an agitator against British policies, and was active in preparations to defend the cause of the colonists.

During the American Revolution

When the Continental army was formed, Wayne organized and commanded a regiment from Chester co., and in Jan., 1776, he was commissioned a colonel and given command of the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion. As agent for the Pennsylvania committee of safety, he built defenses for the Delaware River. In the spring of 1776 he covered the retreat of the Americans after their failure in the Quebec campaign. The next winter he spent in command at Fort Ticonderoga.

In 1777 he was commissioned brigadier general and joined George Washington's army at Morristown, N.J. In the battle of Brandywine, Wayne commanded a division at Chadds Ford. Later he was defeated by General Howe's forces at Paoli, Pa.; to silence rumors that the defeat had been caused by his negligence, Wayne requested a court-martial and was acquitted with honor. He fought at Germantown, made successful raids on British supplies for the troops encamped at Valley Forge, and served in the battle of Monmouth. His most famous achievement, however, was his capture of the British outpost at Stony Point, N.Y., by a night attack in July, 1779. He aided General Lafayette in Virginia and participated in the Yorktown campaign. Later he fought successfully against Native Americans in Georgia, and, after Nathanael Greene's army had forced the British evacuation of Charleston, S.C., Wayne occupied the city.

Politics and the Indian Wars

In 1783 he returned to Pennsylvania, and in 1784 he was again elected to represent Chester co. in the general assembly. The following year he returned to Georgia and tried unsuccessfully to work the land which the Georgia assembly had given him in gratitude for his services. In 1791 he was elected to Congress as a representative from Georgia but was unseated because of irregularities in the election and in his residence qualification.

In 1792 he succeeded Arthur St. Clair as commander of the American army in the Northwest Territory. After the failure of peace negotiations with the Native Americans there—which Wayne opposed, feeling that war was inevitable—he decisively defeated (Aug., 1794) them at Fallen Timbers near present Toledo, Ohio. He secured (1795) the Treaty of Greenville with the chiefs of the defeated tribes, who ceded lands in the Northwest Territory. This was the first treaty in which Native American title to lands within the boundaries of the new United States was overtly recognized.

Bibliography
  • Wayne's activities in the Old Northwest are recorded in The Wayne-Knox-Pickering-McHenry Correspondence (ed. by R. C. Knopf, 1960). See also H. B. Dawson, The Assault on Stony Point (1863).
  • De Peyster, J. W., Major General Anthony Wayne (1886).
  • Stillé, C. J., Major General Anthony Wayne and the Pennsylvania Line in the Continental Army (1893, repr. 1968).
  • biographies by T. Boyd (1929), J. H. Preston (1930), H. E. Wildes (1941), and G. Tucker (1973).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Articles


Full text Article Wayne, Anthony (1745–1796)
500 Great Military Leaders

Continental Army officer and later commander of the Legion of the United States. Born in Waynesborough, Chester County, Pennsylvania, of Irish desce

Full text Article Wayne, Anthony
Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Early American Republic, 1783-1812, The: A Political, Social, and Military History

Birth Date: January 1, 1745 Death Date: December 16, 1796 Continental Army officer and commander of the Legion of the United States. Born on January

Full text Article St. Clair, Arthur
Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Early American Republic, 1783-1812, The: A Political, Social, and Military History

Birth Date: March 23, 1734 Death Date: August 31, 1818 Continental Army officer and Northwest Territory governor. Arthur St. Clair was born at Thurs

See more from Credo