Waynesboro Heritage Museum | 420 W. Main St., Waynesboro, Virginia 22980 | Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Phone: (540) 943-3943

General Anthony Wayne

General Anthony Wayne and his family estate of Waynesborough in Chester County, Pennsylvania are synonymous in acquiring our namesake. In tribute, the General Wayne Hotel was erected and was host to many important figures – General and Mrs. Dwight Eisenhower, political dignataries

General Anthony Wayne was a United States Army officer and statesman and worthy of our town being named after him. His accomplishments are listed hereafter:

At the onset of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), Wayne raised a militia unit and, in 1776, became colonel of the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment. He and his regiment were part of the Continental Army’s unsuccessful invasion of Canada where he was sent to aid Benedict Arnold, during which he commanded a successful rear-guard action at the Battle of Trois-Rivières, and then led the distressed forces on Lake Champlain at Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence. His service resulted in a promotion to brigadier general on February 21, 1777.

General Anthony WayneLater, he commanded the Pennsylvania Line at Brandywine, Paoli, and Germantown. After winter quarters at Valley Forge, he led the American attack at the Battle of Monmouth. During this last battle, Wayne’s forces were pinned down by a numerically superior British force. However, Wayne held out until relieved by reinforcements sent by Washington. This scenario would play out again years later, in the Southern campaign.
In July 1779 Washington named Wayne to command the Corps of Light Infantry, a temporary unit of four regiments of light infantry companies drawn from all the regiments in the Main Army.

Wayne’s successful attack on British positions at Stony Point, New York in the Battle of Stony Point was the high point of his revolutionary war service. On July 16, 1779, Wayne personally led a bayonets-only night attack lasting thirty minutes, wherein his three columns of light infantry stormed British fortifications at Stony Point, a cliff-side redoubt commanding the southern Hudson River. The success of this operation provided a boost to the morale of an army which had at that time suffered a series of military defeats. The Continental Congress awarded him a medal for the victory.
On July 21, 1780, Washington sent Wayne with two Pennsylvania brigades and four cannons to destroy a blockhouse at Bulls Ferry opposite New York City. In the Battle of Bull’s Ferry, Wayne’s troops were unable to capture the position, suffering 64 casualties, while inflicting only 21 on the loyalist defenders.

On January 1, 1781, Wayne served as commanding officer of the Pennsylvania Line of the Continental Army when pay and condition concerns led to the Pennsylvania Line Mutiny,one of the most serious of the war. Wayne successfully resolved the mutiny by dismissing about one half of the line. Wayne largely returned the Pennsylvania Line to full strength by May 1781, but doing so delayed his departure to Virginia, where he had been sent to assist the Marquis de Lafayette against British forces operating there. The line’s departure was delayed once more when the men again complained about being paid in the nearly worthless Continental currency.

In Virginia, Wayne led Lafayette’s advance forces in an action at Green Spring, where he led a bayonet charge against the numerically superior British forces after stepping into a trap set by Charles Cornwallis. This increased his popular reputation as a bold commander. After the British surrendered at Yorktown, he went further south and severed the British alliance with Native American tribes in Georgia. He then negotiated peace treaties with both the Creek and the Cherokee, for which Georgia rewarded him with the gift of a large rice plantation. He was promoted to major general on October 10, 1783. General Wayne left the army in November of 1783.

In 1784-1785, he returned to Pennsylvania and served in the state legislature. In March, 1792, Wayne was appointed major general and commander in chief of the army under President Washington. He was ordered to put the army to right and take care of the western Indian problem which led to the Battle of Fallen Timbers in August of 1794. By 1795, the threat of Indians was over, settlement accelerated in the Northwest Territory, and Wayne became a champion of our country.

Alas, on December 15, 1796, Wayne died a horrible death at the age of 51 due to a severe gout attack during his return home. He was interred at Presque Isle (now Erie, Pennsylvania) with the adornment of brass tacks in his simple, wooden coffin showing initials, age, and year of death. In 1808, he was re-interred in the family plot of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Radnor, Pennsylvania and in 1881, an appropriate monument was erected over the new gravesite.

P.S. In preparing the body from the first interment for transit to the family plot via a sulky (small, light, two-wheeled buggy), it was decided to dismember the body, boil the flesh from the bones, and remove only the bones. The boiled flesh and medical instruments were then returned to the original grave.

© Waynesboro Heritage Museum | 420 W. Main St., Waynesboro, Virginia 22980
Phone: (540) 943-3943 | Email: info@waynesboroheritagefoundation.com | Virginia.org | Site design by Augusta Free Press LLC