Today we kick off a new series of blog posts by Allen County Historian and History Center board member Tom Castaldi. Through the generosity of Fort Wayne Monthly, we will be bringing to you Tom's columns originally published in the magazine under the heading "Along the Heritage Trail". This first column originally appeared in the September/October 2003 issue.
by Tom Castaldi
In the early 1790s, the United States Army suffered two serious defeats at the hands of American Indians under the leadership of Little Turtle, war chief of the Miami nation. In response, President George Washington sent Revolutionary War hero Major General “Mad” Anthony Wayne into the western frontier. He had earned the nickname “Mad” for his reckless daring in a spectacular attack on the British at Stoney Point, N.Y., during the Revolutionary War.
Anthony Wayne was born January 1, 1745, in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, in Chester County near Philadelphia. When the Revolutionary War erupted in 1775, Wayne was quick to join the American Army and was named colonel by the Continental Congress with the command of a Pennsylvania Regiment, which he led in the invasion of Canada in 1776.
After Valley Forge, in the spring of 1778, Wayne played a significant role at the Battle of Monmouth. Because he frequently could be found with his men herding stolen British cattle to the Americans, he was given the derogatory nickname “Drover” Wayne by the annoyed enemy. His own men, on the other hand, often called him “Dandy” Wayne because he was so particular about the correctness of his uniform. Wayne continued to be active in the last years of the Revolutionary War particularly in the southern campaigns and was present at the British surrender at Yorktown.
After the war, Wayne retired to the life of a gentleman farmer in Pennsylvania where he helped draft the state’s first constitution. Never a man to sit still for very long, Wayne became involved in a scandalous relationship with a Miss Vineing, to the extreme annoyance of his wife, Mary Penrose, and to the absolute delight of gossip-hungry circles in the eastern cities. Such affairs did not tarnish the great general’s reputation as a soldier. He was called back into service by President Washington to lead a campaign against the American Indians of the Ohio Country in 1792 in the wake of the disastrous losses suffered by generals Harmar and St. Clair in battles against Chief Little Turtle in 1790 and 1791.
A stern disciplinarian, Wayne rigorously trained his troops before he took his “Legion of the United States” into Miami Territory in 1794. At the site of St. Clair’s disaster three years earlier, Wayne’s men came upon the remains of hundreds of fallen men and women, now scattered about the old battlefield. Their bones were gathered up and placed in a mass tomb, and another fort – Fort Recovery - was built. In the midst of the construction the Indians under the leadership of Shawnee brave Blue Jacket attacked, but after a sharp battle on July 2, 1794, the natives retreated toward the Maumee River to the north. Wayne’s forces then pursued the Indians and built Fort Defiance before meeting and again defeating Blue Jacket, this time at the battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794.
Wayne next moved his “Legion” up the Maumee River to the large American Indian settlement of Kekionga, at the confluence of three rivers. He chose a site across the Maumee River from Kekionga to build the first American fort and then handed over command to Colonel John Hamtramck. On October 22, 1794, the fourth anniversary of the defeat of the United States at the Battle of Kekionga, Hamtramck called together a parade of the garrison, fired 15 rounds of cannon (in honor of each of the 15 states of the Union), and formally announced that this place was hence forth to be called Fort Wayne.
Anthony Wayne left Fort Wayne four days later, never to return. After inspecting other U.S. garrisons and successfully negotiating the Treaty of Greenville with the American Indians in the region in 1795, Wayne returned to Erie, Penn., where he died in 1796.