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LEGIONVILLE TO GREENVILLE: Wayne's Western Campaign by Kathleen Werner


Milestones Vol 2 No 4--Autumn 1976


There was a brave general called Wayne
Mad Anthony was his name.
His namesake is pleasure
Where you dine at your leisure
And Hoist a few to his fame.

Anyone who has ever seen this sign knows one place in Beaver County where the spirit of a "brave general" lives on -- "Mad Anthony's," a restaurant in Ambridge where one can enjoy good food, wine and song amidst the memory of one of the most colorful figures in American history -- General Anthony Wayne. Unfortunately, however, most residents of this area know very little about General Wayne, and only a few are aware of the crucial role that Beaver Valley played in Wayne's influence on the course of American history. It was at Legionville, in Harmony Township, that Wayne prepared to carry out the mission assigned to him by President George Washington -- the mission that would eventually culminate in the Battle of Fallen Timbers and the Treaty of Greenville, which changed the destiny of the nation.

When Washington chose Wayne in 1792 to lead American troops in the West, he was well aware of Anthony's strong leadership abilities. Wayne had earned a reputation as "one of the Revolutionary War's most striking, romantic and successful generals"--in a class with Lafayette, Greene, and Washington.

Wayne's bravery on the battlefield was indisputable. This country owes some of the most important victories of the Revolution to Wayne's thorough planning and fearless fighting; his strategy of taking the offensive, even when outnumbered. He once told Washington that the outcome of a battle was controlled by "the irresistible impulse of the human heart" as he proved time and time again throughout the Revolutionary War: at Brandywine, Germantown and Valley Forge; with the extraordinary recovery of Georgia from the hands of the British (for which the grateful Georgians gave an 830 acre plantation); and in New Jersey where his leadership impressed Washington so much that, in his report to Congress on the Battle of Monmouth, Washington mentioned but one named Wayne:

"The catalogue of those who distinguished themselves is too long to admit particularising individuals. I cannot, however, forbear mentioning Brigadier-General Wayne, whose good conduct and bravery throughout the whole action deserve particular commendation."

When Wayne returned to Philadelphia after the Battle of Monmouth, groups of townspeople waited at his carriage and crowds of boys surrounded him; and after his famous midnight capture of Stony Point, the most daring exploit of the Revolutionary War, his friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush, told him that for many days, the streets of Philadelphia "rang with nothing but the name of General Wayne. You are remembered constantly next to our good and great Washington over our claret and madeira."

Thus, by end of the War for Independence, Wayne, then only 38 years old, had already achieved a brilliant reputation. According to one of his biographers, "No important strategical movement was undertaken by Washington while Wayne was under his command without consulting him." One historian claims that the Revolutionary War "could not have been won without the shock of battle such as Wayne schooled his men to deliver. It is no wonder, then, that a decade later, when peace in the Ohio Valley seemed hopeless, Washington turned once again to Anthony Wayne.

The Northwest Territory was opened for settlement in 1787 and, since that time, American pioneers had been crossing the Ohio River at the rate of about 10,000 per year and building settlements in the Ohio Valley. The area was the homeland of different Indian tribes including the Shawnee, the Miami and the Delaware. The Indians recognized that once the pioneers started building homes and planting crops the old ways of life would change. Their hunting grounds, their cornfields, their sacred burial grounds would be destroyed under the white man's plow, The Indians began raiding white settlements, causing the settlers to demand protection. The situation was complicated by the British who encouraged the Indians in their hostility.

According to the provisions of the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783, the British were to evacuate their posts in the Northwest, but seven years later they were still there, The area was quite valuable, it offered riches from the fur trade and the British hoped to contain American westward growth. If the American settlers could be kept out of the region, the British could, conceivably, control the entire Northwest Territory and use it as an Indian buffer state or, more likely make the whole region a part of Canada.

Recognizing the potential of the Northwest Territory and fearful of British designs, Washington in 1790 sent an expedition under Josiah Harmar into the Ohio Valley to subdue the Indians and establish American jurisdiction. The poorly trained and ill-equipped army proved to be no match for the Indians led by Little Turtle, a Miami chief. Little Turtle caught Harmar with his forces divided and delivered a humiliating defeat.

in 1791, a second attempt was made to secure the area under the command of General Arthur St. Clair. He made the same, mistake Harmai made, Undeestimating the Indians, and was defeated.

Washington's choice of General Wayne to lead a third expedition met with some opposition in Congress They approved Washington's choice reluctantly because they didn't know Wayne personally and they were afraid that the name "Mad" Anthony Wayne meant that Wayne had a reputation for recklessness. Washington himself believed that Wayne had an over supply of selfconfidence "too open to flattery" as Washington noted, and at times "more active than judicious and cautious," but to characterize the "Gentlemen Rebel" as either crazy or reckless is stretching the truth. Anthony Wayne's carefully planned, well-thoughtout operations were one of the hallmarks of his success. In fact, He was sometimes accused of being overly cautious. The popular legend of "Mad Anthony Wayne" as an impetuous, irrational warrior is a myth. The name originated from one of Wayne's men who was angry because Wayne had confined him to camp jail for being absent from duty. He started calling him "Mad" and the name stuck. So the word, 'mad,' referred to Wayne's temper--not his state of mind. Among his enemies, it was a term of derision, but among many of his men, it became a term of affection.

On March 5, 1792, Congress passed an act that provided for "the protection of the Frontiers of the United States." It completely revamped the "startling inadequate" U. S. Army, which would become known as the Legion of the United States. This is what Wayne inherited when he accepted the commission of Commander-in-Chief of the Legion of the United Statesstill only an army on paper; it was up to Wayne to make it an army on the field. Troops had to be recruited and trained, supplies had to be purchased, military strategy had to be planned -- an arduous task for an aging, battle-scarred civilian who still carried a musket ball in the back of his thigh and who had been away from the battlefields for ten years. But Wayne was never one to doubt his own capabilities or to say "no" to Washington.

In the Spring of 1792, Wayne headed for Pittsburgh where he hoped to recruit troops for his Legion. It would not be easy to get volunteers after the previous defeats. Enough troops reported to Fort Fayette, however, that the nucleus of the Legion was formed. He quickly discovered that Pittsburgh with its many taverns and other distractions was not a suitable place to train an army for war. So in November of 1792, Wayne moved his recruits down the Ohio and built a town of huts in a place which he named "Legionville." From November, 1792 to April, 1793 he transformed this array of inexperienced men and boys into a disciplined army. Some of the men trained by Wayne would later play leading roles in American history. One of the first volunteers to arrive at Legionville was a 19 year old by the name of William Henry Harrison who, 47 years later would become the eighth President of the United States. One of Wayne's young lieutenants, 22 year old William Clark, would be remembered in every American history textbook for the assignment given to him by Thomas Jefferson to explore the newly purchased Louisiana Territory. Zebulon Pike, another noted adventurer who explored the Old Southwest for Jefferson, was about 15 years old when he joined Wayne. The majestic Colorado mountain which he discovered still bears his name - Pike's Peak. The names of the others who fought with Wayne are forgotten, most of them were boys, farmers, drifters, and adventurers. Only a handfull were veterans.

Life and conditions for the men at Legionville were hard. In letters to Secretary of War Henry Knox, Wayne complained repeatedly of inadequate clothing, supplies, and rations for his men. He told Knox that the lack of uniforms was a "disgrace to the service" and, in a letter dated November 23, 1792, Wayne told the Secretary of War that some of his troops were "in an actual state of Nakedness." Some equipment was defective and ammunition was so precious that Wayne reclaimed as much as he could - having his men cut lead out of the trees after each day's practice. In addition to all of these problems, Wayne had still another disadvantage - lack of good officers. General Wilkinson, for example, complained that out of three Majors in the troops under his supervision, "one is so extremely illiterate as scarcely to write his own name; another charged with insanity, and the other a confirmed sot ..."- in Knox's words, "a rather unpleasant picture." Wayne, despite these impediments, forged his untrained recruits into a strong, disciplined army in less than four months.

Through constant drill, strict discipline, and close personal supervision, Wayne succeeded where his predecessors had failed. Infractions of discipline were dealt with severely and drunkenness, the "cardinal crime" as Wayne called it, was severely discouraged. In one of his letters to Knox, Wayne commended his troops on the good marksmanship they demonstrated on St. Patrick's Day and added "... I am happy to inform you that the sons of that saint were perfectly sober and orderly being out of reach of whiskey - which baneful poison is prohibited from entering this camp except as component part of a ration ... When we descend the Ohio, the troops must advance out of reach of any of the settlements in order to keep clear of that ardent poison...."

By the end of April, Wayne was ready to make his move down the Ohio. He set up camp at a place which he called "Hobson's Choice" outside of present day Cincinnati, Ohio, In his first letter to Knox from his new location, Wayne said that "both officers and soldiers have acquired a greater degree of military knowledge in the course of a few months than I ever saw acquired in twice the time by any soldiers during the late War."

During the next few months, the summer of 1793, Wayne was instructed not to make any move which could be interpreted as "an act of aggression" because a Peace Commissionn had been sent from Philadelphia to talk with thee Indians, but the Indians were firm in their desire that the settlers stay south of the Ohio River and the Peace Commission failed. By the end of 1793, Wayne's Legion was at Greenville, Ohio, where they erected Fort Recovery on the site of St. Clair's defeat. The Indian scouts, meanwhile, led by the great Tecumseh, were busy observing Wayne's cautious advance. The Shawnee Indian Chief Blue Jacket called Wayne "the Blacksnake" because of the way he smoothly coiled ahead. Blue Jacket was for war to the finish, but a decision made by Little Turtle, the Miami Chief who would lead the battle, had different advice for his braves. Little Turtle was considered "the most astute chief in the Northwest." He had led the Indians in two glorious victories over the soldiers, but this time, he was asking the Indians not to fight. The explanation for this decision has been recorded in one of Wayne's biographies:

During a raid into Kentucky, Little Turtle had captured a 12-year old white boy by the name of William Wells. He adopted and raised Wells who later married Little Turtle's daughter. Well's knowledge of the white man's ways did much to help Little Turtle deliver such crushing defeats to Harmar and St. Clair, but after St. Clair's massacre, Wells started thinking about the slaughter of St. Clair's men and the thought occurred to him that he was fighting his own people and that some that he killed might even have been his own blood and kin. He asked Little Turtle, to whom he had become strongly attached, to go with him to the 'Big Elm' - a council tree two miles east of present Fort Wayne, Indiana. There he poured out his heart to his foster father saying that it was now time that he left the tribe and returned to his native people. Wells pointed to the sky and told Little Turtle that he and the chief would be friends until the sun reached that position, and thenceforth they would be enemies. If Little Turtle wished to kill him thereafter, he had that privilege... Little Turtle watched the younger man, of whom he had grown immensely fond, cross over the Maumee River and disappear into the forest. The unfathomable old chief shed no tears but his emotions were deeply stirred - so deeply that he never again lifted his hand against the Long Knives.

Wells thus defected to the enemy. Wayne believed his story and made him chief scout - "Captain of the Spies" as he was called. His defection was a serious loss for the Indians because of its effect on Little Turtle. On August 19, 1794, the Indian tribes held a council. The chiefs of the major Northwestern tribes all spoke: the Delaware, Miami, Shawnee, Ottowa, Wyandot chiefs and representatives of the Potowatomi and Chippewa Indians. Little Turtle, of course, was expected to lead the coming battle, but when he rose to speak, it was not to demand war but to call for peace:

We have beaten the enemy twice under different commanders. We cannot expect the same good fortune to attend us always. The Americans are now led by a chief who never sleeps. The nights and days are alike to him, and during all the time he has been marching on our villages, notwithstanding the watchfulness of our young men, we have never been able to surprise him. Think well of it. There is something whispers (to) me, it would be prudent to listen to his offer of peace.

Little Turtle's advice, of course, was denounced by the other chiefs. Blue Jacket called him a coward to his face. On August 14th, Wayne, mindful of Washington's desire to avoid war, made one last attempt to achieve peace with the Indians. He warned the Indians not to be "led astray" by the British - "the bad white men at the foot of the rapids," but the British had apparently convinced the Indians that, in the event of a battle, they would help the Indians fight the American soldiers. On August 18th, Wayne moved cautiously toward Indian territory, seven miles from British Fort Miami where the Indians were counting on the help of the 450 British soldiers under Major William Campbell. At this point, war seemed inevitable. On August 20th, 1794, a 2,000 man Indian force led by Chief Blue Jacket met General Wayne and his 3,000 man force along a riverbank in northwest Ohio. A tornado had ripped through the area and left the ground covered with the trunks of huge fallen trees. The Indians gathered behind this natural defense barrier - hence the name - the Battle of "Fallen Timbers." The Indians put up a courageous fight, but they were now dealing with an enemy who fully respected their fighting capabilities.

Wayne and his men thus constituted a formidable enemy. The Indians were driven from the battlefield within a half hour with Wayne's Legion following them. They headed for British Fort Miami, but the gates were barred. They pounded in vain on the gates of the British fort, but Major Campbell refused to open them. The proud Tecumseh, the last warrior to leave the battlefield, would never forget or forgive the British for locking the Indians out of "our father's fort."

Thus, a firm peace finally came to the Northwest. The bloody wars of the Ohio Valley were over and the U. S. conquered the British challenge to her authority over what is now the American Midwest. The Indians signed the Treaty of Greenville on August 3, 1795 which, in addition to bringing peace to the Northwest, also ended Pennsylvania's Indian wars. The British withdrew from Fort Miami, and America reaffirmed her credibility as an independent nation.

Kathleen Werner, a native of Freedom, teaches English and History at the Community College of Beaver County; a good combination that has produced this well-researched article on Beaver County's unsung hero.