Tribute to General Anthony Wayne

Centennial Courtyard on the Gullen and Reuther Malls on the campus of
Wayne State University near Detroit’s Cultural Center Historic District

Anthony Wayne was born in Chester County Pennsylvania near Valley Forge in 1745. He displayed mathematical abilities, so was trained as a surveyor. In 1865, Benjamin Franklin sent him to Nova Scotia to survey land Franklin had purchased and to assess its resources. Subsequently, Wayne framed, ran a tannery and surveyed in what are now the suburbs of Philadelphia. When the Revolutionary War began, Wayne raised a regiment and rose to the rank of Brigadier General by 1777. He led troops on many fronts throughout the long war, including the unsuccessful campaign in Quebec. After the defeat of the British in tidewater Virginia, Washington dispatched Wayne to move the Tories out of South Carolina and Georgia. He did so and, in appreciation, Georgians gave him a plantation.

The Treaty of Paris in 1783 ended the Revolutionary War and granted independence to the new country. The treaty included specific language about the northern and western boundaries of the United States, but the British refused to evacuate their forts on land the United States thought was theirs, including Fort Miami—now Toledo—and Fort Lernout in Detroit. The US government assumed the Great Lakes formed the northern border and the Mississippi the western. Before the Revolution, the British tried to keep Europeans to the east of the Appalachians but after the war, large numbers of American settled in what as then known as the Northwest Territories and now known as the Midwest. Indians disputed the British and American claims to the Midwest and often tried to kill or expel settlers.

In 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Territories Act which clearly asserted US control of the Midwest. The British and Indians did not budge. As more Americans crossed the Allegheny Mountains, they demanded that the new government protect them. President Washington hesitated for some time but then decided he needed to use military force to make certain that the Midwest really was part of the United States.

Washington appointed Brigadier General Josiah Harmar to command a force that would conquer the Indians who held much of Ohio, Indiana and the upper Midwest. In the summer of 1790, Harmar assembled a force of almost 1,500 from the regular army and militia men from Kentucky and Pennsylvania. He camped at Fort Washington ( Cincinnati) and then moved north toward the Scioto and Maumee Rivers, but was routed by united tribes of Indians led by Michikinikwa.

Congress, in 1787, had appointed Arthur St. Clair—another Revolutionary War general—to be governor of the Northwest Territories. Realizing that the defeat of General Harmar's forces meant that Indians and their British allies controlled the land he was supposed to govern, he amassed troops for battles in the summer of 1791. President Washington apparently had doubts about his leadership abilities and urged caution. St. Clair, however, put together a much larger force than General Harmar had and decided to attack the Indians. He too was soundly defeated in Ohio by united tribes led Michikinikwa in October, 1792. Indeed, St. Clair lost about 700 troops along with 60 wives who were accompanying their husbands, while fewer than 100 Indians were killed in this battle. This was a major defeat for the United States. St. Clair resigned in disgrace.

President Washington turned to Anthony Wayne to exert US authority. Wayne assembled a larger US force near Cincinnati and intended to march north in the summer of 1793, but small pox and influenza decimated his forces. He realized that if the tribes united, they could put many more fighters on the battle field than he could, but he concluded that the Indians could not readily maintain their supply lines. He wintered over at a fort he built about 80 miles north of Cincinnati, Fort Greenville, and planned a major campaign in the summer of 1794. Learning from the mistakes of his dismal predecessors, he gradually marched north, establishing forts such as Fort Defiance on the Maumee, while burning Indian villages and destroying their crops. He moved into the center of the land in western Ohio held by the Shawnee, Miami, Delaware, Ottawa and Ojibwa. In the mean time, representatives of Washington tried to split the unified tribes that had defeated American forces. By 1793, the Wabash tribes—the Kickapoo, the Peoria, the Piankashaw and Wea—quit the coalition, as did the Fox and the Sauk. The strength of Wayne's forces and their effective attacks upon the supplies the Indians needed led Michikinikwa to quit fighting until he obtained munitions and support from the British. But by 1793, Britain and the United States had negotiated the Jay Treaty, a peace agreement intended to prevent a resumption of the Revolutionary War. British support for the Indians waned.

General Anthony Wayne led his forces into the decisive Battle of Fallen Timbers—near Toledo—on August 20, 1794. The Indians, led this time by Weyapiersenwah, were defeated. General Wayne forced the Indians to come to Greenville, Ohio where they signed a peace treaty on August 3, 1795. While some Indian land claims were recognized by the US government, the Indians lost most of the area that had been fought over in the last few years. Indian resistance was, by no means over, since Tecumseh led briefly unified tribes who attacked settlers and US forces early in the next century.

If the forces of General Wayne had been defeated by the Indians, it is likely that the British would have continued their challenge to US sovereignty, as they did in the War of 1812. However, Wayne's victory at Fallen Timbers led the British to surrender their Midwestern forts. In July, 1796, Jean Francois Hamtramck representing the United State government and General Wayne's forces marched into Detroit and peacefully took possession of the city. General Wayne came to Detroit and lived there briefly.

General Wayne died in Pennsylvania shortly after leaving Detroit, so the nation had little time to apotheosize his important contribution to the fragile and greatly challenged young nation. His accomplishments are memorialized in the names of counties in twelve states and by Wayne State University. When war with Britain again seemed likely in the mid-1840, Congress had Montgomery Meigs design the huge fort now located on West Jefferson that was intended to thwart an invasion of the Midwest from Canada. Appropriately, this still carries Anthony Wayne's name.

From 1790 to 1890, the US Army sought to confine Indians to reservations so that European and Africans could peacefully settle this country. General Wayne was the first successful US commander to win a reputation for soundly defeating Indians. He also helped to develop an effective strategy for controlling and removing Indians, a strategy that was followed in Michigan, Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. Forts were established in lands controlled by Indians. Then, during summers, American troops stationed at those forts attacked Indians, destroyed their settlements and crops until they were willing to sign a peace treaty. Flint and Saginaw in Michigan and Fort Wayne in Indiana are locations of such military forts.

Sergio DeGiusti was born in Italy in 1941 and came to Detroit thirteen years later. He completed his education at Wayne State in 1968. He now lives in suburban Detroit and has produced many relief pieces cast in bronze similar to the one you see.

Sculptor: Sergio DeGiusti
Materials: Granite, marble and bronze
Date of erection: 1969

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