Today, July 16, 1779: General ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne Earns His Nickname

General ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne was a noted Revolutionary War general and member of the US House of Representatives. There are two accounts of how Wayne earned his nickname ‘Mad,’

Anthony Wayne was born January 1, 1745 to land owners in Chester County, Pennsylvania. His father’s land where Anthony was born eventually became Waynesboro.

He was well educated and trained as a surveyor. He spent a year in Canada, surveying the lands for a Pennsylvania real estate company. Upon returning home, he spent about a year working with his father in a family tannery until the death of his father. In 1775, he served in the Pennsylvania legislature.

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When the Revolutionary War broke out, Wayne helped in recruiting a number of local men to form a regiment from Pennsylvania. He joined the regiment was able to procure a commission as a colonel of the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment, having no military experience or training.

Wayne’s early military career was highlighted by his command of the rear guard during the Patriot retreat from Canada to Fort Ticonderoga. He later saw action in the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown, both of which his regiment was forced to retreat under fire from the British.

Within two years, Wayne was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

One of the accounts of how Wayne got the nickname ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne revolves around an incidence in 1781 when one of his soldiers was arrested and jailed for disorderly conduct. The soldier asked for General Wayne to intercede for him, but Wayne refused and ordered the soldier to be publicly flogged. Supposedly, the soldier reacted by saying that the general was indeed mad. This may or may not have happened, but most accounts credit Wayne’s nickname as being earned by his military actions in 1779.

By mid-1779, the British had taken Stony Point, New York, a rocky outcrop on the banks of the Hudson River about 12 miles down from West Point, which at the time was a major patriot fort.

By this time, General Wayne and his Pennsylvania Regiment had joined with General George Washington. British Lieutenant General Sit Henry Clinton controlled Stony Point and tried to flush Washington out into the open so as to capture or finally defeat him, so he sent 8,000 British troops up the Hudson River towards West Point.

Washington ordered Wayne to take his troops and try to recapture Stony Point, which most thought was a mission doomed to failure before it began.

On this day, July 16, 1779, Wayne and his men had managed to approach Stony Point. Under the cover of darkness and bayonets fixed, Wayne’s troops stormed the British, catching them completely by surprise. After only half an hour of fighting and without firing a single shot, Wayne’s troops had seized total control of the Stony Point outpost. Wayne suffered a fairly severe scalp wound from which he recovered. Wayne’s forces only suffered 15 dead and 83 wounded while he inflicted casualties amounting to around 94 dead and wounded. Wayne also captured nearly 500 British troops.

Congress awarded Wayne a gold medal for his victory at Stony Point. Allegedly, he was given the moniker ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne for his unorthodox military tactics in defeating the British at Stony Point.

After the war, Wayne was tasked to negotiate with the Creek and Cherokee Indian tribes in Georgia. His success resulted in Georgia gaining a great deal of land and Wayne was rewarded by Georgia with a plantation of his own. He went on to serve as a Representative from Georgia in the US House of Representatives.


Sources for the above includes: American Revolution: Major General Anthony Wayne; General Anthony Wayne; Anthony Wayne; The Nicknaming of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne; Anthony Wayne Earns Nickname; Was Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne Really Mad?; Anthony Wayne: United States General; Anthony Wayne Biography; “Mad” Anthony Wayne


Dave Jolly

R.L. David Jolly holds a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and an M.S. in Biology – Population Genetics. He has worked in a number of fields, giving him a broad perspective on life, business, economics and politics. He is a very conservative Christian, husband, father and grandfather who cares deeply for his Savior, family and the future of our troubled nation.

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