Passaic County New Jersey

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General Anthony Wayne

Anthony Wayne – for whom Wayne Township is named – was born on New Year’s Day, 1745, at Waynesborough, near Paoli, Pennsylvania. As a youngster, Wayne delighted in playing at war and as he grew older he enjoyed such pastimes as horse racing and pistol shooting. When he was of school age he went to his uncle Gabriel’s academy in nearby Philadelphia but he did not show much interest in books. Eventually, his enthusiasm for the outdoors and flair for mathematics attracted him to the field of surveying.

By inheritance, Wayne was a gentleman farmer and a prosperous tanner; by impulse he was a fighter; by the circumstances of war he became a soldier. Wayne was active in revolutionary movements first as county chairman and then as a provincial assemblyman. On January 4th, 1776, Wayne was appointed Colonel of the 4th Pennsylvania regiment and hurried away to the aid of General Benedict Arnold in Canada.

Brave and fearless in action, Wayne stormed his way through the American Revolution with vigor. His most successful campaign was at Stony Point, New York. Other campaigns included Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Fallen Timbers, Valley Forge, and Paoli. Wayne became one of General Washington’s most respected and trusted Generals.

Strict attention to dress, and the order to his troops that they be clean-shaven, neat, and have their weapons polished earned him the nickname of “Dandy Wayne”. A neighbor known as Jemmy the Rover, because of his frequent desertions from the Army had been arrested. When General Wayne failed to intercede, Jemmy supposedly said, “Anthony is mad. Mad Anthony, that’s what he is. Mad Anthony Wayne”. This nickname stuck with him because of his daring deeds and his fearless attitude.

In the spring of 1780, the thirty-five-year-old Brigadier-General was restless for action and strongly determined not to let the summer go by without a strike at the enemy. On July 19th Wayne submitted a three-fold proposal to General Washington at his headquarters in the Dey Mansion. Washington greatly respected Wayne’s initiative and judgment and together they carefully studied every detail of the plan.

First, the venture to the banks of the Hudson would serve as a foraging expedition to help feed the hungry Continentals. Second, would be the capture of an enemy blockhouse constructed as a shelter for woodcutters obtaining fuel for the British army. These two objectives, however, were subordinate to Wayne’s real strategy. By the noise and smoke of the attack on the blockhouse, he hoped to draw British reinforcements across the Hudson to one of the landing spots where regiments of Continentals were carefully hidden and prepared to sweep the enemy off the precarious rocky landing perches.

On July 20th word was sent from Washington’s Headquarters at the Dey Mansion to General Wayne’s headquarters. The message stated that General Wayne should proceed with the proposed plan and the troops were to take up the line of march towards the palisades blockhouse.

On the morning of July 21st, after careful reconnaissance and positioning his troops, the raid began. Wayne’s enthusiasm was short-lived as he gradually realized that his artillery was having little effect on the blockhouse. However, the din from the Jersey shore apparently had spurred the British in Manhattan to action, for small boats were beginning to assemble on the opposite side of the river. Simultaneously, reports from other observers told of several vessels proceeding upriver from New York City.

Wayne and his aides raced north along the Palisades to where they could observe British movements. From a vantage point, they saw the transports suddenly stop and turn about in midstream, as though sensing danger. Wayne’s heart was heavy as they sailed back to the New York side. His entire plan had collapsed and the Americans had nothing to show for their all-out effort but some captured livestock. While supplies for a hungry army were not to be passed off lightly, this was poor compensation for the lives of gallant men which had been sacrificed.

This expedition was the subject of a satirical poem by a young British officer, Major John Andre who was later captured in Tarrytown with plans for the capture of West Point, given him by the traitorous Benedict Arnold. The same day that the third canto of Major Andre’s poem was published was the day that Andre was captured as he was heading back to New York after meeting with Arnold.


The poem was entitled “The Cow Chase” and the last stanza read as follows:

“And now I’ve closed my epic strain,
I tremble as I show it,
Lest this same warrior-drover, Wayne,
Should ever catch the poet.”
At the end of Andre’s copy there now appears written in a neat hand the following stanza:
“When the epic strain was sung,
The poet by the neck was hung,
And to his cost his finds too late

The “dung born” tribe decides his fate.”

Ironically the commander of the 1300 man guard at Andre’s execution was General Anthony Wayne.

This biography was published in “A Wondrously Beautiful Valley” A Commemorative History of Wayne, New Jersey by Robert M. Brubaker, Anne Brubaker Burns, and Gratia Mahony. Copyright by Wayne Township Historical Commission 1976 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.