I’ve been worried about the statue of Gen. Anthony Wayne at Freimann Square. I hear bad things about the general from time to time, and with all the statues of Confederate military men being torn down, I’ve been wondering if Mad Anthony Wayne could face a similar fate.
This week City Councilman Jason Arp announced he is working on a resolution to proclaim each July 16 as “Mad Anthony Wayne Day” to honor the achievements of the man who in 1794 erected the fort that later bore his name and eventually became the name of our fair city. Arp said Wayne earned the nickname “‘Mad Anthony” for successfully leading the bayonets-only night attack on the British camp at Stony Point in New York on July 16, 1779.
Statues commemorating Confederates have been coming down because they are said to represent racism, according to protesters. Now other historic figures such as Christopher Columbus are suddenly being targeted. There are those who consider Columbus Day, as Chrissie Castro of the Los Angeles Native American Indian Commission put it, “a state-sponsored celebration of genocide of indigenous people.”
A similar accusation came from local filmmaker Terry Doran in a 2016 News-Sentinel guest column that Fort Wayne should ban not only Wayne’s statue but his very name, since “his main claim to fame is taking part in the worst genocide the world has ever seen.”
Many Native Americans in the Northwest Territory had sided with the British in the Revolutionary War. After the war the British ceded the land to the United States, but the Native Americans resisted the annexation. Thus occurred the Northwest Indian War in which the Western Indian Confederacy scored major victories over U.S. forces in 1790 and 1791 under Blue Jacket of the Shawnees and Little Turtle of the Miamis. The British continued to offer them support and supplies.
So President George Washington recalled the much-decorated Gen. Wayne from civilian life to lead an expedition in the Northwest Indian War.
Wayne is best known in northeast Indiana for defeating the British-led forces under Blue Jacket at the Battle of Fallen Timbers along the Maumee River on Aug. 20, 1794. His victory allowed the establishment of Fort Recovery and Fort Wayne and helped secure a treaty with the British that promised withdrawal from the frontier forts and a treaty with Chief Little Turtle securing most of what is now Ohio for settlement.
We know Wayne’s troops won the battle and then destroyed the Native American villages and crops before retreating. That and the general’s only recorded words from the battlefield being “Bayonet the devils” puts Wayne, in some eyes, in the company of Adolph Hitler.
Wayne had been a lauded commander in helping win the Revolutionary War. It was Washington who commissioned him to lead the campaign against the British-backed Native Americans. So will Washington statues will be in jeopardy, too?
Kerry Hubartt is editor of The News-Sentinel.