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Friday, May 28, 2021

A Ghost Story for Memorial Day

This weekend into Monday is the start of a return to what had been, pre-Covid, the "normal" of a holiday with a complex history.  Memorial Day was called "Decoration Day" by my mother, even though that name began to disappear after World I.  (She surely heard it from the adults around her.)  Much of our nation's movement to a Memorial Day for putting flowers and flags on the graves of our military dead began after our Civil War, but even after the War of 1812 the Wikipedia link includes footnote 9 about:

In 1817, for example, a writer in the Analectic Magazine of Philadelphia urged the decoration of patriot's graves. E.J., "The Soldier's Grave," in The Analectic Magazine (1817), Vol. 10, 264.

Personally I consider such memorializing likely happened throughout history.  The tendency however to make it the unofficial start of summer, complete with the Indianapolis 500 race, sales, and other "revelry" was complained about as early as 1913 by an elderly veteran of the Civil War, saying young people had a "tendency ... to forget the purpose of Memorial Day and make it a day for games, races, and revelry, instead of a day of memory and tears".   When it was one of three holidays changed to three-day weekends (along with Washington's Birthday and Labor Day) it proved the old soldier correct.  Here in the nearby village there would normally be a parade, time with speeches at the main cemetery, and assorted other events that have once again been canceled even as some places are trying it once again.

Last week I mentioned the start of research on a woman named Sarah Matthews Reed Osborn Benjamin, sometimes called "the heroine of Yorktown." In the process I began to realize how many names I was running into from her final home in Pennsylvania were familiar here.  Yes, many settled here in what was still the "Northwest Territory", but it was much more than that.

18th century print by Trumbull & Forest
Again and again the name of "Mad" Anthony Wayne popped up.  He was mainly a Pennsylvanian, so why do so many places in this area have his name?  (Yes, and what's this about a ghost?)  

Mention of there being a ghost of Wayne sent me prowling up and down through what felt at times like the dustiest of Wikipedia articles related to Wayne and the Great Lakes region.  Links abound for your prowling as much as you like.  Some of it provides background for his story.  When you get into the life of a general, some of it depends on your own level of interest.  

Be sure catch his story at both the beginning and as he nears his end (pictures appear there).

Before the Revolution Wayne worked at his father's tannery and trained as a surveyor, at times doing both, until involved in the war.  Wikipedia states "his military exploits and fiery personality quickly earned him promotion to brigadier general and the nickname 'Mad Anthony'."  Less favorably some 21st century historians claim it was "due to his angry temperament, specifically during an incident when he severely punished a skilled informant for being drunk." 

After his extensive service, including Yorktown, by war's end he "was promoted to Major General in 1783 but retired from the Continental Army soon after."  This doesn't mean every battle went successfully.  The 1777 Battle of Paoli went so badly an official inquiry ruled "Wayne was not guilty of misconduct but that he had made a tactical error."  If you think Wayne's military service earned him the title of "Mad", this so infuriated him that he insisted on a complete Court Martial.  It ended by unanimously declaring he acted with honor.  His troops made "Remember Paoli" a rallying cry for the battles of Germantown and Stony Point.  Stony Point vindicated Wayne, showing he also learned from the defeat by using the same fast bold nighttime bayonet attack the British used in Paoli.  Washington even gave him the unusual permission to modify the plan as needed.  The 30 minute successful attack was a huge morale booster for the Continental Army.  Prior to it they had undergone a series of military defeats.  It also earned him a Continental Congress victory medal.

After the war he served a year in the Pennsylvania legislature, then left his wife, Mary, and two children in Paoli, Pennsylvania, to move to land in Georgia granted him for his military service.  These were two rice plantations whose running he left to slaves.  If today's rumor media had been around then, it would have had a field day.  During the war he supposedly found time for romance with various women, including a wealthy woman, Mary Vining, in Delaware.  Living without his family in Georgia, Wayne supposedly had a relationship with Catherine Greene, wife of his friend and fellow General, Nathanael Greene.  Greene also was awarded a plantation, Mulberry Grove, outside Savannah.  Their former  friendship was understandably strained.  Greene, however, like Wayne, had no ability to run his plantation.  Before the Revolution Greene had spoken out against slavery, but resorted to slaves running it.  Both men made such poor business decisions it ran them into deep debt.  Greene died and was buried at Mulberry Grove, leaving his estate the unsuccessful fight to save it.  The evaluation of history militarily ranks Greene as second only to Washington.

As if all of that bit of scandal wasn't enough to tarnish Wayne's reputation, politically he changed his initial support of a democracy, instead he later favored the Federalist Party's strong central government ruled by what he called the "aristocratick."  His political efforts gave him a year representing Georgia and voting to ratify the U.S. constitution before it was found his election was fraudulent on the grounds of residency.

In the midst of all this personal and political scandal, President Washington turned to Wayne to command the Legion of the United States, the reorganized Continental Army fighting the Northwest Indian War.  The Revolution supposedly ended with the Treaty of Paris (1783) making the Great Lakes the divider between British and U.S. territory.  British forts, however, were not evacuated as agreed.  British agents further encouraged the Native American confederacy dating back to the French and Indian War of 1754–1763, which had British colonials fighting French colonials for North America and each side having Native American allies.  After the American Revolution the Northwest Territory (made from a bit of western Pennsylvania, all of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the northeastern part of Minnesota), while supposedly part of the new nation was also Native American land.  The Treaty of Paris hadn't included them, so British treaties with their native allies weren't recognized.  The Northwest Territory was opened to settlement, but prohibiting slavery.  This ignored any Native American claims and so the stage for the Northwest Indian War was set.

The names of Pontiac and Tecumseh are familiar in this part of Michigan and bookend the Northwest Indian War with Pontiac's War as a 1763 loose confederation of Native American nations against the British control of the Great Lakes area following the French and Indian War.  Originally the end of Pontiac's War was considered a Native American failure, but more recently is viewed as a military stalemate which by treaty recognized "indigenous people had certain rights to the lands they occupied."  The problem with that has been stated by modern historian Daniel K. Richter as " the war saw the emergence of the novel idea that all Native people were 'Indians,' that all Euro-Americans were 'Whites,' and that all on one side must unite to destroy the other."  Even to this day some debate calls the war anything with Pontiac's name an exaggeration because his involvement was only part of it.  Whether that is correct or not, it looked to further multi-tribal opposition to European colonization.  That attempt at loose confederation stayed in the region with Tecumseh, who took part in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, but didn't participate in the Treaty of Greenville. Tecumseh's fighting went all the way to the War of 1812, with his reputation becoming admired even by those who fought him and lasting far beyond his death.

But what about Anthony Wayne?

Wayne built or rebuilt ten forts in Ohio Country in his campaign from 1792-1795, but there were considerably more.  There were a large number of forts and settlements from 1778-1803 taking the area from Cahokia, Illinois in 1778 to Xenia, Ohio in 1803.  To show how things were changing quickly, Tecumseh was said to have been born in Xenia in the 1760s when it was Shawnee homeland.  By 1803 Ohio was admitted to the Union.  (Don't get me started on talk about how the "Buckeyes" worked against Michigan statehood and the Toledo War!)  Wayne not only saw to fort construction, but the war came to an official end with the Battle of  Fallen Timbers, just outside present-day Toledo.  The many times I've traveled the Anthony Wayne Trail -- usually en route to or from the Toledo Zoo -- I never thought about the battle even though I had heard of the name.  Now I would want to stop at the Fallen Timbers battlefield park.

Prior to the battle and afterwards for fifty miles around it Wayne ordered the destruction of Native American villages and crops.  

One of Anthony Wayne's officers may have painted the treaty negotiations, c. 1795.

This led to the Treaty of Greenville, defining treaty lines for Native territories and payment, including some as annual federal grants.  

This was criticized then and continues today.  Tecumseh led opposition to U.S. expansion onto Native lands.  He stated it gave away land the chiefs who signed didn't own.

Further criticism continuing into the present says the annuities started government influence in tribal affairs.  It is also blamed for the first wave of Indian removal and ultimately genocide.

For his part, after the hard winter for the Indians, Wayne's negotiation gave most of Ohio to the U.S. while he promised the land of "Indiana", the remaining land to the west, to remain Indian forever.  Did he believe that?  Unfortunately Native American history is full of grants supposedly lasting forever.

There's a certain irony that former surveyor, Anthony Wayne, led to major surveying.

Fort Recovery sign photographed by Dana60Cummins

What was then "Wayne County" was carved out of portions of Hamilton County (now Ohio) and unorganized land, with its seat at Detroit, which had been evacuated by the British five weeks previously. Wayne County originally covered all of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, northwestern Ohio, northern Indiana and a small portion of the present Lake Michigan shoreline, including the site of present-day Chicago.

A year later, after the creation of Wayne County (August 15, 1796)  Wayne started back to Pennsylvania.  He got as far as Erie, Pennsylvania, which, of course, had a long history with the Iroquois Confederation, especially the Seneca.  The fort area known as Fort Presque Isle dates back to a French fort during the French and Indian War, later burned by the French.  The British then built a Fort Presque Isle later captured by Pontiac's Rebellion.  By 1795 yet a third with the same name was built, a blockhouse, but it was under U.S.  control..  posted a visit to the reconstructed blockhouse where Wayne died.


After all the action of two wars, including being wounded twice, Wayne's death seems almost trivial.  Heading home he fell ill with what was probably complications from gout and died in a chair.  It was his dying wish to be buried there and he was.  

Photo of St. David's ca. 1907
That should have been the end of it, but 13 years later his family asked to have his bones dug up and transported to the family burial plot 400 miles away in Radnor, Pennsylvania at St. David's Episcopal Church in the Newton Township portion of the graveyard.  His son, Colonel Isaac Wayne, went to collect the bones only to find his father's body hadn't decomposed enough.  It's a bit ironic that Anthony had spent his early years as a tanner with his own father, but now the only way to bring his bones back to the home he had left so long ago he needed to be boiled!  The flesh that remained was again buried at the fort, while Isaac stuffed the bones into his luggage onto a cart.  They kept falling off and later at the Old St. David Church Cemetery it was discovered that not all were there.  It was decided not to travel the road back looking for them. 

The blog, Ghosts of Delaware County, in an article from September 13, 2010 says that the ghost of Anthony Wayne 

every year on General Wayne's Birthday which also happens to be New Year's Day, he rises from his grave and can be seen riding across the state of Pennsylvania back to his original grave in search of his bones. 

I don't know if you'll ever see his ghost, but I'm fairly sure you'll see he's the only one on the site to have two graves.

General Anthony Wayne's second grave site in Radnor, PA

While my blog is covered by copyright, I trust you will feel free to re-tell as much of this ghost story as works for you.  Historians tend to like the details, while an audience probably likes the grisly boiling of the bones and "Mad" Anthony Wayne's hunt for his bones.  It's enough to make any ghost Mad.

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