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Gen. 'Mad' Anthony Wayne Day idea stirs mixed feelings

Revolutionary-era Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

By KEVIN KILBANE | The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.) | Published: September 9, 2017

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Tribune News Service)  — Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne appears to have been a destroyer as a general but an honorable treaty negotiator, a member of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma said.

Others describe him as a racist and slave owner, and a man who was failure in civilian life who spent part of his time drinking at bars and, though married, chasing after young women.

The late 1700s-era general for whom Fort Wayne is named jumped back into the headlines this past week when Fort Wayne City Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th District, announced plans to introduce a resolution honoring Wayne by proclaiming July 16 annually as Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne Day in Fort Wayne.

The resolution doesn't appear to be on the agenda for the council's meeting this Tuesday night at Citizens Square.

Arp reportedly cited Wayne's success in leading a nighttime bayonets-only attack on July 16, 1779, against a British Army camp at Stony Point, N.Y., capturing or killing about 600 members of the British force.

Wayne also led the U.S. Army in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 south of Toledo, which led to British withdrawal from this area and resulted in the Miami and other tribes agreeing to give up a portion of their lands, Arp has said.

But there are other sides to Wayne, who already is memorialized in a statue standing in Freimann Square.

George Ironstrack, the assistant director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, said he can't speak for all Miami Tribe of Oklahoma members or for his ancestors, but he can talk about what families say and what he has learned through research.

The Myaamia Center researches and shares the Miami tribe's language, culture and history.

Wayne was one of a few U.S. Army generals who invaded the Miamis' lands, Ironstrack said. His troops typically burned Miami Villages as they went.

After the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Wayne ordered the destruction of Miami corn fields in the area, Ironstrack said. The goal wasn't just military victory but to deprive the villages of the strength to dare to resist in the future.

Ironically, the destruction of the corn meant Wayne's soldiers went hungry, too, Ironstrack said.

Wayne and area Native-American leaders met in summer 1795 in Greenville, Ohio, to negotiate a treaty ending the fighting. Along with land, American leaders wanted recognition as a legitimate nation, Ironstrack said.

Wayne and his lieutenants reportedly treated Native American leaders with respect, he said.

"There was a lot of debate and discussion, and then compromise," he said.

While the tribes gave up land to the U.S. government, they received payment for the land and there was language about the United States and tribes being neighboring nations, Ironstrack said. Miami leaders signed the treaty because they thought it was the best mechanism to live in peace.

Wayne, who was born in 1745 south of Valley Forge, Pa., died in December 1796 at Presque Isle, Pa.

Later treaties forced many of the Miami people to move in 1846 to Kansas and then in 1867 to Oklahoma, where the tribe is based today.

Ironstrack said he's not telling Fort Wayne residents what they should or shouldn't celebrate. But across the country, he sees an "amnesia" about U.S. conquest and believes people need to rethink the history we all share in common.

However, Terry Doran, a local filmmaker and advocate on community and social justice issues, bluntly calls Wayne a racist who invaded people because of their ethnicity. Wayne also owned slaves at a plantation he operated in Georgia after the Revolutionary War, Doran said.

"I don't understand why American people to continue to prop these people up," he said.

The attitude of Wayne and the U.S. government that some people don't deserve to live where they live is a dangerous one that can be turned on any neighborhood or group of people, Doran said.

Along with opposing a Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne Day, Doran wants to see Wayne's statue removed from Freimann Square and the statue of Miami Chief Little Turtle in Headwaters Park moved to a more prominent location.

But Wayne was only enforcing goals set by American leaders in the East, said Alan D. Gaff, a Fort Wayne historian and author of about a dozen books, including one on Wayne -- "Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne's Legion in the Old Northwest."

Wayne was supposed to establish a fort here because it was an important location for trade and because of the portage route southwest of town linking the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River system, Gaff said.

Regarding Native Americans, Gaff said Wayne respected their fighting ability. Rather than charge out here like two previous Army generals and suffer a major defeat, Wayne trained his army for two years before facing the tribes at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. He also treated tribal leaders with respect while negotiating the Treaty of Greenville.

But Wayne struggled outside of the army, Gaff said.

His plantation in Georgia lost money. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1790 but was removed from office after less than two years because of voter fraud, Encyclopaedia Britannica said at www.britannica.com.

Before taking leadership of the U.S. Army to battle Native-American tribes in this area, Gaff said the married Wayne spent much of his time drinking at bars and chasing young women.

"He pretty much was a total failure in civilian life," he said. "But in the army, he rose to every occasion.

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