Celebrating ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne
FORT WAYNE IS the most politically incorrect of places. The gasoline pump and television were invented there. It is named after a killer of Native Americans.
Yet, a handsome statue of Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne on horseback stands defiantly in the city’s downtown park — unmolested so far. And this Friday, July 15 each year, the city honors its namesake, however ignoble he is thought to be.
The celebration will be modest, Polite company doesn’t defend General Wayne anymore. Several years ago a New York Times reporter, a Pulitzer Prize winner no less, came to town to cover the celebration. He seemed intent on profiling its organizers as racist bumpkins. His story was published without actually finding any racists and only a few bumpkins. Most of us just kept out of quoting range.
But this is the pattern. The general is to be denigrated one way or another. We are told that he drank too much. He may have pinched a serving wench or two. His finances were a mess. At the Battle of Fallen Timbers he is said to have shouted the order, “Bayonet the damned rascals!”
Disrespectful, to be sure, but what is most unforgivable about Mad Anthony is his victory. The general, in an hour-long battle, made it clear that even a confederation of 1,500 warriors from the most powerful tribes, all in alliance with the always treacherous British, could never defeat the white devils.
Anthony Wayne, serving wenches aside, knew his warfare. He got his nickname not for an emotional disposition but for courage in battle. Using classic military tactics dating back to the Roman legion, he outsmarted and outfought the native chiefs. It was the first victory of the nascent U.S. Army.
This, historians agree, was pivotal. A peace treaty was signed. The northwest was opened to settlement, for better or worse. A handful of U.S. soldiers and only 40 Native Americans had died, numbers that must be compared with the thousands who would have fallen had the war continued. Only three years earlier a force led by the same tribal chiefs had massacred and tortured an ineptly led U.S. expeditionary force of 1,000 soldiers, including the accompanying wives and children.
Please know the opprobrium surrounding Mad Anthony has little to do with the man himself. Those offended by his day see it only as a symbol of the sin of this nation’s founding. In their minds the general stands in damning contrast to a romanticized Native American who, it must never be said, drove off, massacred or enslaved the previous “native” Americans who massacred those before that, and so on back. Ridiculous.
Nonetheless, Mad Anthony Wayne Day is unlikely to last. The statue will be removed or melted down (save the horse). The consensus among the elite is that the man, once a national hero, is now a civic embarrassment.
But the consensus is wrong. The historian Gordon Wood is right that we have raised a generation without balance or perspective. He says that if the young are taught that “racism is and always was the dominant ideology” then we cannot be surprised that as adults they live in self-loathing and despair.
Is this how nations end, convinced they are unworthy of their own existence?
If so, Mad Anthony Day should be designated a national day of prayer, the more fervent the better. — tcl