Hero of Stony Point - James Barnes

The Great Snow Fight

It was a very early winter—that of 1759—one long remembered for the depth of the snow fall that by the end of November covered the hills. Back at Gilbert Wayne's school were the same boys grown a little taller and heavier. One of them had changed in more than appearance. From the very first lesson of the term Anthony Wayne had shown that he had every intention of carrying out his promise to his father, So marked was this improvement that before a month had gone by Isaac Wayne had been informed that there was no fear of his son's ability to learn; the boy's ambitions had been awakened, To remain on a farm and to do the physical drudgery and to undergo the actual hardships of the pioneer farmer, was something that Anthony did not care to look forward to. He would have jumped at the opportunity to enter the Army or Navy, but very few of the sons of the Colonists at that time entered the service of the mother country, and of either Army or Navy in the proper sense the Colonies possessed none. Anthony was working toward a definite ambition, for without saying anything to anybody he had chosen his profession. There was plenty of employment for civil engineers, for the country was in a slow process of development and an engineer who had besides his technical skill a reputation for good judgment and integrity was sure of both honorable and remunerative employment. The life, also, was in the open and had in it the element of adventure. And this possibly influenced young Wayne as much as anything else in making his choice. But before he left his Uncle Gilbert he had a splendid opportunity to prove that he did, undoubtedly, possess the gift of leadership.

In the middle of the winter the only other school in Chester was disbanded on account of the sudden death of the schoolmaster. And Gilbert Wayne found the numbers of his scholars exactly doubled. He was forced to take on an assistant to aid him in his teaching.

The new boys, of course, held together and brought with them the reflex of their previous companionship. Gilbert's scholars, of which young Wayne was now the leader, naturally held together also, and the result was many clashes; even the discipline of the classroom hardly prevented them at the outset from showing this feeling of antagonism. In front of the old schoolhouse the boys had built a large snow fort, and on coming to school one morning, the followers of the Gray Fox discovered that by some preconcerted arrangement the new boys held possession. They had laid in a large supply of snowballs soaked well in water, and hard as ice could freeze. Every attempt of the late corners to approach the school was with volleys of these missiles. When Anthony Wayne arrived he found his companions holding back at the edge of the little clearing. Quickly he surveyed the geld, and retiring out of sight into the pine trees, laid out his plan of battle. There was a slight hill behind the schoolhouse and half way up a shed containing an old ox sleigh. A brilliant idea had crossed the young leader's mind. Dividing his forces, he directed Iddings to lead five boys by a circuitous route over the top of the hill and take possession of the ox wagon. It was his intention that they should come coasting down upon the rear of the snow fort, while Anthony and his little handful kept up a constant bombardment from the front, and thus claim the enemy's attention. It required some courage to face the hard frozen ice balls while replying merely with those made of the soft new-packed snow. Nevertheless, despite bruises, and in fact, much bodily discomfort, the attacking party held their ground.

Anthony Wayne


Suddenly, there was a shoat; down the hill came the ox wagon, steered by Iddings, and with such impetus did it strike the snow fort that it plowed through the wall, and for an instant it appeared to the astonished schoolmaster as if there would be real casualties instead of only a few bruised elbows and blackened eyes. As the ox wagon struck the rampart, Anthony led his own men forward and the battle was now one of actual conflict with hands and fists. It was interrupted by the appearance of Gilbert Wayne and his assistant, who had some work to tear the antagonists apart.

Being a man of peace, as he claimed, Gilbert Wayne was also a man of justice, and although be formally declared the action a draw, he subsequently drew Anthony to one side and gave him a private decision that undoubtedly if they had been left to fight it out his own old boys would have proved the victors.

Perhaps this little burst of confidence brought the schoolmaster and his pupil closer together than before. But it could not have been that newly awakened friendship that stirred Anthony entirely. Back in his mind was his promise to his father and a growing determination to put into his hand a letter that would entirely erase the one which his father had given him, some months before.

So well did he hold to this idea and so faithfully did he keep to his tasks that at the end of that school year he had made such progress that Gilbert Wayne wrote the following letter to his brother Isaac:

"Anthony has so greatly improved in his attention to duty, his scholarship and deportment, that I cannot speak of him in too high praise. His advancement has been so rapid daring the past year that he has learned all that I can teach him, and I recommend that he be sent to an Academy where he may follow any natural bent he may possess."

This letter, which was the second one of its character that Gilbert Wayne had written, Anthony handed to his father in the little front office of the old stone house. And then and there he told of his ambition to take up the calling of a surveyor and civil engineer. At the Philadelphia Academy, to which he was sent, Anthony kept up the good record, and at the early age of eighteen was fully competent to take up the work of setting boundary lines, running levels, and the use of the surveyor's compass. Plenty of opportunity came to him—he was always accurate and always just. His figures and his maps might have been worked out and made by a man of many years' experience. In 1765, when only twenty years of age, he was selected by the directors of a company that had on its lists many of the best known names in Pennsylvania, including, by the way, that of Benjamin Franklin, to go to Nova Scotia and to survey a large grant of land that had been given the company by the Crown, and upon which it was proposed to found a large settlement and farming community. He was absent quite a year and his maps and reports were spoken of as models of good workmanship, while his advice and judgment were listened to by his elders and followed out to the letter. He was now established and completely independent and, as was the way of young men in those days who were self-supporting, he looked for someone else to support also. And as soon as he came of age, in 1766, he hied himself to Philadelphia, and after a swift and victorious campaign so completely won the affections of the beautiful daughter of Bartholomew Penrose, that she capitulated after a siege of seven days and was married also in what was then almost record time. But Anthony Wayne was one of those impetuous spirits with whom decision spelt action, and as he had begun to take himself very seriously, and his whole life was felled with serious things and problems of great moment, not only to himself but to his country, it is time perhaps that we take up his life more seriously, also. No man, perhaps, has been more misjudged than the hero of Stony Point. The nickname of "Mad Anthony" hardly describes him, although it has been taken by many casual readers of history to describe his character.