Hero of Stony Point - James Barnes

In the South

Let us go back to the spring of 1780. General Wayne had been ordered to go South with a detachment of the Pennsylvania Line, S00 strong, and join General Nathanael Greene, then commanding the southern department. In his correspondence Wayne gives as his reason for his failure to advance immediately upon receiving orders that "the troops Were retarded in advancing to the general rendezvous (York, Pennsylvania) by the unaccountable delay of the auditors appointed to settle and pay the proportion of the depreciation due the men." The fact is that he was face to face with another mutiny. Later he was delayed by the advance of Cornwallis into Virginia; and so it was not until January 4, 1782, that he and his detachment, consisting of Colonel Butler's, Colonel Walter Stewart's, and Colonel Craig's Battalions of the Pennsylvania Line, and Colonel Gist's Maryland Battalion joined General Greene at Round O, in South Carolina. In the meantime, General Greene had won the battle at Eutaw Springs, by which, quoting from Wayne again," "The British were cooped up in Charleston till the end of the war."

Immediately following the arrival of Wayne at his camp, General Greene sent him to the aid of Georgia, where a most distressing condition of affairs had come about—not so much as the result of the British operations as the culmination of the bitter partisan feelings that had, for a long time, been rampant between the inhabitants of that state. In the bitter, malignant hatred subsisting between the Whigs and Tories, every man's hand was against his brother; in the background was the common enemy—the Indians; slender protection could be procured for life or property, no matter by whom despoiled. Taxes were not to be collected, and so impoverished was the state's exchequer, that, in 1782, the Legislature of the state passed a law authorizing the governor to seize upon the first ten negroes he could find and sell them, the proceeds to go toward the payment of his salary. The most lamentable outrage, practiced by both Whigs and Tories in their internecine strife, was the custom of putting prisoners to death after surrender.

The only British garrison in Georgia which assumed any proportions was stationed at Savannah. It was composed of 1,300 British regulars, 500 well organized and well armed Tories, any number of Tory refugees, and, in addition to these, several hundred Indian allies. To oppose these Wayne had at his command about one hundred of Moylan's dragoons, three hundred mounted men from Sumpter's brigade, and one hundred and seventy volunteers, the whole totaling 570 men, besides the artillery, which numbered less than one hundred men, practically all raw and undisciplined troops. With this discouraging outlook, it is small wonder that the General's heart cried out for his tried Pennsylvania troops who were retained in South Carolina by General Greene. To the latter he wrote a pathetic but unavailing letter: "Pray give me an additional number of Pennsylvania troops. I will be content with one battalion of Pennsylvanians. They can bring their own field equipage without breaking in upon any part of the army. I will candidly acknowledge that I have extraordinary confidence and attachment in the officers and men who have fought and bled with me during so many campaigns. Therefore, if they can be spared, you will muck oblige me."

In spite of the disadvantages enumerated, General Wayne's forces established themselves at Ebenezer, twenty-five miles up the river from Savannah, and made preparations to isolate this garrison from the rest of the state—and particularly to accomplish its separation from the Indian allies. In the meantime, while his preparations for military activity were being made, Wayne carried his campaign into other quarters by recommending to Governor Martin, of Georgia, that he issue a proclamation offering pardon and protection to the Tories who would join the patriots, and which, by the way, indicated also the scant courtesy that would be extended to the Royalists within the state in the event of the success of the patriot army. It was hoped this would produce salutary effects.

His preparations completed, Wayne at once proceeded to the execution of his arduous task. Crossing the Savannah River, February 19, 1782, he applied himself to the seemingly hopeless task of detaching the Indians from the British service. While near the Ogeechee River, fifteen miles from Savannah, he heard of a number of Creek Indians on their way to Savannah. Promptly dressing a number of his men in British uniforms, he sent them to meet the chiefs, who fell victims to the strategy, and were easily captured. After taking from them the provisions which they were carrying down to Savannah, he pointed out to them the failure of the British, the certainty that the Americans would capture Savannah, and made the request that they remain neutral, adding, however, that if they preferred the hatchet to the olive branch, the Americans were ready to meet them. This done, he sent them home. On the twenty-fourth of February Wayne wrote; "It is now upward of five weeks since we entered the state, during which period not an officer nor soldier has once undressed, except for the purpose of changing his linen, nor do the enemy lay on beds of down." This waiting period terminated abruptly on the night of the twenty-first of May, when Wayne encountered the greater part of the Savannah garrison, under General Brown, who had come out to meet a band of several hundred Creeks. Acting upon his maxim, "that the success of a night attack depends more upon the prowess of the men than their numbers," he led his three hundred infantry and one hundred dragoons through forty miles of swamp to the enemy's camp. His vanguard—one-fifth as strong as the British force—charged with such impetuosity that Colonel Brown's whole complement, picked infantry, Hessians, and Tories, were defeated and scattered.

After this action, General Wayne removed his camp to Sharon, five miles in front of Savannah. At one o'clock in the morning his rear guard was attacked by a large body of Creek Indians, who were evidently not impressed with the advantages of remaining neutral and who were under the leadership of Gueristersigo, the most famous of Creek warriors. After a slight recoil Wayne's forces recovered from their surprise and charged with such undaunted valor that the savages were routed and driven into the swamp. Gueristersigo was slain, and in one of his letters relating to this encounter, Wayne relates a dramatic episode which probably has reference to the warrior chieftain, _ He says: "Such was the determined bravery with which the Indians fought, that after I had, cut down one of their chiefs, with his last breath, he drew his trigger, and shot my noble horse from under me." At daybreak, the British appeared, but were driven back to their garrison.

Although the House of Commons had voted against the continuance of the war, in February, 1783, and by proclamation had ordered Savannah, as one of the weaker posts, to be the first evacuated, such was the stubborn disposition of its defenders that only after the success of the operations of the Americans narrated above, could they see the wisdom of evacuating the city. This they finally did on July 11, 1782. Shortly afterward, the situation of Colonel Greene in South Carolina became critical, and Wayne was ordered to effect an immediate junction with him. This he did in August. The light infantry and legionary corps, which had rendered him such important service in Georgia, were added to his command, and, in the latter part of November, he pushed on toward Charleston. On December 14, 1782, he took possession of this city, the last stronghold of the British in the South.

General Wayne, notwithstanding the sobriquet, "Mad Anthony," had once more proved himself a tactful and diplomatic, as well as brave and fearless leader, and at the end of his Southern campaign he was gratified by the following letter from General Greene: "Dear Sir:

"I am very happy to hear that the enemy have left Savannah, and congratulate you most heartily on the event. I have forwarded an account thereof to Congress and the Commander-in-Chief, expressive of your singular merit and exertions during your command, and doubt not that it will merit their entire approbation, as it does mine."

Thus brilliantly closed General Wayne's active campaign in the Revolutionary War, and the only sole command for the conduct of which he had been personally responsible. His exploits in compelling the evacuation of Savannah had won him the admiration of citizens and soldiers alike; be was hailed as a military genius and was referred to "as incomparable as a general and strategist," the hero who had rescued an oppressed people from the harrowing anarchy of internal disorders. The gratitude of the people of Georgia, in spite of the dire poverty of the state and its inhabitants, took a most commendable form, by voting, through their Legislature, 3,900 guineas, with which they purchased a rice plantation and presented it to General Wayne as a practical token of their gratitude, and also, it might be remarked, with the ulterior view of inducing him to become a citizen of Georgia at the close of the war. We shall have the opportunity, later, to contrast the attitude of the State of Georgia with that of General Wayne's native commonwealth toward the one man who, more than any other, had given Pennsylvania her greatest share of glory at this greatest and most critical period of national history. In referring to this negligence of the State of Pennsylvania to make suitable acknowledgment as to the worth of her greatest general, one of Wayne's old comrades in Georgia pungently remarked: "It gives great satisfaction to the generous souls among your friends here, to think that the people of more Southern climes have paid some deference to your merits, and have demonstrated it in a more solid manner than empty praise. This is an article of no more worth here than the Continental currency."