Anthony Wayne was an American soldier, officer, and statesman during the Revolutionary War. His daring military exploits and fiery personality quickly earned him a promotion to brigadier general and the nickname “Mad Anthony.”
Wayne is probably the second most frequently sighted ghost on the East Coast. Second only to Abraham Lincoln. He is also the only Pennsylvanian known to have two separate graves, with body parts in both.
George Washington considered Wayne to be one of the best tactical commanders and military strategists of the Revolution.
Wayne was born on January 1, 1745, near Paoli in Chester county. He received an excellent education and worked as a surveyor for Benjamin Franklin. When the Revolutionary War began, he assembled a militia and became colonel of the 4th Regiment in Pennsylvania. Wayne aided Benedict Arnold and saved Washington’s troops from a massacre at the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777.
Wayne was at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778, where the Continental Army recouped and rested. Wayne led men to more victories when fighting resumed, including a decisive battle at Stony Point along the Hudson River.
After the war, Wayne settled in Georgia on land granted to him for his military service. He briefly represented Georgia in the House of Representatives before returning to the Army to accept command of U.S. forces in the Northwest Indian War. His forces defeated the Western Confederacy, an alliance of several Native American tribes, at the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, and he masterminded the Treaty of Greenville, which ended the war.
Two years later, Wayne died on December 15, 1796, in Erie, Pennsylvania, at Fort Presque Isle while on active duty. He was 51.
Following his wishes, Wayne, wearing his uniform, was buried two days after his death in a plain wooden coffin at the foot of the flagstaff of the post’s blockhouse. The top of the coffin bore his initials, age, and the year of his death in brass tacks.
Had it not been for a strange twist of fate, “Mad Anthony” Wayne would have laid there in peace for eternity.
For 12 years, the remains of Wayne remained undisturbed in a plain grave. However, some thought his burial was not fitting for such a great war hero, and in 1809 Wayne’s family decided to bring him home to rest in St. David’s Church Cemetery closer to his home in Radnor Township, not far from Valley Forge.
When Wayne’s son Colonel Isaac Wayne had the coffin was opened in Erie, everyone was shocked! Instead of a crumbling pile of bones, they found a body in an excellent state of preservation.
Isaac had come ill-prepared to move an entire body across the state.
A local physician, Dr. James Wallace, came up with a remedy. He suggested they put Wayne’s body in a large vat and boil it to separate the flesh from the bone.
The general’s flesh and clothing were reinterred beneath the blockhouse. Meanwhile, Isaac took his father’s bones in the back of a wagon and made the long 400-mile journey across the state along what is now U.S. Route 322.
This may be hard to believe, but Pennsylvanian roads were even worse in the early 1800s. They were bumpy paths full of rocks, ruts, and tree stumps.
When Isaac finally arrived at the gravesite and attempted to reassemble the skeleton, the family discovered to their horror that several of the bones were missing. It appeared that some of the bones had fallen out of the wagon while making the arduous trip across the commonwealth.
Isaac was greatly distressed by this turn of events and regretted his decision to disinter his father for the rest of his life.
After that, stories began to surface that every New Year’s morning, General “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s birthday, his ghost rises and begins the long journey on horseback from St. David’s to Erie and back in search of his missing bones. People along that route have insisted that a man clad in Colonial garb has been seen riding a horse and stopping if searching for something.
“Mad Anthony’s” ghost has been seen throughout Pennsylvania, including along Route 1 near Chadd’s Ford, where the Battle of Brandywine occurred and at Valley Forge National Park. There have also been sightings in New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and Canada.
Sometimes Wayne is astride is trusty steed Nab, described as possessing fire-flashing hoofs.
Whether alone or on horseback, Wayne’s ghost looks fierce and determined, as though he is still waging battles against the British and Germans.
If you missed one of my four “Ghost Stories and Tales of the Unknown” presentations this month, here is one of the stories I told: The Ghost of General ‘Mad Anthony’ Wayne and his Missing Bones.