Treasures from the Vault: General Anthony Wayne

Elizabeth Goings, Exhibitions Content Manager

Happy 4th of July everyone! What better way to celebrate our first holiday post than on our country’s birthday? Let the fireworks fly!

Today’s featured work is General Anthony Wayne, a painting by Edward Percy Moran. Moran completed the work in 1923, and he’s depicted General Wayne at the side of a wounded Revolutionary soldier who is holding the new American Flag. The two are overlooking an unknown battlefield, but, since they’re holding the flag high, we can assume that it was a victory for our fledgling nation!

A portrait of General Anthony Wayne, he stands next to another American soldier who holds the original American flag in a landscape.
Edward Percy Moran, American, 1862-1935. General Anthony Wayne. Oil on canvas, 1923. Gift of Henry and Jane Eckert, 1991.14. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

The painter, Moran, was born into an artistic family in Philadelphia and made a name for himself portraying scenes of rural life in colonial America and historical figures. It seems natural that he chose to paint historical figures from early America—his hometown is steeped in American Revolutionary history. Many of Moran’s works have been reproduced as prints and have been published in books and magazines. It’s likely you’ve seen one of his paintings featured in a history book in school.

General “Mad” Anthony Wayne was known for being one of Washington’s most daring generals during the Revolutionary War. He often pushed to attack and fight when other generals were in favor of retreat, which earned him his less-than-stellar moniker, “Mad Anthony Wayne.” While Wayne’s companions often criticized what they saw as recklessness, he consistently received accolades and praise from Washington. Wayne didn’t seem to be bothered by his nickname, however—his tenacity resulted in victory following Washington’s withdrawal from Valley Forge to meet British troops evacuating Philadelphia in June 1778. Additionally, Wayne’s crafty planning led to the most important victory of his career—the capture of Stony Point, an important British stronghold on the Hudson River that following July. Could it be that Moran is portraying Wayne basking in the glory of victory from one of these two battles?

Following the Revolution, Wayne served on the Pennsylvania Assembly and was a member of the Constitutional Convention. In later years, now President Washington appointed Wayne Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army and sent him to the Northwest Territory to subdue aggressive Native American tribes in the area. It was on this campaign that he spent some time in a small Indiana fort that adopted his name, Fort Wayne. Not only did we name our city after him, he’s memorialized (for better or worse) by businesses, organizations, and clubs all over town.

And now I leave you to enjoy your holiday week enriched with a little national and local history. Go to the lake, have a cookout, and be dazzled by fireworks! Happy 4th of July!

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