This Week’s Book Review – Unlikely General: “Mad” Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.


Book Review

Gen. ‘Mad’ Wayne builds army to defeat Native Americans


May 29, 2018

“Unlikely General: “Mad” Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America,” by Mary Stockwell, Yale University Press, 2018, 376 pages, $35

They called him “Mad” Anthony Wayne.

“Unlikely General: Mad Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America,” by Mary Stockwell tells his story. A flawed, often-despised man, Wayne rose above his weaknesses to save the United States.

Stockwell frames Wayne’s biography around Wayne’s greatest achievement: his 1794 victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. It permitted the United States to grow into a nation, which spanned the North American continent. Fought at rapids on the Maumee River, Wayne’s Legion of the United States defeated a coalition of Indian tribes battling to keep settlers out of today’s state of Ohio.

The stakes could not have been higher. The Indians got support from the British (then still occupying forts in the Old Northwest Territory the British had ceded to the United States at the end of the American Revolution). The Native Americans had defeated two previous United States armies, including a massacre of the last army sent into the Ohio Territory in 1791. Had Wayne’s army lost, the United States would likely have been constrained east of the Appalachians, with British-sponsored Indian nations controlling the lands between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.

Stockwell shows how Anthony Wayne built the army, which defeated the Native Americans and did so despite inadequate supplies, inadequate numbers of troops, and a second in command who actively undermined Wayne.

Stockwell starts with the announcement in the nation’s capitol (then-Philadelphia) of the massacre of General Arthur St. Clair’s army at the Wabash. Stockwell then alternates between telling of Wayne’s appointment and conduct as St. Clair’s military successor, with a biography of Wayne’s life. By using this technique, she shows the links between how Wayne rebuilt the U.S. Army in the northwest and his experiences as a farmer and general earlier in his life.

She demonstrates how Wayne may have been the only general officer in the 1790s U.S. Army capable of developing a force to defeat the Native Americans. “Unlikely General” is a book that captures the complexity of the political and military situation in the 1790s, presenting it in terms that make it clear and understandable.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is


6 thoughts on “This Week’s Book Review – Unlikely General: “Mad” Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America”

  1. 10 Cents:
    I had to look it up but Fort Wayne, Indiana was named after this general.

    So is Wayne County in Michigan. (It did not wear as well.) Wikipedia states Waynesboro, VA (in the Shenandoah Valley) is also named after Anthony Wayne, but it is actually named for Wayne’s father, who founded the town.

  2. The Fallen Timbers battlefield is just across the Maumee River from Toledo.  The battle site is managed by the Toledo Metroparks.  One of the main roads along the north side of the river is the Anthony Wayne Trail.

    There is a lot of early 19th-century history around Toledo. Fort Meigs, from the War of 1812, is a great depiction of frontier military life. The pictures below were taken a few years ago at a Fourth of July celebration. Eighteen stars on the flag, 18 toasts and 18 cannon blasts. Huzzah!


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