Waynesborough, Near Paoli, Pennsylvania


Captain Isaac Wayne, who commanded a company at the Battle of the Boyne, came from Ireland to Pennsylvania in 1722. Two years later he bought sixteen acres of land in Chester County and built Waynesborough.

His son Isaac, who was a captain in the French and Indian War, enlarged the mansion in 1765. While a wing was added in 1812, it presents much the same appearance to-day as it did at the time Anthony Wayne left it to go to war with General Washington, even to the crooked hood above the entrance door. The present owner, William Wayne, is as unwilling as were his ancestors to have this hood straightened.

On the front of the house is a tablet which reads :

The Home of General Anthony Wayne, Born in this House, January 1, 1745. Died at Erie, Pennsylvania, December 15, 1796. A Leader of the American Revolution in Pennsylvania and a soldier distinguished for his Services at Brandywine, Germantown, Valley Forge, Monmouth, Stony Point, and Yorktown. Subdued the Indians of Ohio, 1794. Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army 1792-1796. Marked by the Chester County Historical Society.

To this record the statement might have been added that General Lafayette visited the home of his old commander when he was in the United States in 1824. Reverently the General bowed his head in Wayne’s favorite sitting-room, to the right of the entrance hall, where nothing had been disturbed since the death of the patriot. The furnishings and ornaments of the room are the same today as then.

Anthony Wayne was a delegate to several of the conventions which took the preliminary steps leading to the Revolutionary War. In 1775 he was a member of the Committee of Safety, and in the same year he organized a regiment of ” minute men ” in Chester County.

His first active service was as colonel with troops sent to Canada in January, 1776, and from November, 1776, to April, 1777, as commander of twenty-five hundred men at Ticonderoga. ” It was my business to prevent a junction of the enemy’s armies and . .. to keep at bay their whole Canadian force,” he wrote in a private letter.

Here, in the midst of difficulties with soldiers who wanted to desert, he heard that the British were threatening Waynesborough. But, like a true soldier, he stuck to his work, and urged his wife to be brave. ” Should you be necessitated to leave East-town, I doubt not but you’ll meet with hospitality in the back parts of the Province,” he wrote to her.

His fidelity and resourcefulness were recognized in February, 1777, by a commission as brigadier general. Washington, who was then in New Jersey, wrote to him a little later, saying that his presence with him was ” materially needed,” to guard the country between West Point and Philadelphia. And when the British fleet sailed out of New York Harbor, Washington sent him to Chester, to organize the militia of Pennsylvania. A few weeks later he was in charge of a division at Brandywine. Historians say that his steadfastness on the left prevented the advance of Knyphausen, and saved the right from entire destruction.

Less than a week later, within a mile of his own house, he was surprised by the enemy near Paoli, in consequence, it is said, of the act of an inn-keeper who betrayed Wayne’s presence to the British. The result was the only defeat of his brilliant career. Eighty of his men were killed. The engagement has been called ” the Paoli Massacre,” because of the conduct of the victors. Wayne escaped. A squad of soldiers searched for him at Waynesborough. When they could not find him in the house, they thrust their bayonets into the great boxwood bush that is still to be seen in the rear of the mansion.

Because some said that the General was responsible for the defeat, he demanded a court-martial. The court-martial was held soon after, and he was acquitted with the highest honor, and was declared to be ” an active, brave, and vigilant officer.”

Washington’s letters and orderly book are full of references to Wayne. He was a trusted commander, and his advice was followed many times. He it was who first proposed that the army should ” hut ” during the winter of 1776-77, some twenty miles from Phila delphia. He was always eager to do his Commander’s bidding. On one occasion, when he was in Philadelphia, on his way to greet his family, he was met by a fast rider who handed him a despatch in which Washington said, ” I request that you join the army as soon as you can.”

During his long absence from Waynesborough his wife Polly and his children were continually in his thoughts. Once he wrote :

” I am not a little anxious about the education of our girl and boy. It is full time that Peggy should be put to dancing school. How does she improve in her writing and reading? Does Isaac take learning freely? Has he become fond of school? ”

Just before the storming of Stony Point, he prepared for death, sending to a friend a letter which was not to be opened until the author was dead. The letter said :

” I know that your friendship will induce you to at-tend to the education of my little son and daughter. I fear that their mother will not survive this stroke. Do go to her.”

On the way up the mount he was grievously wounded and fell senseless. Soon he roused himself and cried, ” Lead me forward. . . . Let me die in the fort.” Several hours later he was able to send word to Washing-ton, ” The fort and garrison are ours.”

In this spirit he served through the war. And when the action was won he continued to fight for his country. On February 6, 1796, Claypool’s Daily American Advertiser told of his return from his successful campaign against the Indians of Ohio :

” Four miles from the city, he was met by the entire Troop of Philadelphia Light Horse, and escorted by them to town. On his crossing the Schuylkill, a salute of fifteen guns was fired from the Centre-square, by a party of Artillery. He was ushered into the city by the ringing of bells and other demonstrations of joy.”