On this day in 1780, General “Mad Anthony” Wayne leads two brigades of Pennsylvania militia, supported by four artillery pieces, in an attempt to destroy a fortified blockhouse located approximately four miles north of Hoboken, in Bull’s Ferry, New Jersey. The blockhouse, or observation shelter, was surrounded by iron stakes and defended by 70 Loyalists, who managed to hold on to it despite the best efforts of the Americans. The Patriots lost 18 men killed and 46 wounded in the unsuccessful assault.
Wayne had earned the moniker “Mad Anthony” one year earlier for his victory against surprising odds over a British garrison at Stony Point, New York. There, a British fort overlooking the Hudson River had threatened West Point, which was only 12 miles upriver. Wayne, at the head of 1,200 light infantry, successfully assaulted what the British believed was an impregnable position, losing only 15 killed and 83 wounded while the British lost 94 killed and wounded and 472 captured. Remarkably, the attack took place under cover of darkness, employed only bayonets as weaponry and lasted a mere 30 minutes. Two days later, Wayne, now dubbed “mad” for his enthusiastic and successful undertaking of a mission that seemed doomed to failure, destroyed the fortifications and evacuated the area. Congress rewarded Wayne’s efforts with a medal.
Much of Wayne’s ensuing career involved divesting Native Americans of their land. Following the victory at Yorktown, Wayne traveled to Georgia where he negotiated treaties with the Creeks and Cherokees. They paid dearly in land for their decision to side with the British, and Georgia paid Wayne in land–giving him a large plantation–for his efforts on their behalf. In 1794, President George Washington called upon Wayne to bring the ongoing violence with British-backed Indians in the Northwest Territory to a close. Wayne was victorious at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, near what is now Toledo, Ohio, and gained much of what would become Ohio and Indiana for the U.S. in the Treaty of Greenville.