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Mad Anthony Wayne’s men buried in Menges Mills, PA.

Growing up in southern Ohio, we learned in school about the men and women who shaped the history of not only the Buckeye State, but the larger areas known in pioneer days as the Ohio Country and the Northwest Territory. Military leaders such as American Revolution hero Gen. “Mad Anthony” Wayne are commemorated by such place names as Wayne County, Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Indiana (a place I visited monthly for more than a decade in my previous job).

Wayne’s forces helped protect the border from attacks by Native American tribes and warrior gatherings, allowing the migration of more and more settlers. My own ancestors arrived shortly after the Revolution as part of a land grant given to soldiers to thank them for their service.

Wayne had commanded a brigade under George Washington in the Revolution, and had ties to York County, Pa. At least three of his war-time soldiers are buried there.

Here is their story.

Wayne had a rather distinguished career in the Continental Army, winning an impressive victory at Stony Point, NY. By January 1781 he commanded the Pennsylvania Line under Washington. They were ordered to march to Virginia to assist the Marquis de Lafayette (another officer with ties to York) against British forces in that region. Half of Wayne’s men left the army because they wanted paid in hard specie, not in virtually worthless Continental currency. He needed to rebuild his ranks before he left for Virginia. By May he had completed the task. Among his men were several from the York area.

Wayne’s men headed for Virginia in late May. They initially camped on Hersheys Hill along the Monocacy Trail, which led from the Susquehanna River southward to Frederick, Maryland. The location is near what later would become the village of Menges Mills, Pa. Three soldiers died of disease and exposure.

19th century author John Gibson briefly mentioned the incident in his book A History of York County.

“On the hillside west of Menges’ Mills, is an historic spot.  Here on the night of May 26, 1781, the distinguished Revolutionary hero, Gen. Anthony Wayne, encamped with about 1,000 men.  They left York at 9 A.M.  He and his soldiers had become famous for their daring bravery in several hard fought battles, especially at Stony Point, Brandywine and Paoli.  The campaigns in the north had virtually ended, and he, according to the direction of Washington, was ordered southward to join Lafayette’s army in Virginia. The commander, as was his custom, rested for the night in camp with his men.

Shortly after sunrise they took up their march through Hanover, and encamped for the next night near Littlestown.  They passed through Taneytown and halted upon the banks of Pipe Creek, where they encamped on the night of the 28th of May, and on the following night on the south bank of the Monocacy River.  At this point they remained one day, May 30, and washed and cleaned their arms, and at 7 P.M. were reviewed by their commanding general.  They passed through Frederick at 8 A.M.  At this place there were a number of British officers kept as prisoners of war who were privileged to take a view of Gen. Wayne and his men.  They crossed the Potomac at Noland’s Ferry, where they halted for the artillery and baggage to cross.

The troops crossed in the evening and halted one mile from the ferry and lay without tents, it raining the chief part of the night.  Crossing at this place four men were drowned; one of the scows sank.  One of the lost was a sergeant.  The average distance of their daily march was about fifteen miles.”

Another old account, taken from George Prowell’s book Continental Congress at York, Pennsylvania, and York County in the Revolution, states:

“Captain Joseph McClellan, who served in this expedition, kept an interesting diary describing the march from York to Virginia. According to his record, General Wayne and his troops began to march at 9 A. M. of May 26. On the evening of that day they encamped along the hillside in Heidelberg Township, near the present site of Menges’ Mills. At daylight on the 27th, General Wavne ordered the drums to beat as a signal to take up the march. They passed through Hanover and halted at Littlestown, a distance of fourteen miles.

Continuing the march, Captain McClellan says: ‘We passed through Taneytown, and halted upon the bank of Pipe Creek, being fourteen miles.’

‘May 29. Marched at 9 o’clock, and encamped about 12 on the south bank of the Monocacy, being fourteen miles.’”

Map adapted from The burial yard is circled in yellow. It is off of Menges Mills Road southwest of Spring Grove on the old road to Hanover (once known as the Monocacy Trail).