If the just-concluded controversy stirred by the proposed relocation of Anthony Wayne's statue seemed to reduce Fort Wayne's namesake to little more than a bronzed caricature with a sword and a funny hat, the horse Wayne rode in on offers insight into the man himself – and how he had at least one thing in common with Mayor Tom Henry.
Ever since I wrote the first story about the issue back in December, several people have asked whether there is any significance to Chicago sculpture George Ganiere's decision to depict Wayne's steed with its front left leg raised.
To which the answer is a definitive no, maybe -- and yes.
According to U.S. Army Center of Military History, there is no truth to the urban legend that the positioning of legs in military equestrian is intended to convey a message about the person in the saddle: When the front two legs are airborne, the rider died during combat. When all four legs are grounded, the heroic figure escaped without a scratch.
A single lifted leg, meanwhile, supposedly indicates the rider was wounded in battle -- which, in an admittedly roundabout way, brings us back to the flesh-and-blood Anthony Wayne and the man who now leads the city that bears Wayne's name.
I know of no evidence that Ganiere's 1918 design was influenced by the supposed raised-hoof tradition, even though Mike Galbraith, executive director of historic preservation group ARCH, suspects that, “as a classically trained artist, he would have known of it.” But coincidence or not, Ganiere seems to have gotten Wayne's story right.
And it's a story worth knowing, because the man who founded a fort at the confluence of the St. Joseph, St. Mary's and Maumee rivers in 1794 was one of the leading and most colorful military figures of his day, playing a reliable Patton to George Washington's Eisenhower.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1745, Wayne served with distinction during the Revolution but really made his mark after the 1787 passage of the Northwest Ordinance, which sent white settlers into what is now the Midwest at a rate of 10,000 per year – an influx that naturally angered the people already living there.
And so, on Oct. 22, 1790 – four years to the day before the founding of Fort Wayne, troops led by Gen. Josiah Harmer were routed by Indians led by Miami Chief Little Turtle. Then-President Washington eventually named Wayne Commanding General of the new “Legion of the United States” and in 1793 gave Wayne permission to respond. In August 1794 Wayne attacked the British-backed Indians at Fallen Timbers just south of Toledo, and was in Fort Wayne two months later. The treaty of Greenville, which Wayne signed in August 1795 (and Little Turtle did not), ended hostilities in what was then the “Northwest.”
Today, Wayne's treatment of the Native Americans is a subject of legitimate debate. At the time, however, the Indian uprising Wayne helped defeat was seen as a threat to the survival of the new Republic. “The crisis facing the United States was critical, for the government's credibility was almost destroyed,” G. Danforth Hollins wrote in “Gen. Anthony Wayne, Northwest Conqueror and Diplomat.”
And yet, after all that brilliance, Wayne died from gout on Dec. 15, 1796 and was buried near Erie, Pa. before being disinterred in 1809. Son Isaac wanted to move his body to a family plot near Radnor, Pa., so he boiled Wayne's body and removed the bones so Wayne's remains could be more easily transported.
But doesn't the uplifted hoof suggest Wayne's body had been scarred by battle as well? Yes, if only unintentionally. At age 30, Wayne had suffered a painful leg wound while retreating from an unsuccessful campaign against Quebec during the Revolution. As history makes clear, the strategic retreat allowed Wayne to live and fight another day.
The same could be said for Henry, who as recently as Monday apparently intended to plow ahead with the statue's relocation from Freimann Square to the Courthouse Green despite opposition from members of the Courthouse Preservation Trust – many of them prominent, influential people – and City Council members who questioned how the city could spend $75,000 to move a statue just weeks after increasing taxes to address budget problems.
So far as I can tell, Henry concluded that better visibility for the statue didn't justify the political wounds to him and the financial cost to the city, especially since the Trust will provide up to $100,000 to improve the statue's visibility where it is. It appears he could have made the same deal weeks or even months ago, but Henry's retreat nevertheless was wise, conserving his political capital for other, more important battles sure to come.
Maybe it will even give him a leg up.