“Wayne Week” – -Remembering Anthony Wayne’s March through Frederick and Loudoun

Since 2017, our local Sons of the American Revolution (SAR)chapters have held a “Wayne’s Crossing” event in early June at the Loudoun County Courthouse, to commemorate Anthony Wayne’s crossing of the Potomac and march through Leesburg, which took place on May 31 through June 3 of 1781.

General Wayne had left York, Pennsylvania, on May 26, and was marching with 800 to 1000 Pennsylvania Continental troops, to Virginia. His mission was to meet up with General Lafayette and his troops in central Virginia, at a time when British General Charles Cornwallis was rampaging through Virginia from the Tidewater to Richmond, and even further west toward Charlotttesville. 

This year, in addition to the Leesburg ceremony, two more events were held to honor Anthony Wayne and hisPennsylvanians:

• May 28: Bruceville Encampment – an historic marker was placed at the site of Wayne’s first encampment in Maryland, along the old Monocacy Road south of Taneytown, in present-day Carroll County.

• May 31: Noland’s Ferry in Frederick County, Maryland, where Wayne’s forces made a perilous crossing of the Potomac into Loudoun County, Virginia.

• June 1: Leesburg annual commemoration of Wayne’s Crossing of the Potomac.

Bruceville Encampment – May 28

After leaving York on May 26, 1781, Wayne and his troops entered into Maryland on May 28th, and encamped at Bruce’s Mill along Big Pipe Creek.  This was the first site which we commemorated during the last week of May, this year. 

A roadside marker has been installed along MD Route 194(Woodsboro Pike) where it crosses Big Pipe Creek. For safety reasons, the dedication ceremony not held along the highway, but at the American Legion Hesson-Snider Post #120 in nearby Taneytown. The ceremony, sponsored by the Westminister Chapter of the SAR, was well-attended, including local elected officials, descendants of the Bruce family, and American Legion members. Speakers included Aaron Levinthal, the historic marker coordinator for the Maryland Department of Transportation, and Owen Lourie of the Maryland State Archives.

SAR members at Bruceville marker dedication

John Laycock, the project coordinator for the Wayne’s March SAR task force, gave the keynote address, which we publish below.

Noland’s Ferry – May 31

From Bruceville, Wayne and his troops crossed the muddy Monocacy River north of Fredericktown, and encamped along the river for two nights in order to clean their clothes and weapons.  On May 31, they marched thought Fredericktown and past the Barracks where British officers were being held. They continued on the Carolina Road (now the Buckeystown Pike) to Noland’s Ferry, where they spent about eight hours crossing the turbulent Potomac River, losing four men in the process.

This was the site of our second event.  The Sgt. Lawrence Everhart Chapter of the SAR held a ceremony on Friday, May 31, 2024, at Noland’s Ferry on the Maryland side of the Potomac.  The C&O Canal Park has a picnic area at Noland’s Ferry, which provided a perfect setting for the ceremony.  As with the Taneytown marker dedication, the Virginia Society of the SAR contributed Color Guardsmen to the event, and the Sgt. Major John Champe SAR Chapter from Loudoun County presented a wreath, as did a number of Maryland DAR and SAR chapters.

The keynote address on “Wayne’s March to Virginia, 1781” was presented by Edward Spannaus, Past President of the Sgt. Lawrence Everhart Chapter of SAR, which is reprinted below.

Loudoun County and Leesburg  June 1
The week’s activities wrapped up with the event at the “Spirit of Loudoun” Revolutionary War Memorial at the Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg.  

The Fairfax Resolves Chapter of the SAR held the first “Wayne’s Crossing Day” on June 3, 2017, with a number of local history groups participating – including the Lovettville Historical Society. This has become an annual event, picked up by the Sgt. Major John Champe SAR Chapter when it was reconstituted a few years ago.  

It was at the 2022 event in Leesburg that Edward Spannaus, then the President of the Sgt. Lawrence Everhart Chapter in Frederick, invited the Virginia Society of the SAR to join with the Maryland SAR in a campaign to mark the line of Wayne’s March from Pennsylvania, through western Maryland, and into Virginia, with historic signs and interpretive markers.  

Shortly after this, a task force of SAR members from Maryland and Virginia came together to begin mapping out the line of Wayne’s March, and soon some Pennsylvania SAR representative also began working with the group.

The past two years’ “Wayne’s Crossing Day” events in Leesburg have featured updates on the Wayne’s March Task Force. In 2023, the progress report was presented by Spannaus, who was joined by John Laycock, the Task Force coordinator, and also by Jack Curtis of the John Champe Chapter who has been carefully mapping out Wayne’s route through Loudoun County.  The route included encampments at the Clapham farm near Noland’s Ferry, to another encampment near the Chapel Above Goose Creek north of Leesburg, then the march through Leesburg, to an encampment on Goose Creek at Samuel Cox’s Mill (at or near the later Evergreen Mills), and then on to Fauquier County.

This year, John Laycock gave the update at the Leesburg event.  He was able to discuss the dedication of the first new Wayne’s March marker, that at Bruceville in Carroll County, Maryland. Laycock also reported on the new historic markers being planned in Frederick County MD, and the overall progress in mapping out the detailed route of Wayne’s March, from York,Pennsylvania to the Rapidan River in Virginia, where Wayne’s troops met Lafayette’s troops, and then on Wayne’s and Lafayette’s combined operations in Virginia which concluded at the Siege of Yorktown and the British surrender.

Keynote address by John Laycock at Bruceville Historic Marker dedication, May 28, 2024, Taneytown MD

For those of you that don’t know me, my name is John Laycock. I am a member of the Westminster Chapter of the SAR. I’m one of the MANY people who had a hand in today’s dedication. I’d like to tell you about how this all came together. 

Bruce descendants: Charles Zimmerman (left), President of Westminster SAR Chapter, and John Laycock (right), coordinator of Wayne’s March Task Force. Between them are descendants of Normand Bruce: Rose Neal with children Beau Jarvis, Lilly, and Jet; and Susannah Key Gardiner Neal. Susanna is named after Bruce’s wife, Susannah Gardiner Key, who was a great-aunt to Francis Scott Key. Normand Bruce was a Revolutionary War Patriot and officer, serving as a Colonel in the 35th Battalion of Maryland Militia.

All of this started during the pandemic a few years ago. We were finally starting to venture back out into the world and host chapter meetings in person again. We had our summer meeting on August 21, 2021 at the 1623 Brewery. One of our long time chapter members, Jim Engler, brought up during that meeting that there was a revolutionary war encampment near Taneytown. Now for starters, Maryland is known more for its Civil War History rather than its Revolutionary War History. Amazingly,there were no battles fought in Maryland. The thought that we had a site here in Carroll County really caught our attention. We started talking about what it would take to get a historical marker placed to commemorate the encampment. Fellow chapter member Dave Callaway and I volunteered to form a committee to look into what it would take and report back to the chapter. 

Little did we know the rabbit hole that this would lead us down. Dave and I started looking into where exactly this encampment took place. We looked at officers’ journals, aerial maps, railroad tracks, and Maryland Historical Trust documents on the area. Those Maryland Historical Trust documents introduced us to Bruceville and Normand Bruce. We took a drive out to Bruceville to look around. We spent time looking through the Basil Crapster files at the Historical Society of Carroll County. Learning about Bruce has led to a number of interesting discoveries. He is, through marriage, an uncle to John Ross Key and a great uncle to Francis Scott Key. He served as an officer in the Maryland Militia and has his own fascinating story that I am looking forward to telling in the near future. 

In the end, we found four officers’ journals from the Pennsylvania Line that helped us to narrow down when and where the encampment took place. These journals give us very simple 2 to 3 line, day by day accounts. Here’s an excerpt from Captain Benjamin Bartholomew’s journal for May 28th, 1781: 

“Monday May 28th [1781]. March’d at five O’Clock A.M. came through Peter LIttle Town, one & half Miles, Cross’d the State line four Miles, into Maryland; three mile, passd through Tawny Town two miles, thence to Bruces Mills on the Large pipe creek there encamp’d this day marched 16 Miles -” 

This simple journal entry tells us a lot. Key landmarks allow us to see where they are going. We know they stopped in Bruceville at Bruce’s Mill and they encamped along Big Pipe Creek. We can see how far, 16 miles, they marched that day. This was a key journal entry for us in applying for this historical marker. I joke, with all that we’ve learned about this march: Anthony Wayne, the Pennsylvania Line, Bruceville, the Bruce family, Myrtle Hill, the Key family, Terra Rubra. There must be something in the water in Big Pipe Creek.  

Getting back to our journal entries, I’d like to acknowledge those four brave Patriots [who wrote these journals] briefly: 

Lt William Feltman, First Regiment, wounded and briefly taken prisoner at the Battle of Green Springs, July 6, 1781. He served for eight years. 

Lt. William McDowell (1750 – 19 Jun 1835), First Regiment. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1750. He served for seven years, eventually becoming a captain. He married Elizabeth Van Lear and had five children. He died in 1835 at the age of 85 and is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, in Lemasters, Pennsylvania. 

Capt. Benjamin Bartholomew (16 January 1752 – 31 March 1812) – Company Commander in the Fifth Regiment. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1752. He was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine. He later broke his leg falling from a horse on December 4, 1781, which coincidentally we found in McDowell’s journal. After the war, he married Rachel Dewees and they had 14 children, 10 living into adulthood while he settled into the simple life of a farmer. He died in 1812 at the age of 60. He is buried in the cemetery at the Baptist church in Tredyffrin. 

Captain John Davis (28 Feb 1753 – 11 Jul 1827)  – Company Commander in the First Regiment. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1753. He married Ann Morton and had at least one child. He later was a Brigadier General of the Pennsylvania Militia and an Associate Judge of the Chester County Court. He died in 1827 at the age of 74  and is buried in the Great Valley Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Malvern, Pennsylvania. 

To those brave Patriots, thank you. I don’t think you ever could have imagined your journal entries would even be thought about 243 years later. Let alone that all these years later they would be used as the basis for placing a historical marker honoring your march south to Virginia. 

Having learned a lot about this march, we finally decided to put together an application for a historical marker through the Maryland Department of Transportation. The packet was finished and submitted just over a year later in September 2022. Through the tireless efforts of Aaron Levinthal the application was finally approved in the spring of 2023 and the sign was delivered to MDOT this spring where it was installed just last week. 

Wayne HQ marker in York, PA

There are of course other markers along the line of march. The first known marker related to Wayne and his troops’ march was placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1912. It marks the home that served as Wayne’s Headquarters in York. There’s another marker In Pennsylvania at the Gerber Mennonite Cemetery commemorating three soldiers who died the first night of the march. There is a marker as far south as Mechunk Creek in Virginia near where Wayne’s troops eventually met up with Lafayette in June of 1781. Wayne’s March did not begin in Bruceville nor did it end in Bruceville. It was merely one stop in a long journey to Virginia that eventually led to the historic defeat of the British at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. 

The work continues even after today’s dedication. This isn’t the first or last marker we hope to commemorate. There are additional proposed markers near Frederick. Our compatriots in the Sgt Lawrence Everhardt chapter have applied for a historical roadside marker and an interpretive marker along Wayne’s March. 

There are markers in place in Virginia and more being discussed and planned. Wayne’s Crossing of the Potomac is celebrated in Leesburg every year by the Sergeant Major John Champe and Fairfax Resolves Chapters. This year there are Wayne’s Crossing events planned on both the Maryland side and the Virginia side of the Potomac River. 

There are several SAR chapters, across Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia meeting monthly to discuss Wayne’s March. The hope is that those efforts will lead to several more markers along the entire line of Wayne’s March.

Thank you all….

Why did the General Cross the Potomac?

[Prepared remarks of Edward Spannaus, presented at Noland’s Ferry Wayne’s Crossing event, Tuscarora MD, May 31, 2024]

Ed Spannaus giving progress report at 2023 Wayne’s Crossing event in Leesburg, flanked by Jack Curtis on left, and John Laycock on right.

At the beginning of 1781, then-British General Benedict Arnold entered Virginia, leading some 1600 troops, and captured Richmond and spread destruction throughout central Virginia. In February, George Washington ordered the Marquis de Lafayette with 1,200 Light Infantry to go to Virginia.   At the same time, the Continental Congress ordered the Pennsylvania regiments in the Continental Line to be re-organized and to move into Virginia, and General Washington put Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne in command of these troops.

The Pennsylvania Line had mutinied over lack of pay in January 1781 at Morristown, and Wayne encountered great difficulty in obtaining pay and supplies for his troops; at the same time he was seeking additional recruits. Meanwhile, in the South, Generals Lafayette and Green were pleading with Wayne to make haste and start moving to Virginia. In May, as his troops were still waiting at York PA for sufficient supplies and equipment to begin their journey south, Wayne faced another mutiny, which he firmly put down.

Finally, on May 261781, (corresponding to last Sunday) Wayne and some 1000 Continental troops moved out of camp at York, and marched about 12 miles to Harsh’s Mill. On May 27they marched to Littlestown PA, and on the 28th into Maryland, to Bruce’s Mill where the old Monocacy Road (now MD 194) crosses Big Pipe Creek below Taneytown.  Reportedly, Wayne also visited nearby Terra Rubra (Francis Scott Key’s family home).  On May 29, Wayne and his troops crossed the Monocacy River north of Frederick Town and camped near Worman’s Mill, close to the intersection of present-day MD 26 and MD 355. 

Since they had been marching through rain and mud, they stayed at that location for an extra day, allowing the troops to clean their clothes and weapons in preparation for their May 31 passage through Frederick Town, where they marched past the Frederick Barracks (now known as the “Hessian Barracks”) where they were observed by British officers who had surrendered at Saratoga in 1777. They wore black and white cockades, symbolling the alliance with France resulting from the American victory at Saratoga.

At about 3:00 p.m. on May 31, after marching down the Buckeystown Pike (then the “Carolina Road,” now MD 85), they reached Noland’s Ferry on the Potomac River.

Harry Emerson Wildes’ account, compiled in pre-Internet days from an examination of Wayne’s papers and correspondence, presents a harrowing picture of the Potomac crossing. Wildes says that Wayne, in his haste to join Lafayette, shifted from his original plan to cross at Georgetown – where stores and supplies were available – to instead cross at Noland’s Ferry.  Wildes reports that only four boats were available, “and these were small leaky scows; rain fell in torrents.”

“Soldiers unfamiliar with the Potomac’s currents poled the clumsy craft across and the transport took till midnight,” Wildes continued. “One scow sank, drowning a sergeant and three soldiers, besides dumping Wayne’s six field pieces into the river and ruining the ammunition.”

(Scows are basically flat-bottomed barges, used at that time for transporting cargo on coastal waters and inland waterways; they didn’t require a deep harbor, were powered and steered by poles, later by sails.  So Wayne’s troops were pushing these flat-bottom vessels across the river, and around the island – Noland’s Island.)

Another historian describes the Potomac at Noland’s Ferry as “usually rather sluggish at the point at which the crossing was made,” but now “swift and turbulent as a result of heaving rains,” and he adds: “it would have been difficult to ferry the artillery and baggage across the river if it had been placid, and to transport fieldpieces and ammunition wagons across the Potomac when it was running swiftly was perilous.”   

We are fortunate to have a number of other first-hand accounts of the crossing of the Potomac are found in four journals kept by some officers of the Pennsylvania Line, which have been preserved and published:  (I recently located a partial copy of a fifth diary, at the Rockefeller Library in Williamsburg; it picks up on June 3 in Leesburg, and we wonder if the first effort was lost during the Potomac Crossing.)

From the journal of Lt. William Feltman: 

31st.—Took up the line of march at sunrise; marched through Frederick Town, Maryland, where there was a number of British officers (prisoners), who took a view of us as we passed through the town. We made a very respectable appearance. We crossed the Pomock [Potomac] at Nowland’s ferry; were obliged to cross in bad scows. One unfortunately sunk, loaded with artillery, &c., and a few men, in which one Sergeant and three privates of our Regiment were drowned….

From the journal of Lt. William McDowell:

31st.—Took up the line of march at sun rise, passed through Frederick Town, Maryland, where there were a number of British Officers prisoners of war who took a view of us as we passed through the Town. We made a very respectable appearance. We crossed the Potomack at Nowland’s Ferry, were obliged to cross in bad boats, one unfortunately sunk loaded with artillery & a few men in which one sergeant and three men of our Reg’ t were drownded….

After cleaning the artillery pieces which had been fished out of the river, and enduring more thunderstorms, Wayne and his troops passed through Leesburg on June 3, and continued moving south, until meeting up with Lafayette’s troops at the Rapidan River on June 10.  Shortly after this, Cornwallis decided to end his campaign in central Virginia, and withdrew to Williamsburg, and then Yorktown. 

In early September, a French fleet under Admiral DeGrasse sailed into the Chesapeake with 3000 French troops, and soon after, Washington and Rochambeau arrived with 6000 more men. Cornwallis was trapped, and the siege commenced which resulted in the British surrender at Yorktown in October.

Wayne’s march through Maryland on his way to Virginia, has received little attention – yet it can be argued that his arrival in Virginia to reinforce Lafayette, made a major contribution to the chain of events which concluded with the American-French victory at Yorktown. It certainly turned the tide of the war in Virginia….

Thank you.