When the Continental army was formed, Wayne organized and commanded a regiment from Chester co., and in Jan., 1776, he was commissioned a colonel and given command of the 4th Pennsylvania Battalion. As agent for the Pennsylvania committee of safety, he built defenses for the Delaware River. In the spring of 1776 he covered the retreat of the Americans after their failure in the Quebec campaign. The next winter he spent in command at Fort Ticonderoga.
In 1777 he was commissioned brigadier general and joined George Washington's army at Morristown, N.J. In the battle of Brandywine, Wayne commanded a division at Chadds Ford. Later he was defeated by General Howe's forces at Paoli, Pa.; to silence rumors that the defeat had been caused by his negligence, Wayne requested a court-martial and was acquitted with honor. He fought at Germantown, made successful raids on British supplies for the troops encamped at Valley Forge, and served in the battle of Monmouth. His most famous achievement, however, was his capture of the British outpost at Stony Point, N.Y., by a night attack in July, 1779. He aided General Lafayette in Virginia and participated in the Yorktown campaign. Later he fought successfully against Native Americans in Georgia, and, after Nathanael Greene's army had forced the British evacuation of Charleston, S.C., Wayne occupied the city.