Trotter's Curse

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Sergeant John Trotter of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, was the orderly of Gen. "Mad" Anthony Wayne,1 while Wayne was staying at Fort Fayette in Pittsburgh during the Ohio Indian Wars of the 1790s. A brilliant, ruthless strategist in battle, Wayne was reputed to be a hopeless drunk in camp.

On a Sunday in 1792, with Wayne not likely to sober up for a week, Trotter decided to visit his family in Sampson, near Murraysville.

The general roused briefly from his drunken stupor and called for Trotter, but when told he was gone, Wayne supposedly shouted, "A deserter after all I’ve done for him. Arrest him…No, shoot him on the spot!" Three of Wayne's officers, Capt. William Elliott, Robert Hunter and John Horrell, set out after him. They found Trotter walking back to the fort and prepared to carry out Wayne’s orders.

Before sentence was carried out, Trotter asked for a Bible, then reading Psalm 109, he called down vengeance against those responsible for his death.

"Raise up a wicked one over him; Let Satan stand at his right side…"

"May (this curse) soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones…"

"May his posterity be cut off… Let my accusers be clothed with shame…"

"May his days be few…May another take his office…"

When Wayne sobered up, he learned that Trotter had been shot on his orders and got so depressed that his aides feared he would die. And it seems that Trotter's curse was effective against the three who carried out Wayne's orders and the general himself:

  • "Raise up a wicked one over him; Let Satan stand at his right side."

    Elliott became an alcoholic after the curse was imposed, and for the rest of his life he believed a mad dog (the Devil) was following him until his death in Butler County.
  • "May it soak into his body like water…"

    For 30 years after the execution, Hunter lived in Bairdstown, suffering from a form of diabetes that made his throat parched and dry.
  • "May his posterity be cut off… Let my accusers be clothed with shame…"

    Horrell died in Loyalhanna, convinced he was possessed by Devils. His last will and testament was contested in the courts on grounds of insanity.
  • "May his days be few…May another take his office…"

    Four years after Trotter’s death, Wayne ran for governor of Pennsylvania. Incumbent Gov. Mifflin won with 30,020 votes. Wayne got 139 votes. A month later,Wayne died in Erie at the age of 51. But even in death he got no peace, after 13 years, his body was disinterred, taken apart and reburied in different graves.
1Whose spirit still wanders the earth.

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