1902 Encyclopedia > Nathanael Greene

Nathanael Greene
American general

NATHANAEL GREENE, (1742-1786), an American general, son of a Quaker who followed the joint occupation of a farmer and smith, was born at Potowhommet, Warwick county, Rhode Island, May 27, 1742. From his early years he was employed in assisting his father, but he suc-ceeded, notwithstanding this, in acquiring a large amount of general information, and made a special study of mathe-matics, history, and law. At Coventry, where he removed to take charge of a forge of his own, he was the first to establish a public school; and in 1770 he was chosen a member of the legislature of Rhode Island. Sympathizing strongly with the revolutionists he in 1774 joined the " Kentish Guards," and on this account was expelled from the Society of Friends. In 1775 he was appointed to the command of the contingent of 1000 men raised by Rhode Island, and after joining Washington before Boston he was named brigadier-general. In 1776 he obtained the rank of major-general and accompanied Washington to New Jersey, where he took part in the battles of Trenton and Princeton. At the urgent request of Washington he in 1778 accepted the office of quartermaster-general, on the understanding, however, that he should retain the right to command in the field, a right of which he took advantage at the battle of Monmouth, 24th June of the same year, and at the battle of Springfield, 23d June 1780. In August following he resigned his office, and on the 2d of December he succeeded Gates in the command of tho Southern army. In this position he was soon successful in restoring the demoralized and helpless troops to a con dition of thorough vigour and efficiency; and though not always technically victorious in the combats in which he engaged, he conducted operations in such a masterly manner that the enemy gained little advantage from any victories they obtained, and were never able to baffle him in what was essential in his plans. At the beginning of the cam-paign he detached General Morgan to attack the enemy at Cowpens, with a result that was brilliantly successful. Then followed a series of clever retreats to avoid engaging superior forces, until he deemed himself strong enough to attack the enemy at Guilford Court House ; and although he here suffered defeat, the British army a few days afterwards retreated towards Wilmington. After following a short distance in pursuit he changed his line of march, arid advancing into South Carolina attacked Lord Rawdon at Camden, and again suffered a defeat. But this reverse also failed to impede his energy, and after capturing a number of forts he again engaged Lord Rawdon at the battle of Eutaw Springs, which, though a drawn combat, resulted in the British abandoning South Carolina. For his services in the campaign he was presented with two pieces of captured ordnance, a British standard, and a gold medal. Georgia and North and South Carolina also made him valuable grants of land. He died from sunstroke at his estate of Mulberry Grove, Savannah, June 19, 1786. His Life and Letters, 3 vols., edited by G. W. Greene, were published in 1867-71.

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