“Nathanael Greene was no ordinary man. He had a quick, inquiring mind and uncommon resolve. He was extremely hardworking, forthright, good natured, and a born leader. His commitment to the glorious cause of America was total.”
David McCullough, 1776

Nathanael Greene was born in August of 1742 into a prosperous Quaker family in Rhode Island. His father was a very successful farmer and merchant that saw to it that his children were properly educated. Young Nathaneal was tutored privately in math, the classics, and law at which he excelled. As he grew into adulthood, he became very frustrated with British rule and very much supported the idea of “No taxation, without representation.” Part of his distaste for the British derived from customs officials seizing one of his family’s merchant ships and refusing to return it. After a bitter and drawn out legal battle, the British court ruled against Greene. It is suspected that Greene was a part of the Gaspee Affair, an event where a British customs ship was run aground and burned. The Gaspee Affair has long been believed to be among the final issues that started the fighting between the British and the Colonies.

When the Revolutionary War broke out and the Continental Army was formed, George Washington appointed Nathanael Greene as a Brigadier General. Greene would fight bravely and intelligently under Washington’s command in the New York and New Jersey campaigns. After the defection of Benedict Arnold, Greene served as the Commander at West Point and oversaw the execution of John Andre, one of Arnold’s cohorts. In the later part of 1780, the Continental Army suffered several devastating defeats in the Southern Theater of the war. This led Washington to appoint Greene as the Commander of the Southern Department of the Continental Army.

Greene would gain several important victories in the South over the British by using “guerrilla” tactics. He also showed great leadership abilities by dividing his forces and utilizing Daniel Morgan and Henry Lee and their abilities as cavalry leaders. Alexander Hamilton said, “it was a masterpiece of military skill and execution.” Because Greene divided his army into smaller divisions, he could maneuver faster and was able to attack and cut off British supply lines. Because of this, British General Cornwallis moved north through North Carolina and eventually found himself trapped on the Yorktown Peninsula where he was forced to surrender to George Washington. Greene had proved to be Washington’s best general and earned the nickname “Savior of the South.”

After the war, Greene resigned his command and settled at Mulberry Grove Plantation, just outside of Savannah, Georgia, in Port Wentworth. He became ill in June of 1786 and died at Mulberry Grove. The official cause of death was a heat stroke. Nathanael Green is buried in Johnson Square in downtown Savannah, Georgia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *