Biography of Nathaniel Greene


Greene, Nathaniel (1742-1786), an American general of the Revolutionary War. He was a native of Mulberry Grove, Georgia. The Greenes were Quakers. Nathaniel was brought up to work on his father's farm, in his father's mill, and at his father's forge; yet managed to acquire much more than a common school education. In 1774 he joined the militia and was expelled from the Quaker congregation. The next year he married a Rhode Island wife and led the Rhode Island troops to the relief of Boston. His soldiers were noted for their excellent discipline. His sturdy character and ability won Washingion's confidence. He was made a brigadier-general and was with Washington in the engagements at Harlem Heights, Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown. When Washington was absent from the army he left Greene in command. In the spring of 1780 Greene was president of the court that inquired into General Arnold's conduct as commander of Philadelphia.

In October Greene was sent south to oppose Cornwallis. General Gates had been outgeneraled, and his forces cut to pieces at the battle of Camden. Greene, who was familiar with the people of the South, enlisted the hardy riflemen of that region. They were clad in buckskin suits and wore coonskin caps. They carried muzzle-loading flintlock rifles and drove home their bullets with hickory ramrods. Ammunition was precious. They were expert marksmen and invaluable soldiers. Greene divided his forces. A part under Morgan defeated Tarleton at Cowpens; then reuniting the wings of his army, Greene executed a masterly retreat of 200 miles across the Catawba, the Dan, and the Yadkin rivers. At each crossing, he impeded tardy pursuit by gathering up the boats far and near. At Guilford courthouse Greene made a stand and lost a battle; but Cornwallis thought it advisable to retire to the coast at Wilmington. Here Greene left him to rest and marched southward. The British abandoned post after post, until their forces were cooped up in Savannah and Charleston. As the result of Greene's brilliant campaign, the British were driven almost out of the South. At the close of the war Congress ordered a medal struck in commemoration of his services. The Carolinas and Georgia made him valuable grants. He retired to a plantation on the Savannah River, where he died from the effect of a sunstroke.

As a soldier Greene was energetic, alert, persistent, and full of resource.