The Major General Nathanael Greene was a key figure of the American Revolutionary War and has been credited with ending the British occupation of the South of what would become the United States of America.
The successful commander had many victories in the war and became one of George Washington’s most trusted officers, so he is an essential actor in the war for independence.
Let’s have a look at 9 interesting facts about Nathanael Greene.
Nathanael Greene Facts
1. Greene came from a Quaker family
An interesting facta about Nathanael Greene is that he was born in Rhode Island in 1742 into a family of Quakers, where his father was a wealthy farmer and merchant.
Despite their good fortune, he wouldn’t initially be allowed a very good education because of his father’s religious beliefs. Greene was interested in pursuing his education, however, and even though he didn’t go to a regular school, he convinced his father to hire a tutor for him. This allowed Greene to study the classics, mathematics, law, and the works from the Age of Enlightenment.
2. He was one of six… and had seven children of his own!
In his family, Greene was the second son of Mary Mott and Nathanael Greene, Sr., and eventually would be one of six children for the couple (he also had two older half-brothers from his father’s first marriage).
When he married Catharine Littlefield, in 1774, he went on to have seven children in total.
3. Nathanael Greene couldn’t join the militia before the Revolutionary War
In the run-up to the Revolutionary War, the British Parliament had begun to impose policies to raise more income for the crown from North American colonies. This aggravated the Americans and slowly led to the forming of militias of dissenting men around the colonies. Greene helped organize the Kentish Guards, which is a local militia, but actually couldn’t join it himself, as it would have required him to be fully healthy. An interesting fact about Nathanael Greene is that he’d acquired a limp during his childhood years which made him unfit for this sort of role.
4. Greene had Washington’s trust
Once the war broke out and Greene made his name in the Revolutionary army, he was one of the few men who George Washington trusted completely. He was first in charge of the troops in Long Island, New York, then moved on to other battles.
As an example of Washington’s trust in him, Greene maintained that Fort Washington in Manhattan Island and Fort Lee across the Hudson River could be kept against the British attacks. He re-fortified them and believed they could withstand the British troops, but they were eventually lost. Despite this error, Washington’s trust didn’t waver and he made Greene the quartermaster general of the Army, meaning he was now responsible for keeping supplies to the front at the right levels, an interesting Nathanael Greene fact.
Eventually, as the war was not going well in the south, by October 1780, Washington put Greene in charge of the command of the southern front.
5. Nathanael Greene was very active on the northern front before moving south
Greene made his fame through his brilliant handling of the southern front during the Revolutionary War, but to begin with, he was very active on the northern front. He participated in various battles between 1776 and 1780: Princeton, Brandywine, Trenton, Germantown, Monmouth and Springfield.
6. He utilized ingenious methods against the British
As commander of the American forces in the south, Nathanael Greene utilized various clever tactics against the British army.
To begin with, he found himself facing a numerous British army which had taken control of key parts of Georgia and South Carolina, as well as a good number of Loyalist militias in the southern states. Greene chose to use guerilla warfare and relied on riverboats and cavalry to harass the British. He didn’t have enough supplies or men to face them in direct battle, so this approach sought to outmaneuver the superior army.
He was also famous for his strategic retreat which allowed him to turn the tables on the British army.
7. Greene’s losses helped him win
Given his inferior supplies and staff, Greene knew he couldn’t win outright battles against the British in the south. He employed guerilla warfare as well as a strategic retreat approach to face them instead. He lost many of his battles, amongst which the most famous is the Battle of Guilford Court House in North Carolina in 1781. However, an interesting Nathanael Greene fact is that all these losses also inflicted a lot of damage on the British forces. Eventually the British had no choice but to abandon the front, so General Cornwallis led a retreat. He was caught and forced to surrender, which is effectively the end of the American Revolutionary War.
8. Nathanael Greene’s later life was quite different from his war years
After the war, Greene found himself in a lot of debt and moved to Georgia, looking to make money out of plantations he’d been awarded for his war efforts. Although he had been against slavery in his youth, he ended up using slaves for his plantations, just like the overall trend.
Interestingly, the reason for Greene’s debt goes back to his military days and his willingness to put his name to the bond for army supplies he contracted for, when his army was short. The Government of the United States never paid Greene’s debt, so he ended up covering it himself years later. The continued court implications and related debt carried on for years and all was settled only in 1854.
9. He died of sunstroke!
As unlikely as it sounds, Nathanael Greene is believed to have fallen ill from sunstroke in 1786. He was only 43.
The illustrious military leader Nathanael Greene played a crucial role in the American Revolutionary War, having the ideas and strategy required to overpower the logistically better British army. Unfortunately, his post-war life was less glamorous and he died young, but he leaves behind a great military legacy.
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