Greene, Nathanael

Greene, Nathanael,

1742–86, American Revolutionary general, b. Potowomut (now Warwick), R.I. An iron founder, he became active in colonial politics and served (1770–72, 1775) in the Rhode Island assembly. At the beginning of the American Revolution he commanded a detachment of militia at the siege of Boston and was in charge of the city after the British evacuation (1776). Greene helped plan the defense of New York (1776), but illness kept him from the battle of Long Island. He was with Washington (1776–77) at Trenton, Brandywine, GermantownGermantown,
residential section of NW Philadelphia. Settled by Dutch and Germans in 1683, Germantown became one of the earliest printing and publishing centers in the country.
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, and Valley Forge. In Feb., 1778, he became quartermaster general while still holding his field command; he reorganized the department, found supplies for the army, and rendered fine service in this capacity. His notable ability at organization also appeared in his fieldwork. He fought (1778) at Monmouth and in the Rhode Island campaign and was president (1780) of the court-martial board that sentenced Major John André. After Gates was defeated at Camden (1780), Greene became the commander in the Carolina campaignCarolina campaign,
1780–81, of the American Revolution. After Sir Henry Clinton had captured Charleston, he returned to New York, leaving a British force under Cornwallis to subordinate the Carolinas to British control.
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. He reorganized the Southern army, and he and his lieutenants (notably Daniel MorganMorgan, Daniel,
1736–1802, American Revolutionary general, b. probably in Hunterdon co., N.J. He moved (c.1753) to Virginia and later served in the French and Indian Wars and several campaigns against Native Americans.
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 and Henry LeeLee, Henry,
1756–1818, American Revolutionary soldier, known as Light-Horse Harry Lee, b. Prince William co., Va. He was a cousin of Arthur Lee, Francis L. Lee, Richard H. Lee, and William Lee and was the father of Robert E. Lee.
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), with aid of partisan bands under Francis MarionMarion, Francis
, c.1732–1795, American Revolutionary soldier, known as the Swamp Fox, b. near Georgetown, S.C. He was a planter and Indian fighter before joining (1775) William Moultrie's regiment at the start of the American Revolution.
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, Thomas Sumter, and Andrew PickensPickens, Andrew,
1739–1817, American Revolutionary soldier, b. near Paxtang, Pa. He moved (1752) to South Carolina and took part (1761) in frontier warfare against the Cherokee.
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, turned the tide in Carolina. Greene's forces were defeated at Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirks Hill, and Eutaw Springs, but each time the British victory was reversed, and he pushed south to surround Charleston until the British evacuated it (1782). The campaign is generally considered an example of excellent strategy, and Greene's generalship is much admired. To get supplies for the Continental Army, Greene often had been forced to endorse personal notes. After the war the dishonesty of a contractor forced him to sell his estates to honor those pledges. The people of Georgia, however, gave him a plantation.


See biographies by his grandson, G. W. Greene (3 vol., 1867–71), and T. G. Thayer (1960); W. Johnson, Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene (1822, repr. 1973).

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Greene, Nathanael

(1742–86) soldier; born in Warwick, R.I. Raised a Quaker, he was expelled by the Society of Friends for his preoccupation with military matters. His militia experience, however, served his country well at the outbreak of the American Revolution; as a brigadier general, he fought at Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. Assigned to command Continental forces in South Carolina in October 1780, Greene fought a series of battles that forced the depleted British to withdraw into their fortifications at Yorktown, Va. After the war, he retired to an estate near Savannah, Ga.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.