Nathaniel Greene (1742-1786)
Nathanial Greene is one character among many. He rose to become a general in the Continental Army, an army renowned for having experienced soldiers as it generals. Greene had never seen battle before the war yet showed himself to be a capable battlefield leader. Greene did not always make the
best decisions; some lead to outright disaster, but Greene showed a remarkable ability to learn from his mistakes and grow as a soldier. Greene proved essential to victory. He saved the Continental Army from its own faulty supply system, and later in command of the Southern Army, managed to drive the British out of the Carolinas. Without him the war would not have been won in the manner that it was.
In March 1778, after the brutal winter at Valley Forge, Nathaniel Greene accepted Washington’s pleas to become the army’s quartermaster. Having fought for two years from Boston to Brandywine, and fought well, Greene did not like his new post, but took it up anyway – he kept his combat command as well. Pushing double duty, Greene swept the department clean of corruption, imposed order upon chaos. Greene made sure that the army had tents, wagons, and boats; giving it a mobility that was badly needed. He also established several grain depots stretching from New York to Maryland enabling Washington to feed his army on the march instead of having to beg the countryside for food using money that had very little value. Combined with von Steuban’s training, Greene’s reforms allowed the Continetal army to fight to the finish. Next, he rebuilt the southern army in the wake of the disaster at Camden, leading it with great skill against Cornwallis at Guilford Courthouse; a battle so bloody that
Cornwallis chose to march north into Virginia and on to Yorktown to replenish his forces. This decision was a direct result of Greene’s generalship, and inadvertently led to the biggest American victory of the war! He then went on to clear both North and South Carolina of the British army after months of brutal fighting.
The importance of Nathaniel Greene came be simply put. He was an excellent soldier, capable when serving under Washington, and on his own. His skills at leading men in combat proved valuable on more than one occasion; he saved the Army at Brandywine and reconquered the south. But his services to reorganizing the army’s supply system is perhaps his greatest achievement. For without him, Washington’s army would have starved because it had no food or froze for want of clothes. Greene is one of our finest commanders, but few know of him. He was personally brave and competent, and though he messed up sometimes he did not allow his failures to overcome him. It is unfortunate that such a man has been thrown into the corner, forgotten, and ignored. For without General Greene, and countless others like him the Revolutionary war could very easily have gone the way of Britain. It’s up to us to know of these great individuals and their hallowed deeds; look forward to our curriculum of the
American Revolution available September 11 to learn about General Greene, Washington, and countless others whose skill and determination in the face of great odds lead to this country’s independence.
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