Nathanael Greene was one of nine children.
He was raised as a member of the Society of Friends, a religious
group also known as the Quakers. Quakers are pacifists-they believe
that wars and fighting are wrong. On July 20, 1774, Greene married
Catharine Littlefield, who was nineteen years old.
Despite his religious background, Greene helped
organize a militia in October 1774, because the possibility of war
with Britain was increasing. The Society of Friends no longer let
him be a member. Because Greene had a limp, the militia group didn't
want him to be an officer. So, he began his military career as a
When the American Revolution began, Rhode Island
created an army for its defense. Nathanael Greene was appointed
Brigadier General to command this army.
Greene fought at Fort Washington, Trenton,
Brandywine, and Germantown, gaining the trust of General George
Washington. In March 1778, Greene was appointed Quartermaster General
of the Continental Army because he was good at gathering and conserving
military supplies. As quartermaster, his responsibilities included
getting supplies to the far-flung army and organizing the army's
camps. When he accepted the position, he reserved the right to also
continue as a commanding general in the field.
Greene's efforts during the winter of 1779-1780,
when the army was encamped at Morristown,
NJ, greatly benefited the Continentals. His wife Catharine gave
birth to their fourth child in Morristown in late January.
In October 1780, following the disastrous patriot
defeat at Camden, SC, Washington gave Greene command of forces in
the South. In a brilliant campaign, Greene reversed the new nation's
fortunes in the South. In a series of battles (Guilford
Courthouse) and marches, Greene wore down the British army and
paved the way for the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. He emerged
from the war with a military reputation second only to Washington's.
After the war, Greene was deeply in debt because
he had pledged his own money to feed the troops. But South Carolina
voted to give him a gift of money, in gratitude for his defense
of the state. A grateful Georgia gave him a plantation on Cumberland
Island. In 1785, with his debts cleared, he moved to his Mulberry
Grove plantation on the island. A year later, Greene died at the
age of forty-four, from an illness brought on by sunstroke. He is
buried within the boundaries of Cumberland
Island National Seashore.
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