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Nathanael Greene was born August 7, in Warwick, Rhode Island. The Greene family was among the earliest settlers in Rhode Island and had helped.
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Third, when Greene reached his majority he became a full partner in his family's business, sharpening his managerial skills, establishing important contacts, and whetting his ambition. Finally, the colonies' worsening relations with England radicalized Greene's political views and impelled him to begin an intensive study of military affairs. Thus he became a patriot and earned a brigadier general's commission in the Continental Army; and thus, through his energy, insight, and ability, he rose to the summit of American command.

From to he served two long apprenticeships, first as subordinate commander under Washington, and then as the army's quartermaster general, steadily refining his political and military thought. By the end of , no American general understood better than Greene the need to preserve the army rather than aggressively seek battle, to protract the war and wear away British will, to establish a strong central government and standing army, and to sustain the people's support.

Nevertheless, the blame for the losses of Forts Washington and Constitution was put upon Greene, but apparently without his losing the confidence of Washington, who himself assumed the responsibility. At the Battle of Trenton , Greene commanded one of the two American columns.

After the victory there, he urged Washington to push on immediately to Princeton , but was overruled by a council of war. At the Battle of Brandywine , Greene commanded the reserve.

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At Germantown , Greene's command failed to arrive in good time, having a greater distance to march than the right wing under Sullivan — a failure which Greene himself thought would cost him Washington's trust. But when they arrived at length, Greene and his troops distinguished themselves. At the urgent request of Washington on March 2, , at Valley Forge , he accepted the office of Quartermaster General.


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His conduct in this difficult office, of which Washington heartily approved, was said to be "as good as was possible under the circumstances of that fluctuating uncertain force". However, he had become Quartermaster General on the understanding that he should retain the right to command troops in the field. Thus, he became head of the right wing at Monmouth on June 28, In August, Greene and Lafayette commanded the land forces sent to Rhode Island to co-operate with French admiral d'Estaing , in an expedition the Battle of Rhode Island which proved unsuccessful.

Nathanael Greene

In June , Greene was in command at the Battle of Springfield. In August, he resigned the office of Quartermaster General after a long and bitter struggle with Congress over the interference in army administration by the Treasury Board and by commissions appointed by Congress. Greene had vehemently argued with Congress over how to supply the Continental Army. Congress was in favor of having the individual states provide equipment, which had already proven to be ineffective since the federal government held little to no power over the states. Greene spent the winter of at the house of John Tillinghast, an important Newport merchant.

Nathanael Greene, George Washington's Most Trusted General

The Congress had been unfortunate in the selection of commanders in the South. It had chosen Robert Howe , and he had lost Savannah. It had chosen Benjamin Lincoln , and he had lost Charleston. This defeat effectively ended the American Southern army as a cohesive fighting force. It left the way clear for Cornwallis to pursue his goals of gathering southern Loyalists and taking the war to Virginia. He planned then to use his captured Southern ports to move men and materiel into the interior of North and South Carolina.

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When Gates' successor was to be chosen, the Congress decided to entrust the choice to General Washington. On October 5, it resolved "that the Commander-in-Chief be and is hereby directed to appoint an officer to command the southern army, in the room of Major General Gates". Washington delayed not at all in making his selection. On the day after he received a copy of the resolution, he wrote to Nathanael Greene at West Point, "It is my wish to appoint You.

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Greene took command at Hillsborough, North Carolina , on December 3, Isaac Huger of the South Carolina Continentals was appointed his second in command. He was one of the dependable leaders in the state. The American army was weak and badly equipped and was opposed by a superior force under Cornwallis. Greene decided to divide his own troops, thus forcing the division of the British, as well, and creating the possibility of a strategic interplay of forces. The campaign changed, starting with the success at the Battle of Kings Mountain in under Colonel William Campbell he was later appointed as a Brigadier General in The entire British force was captured or killed.

A new strategy led to General Daniel Morgan 's victory of Cowpens on January 17, , where nearly nine-tenths of the entire British force were killed or captured. Many of the same forces who were at Kings Mountain also came to Cowpens. With over prisoners, Morgan began a strategic retreat, moving north towards the Salisbury District where he was joined by Greene at Cowan's Ford on the Catawba River where a force of Patriot Militia fought a small engagement against Cornwallis 's forces. Greene then wrote to Huger to direct his troop movement from Guilford Courthouse.

Arriving on February 9 at Guilford, Greene summoned his field officers to a council of war and put forward the question of whether the army should give battle. It was voted that for the time being, the army should continue retreating to gather more forces, and defer engagement with Cornwallis. Greene at this same time formed a special light corps to be commanded by Col.

Otho Williams to cover the main army's retreat. In a letter to George Washington on February 9, he described the "light army" he had formed under Williams as composed of: Howard, the Infantry of Lieut. Lee's Legion and 60 Virginia Riflemen making in their whole men which will be ordered with the Militia to harass the enemy in their advance, check their progress and if possible give us opportunity to retire without general action.

A copy of the proceedings I have the honor to inclose. Edward Carrington joined the command, with the report that boats had been secured, and secreted along the Dan River in Virginia, so as to be collected on a few hours' warning. The British army was at Salem, only twenty-five miles from Guilford. This was on the tenth of February. Opposed by a superior force under Lord Cornwallis , Greene developed a strategy that relied on mobility and maneuver.

Greene ultimately risked dividing his own force, encouraging the British to divide theirs as well. Although Greene was defeated at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse , North Carolina March 15, , the British were so weakened by their victory that Cornwallis abandoned his plan to conquer North Carolina and instead marched north into Virginia. Taking the offensive, by the end of June Greene had forced the British back to the South Carolina coast.

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He held them there during the remainder of the war. Greene contributed significantly to restoring civil government and public order to a south wracked by years of guerrilla war. Committed to the rights of property, he opposed the dispossession and persecution of loyalists. He settled in on an estate near Savannah—ironically the former property of a loyalist official.

As quartermaster general, Greene was accused of profiteering when inflation required paying more than authorized for goods. He supplied the southern army in part by cosigning notes with a contractor whose bankruptcy and death left Greene responsible. Greene denied charges of impropriety, which remain unproven in an 18th-century context of boundaries between public and private affairs that were at best hazy. He did his unsuccessful best to liquidate the debts until his early death in from what might well have been a stress-induced heart attack.

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