Just finished reading The Life of Nathanael Greene. Next to Washington, he was probably the most important military figure for the United States during the revolution. The author of this book is W. Gilmore Simms for Charleston, S.C. Mr. Simms was a famous poet and historian. He owed more Revolutionary War manuscripts then anyone else until Sherman’s army burned his library down.
Because Mr. Simms was from the South, the book is extensively about the couple of years that Greene fought in the south. I would estimate that 2/3rds of the book covered the Southern campaigns.
Here are a few stories from the life of Greene that I thought I would share:
Greene was born to a Quaker family. When Greene was about 17, he had earned enough money to purchase a book. His father tried to talk him out of it saying that the Bible was the only book that Greene needed to read. Greene nonetheless was able to talk his father into allowing him to go to town and purchase a book.
Greene entered into the bookstore and said he wanted to purchase a book. The bookstore owner asked him what book he wanted. Greene was embarrassed because he did not know enough about books to know what title to purchase or what type of book to even ask for. All he knew is – he wanted a book.
Luckily for him, a local clergy was in the shop and seeing Greene’s predicament helped Greene out.
Another story happened a couple of years later when Greene was about 20. His father would not allow him to go to the dances with the other young men and women of his age. Greene proceeded to wait until his entire family was asleep and then he snuck out of the house and danced with his friends. One night, as he was coming home, he saw his father standing outside his window waiting for him to return. The quick thinking Greene grabbed a couple of shingles and stuck them inside his shirt and pants and willing accepted the wipe of his father.
Greene did not end up marrying until he was 32 years old. He married a young lady 14 years his younger. What is interesting is that this young lady’s family was the main host family for all the dances that Greene had attended some 12 years earlier. I wonder if Greene had any idea that the little 6-year-old girl in the corner was one day going to be his wife and the mother of his five children?
It was about the time that he got married that things were starting to heat up in the Revolutionary War. Greene had never owned a gun and so he went to Boston to purchase one. However, because the British were not allowing the Colonials to own firearms, Greene had to sneak it out of town in the bottom of a hay wagon.
When word reached Greene that the British had attacked Lexington, Greene left his local militia group and headed to Boston to volunteer. Greene had been married for less than a year. When Washington arrived shortly thereafter, he immediately became friends with Greene.
It was really interesting to read about the struggles of Greene during the Southern campaign. Greene was constantly dealing with the feeding and provisioning of his troops. Congress did a terrible job at making sure that he had troops let alone had food and clothing to provide for them. Remember, the British had a huge force camped out in NY and the Southern colonies were not very well populated.
Towards the end of the war, Greene ended up personally guaranteeing debts so as to ensure that his army was properly provisioned. Greene ended up having to pay those debts and it was not until 5 years after his death that President George Washington finally made sure that Greene’s widow was repaid for the amounts that Greene had paid.
Greene only managed to live about 3 years after the war. While he was famous for all his military exploits, Greene did not have a lot of money. Greene is a great example of a man who loved his liberty so much that he was willing to give his fortunes for the cause of liberty.