Sunday, August 7, 2016

Today in History

Nathanael Greene biography by Terry Golway

The Fighting Quaker

For today's post, I was picking between a couple of famous, or I should say infamous people born today - Mata Hara and Elizabeth Bathory - butI decided instead to talk about the probably lesser known but much more heroic Nathanael Greene. Have you heard of him?

Today in 1742, Nathanael Greene was born to a Quaker family in Warwick, Rhode Island. His birthplace is known as Forge Farm, now a historic site, as his father, who was also named Nathanael, was a smith as well as a farmer. The family later moved to Coventry, Rhode Island. Their particular Quaker community did not put much stock in the value of books, but Nathanael educated himself, studying mathematics and law.

In 1770 Greene was elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly. He became a strong supporter of American Independence and was expelled from the pacifist Quaker meeting for attending a military parade. Undaunted, Greene decided to become actively involved in the military, reading up on war and tactics.

In July of 1774 he married Catherine, with whom he would have 6 children. In August of 1774 he organized a local militia which was named the Kentish Guards. He himself only had the rank of private because of a slight limp he'd had since birth. Less than a year later he was commanding the entire Rhode Island militia. In June 1775 he was made Brigadier General of the Continental Army by Congress and General Washington gave him command of Boston, which the British has evacuated earlier that year.

Greene was promoted to Major General on August 9, 1776 - two days after his thirty-fourth birthday. That made him the youngest Major General in the Continental Army until four months later when the Marquis de Lafayette arrived. Lafayette, by the way, presented Greene with a masonic jewel which he wore throughout the war. (It's very interesting how many of our Revolutionary heroes were Masons.)

I can't do justice to General Greene's military success. He was a strategic genius. He defeated Cornwallis superior force by, among other things hit and run tactics. Greene became Washington's right-hand man and one of only three generals to serve during the entire eight years of the war.

Nathanael Greene, a self-taught man without whom we could not have won independence, is a true American hero.

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