Nathanael Greene, a forgotten American Hero
"We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again."
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Nathanael Greene Homestead in Coventry, Rhode Island. Our guide, Mr. Greg Mierka was incredibly knowledgeable and shared a wealth of information about this forgotten hero of the Revolutionary War. A big thank you to him for sharing all his knowledge.
Nathanael Greene was born in 1742 in Warwick, RI. As a young man he was sent to stay with his grandfather to work in the family iron forge. Shortly after joining the prosperous business, Greene had a house built on the property in 1770 and furnished it with numerous objects made in the family forge, including fireplace cranes in every fireplace. He also created a well-stocked library. Greene was an avid reader to make up for his lack of formal education. He was an amateur professional architchect and engineer and contributed to much of the design and layout of his home. There is a winter kitchen with a secret staircase leading to the servants' quarters upstairs so that the servants would not be seen in the main hall. The dining room was also situated next to the kitchen so the servants did not have to carry food down the long center hall.
In 1774, he married 19 year old Catherine Littlefield, to whom he was devoted and affectionately called "Caty."
Greene had an excellent understanding of military tactics and helped organize the local militia, known as the Kentish Guards.
After the Battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill/Breeds' Hill in 1775, George Washington came to inspect the American troops in Boston and was sadly disapointed in the lack of organization and noted that Nathanael Greene's troops were clean and well organized and from then on, became a close confidant of General Washington and was made Brigadier General in 1775 and became a two star Major General in 1776. He was second in command only to Washington and remained the only two star American General until the 20th century.
Greene was present at the famous crossing of the Delaware and Washington placed Greene in a separate boat to ensure that at least one of them would survive. Had Washington perished, Grenne would have been commander in chief.
In 1778, Greene was made Quartermaster General with the understanding that he would later be given a high command in the southern campaign. In 1780, Greene was appointed the command of the southern troops. He was instrumental in organizing the campaigns of Francis Marion (The Swamp Fox) and "Light Horse" Harry Lee. Greene contributed to American victory and became well-known for his excellent military strategy.
After the war, Greene was given Tory plantations in South Carolina and Georgia in appreciation for his defeat of General Cornwallis in Yorktown. Greene was faced with numerous war debts for the provisioning of his troops. He pledged his own personal fortune and family money to pay the debts.
Greene was said to be a humble and kind man, even dealing fairly with the British and traitor Benedict Arnold.
He retired to his plantation near Savannah, Georgia after the war with his wife and 5 surviving children where he died in June 1786 of sunstroke.
In 1792, Caty Greene became aquainted with Eli Whitney, who was tutoring her neighbor's children. It is believed that Caty Greene provided Whitney with inspiration and financial backing for the cotton gin, which was never acknowledged.
Mr. Greg Mierka believes that Nathanel Greene has been forgotten about due to his untimely death, while George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson went on to distinguished political careers and have reamined in the public memory. Greene should be remembered and honored as one of the greatest heros of the American Revolution.
A big thank you to Greg and Mary Mierka for showing us around and sharing their wonderful knowledge with us. If you read this and want to know more about women's rights, a subject on which I am quite knowledable or 19th century clothing or quilts (interests of mine), contact me (aupoohbear at hotmail).
The Nathanael Greene Homstead was a private family home until the death of his great-niece Margaret in 1899. It first opened as a museum in 1919 and is located at 50 Taft Street, Coventry, Rhode Island 02816 - 5314. The house is open to the public on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays April 1-October 31.
Learn more about Major General Nathanael Greene from the Providence Journal's excellent series of articles Rise and Fight Again