A major general of the Continental Army in the
American Revolutionary War,
Greene was the son of a Quaker farmer, also named Nathanael, and Mary
Mott. One of nine children, he was born at Warwick, Rhode Island, on
August 7, 1742.
Though his father's sect,
called the Society of Friends, discouraged "literary accomplishments,"
Greene educated himself, with a special study of mathematics and law. The
Reverend Ezra Stiles, later president of Yale University, was a strong
influence in the young Nathanael's life.
In 1770, he moved to
Coventry, Rhode Island, to take charge of the family-owned foundry. There,
he was the first to urge the establishment of a public school and was
chosen as a member of the Rhode Island General Assembly. On July 20, 1774,
Littlefield on July 20, 1774.
Despite the fact that
the Society of Friends believe that wars and fighting are wrong, Greene
helped organize a militia in October 1774 because the possibility of war
with Britain was increasing.
As a result, he was
not longer allowed to be a member. Because he had a limp, the militia
group didn't want him to be an officer. So, he began his military career
as a private.
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 in the Battles of Fort
Washington, Trenton, Brandywine, Germantown, and many others, gaining the
General George Washington.
In March 1778, he 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.
during the winter of 1779-1780, when the army was encamped at
Morristown, New Jersey, greatly benefited the Continentals. His wife
Catharine gave birth to their fourth child in Morristown in late
In October, 1780,
following the disastrous patriot defeat at Camden, South Carolina,
gave Greene command of forces in the South. In a brilliant campaign,
Greene reversed the new nation's fortunes and in a series of battles and
marches, he 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 General George Washington's.
After the war, Greene
was deeply in debt because he had pledged his own money to feed the
voted to give him a gift of money, in gratitude for his defense of the
state. Additionally, the state of Georgia gave him a plantation on
Cumberland Island, where he moved in 1785. A year later, Greene died on June 19, 1786
at the age of forty-four, from an illness brought on by sunstroke. He is
buried within the boundaries of Cumberland Island National Seashore.
Greene was the
only general, other than George Washington
and Henry Knox, to serve the entire eight years of the war.
of America, updated February, 2017.
National Park Service