Rhode Island. General Assembly. Joint Special Comm.

The remains of Major-General Nathanael Greene online

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of time after the constitution was adopted
Rhode Island stayed out, and not until long
after our first President had been inaugurated
did the charming little sister come reluctantly
pouting into the family circle of States. But
since then what a devoted little sister she has
been, and how we all love her, and how happy
we are to welcome her chief magistrate.

" And the spot on which we stand, marked
by this exquisite structure of that government
which Rhode Island and Georgia at least will
forever uphold, is itself eloquent with memories
of that great past which made our nation pos-

" Little more than a hundred and twenty-
three years ago, the Daughters of the Revolu-
tion of that day, the forebears of many now
present, cowering in cellars within the sound
of my voice, hugged their little ones to their
agonized hearts, as the mitraille of cannon


balls and grape-shot from the allied batteries
swept the ramparts of the British and shat-
tered the fraofile structures above their heads.

"Now, the Daughters never cower, but, reg-
nant, triumph in the hearts of their country-
men. And more, on this lot, marked out by
the fine engineering eye of James Edward
Oglethorpe, stood the first court house in the
colony of Georgia, and there the noble founder
sought to administer justice, perchai)ce be-
tween contending Colonial Dames of that day;
and perchance, also, in the presence of their
charms,, discovered that, if justice is always
blind, judges sometimes are not. The court
house of the week was the church of the Sab-
bath, and here John Wesley preached; and it
was not without consolation to the judiciary,
when we recall that a " colonial " influence
upon the preacher was not less effective than
upon the judge.

" The palms which rustle with tjae zephyrs
of our soft clime, the pines sighing with aeolian
measures, the river as it flows majestic to the
sea, are all voiceful of an heroic past. And
surely the people of this high-minded city
may deservedly appropriate the beautiful lines
of Cowper:

Hon. Emory Sheer,

United States District Judge for the Southern District
of Georgia.



' We talk of patriots, and their deeds, as they deserve,
Receive proud recompense. We give in charge their

names to the sweet Ij're.
The historic Muse, proud of the sacred treasure,
Marches with it down to latest times.
And sculpture in her turn gives bond in stone
And ever during brass, to guard and to mortalize

the trust.'

" But at another hour, and by a gallant son
of New York, will there be adequate expression
of this inspiring sentiment. Here and now we
meet to felicitate ourselves on the presence,
and to welcome that distinguished American
and his patriotic fellow citizens, Gov. Kimball,
the chief mao-istrate of Rhode Island."

At the conclusion of the address His Excel-
lency Governor Kimball arose to respond, and,
as a mark of greeting, his audience, too, arose.

Governor Kimball said:

" Your Honor, Members of Patriotic Socie-
ties, Ladies and Guests : The State of Rhode
Island is honored by this greeting of the emi-
nent people of Georgia. The tie that binds
the two States of the American Union had its
beginning in the dark days of the Revolution-
ary War. The sacrifices that the people of


both States made for a common cause en-
deared them to each other,

" Circumstances so shaped themselves that
it became the lot of the best soldier Rhode
Island produced, the famous Gen. Nathanael
Greene, to command the Department of the
South. Other States have been proud of their
share in the winning of our independence, and
we are proud that we furnished him to the
American Army.

" It has been the misfortune of some that
their services have not been appreciated, but we
take a pride in knowing that the people of the
Southern States realize the important military
services of Gen. Greene. When the State of
Georgia recognized those services and invited
him to become one of her citizens we shared
in the honor paid to him, though we were
sorry to lose him.

" Circumstances rapidly change the issues of
events in this country. The just-ifiable con-
servatism of our ancestors in Rhode Island
and the devotion of the people of Georgia to
their State have passed into history. The
people of Rhode Island, of Georgia, and of
every other State stand shoulder to shoulder
in defense of our common country. They


knew that the system of government founded
by our fathers has stood as severe tests as fall
to the lot of government, and stood them suc-

" We realize that this country is the hope of
the thinking men of the world ; that they ex-
pect that new problems that have vexed phi-
losophers since the dawn of history may be
settled. We can assure them that Georgia
and Rhode Island will do their share in fulfill-
ing the destiny that we believe is in store for
the people of the United States."

His Excellency was heartily applauded at
the conclusion of his response to the eloquent
welcome of Judge Speer.

At the conclusion of Gov. Kimball's address,
District Attorney W. R. Leaken moved that
the court adjourn for the day, in honor to the
memory of Gen. Greene; whereupon Judge
Speer declared the court adjourned. It is
probable that the United States Court never
before adjourned under such brilliant auspices.
The Savannah Morning News, in its account
of this interesting occasion, said :

" Pregnant as it was with the fraternal feeling and
patriotic sentiment which was distinctivel}' character-


istic of the august occasion, Judge Speer's address
touched a responsive chord with his cultured audi-
ence. The reply of Gov. Kimball was in most happy-
vein, voicing most appropriately the appreciation of
the chief executive and his patriotic fellow-citizens.

" It was a gathering calculated to inspire patriot-
ism — a judge of the United States judiciary in the
Empire State of the South, welcoming from the little
sister State of Rhode Island — the native heath of the
great general whose remains have for a century, and
more, reposed in Georgia's soil — her chief executive
and the representatives of her General Assembly.

"There were present, too, many distinguished
guests from a distance, daughters and dames of illus-
trious lineage, sons whose progenitors framed the
constitution and welded the indissoluble bond of fra-
ternity between the American and French peoples,
representatives of those who bled for their country at
Bunker Hill and suffered sacrifice with Washington
at Valley Forge, and even the lineal descendants of
the great chieftain in commemoration of whose valiant
services to his country the brilliant assemblage was

After the reception at the United States
Courts, the party was taken by a committee
of the association to the Cotton Exchange,
where the time was spent most enjoyably, after
which they returned to the hotel for lunch and
to make preparation for the ceremonies at-

J. Stacy Brown,
Member of Committee of Rhode Island General Assembly.



tending the re-interment of the remains of
Gen. Greene, later in the day.

These ceremonies were of a most dignified
and imposing kind. A proclamation of the
acting mayor had made the day practically a
holiday ; all the public offices were closed, and
many of the merchants and tradesmen laid
aside their business to unite in paying their
tribute of respect to the memory of the dis-
tinguished son of Rhode Island, the great
commander in the struggle for American In-
dependence, and the sterling citizen of Geor-
gia. People from without the city joined with
those of Savannah to take part in this patriotic
demonstration. Your committee took part in
these proceedings, and a full account of the
exercises will be found in the historical ac-
count heretofore referred to and made a part
of this report and annexed hereto.

The city of Savannah is to be congratulated
on the success of this great patriotic ceremony.
It was formal, dignified, patriotic; and, in its
perfect systematic arrangement of details,
showed the high qualities of the military gen-
ius under whose direction the whole affair was
planned and so successfully carried out.

On Friday evening, His Excellency Gov-


ernor Kimball was entertained at dinner at
the home of His Honor Pope Barrow, Judge
of the Superior Court of Chatham County.
The other guests at the dinner being Col.
Asa Bird Gardiner, Hon. A. O. Bacon, U. S.
Senator from Georgia, Mr. T. P. Ravenel,
Mr. G. \V. Owens, Judge S. B. Adams, Gen.
W. \V. Gordon, Mr, Henr}^ C. Cunningham,
and Walter G. Charlton, Esq.

In closing this report, the members of your
committee desire to place upon record their
deep appreciation of the attention and cour-
tesies shown them by the people of Savannah
from the time of their arrival until their de-
parture. They also wish to express their
thanks for the many kindnesses shown the
representatives from Rhode Island by the offi-
cers and members of the Oglethorpe Club, the
Tomachichi Club, the Hussars' Club, and the
Savannah Yacht Club.

The Association of Patriotic Soci€ties, whose
guests your committee were, exemplied in its
most perfect form that hospitality for which
the South has such an enviable reputation.
Business men and those in official life gave
freely of their time to contribute to the com-
fort and welfare of their guests ; and when it


is considered that the time of the visit was at a
particularly busy season of the year, this fact
is doubly significant.

It would be impossible to name each per-
son individually who did so much to make the
visit of your committee to the city of Savan-
nah so thoroughly pleasant, for all the citi-
zens of Savannah seemed to be united in one
grand committee, charged with the duty of
anticipating the wants and seeing that the
visitors from Rhode Island lacked for nothing.
The members of this committee, however,
desire to particularly thank the Association of
Patriotic Societies for the very generous hos-
pitality extended them during their stay in the
city of Savannah, and to express their appre-
ciation of the services rendered by Gen. W. W.
Gordon, President of the Association, and to
Mr. Robert Tyler Waller, Secretary.
Respectfully submitted,

Horace F. Horton, CJiairman.
" James E. Banigan,

Frank T. Easton,

J. Stacy Brown,

Harry H. Shepard,

Francis W. Greene,
Edward Field, Secj^etaiy.
January 8, 1903.

Exhibit A.

The Waldorf-Astoria,

New York, March 13th, 1901.

Hon. William Gregory,

Governor of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations ,
Executive Chamber,

Providence, R. I.

Sir : — In 1113' telegram of March 4th, I announced
the finding of the remains of Major-General Nathanael
Greene in the Colonial Cemeterj' in the City of Savan-
nah, Georgia, by a committee appointed for that pur-
pose by the Rhode Island State Society of Cincinnati,
and I now have the honor to make a more detailed
report on this interesting subject.

The Rhode Island State Society of Cincinnati was
organized by the Rhode Island Continental Line of
the Revolution, at Saratoga Barracks, on the Hudson,
June 24th, 1783. At the subsequent meeting, held in
the Senate Chamber, State House, Providence, on
December 23rd, 1783, Major -Genergi Nathanael
Greene presided, and was re-elected, on every suc-
ceeding fourth of July, president, until his decease,
he having presided for the last time at Newport, July
4th, 1785.

On February 28th, 18 14, this military society was
duly incorporated by the General Assembly under its
institution in 1783.

Harry H. Shepard,
Member of Committee of Rhode Island General Assembly



Major-General Greene was born in Rhode Island on
August 7th, 1742, and throughovit his life retained
his citizenship in the State, and during the Revolu-
tionary war was credited to the quota of Rhode Is-
land in the Continental service. When he last de-
parted, a few months before his decease, from Newport
for Savannah, Georgia, he still retained his residence
in Newport, Rhode Island.

By reason of his potential services to the State of
Georgia in compelling its evacuation by the British
army, the Legislature of that State gave him the con-
fiscated estate of the former Tor}- L,ieutenant Gov-
ernor Grahame. This property, known as " Mulberry
Grove," is located about twelve miles below Savan-
nah, on the Savannah river.

Here General Greene died, suddenly, on June 19th,
1786, of a congestive chill ; and on the following day
his remains were taken by boat to Savannah, where
they were interred in the Colonial cemetery belonging
to Christ Episcopal Church, in the very centre of the
then town of Savannah, with imposing civic and mili-
tary ceremonies.

The Georgia Gazette of June 22nd, 1786, gives in
detail the cer,emonies at the obsequies, and mentions
the Society of the Cincinnati in Georgia at that time,
but since extinct, as the principal mourners. The
entire town united in showing honor to the remains
of this distinguished patriot, who, next to Washing-
ton, had shown himself greatest of our generals in the
war of the Revolution. The Georgia Gazette, with
reference to the place of interment, merely uses this


language: "When the military reached the vault in
which the bod)^ was to be entombed, they opened to
the right and left, and, resting on reverse arms, let it
pass through. The funeral services being performed
and the corpse deposited, thirteen discharges from
the artillery and three from the musketry closed the
scene. The whole was conducted with a solemnity
suitable for the occasion."

It is noticeable that the particular vault in which
the remains were deposited is not mentioned. These
vaults were and are brick structures, mostly with a
portion above ground, though there are a few which
are wholly beneath the surface. The cemetery was
surrounded by a thick and high brick wall of which
but one side now remains, the wall being about twelve
feet high, and toward which General Washington con-
tributed to the erection.

Several years ago Christ Church gave to the City of
Savannah the cemeter}- to be made into a park, on
condition that the remains should not be disturbed by
the city authorities. Thereupon the wall was taken
down on three sides facing upon the several streets,
leaving but the rear wall on an alleyway, separating
the cemetery from the police barracks .and, in lieu of
trees, shrubs were planted and walks laid out.

When General W. T. Sherman's army, on its march
from Atlanta, Ga., came to Savannah, many of the
vaults were opened by the soldiers in search of valua-
bles, and much wanton destruction of monuments and
tablets ensued ; so that to-day many of the vaults are
without any means of identification. Some of these


were erected before and some after Major-General
Greene's decease. There are, however, four well-
known colonial vaults in a row at that part of the
park which would be intersected if lyincoln street
were prolonged.

It is remarkable that within a few years after 1786
there should have been a doubt as to the location of
General Greene's remains. It might be supposed that
General Greene's widow and immediate descendants
who were at " Mulberry Grove " when he died would
have known of the location. A very few years after
his decease, however, Mrs. Nathanael Greene married
Phineas Miller, Esq., and removed with her famil}- to
Dungenness House, Cumberland Island, Georgia, dis-
tant one hundred and twenty miles from Savannah,
and for upward of forty years afterward none of
the Greene family resided in or near Savannah. Mrs.
Phineas Miller, the General's widow, died at Dungen-
ness House, September 2nd, 18 14, and the estate then
became the property of her second daughter, Mrs.
Louisa Shaw. The condition of the climate and sur-
roundings at that time in Savannah were not condu-
cive to longevity, and many of the residents there in
the Revolutionary period soon passed awa5^

The place where Major-General Greene's remains
were deposited was not indicated by any tablet, and,
in a few years, nianj^ of those who had knowledge
were deceased. Accordingly, in 1820, the council of
Savannah appointed a committee to made an inquiry.

Their report was but a brief and partial one, and in
it they stated they had not discovered the locality, and


that owing to insurmountable obstacles they had not
examined the "Jones" vault, which is one of the four
Colonial vaults above referred to and next to that
nearest Ogelthorpe avenue of Colonel Richard Wylly,
Deputy Quartermaster-General, Continental Army.
That their report was unsatisfactory, partial, and in-
conclusive is evidenced by the fact that the council
immediately appointed another committee, which,
however, never appears to have done anything.

In 1840 the late George H. Johnstone, of Savannah,
who had married a granddaughter of Major-General
Greene, and the late Phineas Miller Nightingale,
grandson of Major-General Greene and half-brother
to Mr. Johnstone's wife, made another search, which
was also very inconclusive.

Thereupon tradition, ever unreliable, invented sev-
eral theories as to the disposition of General Greene's

One was that the remains had been deposited in the
vault of former L,ieutenant-Governor Grahame, whose
estate had been confiscated and awarded to General
Greene as aforesaid, and that his, Grahame's, wife's
sister, Mrs. Morsman, returning to Savannah several
years after the Revolution, had directed the negro
slaves to remove the remains ; and one traditional
story said that they had been thrown into Negro
Creek, and another that they had been buried at
night in the cemetery.

A gentleman named Wright, now in his ninetieth
year, residing in Atlanta, who has been a member of
the Chatham artillery for seventy years, states that,

Francis \V. Greene,
IMember of Committee of Rhode Island General Assembly.



when a boy, he played in the cemetery, and that he
and his playmates understood that a certain mound,
near the corner of Oglethorpe avenue and Bull street,
covered the remains of General Greene. L,ast August
he came to Savannah, and, although the mound had
been leveled, he indicated where, after a period of
seventy-five years or more, he thought the mound had

Another tradition was that the remains had been
taken secretly to Cumberland Island by a member of
the family, and several persons asserted positively
that they had seen the tombstone there. This tomb-
stone is, however, that of General Greene's widow, in
which his name appears in large characters, and
therefore, from a cursory observation, gave rise to
this belief.

A number of years ago the city of Savannah erected
an obelisk, intended both for Greene and Brigadier-
General Count Casimir Pulaski, but for a long time
no inscription was put upon it, and finally an inscrip-
tion was put upon it to Major-General Greene as fol-
lows: "Soldier, patriot, the friend of Washington.
This shaft has been reared by the people of Savannah
in honor of his great services to the American Revo-

Later another monument was erected to Brigadier-
General Count Pulaski, who was mortally wounded in
the unsuccessful assault on Savannah, October 9th,

The late President of the Rhode Island State So-
ciet}^ of Cincinnati, the venerable and honorable


Nathanael Greene, M. D., I,Iv. D., grandson of Major-
General Greene, was born at the Dungenness House,
Cumberland Island, Georgia, June 2nd, 1809, and
died at Middletown, Rhode Island, July 8th, 1899, in
his ninety-first year. He remembered his grand-
mother Greene and had spent much of his earlier
life in Georgia, and, except during the period of the
Civil War, was for about seventy years accustomed
to go there every 3'ear.

He was ver}' desirous of having a more thorough
search made for the remains of his grandfather, and
frequently gave me, as told him by his own father,
Nathanael Ray Greene, a description of the remark-
able head of his grandfather and its unusual brain

Recently, the subject having again been agitated in
Savannah as to the whereabouts of General Greene's
remains, the Rhode Island State Society of Cincinnati
adopted resolutions for an inquiry, which in substance
are as follows :

" Whereas, after diligent inquiry it is believed that
full investigation has never yet been made to ascertain
definitely where the remains of Majoj>General Na-
thanael Greene, President of the Rhode Island State
Society of Cincinnati, were finally deposited after his
decease at ' Mulberry Grove ' in Savannah, Georgia, in

"And whereas, it is believed that a thorough search
of the four old burial vaults in the old cemetery now
forming a part of Colonial Park, Savannah, Geor-
gia, will determine whether the remains are deposited
in a certain one of said vaults, as believed by persons


well informed in matters of local history and as sub-
stantiated b}^ authentic record ;

"And zi'/iereas, it is particularly appropriate that
the Society of Cincinnati in the State of Rhode Island
and Providence Plantations should do whatever may
be necessary toward ascertaining the burial place of
its first president, the great patriot and soldier, who
next to Washington aided so potentially in securing
the independence of the United States ; "

The society therefore appointed a committee to
make the inquiry and appropriated the necessary funds
to carry it into effect. This committee consisted of
the Hon. George Anderson Mercer, President of the
Georgia Historical Society, the Hon. Walter G. Charl-
ton, President of the Society of the Sons of the Revo-
lution in the State of Georgia, both of whom are emi-
nent members of the Georgia bar, and Philip D. Baffin,
Esq., Chairman of the Savannah Park and Tree Com-
mission, and the Hon. William Harden, Secretary of
the Society of the Sons of the Revolution in the State
of Georgia and lyibrarian of its Historical Society, and
Alfred Bearing Harden, Esq., of the Savannah bar,
member of the South Carolina State Society of the
Cincinnati^ with myself as chairman.

These gentlemen entered heartily into the subject
of the inquiry, and carefully weighed and considered
everything of a traditional nature on this subject, in
order that, if the special search which was desired
should prove ineffective, then such weight should be
given to the traditional stories as their peculiar charac-
ter might warrant. The direct intention of the commit-


tee was, from the outset, as will be hereinafter set
forth, to examine one particular vault as to which
there was record information, but, as a matter of
punctilious courtesy, the examination was delayed as
to this vault until the last, in order to communicate
with the descendants of the original owners of the

The greatest interest was manifested by the people
of the city of Savannah.

Several members of the committee were always
present and a large concourse of citizens, and among
those who attended to witness the investigations were
the Hon. Thomas Manson Norwood, judge of the
City Court and United States Senator in 1871-1S77,
who came several times, and the Hon. Robert Falli-
gant, judge of the Superior Court, and the Hon. Pope
Barrow and Captain Thomas Screven.

The committee was continuous!}^ assisted by Robert
Tyler Waller, Esq., who is a grandson of ex-President
John Tyler, and who married Major-General Greene's
great-granddaughter. He resides in Savannah, and
represented the junior branch of the Greene family.

By reason of being a member of the Greene
family, although not descended from General Greene.
I represented, at their request, the elder branch of his
descendants resident in Rhode Island.

Otis Ashmore, Esq., superintendent of schools, and
Edward J. Kelly, Esq., of Savannah, also continuous!}^

The committee's intention was first given to exami-
nation of the many vaults, including the McLeod

Edward Field,
Secretarv Committee Rhode Island General Assembly,



vault and others, where tradition said the remains
had been deposited. Many of these were found to be
in very bad condition, for want of proper repairs ; but
the most careful scrutiny was made in a reverent and

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Online LibraryRhode Island. General Assembly. Joint Special CommThe remains of Major-General Nathanael Greene → online text (page 2 of 14)