Copyright
Rhode Island. General Assembly. Joint Special Comm.

The remains of Major-General Nathanael Greene online

. (page 3 of 14)
Online LibraryRhode Island. General Assembly. Joint Special CommThe remains of Major-General Nathanael Greene → online text (page 3 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


proper manner, and records kept of the coffin-plates
which were found, to the gratification of many people
in Savannah, who, in the absence of distinguishinsf
marks to those vaults — owing to the vandalism as
before referred — did not know, with certainty, where
the remains of certain members of their families had
been deposited. Every vault was immediately re-
closed, on conclusion of examination, with cemented
brick before opening another.

The labor was performed through the Park and
Tree Commission, under the immediate charge of Mr.
William H. Robertson, chief clerk and deputy to that
commission ; and the trusted employees of that com-
mission were employed in the important work of ex-
amining the remains in the vault under the inniiediate
personal supervision of the committee.

Finally, after all the vaults where tradition, or
statements more or less positive by citizens, averred
that the remains were deposited had been critically
and carefully examined, there remained but one
still to be examined, namely, the "Jones" vault.
This had been erected by the Hon. Noble Wimberly
Jones, who died in Savannah, Georgia, Januarj^ 9th,
1805. He had been Speaker in Georgia of both
the Colonial and State L<egislatures, Delegate to
the Continental Congress in 1775 and 1 781- 1783, and
had been made a prisoner of war at the capitulation



38 NATHANAEL GREENE.

of Charleston, S. C, May 12th, 1780, and was a tried
patriot and friend of Major-General Greene.

It is proper here to remark that the entire story as
to removal of the remains to Cumberland Island,
Georgia, narrated bj^ one A. B. Goodwin of Savannah,
as hearsay upon hearsay, told him in 1886 in a tavern
in St. Mary's, Georgia, was disproved, not only by the
improbable character of many of the alleged particu-
lars, which frequently varied in the telling by said
Goodwin, but also by the positive statements of Mr.
Robert Tyler Waller and other members and connec-
tions of the Greene family, including the late Hon.
Nathanael Greene, as well as others who had visited
that island, and b}^ the declaration, equally positive,
of D. G. Purse, Esq., of Savannah, who, for a number
of years, was trustee for that estate and resided there,
the committee also having a complete record of all the
recorded deaths at Cumberland Island, including that
of General Henry I^ee (lyight Horse Harry) in 18 18.

On Monday morning, March 4th instant, the vault,
which was perfectly well known as the " Jones" vault,
was opened.

The late George Wimberly Jones de Renne, Esq.,
senior representative of the Jones family, and Vice-
President of the Georgia Historical Society, many
years ago opened that vault and found and identified
the remains of all the members of the Jones family
deposited there, and thereupon removed them all to
Bonaventure cemetery, near Savannah, and closed up
the vault. He afterward told the Hon. William Har-
den, of the committee, and others, precisely what he



NATHANAEL GREENE. 31i

had done, as herein narrated. That he was able to
identify the remains of the several members of the
Jones family was due to the fact that this vault is
drier and more sandy in its soil than the others which
the committee examined. In the centre of the vault
the committee found probabl}' a cart load of broken
brick, which were first removed before further in-
quiry.

An opening through the rear brick wall was also
made, to permit admission of light and air.

Upon examination, there was found on one side of
the vault, in a remarkable state of preservation, a cas-
ket containing the remains of Mr. Robert Scott, who
died on June 5th, 1845, fifty-six years ago, at the age
of seventy. The silver plate to his coffin was hardly
discolored.

On the other side of the vault nearest the wall were
noticed the rotting fragments of a coffin. Upon these
being removed there appeared a man's skeleton quite
intact, except some of the smaller ribs, which
clearly showed that this body had never been dis-
turbed.

The two experienced workmen employed inside of
the vault were Charles C. Gattman and Edward W.
Keenan.

As the fragments of the coffin were removed from
the remains, they both exclaimed as to the remarkably
prominent configuration of the skull. Mr. Kelly,
who was watching the proceeding through the open-
ing, at once noticed the same fact and called the at-
tention of myself and other members of the committee



-1-0 XATHAXAEL GREENE.

present to this circumstance. The workmen then re-
moved the remaining fragments of the coffin and
looked for the plate, which was found, where it should
be, among the bones of the breast.

As Mr. Gattman passed this plate up through the
opening he examined it in the bright sunlight, and
remarked that he noticed the date "1786," he not
knowing that this was the date of General Greene's
decease.

The plate is silver gilt which is quite distinguish-
able upon the reverse side. Upon the face are not
only the figures " 1786," but also, upon careful in-
spection, members of the committee and Messrs. Wal-
ler and Kell}^ discovered the letters " reene," the final
termination of the word " Greene," in proper position;
and Mr. W. G. Charlton was able, after some care, to
discern the letters, just preceding these, of " ael," of
the word " Nathanael."

This plate, at the desire of the committee, will be
taken to General L. P. di Cesnola, Director of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in the city of New York,
to ascertain whether it can be restored by anj^ scien-
tific process.

Some of the bones crumbled on being handled, but
the larger bones and skull and jaw bones were all
preserved. They were carefully placed in a box.

Search was then made for metal buttons. Three
were discovered, badly corroded, upon one of which,
however, could be traced the form of an eagle, which
was the di.stinguishing mark upon the buttons of a




Cii.\i^i.i:s II. Howi.ANi),
Executive Secretary.



/'



IvATHANAEL GREENE. 41

Major-General of the Continental Army of the Revo-
lution.

An article of mine, in the Magazine of American
History for 1883, on this subject describes the uniform
buttons of general olftcers of the War of the Revolu-
tion.

In no other vault, and in no other examination of the
remains of the many examined, were there other than
wooden buttons found, which had originally been
covered with silk, cloth, or velvet.

All the mould of Major-General Greene's remains
was carefully collected and put in a box, which was
then nailed up.

Another peculiarly significant fact, which cannot
be overlooked, was the discovery of fragments of
heavy white silk gloves, much discolored, and con-
taining bones of the fingers.

These gloves were such as general officers in the
French army would have worn, and were, doubtless,
a present from the Marquis de I^afayette to Major-
General Greene in 1784-5.

The Marquis was accustomed to make presents to
his brother officers in the Revolutionary army, and
every time he returned to the United States he
brought a great many gifts of a military character.
Among other things he gave Major-General Greene a
number of silver camp mugs, or cups, such as were
used by Marshals of France. These are preserved
in the family of the late Prof. George Washington
Greene, in Rhode Island.



42 NATHANAEL GREENE.

His very deep attachment for Major-General Greene
is well authenticated.

The Rhode Island Cincinnati entertained him at
Newport in October, 1784, on his first arrival after
the Revolution, and he saw General Greene while
then in the United States.

When he came again, in 1824, he gave to General
Greene's second daughter, Mrs. Louisa Shaw, a steel-
plate engraving of her father, with this inscription in
Lafaj^ette's well-known handwriting, viz :

" To dear Mrs. Shaw
" From her father's most intimate friend and compan-
ion in arms —

"IvA Fayette."

This is now in the possession of Mrs. Robert Tyler
Waller, great-granddaughter of General Greene, 320
Huntington street, East, Savannah, Georgia.

The workmen reported another body alongside,
with fragments of a coffin. Upon these fragments
being removed, Mr. Gattman, who has had much ex-
perience in that business, remarked that they were
the remains of a male person, probably eighteen or
nineteen years of age, he not knowing that Major-
General Greene's son, George Washington Greene,
had been drowned in the Savannah river, off " Mul-
berry Grove," on March 28th, 1793, and his remains
interred alongside his father's.

Most of these bones crumbled upon being handled.
They were, however, carefully collected with all the
mould, and put in another box, which was nailed up.



NATHANAEL GREENE. 4-8

The coffin-plate was too badly corroded to enable any-
thing to be deciphered upon it.

The boxes were removed to the police barracks
near by and placed under the care of the captain of
the police over night, and the vault re-bricked and
cemented. These proceedings were all witnessed by
a considerable concourse of people.

On the following day suitable boxes were procured,
zinc-lined, and taken to the police barracks, and Mr.
Keenan, who had assisted in the vault, in a room put
at the service of the committee, and in the presence of
the lieutenant of the police and other policemen, and
the members of the committee and the press, and Mr.
W. T. Dixon, undertaker, of 15 Perry street, East,
and his assistants, carefully removed the remains of
Major-General Greene to the zinc-lined box prepared
for the purpose. In doing so Mr. Otis Ashmore,
assisted by Mr. Edward J. Kelly, made measurements
of the skull which corresponded to the details in
Sully's original portrait of Major-General Nathanael
Greene, and to the statements made by the late Hon.
Nathanael Greene and other members of the Greene
family.

In the Life of Major-General Nathanael Greene,
by his grandson, the late Prof. George Washing-
ton Greene, there will be found, as a frontispiece
(Volume i), a portrait of General Greene, the skull
of which exactly corresponds to the one found.

My lamented friend, the late Colonel John Screven,
of Savannah, President of the Georgia Sons of the
Revolution, had proposed to make this investigation,



44 NATHANAEL GREENE.

and repeatedly declared that General Greene's re-
mains would be recognized by his skull. It was of
the same distinctive character as the skull of Napo-
leon Bonaparte, Humboldt, Cuvier, and Daniel Web-
ster.

The teeth, both upper and lower, were remarkably
well preserved, in a jaw which showed great deter-
mination and firmness of character, and clearly indi-
cated the age to be about forty-four or forty-five
years. After the remains of Major-General Greene
had all been deposited in the zinc-lined box, the zinc
cover was placed upon the box and soldered in its
place; the wooden cover Avas then screwed down,
handles put to the ends of the box, and a coffin-plate
affixed bearing the inscription :

"MAJOR-GENERAL NATHANAEL GREENE,
"Born August 7TH,'i742,
"Died June iqth, 1786."

In like manner the remains of George Washington
Greene were transferred to the other zinc-lined box,
which was closed in like manner, the coffin-plate con-
taining the inscription :

" GEORGE W. GREENE,
"Son of Major-General Nathanael Greene."

The remains were then taken by Mr. Dixon, the
undertaker, in his wagon, accompanied by members
of the committee and the press, to the Southern Bank
of the State of Georgia, which is a depository of the
State in Savannah. Here they were received by




George Washington Greene Carpenter.



X"



NATHAXAEL GREENE. 45

Horace A. Crane, Esq., Vice-President, and James
Sullivan, Esq., cashier, and taken in the presence of
these gentlemen and of the committee and deposited
in the safe deposit vault of the bank, where they
remain, subject to the order of the undersigned and
Alfred Bearing Harden, Esq., of the committee, as
trustees.

After the remains had been di.scovered and disposed
of on Monday, March 4th, the committee met in final
session at the residence of the Hon. George Anderson
Mercer, and immediately afterward, at a numerously
attended meeting of the Historical Society of Georgia,
in their society hall, he, as president of that society,
announced, on behalf of the committee, the discovery
of the remains.

But one circumstance needs yet to be brought to
your attention, and that is the authentic evidence on
this subject which satisfied the committee, from the
outset, that the proper place to inquire was the
" Jones " vault.

In 1 82 1 William Johnson copyrighted his life of
Major-General Nathanael Greene, a work to which he
had given special care and attention. In its prepara-
tion he had visited all the scenes of General Greene's
military operations and interviewed many who had
been participants with him in the War of the Revolu-
tion. In this life Johnson says that the funeral cere-
mony of the Church of England (Episcopal) was read
over the corpse b}" the Hon. William Stephens, as
there was not at that time a minister of the gospel in
the city.



4() NATHANAEL GREENE.

In a foot-note (Volume 2, page 120, original edi-
tion), Johnson adds that "Judge Stephens, who per-
formed the funeral services, has repeatedl}- told the
author that the body of General Greene lay in the
tomb of Jones, and that the tomb has not yet been
searched^

Judge Stephens was then judge of the Superior
Court of Georgia, and afterward United States Dist-
rict Judge for the State of Georgia, until his decease,
August 6th, 1819. He had been the first Attorney
General of the State and Colonel of the Chatham
County Militia, and Grand Master of the Masons of the
State, and was a close friend of General Greene.

As the late George W. Jones de Renne, when re-
moving the remains of the Jones family to Bonaven-
ture, was able to identify them all, there was no occa-
sion to notice particularly other ■ remains there de-
posited ; and in the dimness of that vault, even had
the little coffin-plate of Major-General Greene been
searched for and found among the remains, which
evidentl}^ had not been the case from the position of
the remains, nothing could have been discovered upon
inspecting the plate without taking it to^the sunlight.

Several indications pointed to the fact that this par-
ticular vault had not been disturbed in the manner
others were in 1865.

In conclusion, the committee are indeed happy that
their labors have resulted so successfully, and they
have no doubt that all lovers of our country will re-
joice with them.

I have been particular in these details, some of



NATHANAEL GREENE. 47

which ma}' appear inconsequential, because in a mat-
ter of historj' they are necessary.

Had the Georgia Gazette of 1786 mentioned the par-
ticular vault where General Greene's remains had
been deposited, there would then never have been
any doubt upon the subject.

When the word was received in New York c\\.y of
General Greene's untimely decease, the Revolution-
ary officers who composed the Society of Cincinnati
in that State assembled, with members of the Conti-
nental Congress and public officials and functionaries
of the State of New York, in St. Paul's Chapel on
Broadway, to listen to the masterful oration by Alex-
ander Hamilton upon the life and services of Major-
General Greene. In the course of his address, Ham-
ilton said :

" It required a longer life and still greater opportu-
nities, to have enabled him to exhibit in full day, his
vast, I had almost said the enormous powers of his
mind."

This oration was one of the greatest ever delivered
in this country, and can still be read and studied with
profit b}' the militarj^ student.

The Continental Congress, on August 8th, 1786,
decreed a monument to General Greene's memory.

When my honored friend, the late senior Senator
from Rhode Island, Hon. Henry B. Anthony, on be-
half of the State, in an address to the United States
Senate, presented on January 20th, 1870, the life-size
statue of General Greene for the old hall of the
House of Representatives, he remarked that Greene



48 NATHAXAEL GREENE.

"stands in the judgment of his contemporaries, and
by the assent of history, second only to the man who
towers without a peer in the annals of America."

All the expenses of the investigation just concluded
were defrayed by the Rhode Island State Society of
Cincinnati from the interest on its permanent fund, to
which Major-General Greene contributed his month's
pay in 1783.

The final disposition of his remains has not as yet
been discussed.

General Greene was fifth in descent from Surgeon
John Greene, who came to Providence Plantations
with Roger Williams.

He was a native of Rhode Island and always cred-
ited on its Continental quota during the Revolution-
ary War, and has always been claimed by the State
as a citizen of Rhode Island. Upon his last trip
South he retained his residence in Newport, from
which he sailed October 14th, 1785.

At the last annual meeting of the Rhode Island Cin-
cinnati before his decease, which was held in Newport,
he officiated as President.

In any final determination as to where his remains
shall be deposited, his descendants atnd the State of
Georgia, as well as Rhode Island, should all be con-
sulted.

I have the honor to be, .sir,
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
ASA BIRD GARDINER,
President Rhode Island State Society of Cincinnati,

Chairman Committee.




George Corlis Nightingale.



^



X



NATHANAEL GREENE.



49



In Senate, March 20, 1901.
Read and ordered to be communicated to House of Rep-
resentatives.

David J. White, Clcj'k.

In House op Representatives, 3/20/01.
Ordered laid on the table temporarily.

Thomas Z. Lee, Clerk.

In House of Representatives, March 21, igoi.
Referred to Committee on Education.

Thomas Z. Lee, Clerk.



In House op Representatives, February 25, 1902.
The Committee on Education ask to be relieved from the
further consideration of the within correspondence, and that
the same be referred to the joint committee on tlie burial re-
mains of Gen. Nathanael Greene.



In House of Representatives, February 25, 1902.
Referred to committee on remains of Nathanael Greene.

Thomas Z. Lee, Clerks



Exhibit B.

State of Rhode Island, &c.,
Executive Department,

Providence, February, ii, 1902.
To the Honorable the General Assembly :

I have the honor to communicate the accompanjnng
correspondence for j^our consideration.

CHARI.es dean KIMBALL,

Gover?io?\

[5 Enclosures.]

{From letter to Charles P. Bennett, Secreta7y of State,
date of January 21, igo2.~)

Decision has now got to be made where the remains
of Major-General Nathanael Greene, and his son, now
deposited in the vauh of the State Bank in Savannah,
shall be finall}^ deposited.

Many of the Southern descendants desire to place
them under the monument in Savannah.^

As Greene was actually a native and citizen of
Rhode Island, the State would have a claim to have
them put under the new monument in Providence.

Please bring the matter informallj- to the Gover-
nor's attention.

The proper person to correspond with in this behalf
is Robert Tyler Waller, Esq., of Savannah, grandson



NATHAXAEL GREENE. 51

of President John Tyler of Virginia. He married
General Greene's great-granddaughter, and they reside
in Savannah.

Ver}' truly yours,

ASA BIRD GARDINER.

[Enclosure i.]

(Corv.)

State of Rhode Island, &c..
Executive Department,

Providence, Februarj- 3, 1902.

Hon. Asa Bird Gardiner,

Garden City, N. Y.

My Dear Major Gardiner: — Our Secretary of
State, Mr. Bennett, has called my attention to your
communication with relation to the disposition of the
remains of Major-General Nathanael Greene. I am
of the opinion that if the matter were brought to their
attention, our people would feel that the remains
ought fuially to rest in General Greene's native State.

I find in the newspapers a report from Savannah
that seems to dispose of the whole matter. I am not
advised that this is necessarily authentic, and will
thank j^ou for any information on the subject.

Sincere!}' 3'ours,

CHARLES DEAN KIMBALL,

GoTer7io7'.

[Enclosure 2.] ,



52 NATHAXAEL GREENE.

SOCIETY OF CINCINNATI

IN THE

State op Rhode Island and Provh^ence Plantations.
Office of the President.

135 Bro.\dway, New York, February 6th, 1902.

Hon. Charles D. Kimball,

Governor of Rhode Island.

Sir: — The question i.s now being di.scus.sed, in
Savannah, Ga., as to where the remains of Major-
General Nathanael Greene and of his eldest son,
George Washington Greene, now temporarily de-
posited in that city, in the Southern Bank of the State
of Georgia, shall be finally placed.

As to this matter, the Society of the Cincinnati of
Rhode Island beg leave, respectfull}', to .say that
whatever arrangements may be decided upon b\- the
descendants of Major-General Greene and the execu-
tive of Rhode Island will be satisfactory to the
society.

Some of his descendants reside in Rhode Island,
and others are scattered throughout the South.

His family were identified, from Rog^ Williams's
settlement of Providence, with Rhode Island, where
he was born.

In the Revolutionar}' War he was credited in its
quota to the Continental Army from Rhode Island,
and from 1783 until his decease he was a citizen
of the State and President of its Society of the Cin-
cinnati.




Hall Cj.ock Formerly (Jwned by Gen. Greene.

From a photograph of the original in the Rhode Island
Historical Society, Providence, R. I.



y^



NATHANAEL GREENE. 53

One suggestion has been made, that his remains be
deposited under the monument erected in his memory
in Savannah.

Another, that thej^ be placed under the monument
about to be erected at the capitol in Providence.

A third, that thej' be put under the monument
about to be erected on the battlefield at Guilford
Court House.

Probably most of the descendants, other than those
in Rhode Island, would prefer that the remains be de-
posited in Savannah.

If, however, you have any request to prefer in this
behalf, I am persuaded it would not only receive the
most respectful consideration from Major-General
Greene's descendants, but would probably have the
controlling influence.

The object, therefore, of this communication is to
respectfully suggest that you indicate your wishes in
this behalf by communicating with Mr. Robert Tyler
Waller, of Savannah, Georgia, a grandson of former
President John Tyler, who married Major-General
Greene's great-granddaughter, and is more immedi-
ately charged with obtaining the sentiments of the
family and acting upon tliemi

Very respectfull}',

Your obedient servant,

ASA BIRD GARDNER,

President,
Rhode Island State Society of the Cincinnati.

[Enclosure 3. J



54 XATHAXAEL GREENE.

Asa Bird Gardiner,

135-7 Broadway, Corner Cedar Street,

New York.

February 6, 1902.

My Dear Governor Kimball : — Since dictating
the enclosed communication I have received your
favor of -the 3rd instant upon the same subject.

The newspaper story which ^-ou kindly transmitted
is without authorship.

The remains cannot be removed from the bank
vault without m^- signature and that of Mr. Alfred
D. Harden of the committee.

I am in receipt of a note on the same subject from
Miss Mar}- Ward Greene, of Melville P. O., Newport,
R. I., daughter of the late Professor George Washing-
ton Greene, and niece and heir of the late venerable
and Honorable Nathanael Greene, M. D., LL. D., late
President Rhode Island Cincinnati.

If you will write to Mr. Robert Tyler Waller, of
Savannah, expressing your views on this interesting
subject, he will communicate with the family. The
Greene family in Rhode Island wish the remains
finally interred there. ^

Very truly yours,

ASA BIRD GARDINER,
President,
Rhode Island Ciyicinnati.

Hon. C. D. Kimball.

[Enclosure 4.I



XATHAXAEI> (iliKKXE. 55

Greenesdale, R. I., Feb. 6th, 1902.
His Excellency, Governor Kimball,

Providence, Rhode Island.

Dear Sir : — Mr. Asa Bird Gardiner has requested
me to write you stating that should Rhode Island de-
sire that the remains of General Xathanael Greene be
buried within its bounds, I, one the lineal descendants
of the General, great-granddaughter, should prefer
such a disposition to be made to having them left in
the South.

I have rather hesitated about writing, as my near
relationship to General Greene makes me feel it such
a personal matter that I should be unwilling to have
myself brought forward as proposing anything of the
sort, while I cannot but feel that Rhode Island will be


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryRhode Island. General Assembly. Joint Special CommThe remains of Major-General Nathanael Greene → online text (page 3 of 14)