Rhode Island. General Assembly. Joint Special Comm.

The remains of Major-General Nathanael Greene online

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him to the Hudson river, as president of a


board of general officers, to determine what ob-
structions would be necessary to prevent the
enemy obtaining its control.

In the following month he commanded
three brigades which, preceded by Colonel
Daniel Morgan's riflemen, attacked the Hes-
sian force, when it evacuated New Brunswick,
and pursued it several miles toward Amboy.

In the battle of Brandy wine he showed his
great military capacity; for, although stationed
with the left wing, he made a forced march of
four miles in forty-five minutes, with Brigadier-
General George Weedon's brigade, of his divi-
sion, and interposed between the routed right
wing of the American army and the exultant
advancing British, checking the movement,
after a close action of an hour and a quarter,
and saving the park of artillery and enabling
the American army to be withdrawn from the

In the battle of Germantown, October 4,
1777, he commanded and led the left wing,
which, having encountered and routed a part
of the British right wing, entered the village
and made a number of prisoners.

A few days after this battle. Light Horse
Harry Lee, then captain in the ist Regiment




NOVE MBER 14 1902 ,'




Tablet placed by Savannah Chapter, Daughters of thex\merican Revolution,
on Greene Monument, Johnson Square, Savannah, Ga.


Continental Light Dragoons, on escort duty at
army headquarters, wrote that " Greene was a
general whose uniform conduct had already
placed him high in the confidence of his chief
and of the army."

Washington, a few days later, in a letter to
Greene, dated October 26, 1777, subscribed it
" with sincere regard and affection."

In November he was sent, with his division,
into New Jersey, to support the forces holding
Fort Mercer, on the Delaware, against the
movement's of his old antagonist. Earl Corn-
wall is ; but, as the fort had been necessarily
evacuated, after a heroic and successful defence
by the two Rhode Island regiments under Col-
onel Christopher Greene against Count Donop,
Major-General Greene rejoined, with all the
American troops, the main army and partici-
pated in the operations at Whitemarsh, 5th-
8th December, 1777, when Sir William Howe
confidently marched out of Philadelphia, with
his whole army, in expectation of defeating and
destroying " Mr. Washington's army." Then
followed the unparalleled sufferings and priva-
tions of the patriots at Valley Forge.

On May 2, 1778, Congress appointed
Greene to be quartermaster-general of the


army, but to retain his rank. This office he
accepted with extreme reluctance, and only at
Washington's urgent request.

When the British army evacuated Philadel-
phia, Washington gave him command of the
second line of the main army, which saved the
day at the battle of Monmouth after the first
line, under Major-General Charles Lee, fell
back by that general's orders.

A few days later, Major James Mc Henry, of
Maryland, military secretary to Washington,
and afterward Secretary of War under Presi-
dent John Adams, in a letter dated " Camp
near New Brunswick, July i, 1778," said, as to
Greene, that he " gave the most evident and
unequivocal marks of great military worth ; his
dispositions were judicious, his judgment cool
and clear, and his bravery always pointed and

Ordered by General Washington to Rhode
Island on July 27, 1778, Greene there per-
formed his staff duties until assigned by Major-
General John Sullivan to the command of the
right wing of the American army at the siege
of Newport and subsequent splendid battle of
Rhode Island, August 29, 1778, against Major-
General Robert Pigots's superior forces. For


his services here, Sullivan thanked him " most
sincerely," and in his official report to Con-
gress said :

" Major-General Greene, who commanded in
the attack on the right, did himself the hisfhest
honor by the judgment and bravery he exhib-
ited in the action."

In October, 1778, Greene was relieved from
command of the forces on the western shore of
Narragansett Bay, to enable him to rejoin the
main army under Washington and resume his
functions as quartermaster-general, and he
served with it at West Point and in the Jer-

By direction of General Washington, he
was assigned to and commanded the division
which fought the successful battle of Spring-
field, N. J., June 23, 1780, against Lieuten-
ant-General Baron de Knyphausen, who had
marched from Amboy with a strong force, and
compelled him to retire.

As usual, Greene was thanked for this brill-
iant service by General Washington, in gen-
eral orders dated " Army Headquarters, Suf-
ferns, June 26, 1780."

On August 5, 1780, Greene resigned the


office of quartermaster-general, and was
thanked by General Washington, in general
orders ( Army Headquarters, Orangetown,
September 30, 1 780), " for the able and satis-
factory manner in which he had discharged the

On September 29, 1780, Greene was de-
tailed as president of the board of general
officers, which was compelled under the laws
of war to find Major John Andre, adjutant-
general of the British army, " a spy from the

Fearing an immediate attack on West
Point, Washington's confidence in Greene's
patriotism was signally displayed in appointing
him to its command in place of Major-General
Benedict Arnold, who had deserted to the

We have now reached, in the career of this
very great man, that point of time when he
was, for the first, given an independent com-
mand and enabled to conduct a campaign
which still can be studied by the military stu-
dent with as much profit as those of Hannibal,
Ccesar, Marlborough, Frederick the Great, or
Napoleon Bonaparte.

On October 14, 1780, Greene was appointed


to the command of the mihtary department of
the south.

His late grandson, Professor George Wash-
ington Greene, LL. D., has aptly depicted the
southern situation at that time. Said he :

" England, unable to subdue her colonies by
the north, turned her arms against the south.

" Savannah fell an easy conquest. Lincoln
held out thirty days in Charleston against the
combined forces of Clinton and Arbuthnot,
but was compelled to capitulate.

" Gat,es, with the fresh laurels of Saratoga
on his brow, was sent to hold them in check,
but was crushed at Camden.

" Whom shall we send next, was the anxious
question ?

" The country and the army answered, —
' Greene. '

" ' I think I am sending you a general,'
wrote Washington to a southern friend, ' but
what can a general do without men, without
arms, without clothing, without stores, without
provisions ? '

"And following the same train of thought,
he wrote to Governor Lee, of Maryland :

" ' The entire confidence I have in the abili-
ties, fortitude, and integrity of General Greene,
founded on a long and intimate experience of
them, assures me that he will do every thing


his means will enable him to do, and I doubt
not that candid allowances will be made for
the peculiar difficulties he has to encounter.

" ' I recommend him to your State as worthy
of the utmost confidence and support, and to
Your Excellency in particular, as one whom I
rank among the number of my friends.' "

On his way south, Greene passed through
Richmond, Va., where he left Major-General
Baron de Steuben to forward supplies and re-
cruits. On December 3, 1780, at Charlotte,
N. C, he assumed command.

Of two thousand three hundred and seven
men there in camp, only eight hundred were
properly equipped and fit for duty.

Major-General Gates had intended to go
into winter quarters at that place, but Greene
felt that such a proceeding would be disheart-
ening to the command, and accordingly or-
dered a forward movement to Cheraw Hill,
near the Pedee and just within the borders of
South Carolina.

Lieutenant-General Earl Cornwallis was,
however, advancing with a number of veteran
British and Hessian regiments, including a bri-
gade consisting of the Household Guards, the
flower of the English army, composed of the


Grenadiers, Scots Fusileers, and Coldstream
Battalions of Guards,

In order to harass and annoy him, Greene
detached Brioradier-General Daniel Moro;an
for the skillful movement on Cornwallis's left
fiank which resulted in the brilliant victory of
the Cowpens, S. C., January 17, 1781, and
complete rout of Lieutenant-Colonel Ban-
astre Tarleton, most of whose force was cap-

Then began the masterly retreat, a distance
of two hundred and thirty miles, one of the
finest in all history, which lured Cornwallis
from his base.

Galled in his pride and crippled in his Le-
gionary Cavalry by Tarleton's disaster, the
British commander resolved on the most ener-
getic measures to retrieve the loss, and accord-
ingly destroyed all his heavy baggage and
stores, as well as the kits of officers and men at
Ramsour's Mills, which eventually proved fatal
to British efficiency.

It may properly be said, that not even the
retreat of the ten thousand Greeks, nor Gen-
eral Moreau's retreat through the defiles of
Germany, which called forth the admiration
and applause of Europe, equal in importance


or consequent results the retreat of the Ameri-
can detachment under Daniel Morgan.

Greene, divinins: the intentions of Corn-
wallis, put his main army on the march north-
ward for Salisbury, under Brigadier-General
Isaac Huger ; and himself, escorted by a few
dragoons, set out across a hostile territory, in-
fested with tories, to join Morgan, which he did
on January 30, 1781, at Sherrald's Ford on the
east bank of the Catawba^ shortly after Mor-
o[an had crossed.

So eager and rapid was Cornwallis's advance
that he arrived shortly after on the Catawba,
only to find it suddenly swollen by reason of a
copious rainfall, and for two days he was de-
tained on its western bank before being able
to cross at the fords. This circumstance was
considered by many pious people as a direct
interposition of divine Providence in the cause
of American independence.

Meanwhile, Greene despatched the prisoners
northward in charge of a detachment of mili-

As soon as the Catawba began to be ford-
able, February i, 17S1, the Morgan detach-
ment under Greene fell back. Much rain
having fallen, and the roads, being at all times



bad, and consisting of a tough, red clay, be-
came nearly impassable. Nevertheless, Greene
pushed his retreat and crossed the Yadkin, a
broad and rapid river, fifty miles from the Ca-
tawba, on the night of the next day. So close
was the pursuit that the rear guard was fired
upon just as it had embarked in the last boats,
but got off safely. As Greene had secured all
the boats, and the river was swollen with rains,
Cornwallis was again detained.

Meanwhile, Greene had sent orders to Isaac
Huger to' take the main army to Guilford
Court House instead of to Salisbury.

Cornwallis now saw that the object he had
had in view had been frustrated by the genius
of Greene, viz.: the destruction of Mororan's
detachment, and prevention of its union with
the main army.

On February 7, 1781, the Morgan detach-
ment joined the main southern army,

Cornwallis was approaching by forced
marches, and further retreat became a military

With excellent judgment, Greene planned
the passage of the river Dan at Irwin's Ferry,
a point most advantageous, so that his whole
force was across on the evening of February


13, 1 781, and the pursuit of twenty-six days

We can fancy Cornwallis's mortification and
rage at thus being completely frustrated in his

At this time the Continental currency had
depreciated so enormously as practically to
have lost ail purchasing quality. Never be-
fore had the ability of Congress to carry on
the war been so low. Major-General Greene's
army, even his regulars, were almost wholly
without supplies.

The retreat, so successfully conducted, was
made under unparalleled difficulties. It was
through a sparsely settled country, almost
wholly tory, and ready to deceive with false in-
formation. The subsistence procured was
barely enough to sustain life. The men's
clothing was in rags, and their shoes worn out;
so that, in the language of Greene, when writ-
ing to Washington, "Many hundreds^ of the
soldiers tracked the ground with their bloody
feet." The weather was cold and tempest-
uous, with alternate rain, snow, and sleet, and
the rough roads almost impassable. In the
command there were no tents nor overcoats,
and but one blanket to every four men.


Nevertheless they trudged cheerfully on, en-
during every privation with renewed fortitude
because they had unbounded confidence in
their commanding general.

The contrast to Lord Cornwallis's army was
indeed striking, as they were well clothed and
well armed and equipped and provided for,

Washington wrote to Greene, and said :
" You may be assured that your retreat before
Cornwallis is highly applauded by all ranks,
and reflects much honor on your military abili-
ties." '

As Greene, by crossing the Dan, had tem-
porarily abandoned North Carolina, Cornwallis
set up the royal standard at Hillsboro, and
called on the tories, of which there were many,
to join him.

Apparently North Carolina, South Carolina,
and Georgia were wholly under British domin-
ation, and once more crown colonies.

Although the Southern American army,
while awaiting reinforcements and supplies
from Richmond, Va., was too weak in num-
bers for offensive operations, Greene was not
disheartened. He wrote to Washino^ton, and
said : " I will recover the country or die in the


On February 17, 1781, the morning report
of the American army showed, as fit for duty,
only 1,078 infantry, 64 artillerymen, 176 cav-
alry, and 1 12 legionary infantry, or 1,430 in all.

Now began a series of movements un-
matched in military history. Greene recog-
nized the great abilities of Cornwallis. He
had studied him at Assunpink Creek, and in
the Jerseys, and recognized that he was one
of Britain's greatest and most energetic gen-

The tories, complying with Cornwallis's
proclamation, formed themselves into a bat-
talion of about five hundred militia horse,
under Colonel John Pyle, and marched for

Greene, in the determination to harass Corn-
wallis, detached Brigadier-General Andrew
Pick-ens, with some North Carolina militia, and
Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Lee's Battalion of
the Continental Legion, for this purpo§£.

So anxious was he that there should be no
mistake, that on the night of February 21,
1 78 1, Greene, with a daring approaching reck-
lessness, crossed the Dan under escort of a
small detachment of dragoons, and visited
these two partisan officers, and spent most of

South Side of Greene Monument, Johnson SyuARE, Savannah, Ga.

The spot where the remains of Gen. Greene are buried is indicated
by the wreath and tablet at the base.


the night in anxious consultation, and then re-
turned in safety across the Dan.

Upon information that Tarleton, who had
once more got a command together of cavalry,
with four hundred infantry and two pieces of
artillery, had left Hillsboro in the direction of
Haw river, west, to intercept approaching
American reinforcements under Colonel Wil-
liam Campbell, of King's Mountain fame, Pick-
ens started to overtake and attack him, but
found that he had crossed Haw river at noon
of February 25. However, they captured two
of his officers who had lingered behind.

While in the great road, eight miles west of
Hillsboro, the command unexpectedly encoun-
tered Colonel Pyle's mounted tory force, and
at once attacked and utterly destroyed it.
Tarleton's command was only a couple of
miles in advance, and Pickens proposed to at-
tack it at daylight; but during the night, urg-
ent orders came to Tarleton from Cornwallis
to return at once, and he decamped in great
haste at 2 A. M., followed by Pickens, who saw
Tarleton's command enter Hillsboro.

The sanguinary destruction of Pyle's com-
mand struck terror to the tories throughout
the south, and Cornwallis got no recruits.


As for Tarleton, he seems to have acquired
such a wholesome dread and respect for the
American Continentals that his subsequent
services in the Carolinas ceased to be brilliant
or successful.

On February 23, 1781, Greene, having de-
termined to hold CornwalHs in check, re-
crossed the Dan, on the tenth day after his
celebrated retreat. As yet the expected re-
inforcements had not arrived, and he was con-
sequently unable to fight a battle.

Between the Haw and Deep rivers was an
extensive and thickly populated settlement of
tories, and, in order to overawe them, Greene
encamped in their midst.

Now began a series of masterly maneuvers
for ten days which puzzled, harassed, and irri-
tated CornwalHs, whose foraging parties were
cut off and camp insulted, and reinforcements
hacked to pieces.

At last the long-expected troops ai-^d sup-
plies reached Greene, at High Rock Ford on
the Haw river, on Sunday, March 11, 1781,
and four days later he fought the battle of
Guilford Court House, a most sanguinary one,
in which the British killed and wounded
amounted to one third of Cornwalliss entire


force, including many valued officers. Both
sides intuitively recognized the stake for which
they were contending, and fought to win.
Greene was constantly under fire, directing and
animating his troops.

Cornwallis held the ground, and Greene
leisurely retreated to Reedy Ford and then
fainted, and for a while was unconscious from
exhaustion from long and arduous labors. He
wrote to his wife, after the battle, that he had
not taken off his clothes for six weeks.

Two ^ays after the battle, on March 17,
Cornwallis, having buried his dead, placed
those of his wounded in New Garden meeting
house of the Society of Friends, under a flag
of truce, commending them in a letter to
Greene's care, and then hastened to put the
Deep river between himself and his adversary,
and burn the bridge, and marched with all
speed to Wilmington on the coast, where
transports awaited him with supplies. Greene
pursued only as far as Ramsey's mill, on Deep
river. Victory may be said to be the success-
ful issue of a struggle for superiority and con-

Marechal de France, le Comte de Rocham-
beau, says, in his memoirs, that Greene's con-


duct in his previous retreat to the Dan, and in
the battle of Guilford Court House, "did him
great honor and fully justified the brilliant
talent of which he afterward gave proof."

Greene now determined upon a movement
which stamped him as one of the very greatest
military commanders of the eighteenth cen-

Instead of continuing after Cornwallis, he
deliberately turned to South Carolina.

Alexander Hamilton, Aide -de -Camp to
Washington, in his memorial address on
Greene, on July 4, 17S9, at St. Paul's Chapel
on Broadway, before the New York State So-
ciety of the Cincinnati, in referring to this
march southward, said :

" This was one of those strokes that denote
superior genius and constitute the sublime of
war. It was Scipio leaving Hannibal in Italy
to overcome him at Carthage!

" The success was answerable to the^ judi-
cious boldness of the design. The enemy
were divested of their acquisitions in South
Carolina and Georgia with a rapidity which, if
not ascertained, would be scarcely credible.
In the short space of two months all their
posts in the interior of the country were re-


" The perseverance, courage, enterprise, and
resource displayed by the American general,
in the course of these events, commanded the
admiration even of his enemies. In vain was
he defeated in one mode of obtainino- his ob-
ject; another was instantly substituted that
answered the end. In vain was he repulsed
before a besieged fortress ; he immediately
found other means of compelling the defenders
to relinquish their stronghold."

The limits of this address will not permit
detailed reference to other actions.

The late Colonel Creasy did not include
" Guilford Court House " as one of the fifteen
decisive battles of the world, but it properly
belongs in that category. It was the decisive
battle of the southern campaign, followed,
actually and logically, by Cornwallis's subse-
quent capitulation, with his army, at York-
town, and in its results enabled the American
general to rescue three great States, an empire
in themselves, from British domination.

Deep despondency among the whigs gave
place to high exultation and earnest patriotic

On April 19, 1781, Greene took post at
Hobkirk's Hill, near Camden, in South Caro-
lina, where, on the next day, he was attacked


by Lord Rawdon and compelled to quit the
field in good order, after a hard fought battle,
and then began to prepare for the investment
of Rawdon himself, in Camden, but the British
general speedily evacuated on May 9th.

Forts Watson, Motte, Granby, and the post
of Orangeburg and Forts Galphin, Grierson,
and Cornwallis, capitulated in quick succession
to the Americans, while two other posts were
promptly evacuated.

The " Siege of Ninety-Six " failed because
reinforcements arrived ; but Greene's combina-
tions were such that it could not be longer
held by the British, and was promptly evac-
uated. Greene then moved to the historic en-
campment on the High Hills of Santee, to
give his command needed rest.

Congress had now become profoundly im-
pressed with his extraordinary ability, and on
July 25, 1781, in referring to these events, said
they afforded " such proofs of his j;j.dgment,
vigilance, and firmness as to recommend him
to the entire approbation of Congress."

On September 8, 1781, he fought the bloody
battle of Eutaw Springs, which practically ter-
minated British power in the Carolinas ; and
Brigadier-General Anthony Wayne, whom he


sent to Georgia, soon forced the evacuation of
that State.

Congress, on October 29, 1781, thanked
Greene for " his wise, decisive, and magnani-
mous conduct " in the victory at Eutaw
Springs, and directed the presentation to him
of a British standard and a gold medal.

On December 14, 1782, the British army
evacuated Charleston, S, C, their last station
in the south, and Greene rode in at the head
of the American army.

The indomitable perseverance of this great
commander may be surmised from a letter he
v^rote, just at the close of active campaigning,
in which he said : " I have been seven months
in the field without taking my clothes off one

On January 17, 1783, Congress again
thanked Greene "for his many signal and
important services," and informed him of the
lively sense they entertained of the frequent
and uniform proofs he " had given of pru-
dence, wisdom, and military skill during his

On April 22, 1783, cessation of hostilities
having been officially proclaimed, Greene re-
viewed the Continental troops and gave a din-


ner in cantonments on James Island, S. C, to
the Governor of South Carolina, members of
legislature, and officers and citizens of distinc-
tion. Many ladies were present including his
own wife.

The eighth toast of the thirteen which he
announced was: "May the spirit of Union
prevail in the United States."

On August 15, 1783, he relinquished com-
mand of the southern department to Major-
General William Moultrie and journeyed
northward, visiting Congress at Princeton and
Washington at army headquarters.

On October 18, 1783, Congress gave him
leave of absence, and resolved that two pieces
of field ordnance taken from the British at the
Cowpens, Augusta, or Eutaw, be presented to
him " as a public testimonial of the wisdom,
fortitude, and military skill which distin-
guished his command in the southern depart-
ment, and of the eminent service-sr which
amidst complicated difficulties and dangers,

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Online LibraryRhode Island. General Assembly. Joint Special CommThe remains of Major-General Nathanael Greene → online text (page 9 of 14)