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By Charles Willson Peale
Descended from Rhode Island Quakers, though he left that faith to serve in the army, Nathanael Greene was appointed to command the rebel Southern Army in Oct. 1780, replacing the unsuccessful Horatio Gates. Prior to this, he fought extensively in the north, seeing action in many of the major battles, and served for a time as Quartermaster-General, a post he eventually lost due to political conflicts with the Continental Congress. He also served on the board of officers which tried and condemned John André.
Greene reached the Carolinas and assumed active command at the beginning of December, 1780, so it was he who dispatched Morgan on the expedition which would end in the battle of Cowpens. After that, he led Lord Cornwallis on a game of cat and mouse which culminated on the battlefield at Guilford Courthouse. While Cornwallis was a superior field tactician, Greene had a better command of partisan warfare. With considerable difficulty, he managed to maintain at least loose control over a stable of quarrelsome lone wolves that included Sumter, Marion, Morgan and Pickens. Eventually returning south, while Cornwallis continued down the inevitable road to Yorktown, Greene continued to harass Lord Rawdon and his successors throughout the remainder of the war.1
Greene was married to the much-younger Catherine Littlefield, who was his total opposite in temperament. "Caty" was one of the more colorful women of the Revolution. She didn't accompany him to the South, but she did spend time with Washington's army during the northern campaigns, where she gained a reputation for her outgoing and flirtatious nature.2
After the war, Greene went through a period of serious financial difficulty. He was eventually given a confiscated Loyalist estate in Georgia as a reward for his wartime services, but he and Caty lived there for only about a year before he died of sunstroke at the age of forty-four.
Plus just about any book covering the Southern Campaign.
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1 Anyone unfamiliar with the turbulance of Greene's relationships with his partisan subordinates should settle down with the relevant volumes of his collected correspondence (Nathanael Greene, The Papers of General Nathanael Greene, ed. Richard K. Showman, Dennis M. Conrad et al., 11+ vols. (Chapel Hill, N.C. and London: The University of North Carolina Press for the Rhode Island Historical Society, c1976-)). It's a good read. Talk about a man who must have needed a good, stiff drink (or a warm milk, as the case may be) before opening the next mail bag. I can't read his exchanges with Sumter without picturing the poor guy lying awake at night, guiltily thinking, "Well, maybe I could just give Tarleton a teeny little hint where the %*#$@^$ is, and hope he puts him out of both of our miseries..." [ back ]
2 Just how far she carried her "flirtations" is a matter of debate among historians. Various writers have called her everything from loyal to her husband and innocent to mistress of every Continental soldier above the rank of stableboy. While her recent biographers came down firmly (but I thought rather unconvincingly) on the "loyal and innocent" side, there seems to be reasonable evidence linking her to Anthony Wayne, at least, and possibly Lafayette. But she probably did do no more than dance with Washington, no matter what Marvin Kitman claims in his delightfully wacky biography of the latter. See John F. & Janet A. Stegeman, Caty; A Biography of Catharine Littlefield Greene (Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1977) and Martin Kitman, The Making of the Prefident, 1789 (New York: Harper & Row, 1989). [ back ]
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