Army 3 Times,
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
A quiet, modest upbringing in a Quaker family did not limit the ambitions of a young man who dreamed of military achievement as he grew to adulthood in pre-Revolutionary War Rhode Island.
In fact, his ambitions were enough to pull him away from the religious community in which he grew up and draw him into a crucial role in the Continental Army of George Washington that won American independence in the 1770s and 1780s.
Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene's struggles and triumphs came alive on Thursday at the Greene County Heritage Trust 41st Annual Early American Christmas Dinner.
Keynote speaker Janet Uhlar presented, "General Nathanael Greene, Savior of the Continental Army."
Uhlar, of the Boston area, is an author, lecturer and screenplay writer in addition to her primary professional career as a pediatric nurse. She presented Greene's history as a biography from his birth in Rhode Island to a "strict Quaker family."
Rather than a dry recitation of facts, Uhlar presented Greene's story with insights about his emotions and motivations along every step of his path.
The Heritage Trust also honored several individuals with an "Award of Merit" for recent historical restoration projects, including:
* Andrea "Andy" Daniels for her restoration of the Valentine Sevier home;
* Bewley Properties, represented by Kent Bewley, for the restoration of the Crescent School cupola;
* Scott Niswonger for the restoration of the electric United States flag that sits atop the old First National Bank building downtown (accepted by John M. Jones Jr. on behalf of Niswonger); and,
* those who began the Windows to the Past mural projects downtown, including: Carla Bewley, Andrea Daniels, Becky Yonz, Christine Huss, Linnie Greene, Sherry Hensley, Joe Kilday and Mike Durham, and
* President George Blanks for his two years of service as Heritage Trust president.
MAYS NEW PRESIDENT
Autumn Crum provided musical entertainment for the evening by singing "Tennessee Christmas" and "Mary, Did You Know."
Blanks welcomed everyone to Thursday's gathering and served as master of ceremonies.
He also introduced Dan McMichael, an historical reenactor from Pine Mountain, Ga., who dressed as Nathanael Greene and spoke briefly in that role, and also welcomed the incoming Heritage Trust president, the Rev. Jim Mays.
Mays closed the evening by helping lead the singing of a verse of "Silent Night," a tradition at the annual dinner.
A middle-born child to a successful businessman, Greene was named after his father and, according to Uhlar, was reportedly the favorite son.
"Nathanael was unique from the beginning," Uhlar said. "He wanted to be educated and, throughout his life, he bemoaned the fact that he was not formally educated."
Nonetheless, he received what education he could convince his family to provide and often traveled to Boston to visit future-American General Henry Knox's bookstore.
There, the two read many military history and strategy books being read by the British soldiers occupying the city.
In this manner, both became self-taught military men, unwittingly preparing themselves for the day in 1774 that a local militia regiment formed, known as the Kentish Guard.
Big and muscular, Greene was initially held back from advancement to officer rank officer because of a limp apparently resulting from an accident in his late teenage years.
"He was mortified," Uhlar said. "That's what he said in his letters; he was mortified."
It wasn't until the governor of Rhode Island called for three regiments to join under unified leadership that the General Assembly stepped in and promote Greene from a mere private to brigadier general.
It was in this status that Greene met then-General George Washington at Boston.
"Greene became Washington's confidante. He was close to [Washington's] side throughout most of the war -- Washington did not like him too far away.
"He became known as the strategist of the American Revolution," Uhlar said.
THREE TIMES A SAVIOR
Throughout the following months and years of war, Uhlar said Greene would three times save the Continental Army.
The first was in the Battle of Brandywine, which took place in 1777.
Greene was commanding a backup division that Washington called urgently to battle in support of General John Sullivan's troops.
Greene moved his division four miles in 45 minutes, a feat Uhlar said has not been repeated since.
By the next year the starving American army was encamped at Valley Forge and Washington once again called for Greene to rescue the troops in an untraditional manner -- this time by becoming acting Quartermaster General of the Army.
In this position, Greene oversaw the movement of the troops and, most importantly, found supplies for the troops, strengthening them for Baron von Steuben to whip into shape over a period of months.
Then, two years later, Greene was put in charge of the Continental Army's forces in the South -- a small, scattered group with few supplies who were under intense attack from British troops under Lord Charles Cornwallis, a top British general.
Greene took over command, fighting constantly to keep his troops supplied and outmaneuvering Cornwallis in the South, gradually draining him of soldiers through relatively small battles and drawing him far from his source of supply.
It was Greene's maneuvering throughout the South and later his willingness to sign his own name as being responsible for payments in order to keep his troops supplied, that would again save the army, Uhlar said.
After the Revolutionary War, Greene remained unpopular with the Congress because of the manner in which he pushed for funds to supply his troops and battled against the politics of the war.
In heavy debt because of having supplied the army at one point, he and his family retreated to a Georgia plantation he had been given by the state for his role in the Revolutionary War. He died at 46 years of age, perhaps of a stroke, Uhlar said.
According to an 1822 biography by former-Supreme Court Justice William Johnson, Greene was vital to the war but lost his prestige and proper place in history because of his political enemies, Uhlar said.
Uhlar is a member of the Nathanael Greene Homestead Board of Trustees and has published two books, the most recent of which was Freedom's Cost, The Story of Nathanael Greene.
She said she developed her interest in history from reading the works of Esther Forbes at a young age.
She developed her interest in Greene after seeing his quote displayed at Bunker Hill: "Let's sell them another hill at the same price."
In his introduction of Uhlar as speaker, Massey announced the recent coordination for the placement of a monument to, and special video presentation of, Nathanael Greene on privately-owned property at Valley Forge, something Uhlar had reportedly long desired to see.
"Two hundred thirty years ago Greene County was formed and, much like the traditional story of the creation of Eve, Greene County was carved from the side of Washington [County]," Massey said.
"In that period, people took names and happenings very seriously, and there was only one name that they could attach to a county removed from Washington, and that was Greene, Washington's most trusted subordinate.
"The man Washington trusted to, if something happened to him, he would lead the Continental Army."