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REVOLUTIONARY HEROES.-NO IV.
ATHANIEL GREENE was born in | Greene family that Nathaniel was a boy of superior parts; not only his brothers, but even his old Quaker father, charged to the brim with Gospel authority, deferred to his opinions and wishes. In his fourteenth year he made the acquaintance of a scholarly young lad, a student at the Rhode Island University, who was spending his vacation at East Greenwich. His conversation and example awakened a thirst for knowledge in Nathaniel, and he began to crave books. He ransacked the shelves of his friends, and devoured whatever came in his way. He studied while at work, book in hand, sitting or standing, as his labor required, now at the forge, and now at the clattering mill-hopper. At first his father was opposed to this bookish freak. He had never read anything but the Bible; that was enough for him, and it ought to be enough for Nathaniel. By and by, however, he came over to the boy's way of thinking, and instead of insisting on the Bible alone, he obtained for him a tutor,
Warwick, Rhode Island, on the 27th of May, 1742. The family was English. John Greene, the founder, came over to the New World in the days of Charles II., and established himself in the township of Warwick, upon some of the lands of the Narragansett Indians. The early members of the family seem to have filled offices of dignity and trust in the colonies; the father of Nathaniel, however, was a blacksmith. He built himself a forge and a mill on the banks of the Potowhommett, uniting to his twofold occupation of blacksmith and miller, that of a Quaker preacher. He is said to have had rare ability for the pulpit; at any rate he edified the silent members of the old meeting-house at East Greenwich for upward of forty years. Of the early days of Greene and his brothers (he was the fourth of eight sons) we know but little. They were stout, hardy boys, equally good at working and praying. There was a sort of tacit understanding in the
who gave him lessons in Latin and mathematics. He became a master in geometry, and read some of the easy Latin authors in their original tongue. He still worked as before, or if anything harder; for Papa Greene, when he gave his consent for Nathaniel to become a scholar, does not appear to have given him either time or money to carry out his laudable intention. He worked at the forge and in the mill, earning his bread and his books, the latter by extra labor.
As there were no book-stores at East Greenwich, whenever he wished to purchase a new book he was obliged to go to Newport for it. He worked his passage on a small vessel which ran from the mills to the various towns along Narragansett Bay. On arriving at Newport he had to find a purchaser for his wares before he could buy the book that he coveted. He was frequently puzzled to know what book to buy. On one of these occasions a clergyman happened to be present, a certain Dr. Stiles, who was afterward president of Yale College; he witnessed the boy's hesitancy, and entering into conversation with him, became so interested in his manly struggles to improve himself, that he invited him to his house, and be
His guide, philosopher, and friend.
In order to reach Newport as often as possible Nathaniel studied the navigation of the river, and made himself a skillful boatman; in due time he was promoted to the command of the vessel in which he made his trips. He labored so hard at the forge that he became lame in the right foot his lameness lasted for life. The "over-work" by which he purchased his beloved books was of more delicate workmanship than his ordinary labors; to give himself the requisite nicety of touch he often had to grind off the roughness of his horny hands. His visits to Newport brought him in contact with the future grammarian, Lindley Murray. Like Greene, he was a Quaker's son. He was invited to East Greenwich, where he made himself so agreeable that he obtained leave for Nathaniel to return his visit in New York.
Though the old Quaker preacher no longer opposed the scholarly inclinations of his son, there was one thing which he, in common with many other old men, set
his face against, and that was being up late at night. Come what would he would not permit Nathaniel to go to any of the merry-makings with which the young people of the neighborhood were wont to beguile their nights. Nathaniel was a strong, hard-working youngster, and really needed a few hours' recreation after his long day's toil. But the old gentleman was inexorable. At a certain hour at night (it could not have been later than nine) the doors and windows of the Greene mansion were closed, and the family, great and small, retired perforce to their beds. Nathaniel went with the rest; but when they were asleep he rose and dressed himself, and slipping down from his chamber window, was soon among the neighboring lads and lasses, the gayest of the gay. He kept this up for some time; but one night (if I were writing a romance, I should say one fatal night!) as he was returning home he saw that he was discovered. Underneath the very window by which alone he could reach his room stood his stern old father, waiting for him, horsewhip in hand! Here was a dilemma indeed, casting about in his mind for some way of mitigating his punishment, (escape there was none, he knew,) he saw a pile of shingles close at hand, and with that ready appreciation of resources for which he was afterward so distinguished, he lined his jacket with a thin layer of shingles, protected by which he advanced, and took his punishment like a man! The old gentleman was delighted at his resignation, never guessing its cause.
A law case in the family led him to study Blackstone and other legal luminaries of that time, and gave him a fair insight into the principles of that beautiful but intricate science, the law. He attended courts, and formed the acquaintance of lawyers and judges. They debated the political relations of the colonies and the mother country, and he soon grew to be a politician.
The troublous state of the times increased his fondness for politics. As the probabilities of a rupture between the two countries increased he resolved to make himself useful to his native land. He added to his library some of the best mili tary authors, and commenced studying the science of war; he also attended the various militia gatherings of the neighborhood, and familiarized himself with its
practical workings. The Quaker fraternity to which he belonged was terribly outraged by such a manifest violation of its peculiar principles of peace. A committee was appointed to sit upon his case, but he gave them no satisfaction. Unwilling to cut him off, they visited him and exhorted him, but all to no purpose. At last he was read out of the Society of Friends. The Church lost a member, but the country gained a soldier. In 1770 he was elected to the General Assembly of the colony, and such was his popularity that he continued to be chosen by his constituents, even after he had taken command of the army in the South. In 1774 he threw off the garb of Quakerism, and enrolled himself among the Kentish guards. He lacked, however, the first requisites of a soldier, fire-arms; and as these could only be obtained in Boston, then in the hands of the British, he resolved to go thither and procure them. He accordingly disguised himself in the old garb of his youth, and proceeded to Boston. The British army were having a parade that day; little did they know how closely they were watched by the young broad-brim. He succeeded in buying a musket and the accompanying accoutrements, which he hid in a heap of straw at the bottom of his wagon. At the same time he secured a greater treasure in the person of a British deserter, a drill officer, whom he smuggled to Coventry, for the purpose of drilling the Kentish Guards. The deserter has long since gone the way of all flesh, but the musket is still preserved in the Greene family. The same year which witnessed the putting off of his drab clothes saw him a happy bridegroom. He married a Miss Catherine Littlefield, the young lady for whose sake he endured his memorable shingle flogging!
At the news of the battle of Lexington the drum of the Kentish Guards beat to arms, and they started off hot-foot for Boston. The governor of the colony, a loyalist, recalled them. Four of them refused to obey his orders; two of these were Greenes, Nathaniel and one of his brothers. They arrived in Boston too late for service, and soon retraced their steps. In the meantime the Rhode Island Assembly voted a force of sixteen hundred men, as an army of observation, the command of which was given to Greene, who was raised to the rank of major-general.
This was in May, 1775, his thirty-third year. In June we find him and his men in the neighborhood of Boston. Washington took command of the army in July, and pronounced Greene's troops "the best disciplined and appointed in the whole army." Greene welcomed Washington to the army in a public address, and his post being near the quarters which had been assigned to the commander-in-chief at Cambridge, they soon learned to know each other's worth, and became, what they remained to the last, firm friends. The removal of the British troops to New York led to the breaking up of the American army at Boston. Washington ordered them to follow in the track of the enemy.
Greene and his brigade were dispatched to Long Island. He examined the ground there, established posts, and made every preparation to meet the enemy; but he was unfortunately seized with a bilious fever, the result of his exertions and privations, and the battle of Long Island was fought without him. He could only lie on his bed and hear the thunder of the cannon around him.
The evacuation of New York led to the battle of Harlem, in which Greene distinguished himself. The battle, however, was fruitless, and the American army retreated to White Plains. The command of the troops in New Jersey was assigned to Greene, whose head-quarters were at Fort Lee and Bergen. While in command here Fort Washington fell into the hands of the British, and Fort Lee was evacuated.
The loss of these forts was followed by the retreat through the Jerseys, the darkest and apparently most hopeless period of the whole Revolution. The battles of Trenton and Princeton followed, and revived the drooping hearts of the nation. Greene advanced, and fought in both battles. He accompanied Washington in person, commanding at Trenton the left wing of the army. With these victories the campaign of 1776 closed, and the American army retired into winter-quarters at Morristown, New Jersey.
The operations of the British evidently pointing toward an occupation of the South Greene was dispatched by Washington to Philadelphia to awaken Congress to a sense of its dangers and duties. He executed his mission with judgment and
discretion, for he had in him the makings of a rare politician, and returned to the army. He was then dispatched with General Knox to explore the passes of the Highlands, which the British were threatening. He fought in the battle of Brandywine, leading his men to the support of a part of the American army engaged against Howe and Cornwallis. He marched over a space of four miles in forty-nine minutes, and arrived in time to cover the retreat of the fugitives, and arrest the pursuit of the enemy. He opened his ranks, and let his discomfited countrymen pass, and closed them against the British. His field-pieces plowed through the enemy, causing a temporary pause in the assault. In the meantime the fugitives recovered themselves, and were incorporated in his corps, which slowly and sullenly retreated, fighting bravely until night came and the battle was given over.
The winter of 1777 and 1778 found the American army in winter-quarters at Valley Forge. Their destitute state at this period is too well known to be dwelt upon. The duty of foraging for the devolved upon Greene, who performed this unthankful task with so much tact and success that Washington entreated him to undertake the office of quarter-mastergeneral, which, however, he resigned soon after.
He rendered efficient service at Monmouth, after the battle was as good as lost owing to the retreat of Lee, and took part in the unsuccessful expedition against Newport; he was also engaged in the battle of Springfield. In September, 1780, Washington proceeded to Hartford to consult with the French commander, leaving the army in charge of Greene. From his spies in New York he learned that the British contemplated some important movement," the success of which," he wrote to Washington, "depends altogether on its being kept secret." This letter was dated on the 21st of September; on the 23d André was taken prisoner, and Arnold's treachery discovered. Greene prepared without delay to march the army to the defense of West Point. He pushed forward as far as King's Ferry with the second division on the morning of the 26th, the remainder being in readiness to join him at any moment. Washington gave him his instructions in relation to André, who was sent unde a close
guard to the American camp. He presided at the deliberations of the court of inquiry which sat upon the case of that accomplished, but unfortunate young man, whose fate excited the pity of the world; and when the report of the sitting, drawn up by Laurens, was handed to him for his signature, he bent his head over the paper to hide the woman's tears in his eyes.
The defeat of Gates at Camden awoke Congress to the deficiencies of the renowned hero of Saratoga, and deferring their own judgment to that of Washington they authorized him to name a successor to the command of the Southern army. He at once named Greene, who was immediately confirmed by Congress. He accepted the command, and set out for the South, not even waiting for the embraces of his wife and children, who were hourly expected to join him. He hastened to Philadelphia to receive the instructions of Congress. The defeat of Gates had left the army in a sad state; they had neither stores, baggage, nor artillery. Everything was needed, and Congress had no money. They could only give him enough to defray the expenses of his journey. Governor Read, however, supplied him with a quantity of arms and ammunitions from the state magazine, and assisted him in procuring the use of baggage wagons for their transportation. He arrived at Charlotte, South Carolina, where the army was encamped, on the 2d of December, 1780. From this time the true career of Greene commences. His previous services, however honorable to himself, and useful to his country, had not exceeded those of many other American generals. The campaign that he was now about to usher in was one of the most important episodes of the Revolution, and it stamped him a great general in every respect.
The Southern army, as I have already mentioned, was reduced to sad straits when Greene took command of it. It counted but nine hundred and seventy continentals, and one thousand and thirteen militia. To this pitiful force was opposed an army of at least eight thousand British troops, to say nothing of the bands of Tories which from time to time joined them. The enemy were picked soldiers, the élite of the army, finely disciplined, and abundantly supplied with arms and ammunition. The American troops were as ragged as those of Falstaff. Many of
them were unfit to be seen on parade, and were sent home on that account; those who did appear were ludicrous enough, in their shreds and patches, and odds and ends. They were almost destitute of arms; the military chest was empty, and it was only by rare management that they obtained food from day to day. The first thing that Greene did, after looking to their immediate wants and permanent discipline, was to make himself acquainted with the scene of action. He caused the rivers to be explored, magazines to be established, and boats to be in readiness for future operations. On the 26th of December he removed the army to the great Pee Dee. An accession to his force, in the shape of Colonel Lee, from Virginia, with three hundred men, made up of horse and foot, and a body of four hundred recruits, headed by Colonel Greene, determined him to open the campaign by an offensive movement. He dispatched Lee to act in concert with Marion in an expedition against Georgetown, while Morgan annoyed Corn'wallis in the neighborhood of Ninety Six. Tarleton was ordered to "push Morgan to the utmost." He set out with eleven hundred men; Morgan had nine hundred and seventy, six hundred of whom were militia. They met on the banks of the Thicketty on the morning of the 17th of January, and a severe engagement ensued. Tarleton did not succeed in "pushing" Morgan; on the contrary, he received a sound drubbing, which ended in the loss of one hundred and fifty of his men, and four hundred prisoners. Only eleven of the Americans were killed, and sixty-one wounded. Morgan took two field pieces, eight hundred muskets, two stands of colors, thirty-five baggage wagons, besides tents, ammunition, and one hundred dragoon horses. The victory was with the Americans, but as Cornwallis and his force were only twenty-five miles off, it was deemed prudent to retreat. That night Morgan crossed Broad River, and in the morning pressed toward the Catawba, to throw its rising waters between himself and the enemy. Cornwallis delayed a day or two, and when he reached the Catawba it was only to find it swollen by freshets, and Morgan on the other side, twenty miles ahead of him. Greene started off, almost alone, to relieve Morgan, leaving his army to follow him. He reached Morgan in safety. The stream
began to fall, and Cornwallis made preparations to cross it. It was the dawn of a stormy day when his columns entered the water; the American rifles were posted on the opposite bank, and as soon as they could see the enemy they opened a terrible fire upon them. Cornwallis had a narrow escape, his horse having been killed under him. He gained the land, however, and the militia, having done all that was expected of them, dispersed. Once on the same side of the river with the Americans, the irate lord resolved to make up for his previous delay. He destroyed his wagons, whereby he was enabled to double the teams for his artillery, and to mount a portion of his infantry. He pushed after Morgan, endeavoring to overtake him before he could cross the Yadkin. He failed, thanks to the speed of the American troops, and the relay of boats, which, by Greene's provident orders, were awaiting them by the banks of the river. The stream, although on the rise, was not sufficiently swollen to prevent the American cavalry from fording. They were just in time, however, for, as the last of them crossed, up came Cornwallis's mounted cavalry and infantry. As it was, they crossed their weapons with the American rearguard. Ere long my Lord Cornwallis and the rest of his army reached the banks of the Yadkin. He was a little too late. The stream was no longer fordable, and Greene had secured all the boats. Cornwallis opened a furious cannonade on the Americans, but as their camp was sheltered by a rising ground, it was a waste of ammunition. Greene had taken up his quarters in a little cabin, which was somewhat sheltered by the rocks. By and by, as if they had divined that he was there, the enemy pointed their cannon toward it. The balls struck the rocks, and then came nearer and nearer. At length the clapboards of the roof began to fly. Greene, however, was not to be disturbed by it. He sat and wrote his dispatches as coolly as if he had been in his own chamber, only stopping to hear the reports of his aids, or to give orders. He seemed to feel himself fire-proof.
Greene remained a day on the banks of the Yadkin, and then, to beguile Cornwallis in pursuit of him, resumed his march for the River Dan. The cold was intense, and his soldiers were thinly clad and worse shod; hundreds of them tracked