Nathanael Greene

Although many Quakers abstained from fighting or even taking sides in the Revolution, one who did not was Nathanael Greene from Rhode Island. Greene was in charge of the Continental First Division which was held in reserve at Chadds Ford on September 11, 1777. After the British attack on Washington's right flank developed into serious proportions, Green's troops, mostly from Virginia, were called into action. They covered the four miles from Chadds Ford to Sandy Hollow in about forty-five minutes. Their appearance and stubborn action enabled those who had been fighting at Birmingham Meeting and Skirmish Hill to retreat. Eventually, Greene's men had to retreat also, but their timely arrival and brave fighting helped save the remnants of Washington's army.

Greene had been a blacksmith before the war, but by the time it was over, he was acknowledged to be a general in capability second only to Washington. He was as successful as possible as quartermaster general of the army through the times at Valley Forge and Morristown. However, his greatest accomplishments came when he took over the southern campaign in late 1780 after Gate's defeat at Camden. His strategic retreats through the Carolinas won a war of attrition with Cornwallis, eventually leading to the latter's surrender at Yorktown. Green proceeded to free the rest of the southern states after Yorktown. Although he actually failed to win any major battles, he made the British accept Pyrrhic victories that finally lost them the war. As a strategist, he had few peers.

At the close of the war, the state of Georgia gave him a confiscated loyalist estate in gratitude for his services. He eventually settled there in 1783, as he had to sell his Rhode Island estate to pay for debts incurred during the war. Green died an early death in 1784 at the age of forty-four. His widow, Kitty, who enlivened the winter camps at Valley Forge and Morristown, lived on in Georgia until 1814.

– Bob Goddu