Historic Valley Forge

Who Served Here?

General Nathanael Greene

Page 2

Nathanael Greene
Charles Wilson Peale, 1783

His work was efficiently and carefully done so that Washington was relieved of a heavy burden. Among the trials which faced Washington during part of the cantonment period were the efforts of some self-seeking officers to deprive Washington of his high command. They received some support from some of the members of Congress at York. The efforts were also directed against General Greene because of his devotion and loyalty to Washington. However, they could not move Greene in his support of Washington and Greene's earnest loyalty was an important contributing factor in bringing the conspiracy to an untimely end.

In due course, Washington's supporters crushed the conspiracy in Congress and Washington stood out stronger than ever by the support of the army and the loyalty of the officers, members of Congress and the people generally.

Greene's fine support was likewise generally approved. That Washington approved of Greene's ability in the administration of the affairs of the camp is shown by Weedon's Valley Forge Orderly Book wherein General Greene's name appears many times almost from the beginning of the camp on December 22, 1777. On April 20, 1778, at Valley Forge, Washington sent a letter to the leading officers about a proposed campaign later in the spring; he raised three questions, should an attack be directed against Philadelphia, New York, or

"remaining quiet in a secure, fortified camp disciplining and arranging the army till the enemy began their operations, and then to govern ourselves accordingly, which of these three plans shall we adopt?"

Greene agreed that the best policy would be to keep the main body of the army in camp, drilling and making the soldiers more efficient, but he thought an attack could be successfully made on New York by a force of 4,000 regulars. However, the withdrawal of the British from Philadelphia in June 1778 changed the plan of campaign. At once Washington ordered the army from Valley Forge and started in pursuit of the British across New Jersey and in the battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778, the Americans met the British in a hard struggle in which Greene rendered conspicuous service. During the night the British retired and eventually reached New York.

In the meantime Greene had resigned his position as Quartermaster General as he desired to give his entire time to his command. Eventually Washington agreed to the plan. Washington had also placed Benedict Arnold in command of West Point. Arnold felt he had not been properly rewarded by Congress for his services and he therefore entered into negotiations with André of the British to turn over West Point to the British as it was the most important strategic point along the Hudson and if the British held it, New York State would be open to complete conquest by the British. However, the plot was discovered with the result of the arrest of André, and Arnold escaped to the protection of the British forces.

In the meantime Greene was placed in command of West Point and since the betrayal of Arnold was checked, Greene felt the responsibility of his position and put the location in fine defense in order to be ready for a British attack. Washington made Greene the chairman of the commission to try André to determine within the categories of military law his exact position. André made his defense which was a confession which revealed his guilt as a spy. The decision of the court was unanimous that André should suffer the death penalty. The findings of the court were sent to Clinton, the British commander, in New York. Immediately Clinton sent commissioners to Greene in order to save André's life. One of the British commissioners was General Robertson, who was permitted to meet Greene at King's Ferry. Greene represented Washington at the conference. Greene listened to the arguments of Robertson to save the life of André, but he pointed out that André by his own confession admitted he was a spy. It was a difficult and trying situation, but Greene met it carefully and capably. Thus for a time he continued at West Point.

For the third time South Carolina was invaded by the British and again they were successful. Georgia was under control of the enemy and they were resolved to conquer the south and then return and defeat Washington's army in the north. In order to help the south, Congress had ordered Gates to drive the British out of the country. Unfortunately, Gates was severely defeated at Camden, South Carolina. It was a tragic blow to the south and the country as a whole. Congress was stunned. However, Congress changed its attitude. Previously Congress passed over Washington's position as Commander-in-Chief and sent Gates south directly. Washington again proved his greatness and remained silent when Congress failed to consult him.


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