Historic Valley Forge

Who Served Here?

General Nathanael Greene

Page 4

Nathanael Greene
Charles Wilson Peale, 1783

Greene now resolved upon a difficult undertaking in order to drive the British out of South Carolina. In the meantime Marion, Sumter and others had been carrying on a difficult struggle against British and Tory forces with indifferent success. The main British forces were under the command of Rawdon. Greene met Rawdon in battle at Hobkirk's Hill, in which the British won an empty victory as Greene withdrew his forces and established a well fortified camp, which Rawdon did not attack. The fact that Greene's army had not been destroyed by the British encouraged the patriots of South Carolina. Large numbers of men joined Marion's forces which caused the British much trouble. Several British strongholds were also captured. Later Greene began the siege of Fort Ninety-Six which was 147 miles northwest of Charleston. However, the approach of Rawdon's force compelled him to give up the siege. His troops had become veterans as a result of the fight at Hobkirk's Hill and at Ninety-Six. They were now resolved to fight on for victory. In the end Rawdon withdrew his forces from Ninety-Six. It was not long before Greene started to march after Rawdon and he offered Rawdon battle which he refused. Greene's army had grown in sufficient numbers, so that it needed reorganization, drill and new equipment. Greene ordered Marion, Lee and other leaders to take their bands of men and press the enemy from every quarter. The movement was successful. Morale was renewed in the military and among the civilian population loyal to the American cause.

Later, Greene prepared his army to attack the British at Eutaw Springs which was fought on September 8, 1781. Greene's forces numbered about 2,000 and the British 2,300. Greene had carefully prepared for a surprise attack and was well on his way when two deserters of his army informed the British of the approach of the American army. After a difficult struggle, the British were driven back but not destroyed as Greene had hoped. Greene recalled his forces, and in the end the British were compelled to retreat. This was the struggle that weakened the British so much and caused the breakdown of the morale of the Tories, that their control in South Carolina was almost ended. It was certain their time was fast ebbing away. It was not long before the only stronghold left to the British in South Carolina was Charleston.

Governor Rutledge then congratulated Greene upon his fine service under the most trying difficulties. The governor said:

"We have now full and absolute possession of every part of the state; and the legislative, judicial and executive powers are in the exercise of their respective authorities."

In attesting their appreciation, the legislature of the state voted him a gift of 10,000 guineas. Truly it was a gift which was very helpful to Greene as at this time his possessions were very meager. He was grateful and appreciative of the gift. In the meantime Greene kept his army in position ready to strike at the British in Charleston. However, the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, pointed the way that the British must evacuate Charleston. Finally the British withdrew from Charleston on December 14, 1782. The Americans under Greene took possession and now North Carolina and South Carolina were free of the enemy. Peace had come at last. Greene's determined struggle in North and South Carolina also aided in the American cause in Georgia. Once British power was broken in the Carolinas, a victory was assured in Georgia. North Carolina and Georgia likewise appreciated Greene's unequal struggle and the North Carolina legislature gave him 5,000 guineas and Georgia 24,000 acres of choice land.

In August of 1783, Greene could leave the southern theater since peace was established and as Congress was in session at Princeton, he went there and surrendered his final commission.

Congress gave him official recognition for the eminent service he rendered for his country. Washington also expressed his gratitude for the services of his friend and comrade-in-arms, as it was Washington who had sent Greene to perform the unusually difficult task. When he returned to Rhode Island, he was given a warm and hospitable reception. However, he determined to move to the south and develop his estate, "Mulberry Grove," located on the Savannah River.

Finally in the latter part of 1785 he settled on his plantation with his wife and children. He looked forward to a future of much happiness and contentment. He entered into the development of his plantation with much vigor and interest. In April, 1786, he wrote a letter to a friend in which he stated in part:

"The garden is delightful. The fruit trees and flowering shrubs form a pleasant variety. We have green peas almost fit to eat and as fine lettuce as you ever saw. The mocking birds surround us evening and morning. The weather is mild and the vegetable world progressing to perfection. We have in the same orchard apples, pears, peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums of various kinds, figs, pomegranate and oranges. And we have strawberries which measure three inches around."

Greene went to Savannah on a business trip, June 12, 1786, and on his journey home he stopped at the plantation of a friend to see his rice fields, as he had become interested in producing rice. During his visit at his friend's plantation he was exposed to the hot rays of the sun, and when he returned home he became very ill and on June 19, he died. When the news of his untimely death spread throughout the countryside and Savannah, shock and sorrow caused the suspension of all business. The entire nation mourned his passing. His highest tribute may be expressed in the fact that he was a man Washington always trusted, and history well records that he stood next to Washington in service for his country.

By Charles William Heathcote, Ph.D.
The Picket Post, The Valley Forge Historical Society, January 1954, updated and corrected 2006.

Courtesy National Center for the American Revolution/Valley Forge Historical Society


Interested in using our content? Click here!

Valley Forge

Prayer at Valley Forge
Click Here

Valley Forge

Prayer at Valley Forge
Click Here