Janet Uhlar | Reasons I Committed to Revising General Greene’s Story (part four)

Reasons I Committed to Revising General Greene’s Story (part four)

As mentioned in Part Two, Greene agreed with Congress to remain in the post of quartermaster general for one year. It was also agreed that he would choose those who would assist him. When the year ended Congress forced Greene to continue. They also decided to revamp the department and dismiss his chosen assistants.

During his appointment as quartermaster general, Greene worked diligently to supply the army. Some in Congress resented his diligence — and his determination to be free of the post as originally agreed upon. (Again as mentioned in Part Two, Greene mentioned in a letter that upon visiting Congress, he and Washington counted more than a dozen tables over-laden with food while the troops were expected to sustain themselves on rations.)

There were congressmen who felt Quartermaster General Greene was insubordinate in his constancy to properly supply the troops and remind them of the terms originally agreed upon. These members of Congress called for a hearing to determine if Nathanael Greene should be discharged from the Continental Army. General Washington, aware of the impending hearing, sent word to those congressmen with a military background to arduously defend Greene.

After almost a week of arguments it was determined that Nathanael Greene would be relieved of the quartermaster general post and again take up his position as battlefield commander.

In October of 1780, only a few months after the attempt to discharge Greene from the army, Congress appointed him to command the Southern Campaign. The focus of the British was now in the South. Two generals had previously served in this post and failed. It was time to assign the pivotal task to Greene — a commander that had already proven his dedication to the army and his ability to accomplish the impossible.

Greene was able to move quickly to get his small, sickly, and always poorly supplied southern troops in order. He swiftly adapted strategies and tactics to weaken the British Army in the South. The mere survival of the Continental Army during the Southern Campaign was a constant. As the main army under Washington experienced a time of repose, Greene’s army was continuously engaged in battles, skirmishes, and sieges.

Fighting men and supplies were near impossible to attain. Greene petitioned the legislative bodies of the Southern States to allow enslaved men to join the Continental Army and obtain their freedom in exchange. This was denied. (According to Supreme Court Justice William Johnson’s biography on Greene — Sketches of the life and correspondence of Nathanael Greene, major general of the armies of the United States, in the war of the revolution (1822, Charleston, SC) there were those in the South who still resented Greene for making the request at the time this biography was printed.)

Greene petitioned Congress to send the monies needed to properly supply his men. Sporadically money would arrive — never enough.

Greene sought out equipped militia units from the Southern States to reinforce the Continental Army. Few arrived. The governor of Virginia sent militia to Greene — without properly outfitting them with weapons or food. Greene, struggling to supply his own troops in the field, was forced to send the desperately needed militia back with a rebuke to the governor for not supplying his militia units. Virginia’s governor at that time was Thomas Jefferson.

The declaration of independence, which was announced to the world five years prior had not yet been obtained. Yet the author of this declaration failed to responsibly and realistically assist those on the front line attempting with their very lives to make it so!

The story of the Continental Army is very different from that of the Continental Congress. As school children we were taught about the American Revolution with the focus on specific members of Congress. Few Americans know of and therefore fully appreciate the immense struggles the army continuously faced to obtain our liberty. Their enormous effort, it seems, was not even fully appreciated by certain members serving in the Continental Congress at the time.

Pictures below:

Major General Nathanael Greene, commander of the Southern Campaign

Governor Thomas Jefferson

Supreme Court Justice William Johnson (biographer of Nathanael Greene)

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