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

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

Some contemperory biographies and editor’s notes have presented Nathanael Greene as a man who is thin-skinned, a frequent complainer, and even one given to whining. One has to wonder what challenges, depravations, horror, and loss these authors, so freely judging Greene’s written words to trusted family and friends, have ever experienced themselves?

(To judge a man who had experienced enormous hardship one must imagine those sitting in judgment must have suffered more?) Does Nathanael Greene sometimes complain in his letters to family and friends? He does. Prior to the war we witness him “complaining” to his dear friend Samuel Ward
about the fact that his forge in Coventry, Rhode Island burned to the ground. It was his livelihood and that of numerous families in the area. It would be difficult and expensive to rebuild. He was sharing a dreadful and shocking moment with a friend. Was this a weakness in his character? In another letter he states he was “mortified” that the Rhode Island militia company he assisted in forming, often endangering himself in the process, refused to commission him as an officer because he walked with a limp.

Weeks later the Rhode Island General Assembly would promote Greene from private to brigadier general literally over night! (And thank God they did!) And there is an incident of personal pain in response to General Washington’s report to Congress on the Battle of Brandywine. General Greene had marched his division four miles in forty-five minutes to save General Sullivan’s division. It was a near impossible feat on a sweltering summer day. This accomplishment was given
little mention in the report. When he spoke to Washington about it the Commander- in-Chief apologized and offered a rather feeble explanation of why he failed to report Greene’s extraordinary command and the actions of his men in the Battle of Brandywine.

We also witness in some letters throughout the war—again to trusted family members and friends—the hardships he and the army faced. Hardships of deprivation of basic needs. Hardships of facing the enemy without the necessary means for battle. Hardships of going, with his men, for weeks without changing their clothing as they retreat from certain annihilation. This author has noted that some contemporary historians have a need to create weakness of character in their subject without sufficient evidence to prove such a trait. The reader, without substantial knowledge of the subject, is not aware of the bias being presented, subjecting them to believing inuendo as truth. It’s a grave injustice to the subject as well as the reader.

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