Thursday, September 3, 2009

Nathanael Greene: A Biography of the American Revolution by Gerald M. Carbone

In case you haven't noticed, I'm on a bit of an American Revolution kick right now. I'm following up my review of 1776 with a review of a biography about General Nathanael Green, Washington's favorite general and the hero of the South, whose legacy has all but been forgotten.

I can't say much for the biography itself, except that this is a good start at getting Greene's name in the history books, along with George Washington's, where it belongs. And for someone interested in getting to know more about Nathanael Greene, I would suggest this, seeing as how accounts of the forgotten general are few and far between.

It boggles my mind how absent Greene's name is from accounts of The American Revolution. People don't realize there would have been no Yorktown if not for Greene. Before Greene's magnificent Southern campaign, the British controlled all of the south. By Yorktown, they controlled virtually none of it. Without decisively winning any battles, Greene not only took charge of the south, but had driven Cornwallis' troops out of the Carolinas and right into George Washington's hands. Greene himself said it best after the battle at Yorktown:

We have been beating the bush and the General has come to catch the bird. Never was there a more fortunate Man, and may success and laurels attend him. We have fought frequently, and bled freely, and little glory comes to our share.

So what happened to Washington's favorite general, the savor of the south, after the revolution? He was met with much debt and received no fanfare when he returned to his home state of Rhode Island. And he died three years later, in 1786. He was buried in an unmarked tomb that wasn't discovered until 1901, which is covered at the beginning of this book.

His name was virtually forgotten and his remains were unknown for virtually 115 years. It's despicable and sad. There probably would not have been a Yorktown, and who would know what would have happened, how long the war might have gone on and who would have won if there was no Nathanael Greene.