General Nathanael Greene

General of Continental Forces on Long Island


Nathanael was born on Forge Farm at Potowomut in the township of Warwick, Rhode Island, on August 7, 1742. Greene educated himself, with a special study of mathematics and law. In 1770, Greene moved to Coventry, Rhode Island, to take charge of the family-owned forge (foundry), just prior to his father’s death. He sympathized strongly with the “Whig,” or Patriot, element among the colonists.

In August 1774, Greene helped organize a local militia which was chartered as the Kentish Guards that October. His participation in the group was challenged because he had a pronounced limp. At this time he began to acquire many expensive volumes on military tactics and began to teach himself the art of war. His zeal in fighting the British and organizing the militia led to his expulsion from the pacifistic Quakers.

On May 8, 1775, he was promoted from private to Major General of the Rhode Island Army of Observation formed in response to the siege of Boston. Washington assigned Greene the command of the city of Boston after it was evacuated by the British in March 1776. He was later promoted and was put in command of the Continental Army troops on Long Island; he chose the place for fortifications, and supervised the construction of redoubts and entrenchments east of Brooklyn Heights.

General Nathanael Greene

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