Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution
By Terry Golway
Henry Holt and Co., Hardcover, 9780805070668, 368pp.
Publication Date: December 23, 2004
The overlooked Quaker from Rhode Island who won the Revolutionary War's crucial southern campaign and helped to set up the final victory of American independence at Yorktown
Nathanael Greene is a revolutionary hero who has been lost to history. Although places named in his honor dot city and country, few people know his quintessentially American story as a self-made, self-educated military genius who renounced his Quaker upbringing-horrifying his large family-to take up arms against the British. Untrained in military matters when he joined the Rhode Island militia in 1774, he quickly rose to become Washington's right-hand man and heir apparent. After many daring exploits during the war's first four years (and brilliant service as the army's quartermaster), he was chosen in 1780 by Washington to replace the routed Horatio Gates in South Carolina.
Greene's southern campaign, which combined the forces of regular troops with bands of irregulars, broke all the rules of eighteenth-century warfare and foreshadowed the guerrilla wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His opponent in the south, Lord Cornwallis, wrote, "Greene is as dangerous as Washington. I never feel secure when I am encamped in his neighborhood. He is vigilant, enterprising, and full of resources." Greene's ingenious tactics sapped the British of their strength and resolve even as they "won" nearly every battle. Terry Golway argues that Greene's appointment as commander of the American Southern Army was the war's decisive moment, and this bold new book returns Greene to his proper place in the Revolutionary era's pantheon.
“While researching and writing a book about George Washington, I concluded that Nathanael Greene was the most under appreciated great man in the War for Independence, and that he deserved a modern biography that told his incredible story. Now, here it is. Washington once said that, if he went down in battle, Greene was his choice to succeed him. Read this book and you will understand why.”
—Joseph J. Ellis, author of His Excellency: George Washington
“Terry Golway has done a magnificent job of capturing the personal and professional Nathanael Greene and portraying him as a living, vibrant, exceptionally competent general whose significance has not been widely appreciated until now. The depth and breadth of research are outstanding, and the prose a joy to read. This should be regarded as the definitive biography for years to come.”
—Robert M. Utley, author of The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull
“Terry Golway has written a remarkable book that brings the American Revolution alive for the 21st century reader in a new way. He gives us a Nathanael Greene that we can all understand: a modern man, ambitious but unsure of himself and the new political world he was creating, deeply in love but uncertain about his fidelity to his beautiful wife, not terribly fussy about the ethics of making money. Yet this Rhode Island Quaker risked his life and reputation to rescue the faltering Revolution in the South and incidentally proved himself a brilliant general. This is the American Revolution for adults.”
—Thomas Fleming, author of Liberty! The American Revolution
“If George Washington was the one indispensable man in our Revolution, Nathanael Greene was surely Washington’s one indispensable general. In a spirited, wholly engrossing narrative, Terry Golway summons this underappreciated figure back from the mists and puts the living man before us with all his crochets, self-pity, self-doubt—and the tenacious, high-hearted optimism that, along with a wholly self-taught military master, more than once saved his infant republic. This fine biography includes among its pleasures a love story (with its share of thorns amid the roses), a loquacious subject whose letters, for all their quaint spelling, are full of the eloquently-expressed passions of a gifted, beleaguered man, and perhaps most important of all, a wonderfully vivid reminder of what a reckless, audacious, almost miraculous adventure we Americans embarked upon when we decided we needed a nation of our own.”
—Richard F. Snow, Editor-In-Chief, American Heritage
“Nathanael Greene lost every major battle he fought, and then he died young. Yet he was one of the greatest military geniuses America ever produced. Terry Golway triumphantly resurrects the pugnacious, self-taught optimist who helped Washington win the American Revolution.”
—Richard Brookhiser, author of Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington