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Washington's Generalby Terry Golway
Synopses & Reviews
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.
Terry Golway, longtime student of eighteenth-century American history, is a frequent contributor to American Heritage, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times. His previous books include So Others Might Live, The Irish in America, For the Cause of Liberty, and Irish Rebel. He is a columnist and city editor of the New York Observer, and lives in Maplewood, New Jersey. He was an unlikely warrior, even in an army of inexperienced officers and citizen soldiers. The Quaker with a pronounced limp, Nathanael Greene surprised fellow patriots by rising quickly to become George Washington's favorite soldier and heir apparent. Other generals could claim a deeper knowledge of strategy and tactics, but none possessed his foresight and ingenuity or his organizational skills.
Unjustly humiliated for the loss of New York early in the war, Greene demonstrated the ability to turn defeat into victory in countless engagements. Yet it wasn't until he replaced Horatio Gates, the failed commander of the southern army, and formulated an unconventional campaign employing hit-and-run guerrilla tactics that his true military genius became apparent. Gates--a traditional general of the old school--had spent the two years since Saratoga basking in the glow of that famous victory. In the meantime, he had stumbled into a series of catastrophes until finally his entire army--1,500 Continentals and 2,000 militia patriots--was annihilated at Camden, South Carolina, in the summer of 1780. Benedict Arnold's stunning treason followed a month later to deliver a near-fatal blow to the rebel cause.
Greene knew that the lessons learned under Washington on the battlefields of New Jersey and Pennsylvania would not apply in the South. Instead of risking conventional battles with Cornwallis's superior army, Greene kept his smaller field forces of Continentals and militia, cavalry and lightly outfitted infantry in constant motion.
His was a partisan campaign, and its success depended upon local support. His unorthodox strategy was to win by surprise attacks and hasty retreats, which cut the enemy's supply lines until the British leaders tired of hunger and bloody sacrifices.
In one of the most audacious decisions of the war, Greene divided his army, separating Daniel Morgan's nimble troops from his own by 120 miles, with Cornwallis's army between them. The gamble paid off handsomely: the victory that followed not only stunned the British, it gave heart to southern patriots. Conscious of doubts among many southerners about the 0Revolution, Greene believed civilians would be more inclined to join the Continentals if the cause did not seem unwinnable. Greene's unconventional campaign sealed the bargain, and the way was prepared for the final victory at Yorktown less than a year later.
Terry Golway's bold new book, drawn from field documents, letters, diaries, and other sources, takes full account of the scope of Nathanael Greene's remarkable accomplishments, returning the forgotten patriot to his proper place in American history. 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 crotchets, self-pity, self-doubt--and the tenacious, high-hearted optimism that more than once saved his infant republic.--Richard F. Snow, editor in chief, American Heritage
Washington's General does justice to this remarkable man. It is both informative and entertaining, and written in a lively style that reflects the best characteristics of history for the educated layman. Golway clearly admires his subject, but he doesn't overlook Greene's flaws.--Mackubin T. Owens, New York Post
While researching and writing a book about George Washington, I concluded that Nathanael Greene was the most underappreciated 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
An] elegant new biography.-
"Born into a prosperous Quaker family in Rhode Island, Greene (1742 — 1786) had no formal education and remained at his family's forge into his 30s, when he abruptly abjured pacifism as the Revolution gathered steam. Through thorough research, Golway (So Others Might Live: A History of New York's Bravest), who has written for American Heritage, makes Greene's numerous and complex accomplishments accessible, committing few excesses of patriotism (and fewer of psychobiography). From the Revolution's earliest stages, Greene was appointed commanding general of the Rhode Island contingent in the Patriots' siege of Boston; Golway shows him as one of Washington's most trusted subordinates, with a mixed record as a field commander and a good one as a very reluctant quartermaster-general (a job that made making bricks without straw look simple). In the war's darkest days, in late 1780, Greene was appointed commander in the Southern theater, where the British had nearly swept all before them. Without ever winning a major battle, Greene, Golway shows, kept his army in the field, supported Patriot militias and suppressed Tory ones, undercut British logistics, eventually forced Cornwallis north to Yorktown and besieged Charleston. Along the way he married and had a lively family life, became a slave-owner (through owning land in Georgia) and then died of sunstroke and asthma. Golway makes a convincing case that Greene should be better known." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Washington said 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
He was an unlikely warrior--a Quaker with a pronounced limp, Nathanael Greene surprised fellow patriots by rising quickly to become George Washington's favorite soldier and heir apparent. After taking command of the failed Southern Army, Greene formulated an unorthodox guerrilla strategy--to win by surprise attacks and hasty retreats, which cut the enemy's supply lines until the outwitted British leaders grew tired of hunger and bloody sacrifices. His strategy of turning defeat into victory allowed the rebel army to gain momentum toward a final push, setting the stage for the victory at Yorktown.
Terry Golway's bold book, drawn from field documents, letters, diaries, and other sources, takes full account of the scope of Nathanael Greene's remarkable accomplishments, returning the forgotten patriot to his proper place in American history.
"Golway's biography does justice to this remarkable man. It is both informative and entertaining, written in a lively style that reflects the best characteristics of history for the educated layman. Golway clearly admires his subject, but doesn't
overlook Greene's flaws." --New York Post
"Golway rescues Greene from oblivion, and deservedly so . . . A fitting and welcome monument to a surprisingly complex actor in early American history." --Kirkus Reviews
Nathanael Greene is a Revolutionary War hero who has been lost to history. Golway examines how an overlooked Quaker from Rhode Island won the Revolutionary War's crucial southern campaign and helped to set up the final victory of American independence at Yorktown.
About the Author
Terry Golway is a frequent contributor to American Heritage, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times. His previous books include So That Others Might Live, The Irish in America, For the Cause of Liberty, and Irish Rebel. He lives in Maplewood, New Jersey.
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