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We have rapidly glanced at the course of the Revolution so far as Washington was concerned in it. But we should fail to understand the connection of events were we to pass over without mention the work of the brilliant general, Nathaniel Greene, who by common consent is regarded as a military leader second to Washington alone. 

As already noted, the first fighting in the Revolution was in New England. Failing there, the British generals vainly tried to get control of the Hudson River and the Middle States.

Their attention was now turned to the South, where there were many Tories who would give material support to the King's forces. George the Third had great hopes of conquering all the Southern States and holding them at the end of the struggle as English territory, even though the Americans should succeed in keeping possession of New England and the Middle States.

Beginning in Georgia in 1778, the British captured Savannah, but not until 1780 did they undertake the serious business of conquering the South. In May of that year General Lincoln, the American commander of the Southern army, surrendered his entire force at Charleston, and in the following August, General Gates, at the head of a second American army, suffered a crushing defeat in the battle of Camden. The outlook for the patriot cause appeared dark. One thing was certain. An able military leader must take charge of the Americans, or the British would soon overcome all opposition. Washington had great faith in General Greene's ability, and without hesitation selected him for this important task.

Nathaniel Greene was born in Warwick, R. I., in 1742. His father, a Quaker preacher on Sundays and a blacksmith and miller on weekdays, brought up his son in the strictest Quaker principles and trained him to work in the field, in the mill, and at the forge. Nathaniel was robust and athletic, a leader in outdoor sports. From an early age, he was studious in his habits, and in his manhood, when the troubles with England seemed to threaten war, he eagerly turned his attention to the study of military tactics.

In 1774 Greene took an active part in organizing, in Rhode Island, a military company called the Kentish Guards, in which he at once enrolled himself as a private. In order to procure a musket it was necessary for him to make a trip to Boston where, in his Quaker costume of drab-colored clothes and broad-brimmed hat, he was a picturesque and interested observer of the British regulars taking their customary drill. On his return, he brought with him not only a musket, which he concealed under some straw in his wagon but also a British deserter to drill his company.

On the news of the battle of Bunker Hill, a brigade of three regiments was raised in Rhode Island, and Greene was placed at its head with the rank of brigadier-general. With this brigade, he at once marched to Boston, and when Washington arrived to take command of the American troops, General Greene had the honor of welcoming him in behalf of the army.

Illustration: Map Showing the War in the South.

 

At this time Greene was thirty-three years old, six feet tall, with a strong, vigorous body and a frank, intelligent face. He speedily won the friendship and confidence of Washington, who afterward placed him in positions of great responsibility. Throughout the entire war, General Greene was actively engaged, and in all his campaigns he showed remarkable energy and promptness. It was natural that a general so able should be sought in 1780 as commander of the American army in the South.

When General Greene reached the Carolinas (December 2, 1780), he found the army in a forlorn condition. There was but one blanket for every three soldiers, and there were not enough provisions in camp to last three days. The men were disheartened because they had suffered defeat, rebellious because they were unpaid, and sick because they were unfed. They camped in rude huts made of fence rails, corn-stalks, and brushwood.

But by his masterly way of doing things, Greene soon inspired the confidence of officers and soldiers alike. A story is told that well illustrates the faith his men had in their general. Once he saw a bare-footed sentry and said to him, "How you must suffer from cold!" "I do not complain," the sentry answered, not aware that he was addressing his commander. "I know I should fare well if our general could procure supplies."

Not long after taking command of the army, he sent General Morgan with 900 picked men toward the mountains in the Carolinas to threaten the British posts there, while he himself, with the remainder of the army, took a position nearer the coast on the Pedee River. General Cornwallis, in command of the British army in the South, detached Tarleton to march against Morgan. Early on the morning of January 17, 1781, after a hard night march, Tarleton, over-confident of success, attacked Morgan at Cowpens. But the Americans repelled the attack with vigor and won a brilliant victory. The British lost 230 killed and wounded and 600 prisoners, almost their entire force.

Cornwallis was deeply chagrined, for he had expected that Tarleton would crush the American force. He now planned to march rapidly across the country and defeat Morgan before Greene's army could unite with him. But Morgan, feeling certain that Cornwallis would make a strenuous effort to overwhelm him and rescue the 600 prisoners, marched with all possible speed in a northeasterly direction, with the purpose of crossing the Catawba River before Cornwallis could overtake him.

Illustration: Lord Cornwallis.

 

Moreover, when Greene heard the glorious news of the American victory, he knew that there was great danger that Morgan's force would fall into the hands of Cornwallis. He, therefore, planned not only to prevent such a catastrophe but also to lead Cornwallis far away from his base of supplies at Wilmington on the coast, to a place where his own force united with Morgan's might fight a winning battle.

With these plans in mind, having ordered General Huger to march rapidly with the army in a northerly direction, Greene himself, with a small guard, swiftly rode a distance of 150 miles across the rough country to Morgan's army. On the last day of January, he reached it in the Catawba Valley and began to direct its movements.

In the meantime, Cornwallis, with desperate energy, was pressing in pursuit. For the next ten days, it was a race for life, with the odds in favor of Cornwallis. But Greene was exceedingly alert and masterful. The Catawba had been safely crossed, but Cornwallis might overtake the Americans before they could cross the Yadkin. To make all possible provision for a speedy crossing, Greene sent men ahead to see that boats should be collected on this river, ready for use when he should need them. He also had the forethought to carry with his army boats mounted on wheels. When crossing a river these boats would carry the wheels, and in advancing across the country the wheels would carry the boats.

Having taken these precautions, Greene sent Morgan forward toward Salisbury, while he himself waited for a force of militia that was to guard fords on the Catawba in order to delay Cornwallis. But while waiting he heard that the militia had been scattered. When this unfortunate news reached him, he started upon a solitary ride through the heavy mud and drenching rain in search of Morgan's force. When Greene alighted at the Salisbury Inn, which had been turned into a hospital for the soldiers, the army physician greeted him, asking how he was. "Fatigued, hungry, alone, and penniless," he answered. The landlady, Mrs. Elizabeth Steele, on hearing the reply, brought out two bags of money, the savings of many a hard day's labor. She said, "Take these, you will need them, and I can do without them."

In this famous retreat of 200 miles through the Carolinas, the Americans forded three rivers, whose waters, swollen by recent rains soon after the Americans had crossed, checked the British in their pursuit. Greene crossed the last of these rivers, the Dan, with the two parts of his army now united, just in time to escape Cornwallis.

In all this time of trial and uncertainty, General Greene received valuable aid from partisan leaders in the South. One of the most noted of these was Francis Marion, who was born near Georgetown, S.C., in 1732. Although as a child, he was extremely delicate, he grew strong after his twelfth year. In his mature years he was short and slight in frame, but strong and hardy in constitution.

When the British began to swarm into South Carolina he raised and drilled a company of his neighbors and friends known as "Marion's Brigade." These men, without uniforms, without tents, and without pay, were among the bravest and best of the Revolutionary soldiers. Old saws beaten at the country forge furnished them with sabers, and pewter mugs and dishes supplied material for bullets. The diet of these men was simple. Marion, their leader, usually ate hominy and potatoes and drank water flavored with a little vinegar.

The story is told that one day a British officer entered the camp with a flag of truce. After the conference, Marion, with his usual delicate courtesy, invited him to dinner. We may imagine the officer's surprise when seated at a log used for a table, they were served to a dinner consisting of roasted sweet potatoes handed to them on pieces of bark. The British officer was still more surprised to learn that at times Marion's men were not fortunate enough to have even potatoes.

Illustration: General Francis Marion.

 

"Marion's Brigade" of farmers and hunters seldom numbered more than seventy, and often less than twenty. With this very small force, he annoyed the British beyond measure by rescuing prisoners and by capturing supply trains, foraging parties, and outposts. One day a scout brought in the report that a party of ninety British with 200 prisoners were on the march for Charleston. Waiting for the darkness to conceal his movements, Marion with thirty men sallied out, swooped down upon the British camp, captured, the entire force, and rescued all the American prisoners.

It was the custom of Marion's men when hard pressed by a superior force to scatter, each one for himself, and, dashing headlong into the dense, dark swamps, to meet again at the well-known hiding-place. Even while the British were in search of them they sometimes darted out just as suddenly as they had disappeared, and surprised another British party near at hand. Well did Marion deserve the name of "Swamp Fox," given him by the British.

Illustration: Marion and His Men Swooping Down on a British Camp.

 

With the aid of such partisan leaders, and by the skillful handling of his army, Greene was more than a match for Cornwallis. On receiving reinforcements from Virginia Greene turned upon his enemy at Guilford Court House, N. C., where he fought a losing battle. But although defeated, he so crippled the British army that Cornwallis was obliged to retreat to the coast to get supplies for his half-famished men before marching northward into Virginia. In this long and trying campaign, Greene had completely outwitted Cornwallis.

At the close of the war, as he passed through Philadelphia on his way home, the people received him with great enthusiasm. In 1785 he moved with his family to a plantation which the State of Georgia had given him. Here he lived in quiet and happiness less than a year, when he died of sunstroke at the age of forty-four. His comrade, Wayne, who was with him at the time of his death, said of him: "He was great as a soldier, great as a citizen, immaculate as a friend.... I have seen a great and good man die."

 

Review Outline

The British Attempt To Get Control In The South.
Dark Outlook For The Americans.
Young Greene A Leader In Out-Door Sports.
Greene Made Brigadier-General.
He Takes Command In The South.
General Greene And His Army.
The Battle Of Cowpens.
Greene's Plans.
His Alertness And Foresight.
A Famous Retreat.
Partisan Leaders.
Francis Marion And His Men.
Marion's Methods: The "Swamp Fox."
Greene Outwits Cornwallis.
General Greene After The War.

 

To The Pupil

1. Why did the British wish to get control of the South?

2. How did Greene look? What do you admire in his character?

3. What was the condition of his army when he took command of it
in the South?

4. What was the "race for life"? How did it result?

5. Describe Francis Marion and tell all you can about his habits.

6. Tell the story of Marion and the British officer.

7. What were Marion's methods of annoying the British?

8. Are you constantly trying to form mental pictures as you read?