THE MAKING OF A REVOLUTIONARY GENERAL--NATHANAEL GREENE: 1742-1779. (VOLUMES I AND II) (RHODE ISLAND)
TRETLER, DAVID ALLAN
Doctor of Philosophy
By the end of the American Revolution, Nathanael Green ranked second only to Washington as a leader of the Americans' fight for independence. How he developed the character that made him such a remarkably successful Revolutionary general, however, has never been established. Four influences seem to have been paramount in shaping Greene's character. First, his upbringing as a Rhode Island Quaker bequeathed to him a pronounced strain of self-reliance and anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian attitudes. Second, though raised a Quaker, he early began a lifelong devotion to reading in Enlightenment thought, the classics, history, literature, and legal, social, and political commentary. This reading sharpened an already impressive intellect. It also made a powerful case for reason and rationality, personal character, republican and representative forms of government, and public virtue, while discouraging luxury, ambition, and the pursuit of private interests. Third, when Greene reached his majority he became a full partner in his family's business, sharpening his managerial skills, establishing important contacts, and whetting his ambition. Finally, the colonies' worsening relations with England radicalized Greene's political views and impelled him to begin an intensive study of military affairs. Thus he became a patriot and earned a brigadier general's commission in the Continental Army; and thus, through his energy, insight, and ability, he rose to the summit of American command. From 1775 to 1780 he served two long apprenticeships, first as subordinate commander under Washington, and then as the army's quartermaster general, steadily refining his political and military thought. By the end of 1779, no American general understood better than Greene the need to preserve the army rather than aggressively seek battle, to protract the war and wear away British will, to establish a strong central government and standing army, and to sustain the people's support. He was ready for independent command.