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Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution
by Terry Golway
Published by Henry Holt & Co.
Washington's General authored by Terry Golway is an enjoyable read. With the help of the extensive collection of Nathanael Greene's letters and other sources, Golway sets out to prove how pivotal this Rhode Island Quaker's role was in the American Revolution. Golway also hammers home Greene's major personality flaw of insecurity. He had a poor habit of getting defensive and lashing out at superiors (Congress and Washington) when he felt slighted. He wore out his welcome with the Continental Congress over promotion to the point that they would have happily accepted his resignition and even nearly forced him out of the Continental Army. Perhaps, it was due to his slight limp or perhaps it was his lack of military background, but he was desperate for his contributions to be recognized. He wished to be remembered for his conquests on the battlefield like those about whom he had avidly read.
Golway demonstrates from Greene's role in actions in New York all the way through to the late actions in the South in 1781 that Greene proved his abilities on the battlefield without ever achieving what would be a traditional victory. Golway also sets out to prove that Greene's role as Quartermaster General might have been his greatest contribution. His business sense and administration in that capacity prevented the Continental Army from degenerating due to lack of supplies. However, Greene's personal business dealings during this time does bring his achievements into some question. Golway does show that Greene's administrative style rebuilt the Continental Army in the South following its near destruction at Camden.
Golway's writing does not get bogged down in details, but maintains an easy style that moves the reader along. Golway clearly respects and admires his subject, flaws and all, but does not lose perspective. Unlike the recent biography of John Paul Jones, which left this reader feeling teased about serveral aspects of and relationships in Jones' life, Golway covers Greene's with a thoroughness that leaves little unanswered. This reader is actually left with unanswered questions about Caty Greene, who outlived her husband. Golway only hints at her life after Nathanael's death, leaving that to her biographers. This book is a nice treatment of one of Washington's youngest and most trusted generals and is a recommended read.
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