Famous Freemasons From History!

Famous Freemason: Nathanael Greene

March 31, 2023

This week in history marks the 243 Anniversary of the Battle of Harlem Heights which included Major General and Brother Nathaneal Greene.

Brother Greene was born in August of 1742 in Rhode Island to wealthy Quaker merchant and farmer Nathaneal Greene Sr. He lived a relatively mundane childhood. In the years prior to the American Revolution, Bro. Greene became deeply frustrated at the British Crown for imposing the Intolerable Acts and helped form a local militia called The Kentish Guard an “elite militia,” as prescribed by the Colonial Legislature. Although Bro. Greene was not selected to serve as the Commander of the Guard, he was appointed by the Rhode Island Legislature to command the newly established state army soon after the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the army marched North to Boston in the Spring of 1775 with the Kentish Guard. Upon the completion of the Battle of Bunker Hill, General Washington of the new Continential Army appointed Bro. Greene Brigadier General.

Upon commission to the Continental Army, Bro. Greene and the Army traveled to New York to prepare fortifications for Brooklyn and Long Island, the next expected places of British Invasion. After the British did invade Brooklyn and Long Island, he was promoted to Major General and saw his first Battle at Harlem Heights. When an detachment of British Troops pursued the Continental’s Reconnaissance division, there was an opening for American Troops to flank the army after the American Division escaped. The British soon repositioned and reinforced uphill when they realized their flank was compromised. Washington sent commanders, including Bro. Greene, to put pressure on the British. For hours, they stood off on this hill until the British retreated from a lack of supplies. Although this battle resulted in few losses and minimal territory change, it was an important first victory for the Americans. 

Bro. Greene continued to serve honorably in major battles throughout the war, including Philadelphia during Valley Forge, and commanded the Southern Army. Most important in the Southern Theater was his strategic retreat where the majority of the forces marched North from the loss of North Carolina, while sending Colonel Williams and a small detachment South to launch guerrilla attacks on the pursuing British. While technically his area of command, he did not participate in the Siege and Battle of Yorktown because he was on a campaign in South Carolina and Georgia.

After the war, he retired from his command with severe debt from placing his name on bonds to supply his troops with clothing and other necessities. He moved to the South to start a plantation in conflict with his earlier views on slavery, and soon fell ill and died on June 19, 1789, at 43 years old. 

There is disagreement whether Bro. Greene’s connection belonged to a lodge in Rhode Island or a military lodge. There are many artifacts of his that are in the possession of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island, including a Masonic Medal he wore during the war that was presented by Lafayette and a Masonic Apron.

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