Turning ‘The Big 2-7-5’
Homestead celebrates Nathanael Greene’s milestone birthday with pomp and pageantry
COVENTRY — For the past 275 years, it hasn't been that easy being Greene.
George Washington was the first President of the United States and has his face plastered on a quarter of the real estate of Mount Rushmore. Alexander Hamilton is on the 10 dollar bill and is the focus of a Tony award-winning Broadway musical. Yet Gen. Nathanael Greene, one of Rhode Island's greatest military heroes, has all but been overlooked in the annals of the American Revolution.
But on a raw and drizzly Saturday, a dedicated and loyal group of Greene advocates united together to ensure that the general's name and legacy are not forgotten to time. Visitors and some of Greene's descendants descended upon the 2½story homestead on the hillsides of the Pawtuxet River to celebrate the general's 275th birthday.
Congratulatory and celebratory fireworks were eschewed for the more traditional blasts from a cannon, saluting the general who rose through the ranks to become George Washington's most trusted officer.
Retired Brig. Gen. Richard Valente, a Rhode Island native and retired commander of the 103rd Field Artillery, offered the keynote address on Saturday. In his speech, he linked two promi- nent New Englanders whose valor and courage were vital to Revolutionary War battles in the region – Greene, who was significant in the south and Capt. Simeon Hix, who fought in many a battle in northern New England.
Valente said that he recently visited Greene's burial place in Savannah, Ga., and he made note of two Rhode Island gen- erals being in the same place at the same time.
“He was a tremendous leader,” Valente said of Greene. “A lot of us realize the extent of his contributions, people certainly recognize Gen. Greene. He saved the American Revolution. He was a simple soldier who did his duty and made it all worth it.”
David Procaccini, president of the Nathanael Greene Homestead and a cousin of Greene's, said that while everyone in attendance at Saturday's fete was aware of Greene's significance, he believed the Rhode Island military hero may have been forgotten nationally. That said, events such as Saturday's would further help
the exposure of a general who called Rhode Island home.
Offering a greeting from the Rhode Island Society Sons of the American Revolution was President John T. Duchesneau, a trustee at the Greene Homestead. He said it was “great to see Gen. Greene being honored” by the many who turned out on Saturday afternoon, despite the inclement conditions.
Describing Greene as “the best man for the job,” Duchesneau said that history has proven to look upon Greene favorably, given his successes in facing tremendous challenges during the American Revolution.
“Gen. Greene was a man of tremendous character and ability and that's why we should honor him,” Duchesneau said.
Technically, Greene was born on July 27, 1742, in the Old Style calendar, but with the current calendar, his birthday is recognized as Aug. 7.
Alecture on the Homestead's lawn was held on Sunday, in celebration of his birthday on the New Style calendar. The event also featured a discussion hosted by former Providence Journal reporter and Greene biographer Gerald Carbone.
Top photo, members of the Artillery Company of Newport 1741 salute the birthday of Major General Nathanael Greene with cannon fire during ceremonies at the Nathanael Greene Homestead in Coventry Saturday. Above, the Varnum Continentals, under the command of Col. Joanne Breslin, left, in blue uniforms, and the Kentish Guards, on right, take part in the procession of flags and posting of colors Saturday.
Captain Robert Allen Greene II, of East Greenwich, a member of the Kentish Guards and a descendant of Major General Nathanael Greene, pauses by the entrance to the Major General Nathanael Greene Homestead before taking part in ceremonies marking the 275th birthday of Nathanael Greene in Coventry on Saturday.