Greene Family of Rhode Island

Nathanael Greene (1742 –1786), 3rd cousin 9x removed

Nathanael Greene was a Major General of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War.  When the war began, Greene was a militia private, the lowest rank possible; he emerged from the war with a reputation as George Washington’s most gifted and dependable officer.  Nathanael Greene was born in Rhode Island in 1742 of Quaker parentage.  From boyhood he was trained to work in the mills and the forge owned by his father.  While he attended no college, he displayed an aptitude for study, and his reading was guided by Ezra Stiles, who became president of Yale. In the face of the impending struggle with England he had helped to organize a militia company in 1774, but his fellow members denied him a lieutenancy because of his limping gait, and some went so far as to suggest that even as a private he would detract from the smart appearance of the company.  Greene was deeply mortified, but his character is revealed by the fact that he remained in the company as a private.  In 1775 he was a member of the General Assembly as he had been in 1770 to 1772.  When the news of the Battle of Lexington arrived, Greene and his fellow militiamen set out for Boston.  Although the Loyalist governor recalled them, Greene and three others continued on.  It was there that Greene’s ability began to be realized.  The private became a brigadier general in the Continental Army on 22 Jun 1775.  For the next three years he was in constant service as a field commander.  He was the general in whom Washington most confided and commended forces in the following battles and engagements: Siege of Boston, Battle of Harlem Heights, Battle of Fort Washington, Battle of Trenton, Battle of Brandywine, Battle of Germantown, Battle of Monmouth, Battle of Rhode Island, Battle of Springfield (1780), Battle of Guilford Court House, Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill, Siege of Ninety-Six and the Battle of Eutaw Springs.  Though resolute and firm, Greene was a pleasant man, who controlled a naturally impulsive and nervous temperament.  General Green died when he was forty-four, less than three years after the war ended.   His early death was attributed to a sunstroke suffered while viewing, bald headed, the extensive rice plantation of a friend.  He had expended much of his personal fortune in support of the war in order to keep the southern army form starving.   He died 19 Jun 1786 and was buried in the cemetery of Christ Episcopal Church in Savannah, Georgia.  In 1902 his remains were re-interred beneath the Greene monument erected in Johnston Square, Savannah.  There are countless cities, counties, and parks named in honor of Nathanael Greene across America.  His statue, with that of Roger Williams[1], represents the state of Rhode Island in the National Hall of Statuary in the Capitol at Washington.



(General) Nathanael Greene (1742 – 1786), 3rd cousin 9x removed – Rev. Nathanael Greene[2] (1707 – 1770) – Jabez Greene (1673 – 1741) – James Greene (1626 – 1698) – Dr. John Greene (1597 – 1659) – John Greene (1620 – 1708) – William Greene (1652 – 1681) – Mary Sayles Greene (1677 – 1761) – Edward Dyer (1701 – 1788) – John Dyer (1733 – 1791) – Freelove Dyer (1759 – 1831) – Phoebe Pearce (1779 – 1872) – Oratio Dyer Clarke (1811 – 1899) – Harriet Allen Clarke (1839 – 1898) – Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868 – 1940) – Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (1901 – 1982) – Tor Martin Hylbom (1939 – 2009) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom

Major General Nathanael Greene Homestead, Taft Street, Coventry, Rhode Island. Nathanael Greene was second in command to George Washington during the American Revolution. The homestead, built by Nathanael, dates back to 1770. It remained in the Greene family for several generations. Today it is a museum.

Major General Nathanael Greene Homestead, Taft Street, Coventry, Rhode Island. Nathanael Greene was second in command to George Washington during the American Revolution. The homestead, built by Nathanael, dates back to 1770. It remained in the Greene family for several generations. Today it is a museum.


[1] My paternal 10th g-grandfather

[2] There is no proven connection between Mary Mott (1708-1753) – the wife of Rev. Nathanael Greene and mother of Gen. Nathanael Greene – and my 8th g-grandfather, Nathaniel Mott.  Mary is the great granddaughter of Adam Mott (1596-1661), whose possible connections to Nathaniel Mott are discussed under the heading of Nathaniel Mott (1631-1675).

George Sears Greene (1801 –1899), 4th cousin 7x removed

George Sears Greene was a civil engineer and a Union general during the American Civil War.  He was part of the Greene family of Rhode Island, which had a distinguished military record for the United States.  His greatest contribution during the war was his defense of the Union right flank at Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg.  As a civilian, he was a founder of the American Society of Civil Engineers and Architects and was responsible for numerous railroads and aqueduct construction projects in the northeastern United States.  Greene entered West Point at age 18 and graduated second of 35 cadets in the class of 1823.  Classmates of Greene’s included future Union Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas, Joseph K. Mansfield, David Hunter, Dennis Hart Mahan, and Albert Sidney Johnston.  Top graduates of the academy generally chose the Engineers as their branch, but Greene decided on the artillery and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Artillery regiment.  However, due to his excellent academic performance, he stayed at the academy until 1827 as an assistant professor of mathematics and as a principal assistant professor of engineering.  One of the students he taught during this period was Cadet Robert E. Lee.  He resigned his commission in 1836 to become a civil engineer.  Greene built railroads in six states and designed municipal sewage and water systems for Washington, D.C., Detroit and several other cities.  In New York City, he designed the Croton Aqueduct reservoir in Central Park and the enlarged High Bridge over the Harlem River.  He was one of twelve founders in New York City of the American Society of Civil Engineers and Architects.

Despite being over 60 years old and having been out of the Army for 25 years, the crisis of the Union compelled Greene to seek to rejoin the service.  He was essentially apolitical and was not an abolitionist, but he was a firm believer in restoring the Union.  He was appointed colonel of the 60th New York Infantry regiment on 18 Jan 1862.  On 28 Apr 1862, Greene was appointed brigadier general of volunteers and served on the staff of Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks in the Shenandoah Valley campaign against Stonewall Jackson.  At age 61, Greene was one of the oldest generals in the Union army and his troops took to calling him “Old Man” or “Pap” Greene.  (There were actually 17 general officers in the Civil War older than Greene.)  However, his age did not keep him from being one of the most aggressive commanders in the army.  He commanded the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, II Corps, of the Army of Virginia at the Battle of Cedar Mountain during the Northern Virginia Campaign.  Attacked by a Confederate force three times the size of his own, Greene and his men refused to give ground, holding out until the neighboring Union units were forced to withdraw.  His division commander, Brig. Gen. John W. Geary, received a severe wound during the action and Greene took command of the division temporarily.  Greene was again temporarily elevated to command of his division, now designated part of the XII Corps of the Army of the Potomac, at the Battle of Antietam.  His division’s three brigades were led by junior officers who had survived Cedar Mountain.  Even though XII Corps commander Brig. Gen. Joseph K. Mansfield was killed shortly after the fighting began, Greene led a crushing attack against the Confederates near the Dunker Church, achieving the farthest penetration of Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s lines than any Union unit.  Under immense pressure, Greene held his small division (only 1,727 men engaged at the start of the day) in advance of the rest of the Army for four hours, but eventually withdrew after suffering heavy losses.  While the division was posted to Harpers Ferry, Greene took a three-week sick leave.  Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard speculated that Greene, like many of his fellow officers, was sickened by the stench of dead and wounded at Antietam.  When he returned, Greene resumed command of the 3rd Brigade, which was involved in minor skirmishes in northern Virginia and not engaged at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December.  At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, his brigade was in the center of the line.  When the Union right—the XI Corps—collapsed, Greene’s brigade was subjected to enfilade artillery fire and then infantry assaults.  He had ordered his men to fortify their positions 200 yards to their front using abatis and trenches and they were able to hold out against several Confederate assaults, although losing 528 men of 2,032 engaged.  During part of the battle, Greene once again assumed temporary command of the division when Geary was wounded again.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the highlight of Greene’s military career.  On 2 Jul 1863, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade shifted almost the entire XII Corps from the Union right to strengthen the left flank, which was under heavy attack.  Greene’s lone brigade of 1,350 New Yorkers (five regiments) was left to defend a one-half-mile line on Culp’s Hill when an entire Confederate division attacked.  Fortunately, Greene had previously demonstrated good sense (as befits a civil engineer) by insisting that his troops construct strong field fortifications, despite a lack of interest in doing so from his division commander, Geary, and corps commander, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum.  In Greene’s finest moment of the war, his preparations proved decisive and his brigade held off multiple attacks for hours.  He was active the entire engagement rallying his men to defend their positions in the darkness.  Brig. Gen. Alpheus Williams, acting corps commander on July 2, commended Greene for his “skill and judgment” in this defense, especially in his using the “advantages” of his position.  Late at night, the rest of the XII Corps returned to Culp’s Hill.  The fighting resumed the next morning and raged for over seven hours, but the Union troops held Culp’s Hill.  They regained some of the lost ground and thwarted renewed Confederate attacks.  The battle for Culp’s Hill included the two oldest generals in each army, Greene at 62 and Brig. Gen. William “Extra Billy” Smith at 65.  The desperate fighting on the Union right flank was as important as the more famous defense of the Union left flank on 2 July by Col. Strong Vincent’s brigade on Little Round Top.  In fact, given that the Union line was only 400 yards from the vital Union supply line on the Baltimore Pike, it can be argued that it was more important.  However, Greene’s contribution to this critical battle has never been widely heralded, principally because of a dispute between Meade and Slocum over the filing of their official reports. But a member of Greene’s brigade wrote: “Had the breastworks not been built, and had there only been the thin line of our unprotected brigade, that line must have been swept away like leaves before the wind, by the oncoming of so heavy a mass of troops, and the [Baltimore] pike would have been reached by the enemy.”

In the fall of 1863, the XII Corps was transferred to the West to reinforce the Union forces besieged at Chattanooga.  At the Battle of Wauhatchie, during a surprise night attack by the Confederate forces, Greene was wounded in the face, with his jaw crushed and some teeth carried away.  Subsequent surgery was not able to correct his condition and he suffered from the effects of his wound for the rest of his life.  After six weeks of medical leave, he was assigned to light court-martial duty until January 1865, when he was sent to join Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s army in North Carolina.  Initially Greene voluntarily served on the staff of Maj. Gen. Jacob D. Cox participating in the battle at Kinston, where he had his horse shot out from under him.  At the very end of the war Greene was in command of the 3rd Brigade in Absalom Baird’s 3rd Division, XIV Corps, and participated in the capture of Raleigh and the pursuit of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army until its surrender.

After the war, Greene served on court-martial duty for a year and then returned to civil engineering in New York and Washington, D.C.  From 1867 to 1871 he was the chief engineer commissioner of the Croton Aqueduct Department in New York.  At the age of 86, he inspected the entire 30-mile Croton Aqueduct structure on foot.  He served as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers from 1875 to 1877 and president of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.  He was appointed to West Point’s Board of Visitors in 1881.  By 1892, Greene was the oldest surviving Union general and the oldest living graduate of West Point.  He petitioned the United States Congress for an engineer captain’s pension that would be of help to his family after his death.  The best that Congress was willing to do was arranged by Congressman and Gettysburg veteran Daniel E. Sickles of New York, a first lieutenant’s pension, based on the highest rank Greene had achieved in the regular army.  On 18 Aug 1894, Greene took the oath of office as a first lieutenant of artillery and became, at 93, the oldest lieutenant in the U.S. Army for 48 hours.  Greene died at age 97 in Morristown, New Jersey, and was buried in the Greene family cemetery in Warwick, Rhode Island, with a two-ton boulder from Culp’s Hill placed above his grave.  He is memorialized with a statue erected in 1906 by the State of New York on Culp’s Hill in Gettysburg National Military Park.


George Sears Greene (1801 – 1899), 4th cousin 7x removed – Caleb Greene (1772 – 1853) – Caleb Greene (1737 – 1813) – Samuel Greene (1700 – 1780) – Samuel Greene (1669 – 1720) – John Greene (1620 – 1708) – and continuing as above through – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom

William Greene (1695 –1758), 1st cousin 10x removed

William Greene was a governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.  He was a clerk of the county court in Providence, deputy from Warwick, speaker of the Rhode Island Assembly and then deputy governor from 1740-43.  He became governor for the first time in 1743 and served four separate terms, for a total of 11 years.  One of the important issues of Greene’s first term in office concerned the boundary lines of the colony.  Several geographic boundaries were adjusted, and the towns of Barrington, Warren and Bristol were added under Bristol county, and the towns of Tiverton and Little Compton were added to the towns on Aquidneck island in Newport County.  Another major issue facing the colony was the war against France and Spain, for which the colony was expected to share in the defense of the Crown.  When England declared war against France on 31 Mar 1744, the colony manned forts and reinforced them with guns and ammunition.  Commodore Warren, with the aid of Rhode Island forces, laid siege to Louisbourg in Nova Scotia, which surrendered in June, surprising Europeans that the “strongest fortress of North America had capitulated to American farmers, machanics [sic], and fishermen.”  The colony also had a few war sloops at its disposal along with 15 privateers and was successful in capturing 20 ships and sending them to Newport.  During Greene’s third term, the colony had divided into two hostile camps.  The leaders of the two divisions were both future governors, Samuel Ward and Stephen Hopkins, with Greene siding with the Ward camp.  Some of the divisive issues concerned war versus peace, paper money versus hard currency, and Providence versus Newport interests.  Elections went back and forth between the two opposing sides, and amid the discord, Greene died while in office in February 1758.  Later, William’s son, William Greene, Jr., became the second governor after Rhode Island became a state.

Gov. William Greene (1695 – 1758), 1st cousin 10x removed – Samuel Greene (1669 – 1720) – and continuing as above through – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom


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