Nathanael Greene (August 7 1742 – June 19, 1786, frequently misspelled Nathaniel) 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. Many places in the United States are named for him. Greene suffered financial difficulties in the post-war years and died suddenly of sunstroke in 1786.
Nathanael was the son of Nathanael Greene (1707–1770), a Quaker farmer and smith, and the great great grandson of John Greene and Samuel Gorton, both of whom were founding settlers of Warwick, Rhode Island. Nathanael was born on Forge Farm at Potowomut in the township of Warwick, Rhode Island, on August 7, 1742 new style. His mother, Mary Motte, was his father's second wife. Though his father's sect discouraged "literary accomplishments," Greene educated himself, with a special study of mathematics and law. The Rev. Ezra Stiles, later president of Yale University, was a strong influence in the young Nathanael's life.
In 1770, Greene moved to Coventry, Rhode Island, to take charge of the family-owned forge (foundry), just prior to his father's death. There, he was the first to urge the establishment of a public school and in the same year he was chosen as a member of the Rhode Island General Assembly, to which he was re-elected in 1771, 1772 and 1775. It is debatable that he was a member of the General Assembly since there is no mention of his participation in his personal papers and because there were several of his contemporaries with the same name from Rhode Island. He sympathized strongly with the "Whig," or Patriot, element among the colonists.