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Nathanael Greene to Joseph Webb, 1778

Portrait of Nathanael Greene
image courtesy of the National Archives

Major General Nathanael Greene came from a Quaker family, but his interest in military affairs and strategy resulted in his expulsion from the pacifist religion. Greene went on to become one of Washington’s most trusted generals and a highly gifted military strategist.

When the situation at Camp Valley Forge became desperate, it was Washington himself who appealed to Greene and urged him to take on the role of Quartermaster General. Similar to many other officers, Greene did not want to be taken away from the field. His acceptance of the position was conditional: he wanted to retain the ability to command in the field and he wanted to hand-select his two top assistants.

Greene successfully reorganized the Quartermaster Department, but resigned his post in 1780 after a long struggle with Congress over Congressional commissions and the interference of the Treasury Board in army administration.

In this letter, Greene writes to Joseph Webb Jr., a successful shopkeeper and trader in Wethersfield, CT, to inquire about supplies for the army. The letter most likely traveled on a westerly route, starting in Valley Forge, heading north to Easton, Pennsylvania on the Delaware River, and continuing northeast to Fishkill, New York, and finally through Hartford, Connecticut, only three miles north of Wethersfield.

On the cover Greene exercised his franking privilege by writing “On publick Service,” a phrase typically used by military officers, and his name “N. Greene.”

Full Size Cover | Transcript

Full Size Letter | Transcript

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