Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Strange Fates

My good friend Bob Yankle of Burlington, NC has sent me a striking photo he snapped of the equestrian statue of Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro. It accompanies this blog. Greene is one of the chief characters in my forthcoming novel Nor the Battle to the Strong. I didn’t know much about him till I began researching the book, and as you’ll see if you read the novel, he quickly became one of my heroes.

During the Revolutionary War, from late 1780 through 1783 Greene was commander of the Southern Continental Army. Guilford Courthouse, fought on March 15, 1781, was his most famous battle. Though he didn’t win, he inflicted such severe losses on his British opponent Lord Cornwallis that His Lordship eventually limped up to Yorktown, Virginia where he surrendered to George Washington. It’s my opinion now that Greene probably had more to do, militarily speaking, with the winning of our independence than any other American officer.

When I was a child my family lived for a time in Greensboro. We used to picnic in a park there called the Battleground. Of course this was the site of the battle but to me it was just a place to go and eat relish sandwiches and drink Cokes. One fixture of the place did command my attention, though. It was the equestrian statue of Greene. I used to stand at the foot of that magnificent monument and admire the handsome figure on his great metal horse. I would read the names of his Southern battles emblazoned on the pedestal: Guilford Courthouse. Hobkirk’s Hill. Ninety-Six. Eutaw Springs. I wondered what those words meant and who the man was who fought in the places bearing such exotic names.

Now I know. And looking back on my boyhood, I marvel at the strangeness of fate. Of course it never occurred to me then that I would grow up and immerse myself in the life of Greene and come to admire him as I’ve seldom admired any leader of my own time—much less that I would live to write a novel about him. I guess all these years later I’m still, in some ways, that same little boy gazing up at that mighty figure on horseback. I’m much obliged to Bob Yankle for reminding me of that. Bob is a Navy veteran, a member of the Alamance Chapter of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, official photographer for the online magazine Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution (, and one of the finest people I know. Thanks, Bob!

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