Iron Man is an ongoing archaeology project begun in 2015 which engages low-income urban high school students in real world learning about the technological, economic, and cultural impact of 18th century iron making at the Nathanael Greene Homestead in Coventry, RI.
Who was Nathanael Greene?
Nathanael Greene was born and raised in 1742 in what is now East Greenwich, RI. He was one of eight sons born to Nathanael Greene, Sr. The elder Greene was well established in the Rhode Island with various businesses, including two iron works. At the age of twenty-eight, young Nathanael took charge of the family iron works in Coventry, RI. Here he had a large house built, married Caty Littlefield of Block Island, and intended to forge ship anchors and other iron hardware while raising a family. Growing political problems between Britain and its thirteen American colonies would change his plans.
In 1774 Greene helped form a local militia company known as the Kentish Guards and took his place within its ranks. When fighting at Lexington and Concord ignited the revolutionary war, Greene went from private to brigadier general literally over-night. He would rise to major general in the Continental Army, second in command to George Washington to whom he remained steadfastly loyal throughout the war.
Greene fought at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown in 1777. The following year he became Quartermaster General and saved the army from starvation at Valley Forge. In 1780 Greene took command of American forces in the southern colonies. His brilliant southern campaign is studied by military tacticians to this day. About that campaign Greene wrote, “We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.” At the close of the War in 1783, Greene left Rhode Island and moved Caty and their five young children to Savannah, Georgia. There, in 1786, Nathanael Greene died of a stroke at the age of forty-four.
A number of statues and monuments have been dedicated to him in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. On August 7, 2015, a statue of General Greene was dedicated by the General Society of the Sons of the Revolution at the Washington Memorial Chapel located just outside the Valley Forge National Historical Park. This statue is in honor of his role in saving the army at Valley Forge, as well as his extraordinary sense of duty, courage, and selflessness as a general officer in the Continental Army.