General Greene in the South
At this time Greene was a man of stalwart appearance, six feet tall, strong and vigorous in body, and with a frank, intelligent face. At once he won the friendship and confidence of Washington, who always trusted him with positions calling for courage, ability, and skill. It was not long before he was Washington’s right-hand man. So you can easily see why Washington chose him in 1780 as commander of the American army in the south.
When General Greene reached the Carolinas, it was December, and he found the army in a pitiable condition. There was but a single blanket for the use of every three soldiers, and there was not food enough in camp to last three days. The soldiers had lost heart because of defeat, they were angry because they had not been paid, and many were sick because they had not enough to eat. They camped in rude huts made of fence rails, corn-stalks, and brushwood.
A weak man would have said: “What can I do with an army like this? The task is impossible. To remain here is to fail, so I will resign.”
But General Greene said nothing of the kind. He set to work with a will, for he believed that the right was on his side. By wise planning, skilful handling of the army, and hard labor, he managed, with the forces at hand, to ward off the enemy, get food supplies, and put new spirit into his men.
Soon he won the confidence and love of both officers and soldiers. A story is told that shows us the sympathy he had for his men and their faith in him. On one occasion Greene said to a barefoot sentinel: “How you must suffer from cold!” Not knowing that he spoke to his general, the soldier replied: “I do not complain. I know I should have what I need if our general could get supplies.”