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About Col. Christopher Greene
Christopher Greene (May 12, 1737–1781) was a US legislator and soldier. He is best known for leading the spirited defense of Fort Mercer in the 1777 Battle of Red Bank, and for leading the all negro 1st Rhode Island Regiment during the American Revolutionary War, most notably with distinction in the 1778 Battle of Rhode Island. He was killed in May 1781 by Loyalists, possibly because he was known to lead negro American troops.
Colonel Greene was described by one serving under him as being rather above average height, and a very handsome man. As a commander he made his men "toe the mark" nor was any man allowed to flinch from duty; as he was often said to be himself a very brave man.
Col. Christopher Greene (1732-1781) was born at Occupessatuxet, Warwick, Rhode Island to Judge Phillip Greene and Elizabeth (Wickes) Greene. He married his third cousin, Anna Lippit (b.1735), the daughter of Jeremiah and Welthian (Greene) Lippit on May 6, 1757 and they had nine children. When his father died in 1761, Christopher inherited the family's mill estate and ran the business until he became an officer in the Revolutionary Army. He also served several successive terms in the colonial legislature until the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
Christopher Greene was chosen, at the commencement of the Revolutionary War, as a lieutenant in the Kentish Guards, which was established by the colonial legislature as a way to select the "top" youth for military office. From there the legislature appointed him a major with the Army of Observation, under the command of his third cousin, General Nathanael Greene.
In 1775 he was put in charge of a Continental regiment in Cambridge under the command of Benedict Arnold. This regiment was attached to the Army of Canada under General Montgomery. During an attack upon Quebec, Greene was captured. He spent eight months in captivity before being exchanged. Upon his return he was promoted to Major in Col. Varnum's First Rhode Island Regiment and in February of 1777 he became its commander. He was then chosen by General Washington to take charge of Fort Mercer and was promoted to Colonel.
Colonel Greene died on May 14, 1781 when a group of Loyalists surrounded his headquarters on the Croton River in New York. From one account of the attack "his body was found in the woods, about a mile distant from his tent, cut, and mangled in the most shocking way."
- from http://williamdbailey.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/colonel-christopher-greene-commander-of-the-all-negro-1st-rhode-island-regiment-at-the-battle-of-rhode-island/
Christopher Greene was born 12 May 1737 at Occupessatuxet, a village of the town of Warwick, Rhode Island, to Judge Phillip Greene and Elizabeth (Wickes) Greene. On May 6, 1757 Christopher married his third cousin Anna Lippitt, born November 15, 1735, the daughter of Jeremiah Lippitt and Welthian Greene, both descended from a distinguished Rhode Island colonial family, Jeremiah was the Town Clerk of Warwick, from June 1742 to his death in 1776, with the exception of the year 1775. He was a deputy to the General Assembly for four years, and Assistant five years.
Christopher and Anna would have nine children together. When Greene’s father died in 1761, Christopher inherited the family’s mill estate and ran the business until he became an officer in the Continental Army. He served in the Rhode Island Legislature from 1772 to 1774. Greene was chosen a lieutenant of the Kentish Guards 1774.
Colonel Christopher Greene returned to the cooler climate of his home state. He struggled to piece together a unit of former slaves – the 1st Rhode Island. When the idea of offering slaves their freedom in return for active service was first suggested, all concerned believed the plan would help solve the problem of finding Continental recruits. The Rhode Island General Assembly voted that every able-bodied Negro, mulatto, and Indian slave could enlist for the duration of the war with bounties and wages the same as for free men. Once enlisted and approved by the regimental officers the slave would become absolutely free.
Unfortunately the small population of 3,331 blacks and Indians could not support the effort adequately. Fewer than two hundred soldiers were recruited. Finding the scheme expensive and impractical, the legislators reversed themselves. “No negroe, mulatto, nor Indian slave will be permitted to enlist in the Continental battalions after 10 June 1778.” Greene and his officers proceeded to train the black infantrymen who had already signed on. All heard the news that a French fleet was on the way, and many were looking forward to some serious fighting in the near future.
The Battle of Rhode Island commenced on August 29, 1778. Colonel Greene temporarily commanded a brigade in the center of the American order of battle. Greene’s “Black Regiment”, now under General Nathanael Greene’s longtime friend, Maj. Samuel Ward, Jr, held the far right of the American line. This regiment served with distinction, praised by the allied French officers for repulsing attacks by Hessian soldiers. Even though the battle was tactically inconclusive, the Americans retreated off the island afterward.
Colonel Greene and several of his Negro soldiers died on May 13 or 14, 1781, when a group of Loyalists surrounded his headquarters on the Croton River in Westchester County, New York. From one account of the attack, “his body was found in the woods, about a mile distant from his tent, cut, and mangled in the most shocking way.” A common conjecture is that this indignity was retribution for his leading black soldiers against the British Crown. He was buried at Captain Samuel Greene Lot, Warwick, Rhode Island.
Congress voted Greene a sword, which in 1786 was presented to his son by Secretary of War Henry Knox. A monument to his memory was erected near Red Bank, New Jersey, in October 1829 by New Jersey and Pennsylvania volunteers.
He was the third cousin and intimate friend of Gen. Nathaniel Greene, their homes being not far apart. He recieved all of the advantages in the best lines of education, under the guidence of his father Judge Phillip Greene, who was so distinguished for his intellectual powers, and by assiduous application he made great proficiency, laying up a stock of knowledge exactly suited to that profession to which he was afterward unexpectedly called. He recieved the mill estate from his father in 1761, and conducted business until he became an officer in the Revolutionary Army.
When at an early age he was elected by his native town to a seat in the Colonial Legistrature, which he continued to fill by successive elections, until the commencement of the Revolutionary War. At this period the Legistrature established the military corps called the "Kentish Guards" for the purpose of fitting the most select of her youth for military office, and young Greene was chosen Lieutenant. In May, 1775 he was appointed by the legistrature a Major in what was then called the "Army of Observation" , one brigade of 1600 effectives under the command of Major-General Nathaniel Greene. He was from this situation called to command a company of infantry in one of the regiments attached to the Army of Canada, conducted by General Montgomery, in which campaign he shared all the vicissitudes and difficulties envincing in all occaisions that unyeilding intrepidity which marked his military prowess in every other scene.
In the attack on Quebec Captain Greene belonged to the column which entered the lower town, and he was taken prisoner. With his elevated mind he could not gracefully submit to the ills and irksomeness of captivity, and it is asserted that he often declared he would never again be taken alive. As soon as he was exchanged he rejoined his regiment, with witch he continued without intermission until promoted to the Majority of Varnum's regiment. In 1777 he succeeded to the command of the regiment, and was selected by Washington to take command of Fort Mercer, commonly known as Red Bank, on the Delaware River.
His future career and the noble manner in which Colonel Greene sustained himself is familiar history, as is also the event of his fall at Cotten River, when surprised by the enemy at dawn on the 14th of May 1781, the event being justly recorded as a "triumph of barbarity over valor" ( from the Memiors of the War in the Southern Department of the United States, by Lieutenant-Col. Henry Lee ) When this tragedy closed his brilliant career he was but 44 years of age. His cousin Nathaniel died at the same early age.
In early life his father gave him a large tract of land of several hundred acres lying west of the south branch of the Pawtuxet River. Embracing what is now known as the villiages as Riverpoint, Arctic, parts of Centerville and Quidneck R.I. this property along with the property of others of the Greene family, was known for 50 years as Greeneville. Col. Greene's residence was distroyed by fire in 1817 per his G-Grandaughter who distinctly remembered the incident. The exact location is alas lost in time.
- The Founder's Blog: the history of the founding fathers you didn't learn in school
- Papers of Col. Christopher Greene
- Lt. Col. of "Rice" Co., Watermans Rhode Island, Reg't Rev. War on FindAGrave
- [S004805] With Historical Records of English Ancestry 1534-1902 Compiled fromthe missives of the late Major-General George Sears Greene, U.S.V., Louise Brownell Clarke, Member of N.Y. Gen. & Bio. Soc. and Long Is.His. Soc., (New York, New York by The Knickerbocker Press, 1903 Limited Edition,250 Copies).
Col. Christopher Greene's Timeline
May 12, 1737
Warwick, Kent, Rhode Island
October 17, 1769
September 20, 1777
May 13, 1781
Westchester, New York
Warwick, Kent, Rhode Island, USA