George Washington did not fight and win the Revolutionary War by himself.
There were Quakers, Pioneers, Preacher Sons, Grizzly War Veterans, and spymaster who also aided in the defeat of the British. It is unfortunate that some of these men get left out and are never mentioned in the history books. Men like Horatio Gates, Charles Lee, Benjamin Lincoln, and Benedict Arnold made sure that their names appeared on the pages of history by their battle reports or acts of treason. However, the men below were much more responsible in the founding of this country then the previous names listed. Most of the time they were passed over for promotion because they did not come from wealthy families, but they forged ahead and were promoted based on ability.
Without further adieu here are 5 Revolutionary War Generals That You Don’t Know About But Should.
1. Nathanael Greene
Revolutionary War junkies like myself know who Nathanael Greene is, but the average student or American citizen will give a blank stare if his name is said in front of them. It is hard to believe that he is so quickly forgotten when George Washington wrote to the Continental Congress and said that if he were to die in battle, then he wanted Nathanael Greene to take his place as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.
Greene was an important part in the Battle of Trenton when he outran Cornwallis and forced him to stretch his supply lines. This set up the possibility for the surprise attack on Trenton and then Princeton. Howe was forced to divide his force so that he would be able to feed them. When divided into smaller camps they could forage for their food and make it through the harsh winter elements. Washington capitalized on this and launched a surprise attack on the Hessians at Trenton and another attack on Princeton. Both attacks were successful and changed the course of the war.
Nathanael Greene was again pitted against General Cornwallis when he took control of a broken Southern Army. Here he retreated across South Carolina and divided his forces so he could feed them easier and move quicker. Cornwallis aggressively pursued and began stretching his supply lines. The two met at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse where the British took the field, but also took heavy losses. With Cornwallis’s supply lines stretched so far inland and guerrilla forces harassing them he was forced to retreat to Yorktown.
2. Daniel Morgan
Daniel Morgan was a French and Indian War veteran who received many lashes for misconduct towards a British officer. He was a hard drinker and foul-mouthed frontiersman who favored the rifle over the musket. He raised an élite regiment of sharpshooters that would play a key role in the Saratoga Campaign and the Battle of Cowpens.
John Burgoyne had taken heavy losses before he met the patriots at Saratoga. He had lost men at the Battle of Bennington and many of his Indian allies had deserted him. To make matters worse General Howe was busy in Philadelphia and not able to reinforce him. He was vulnerable.
The first shots of Saratoga were fired at Freeman’s Farm when Morgan’s Sharpshooters unleashed a ferocious volley behind trees, rocks, and tall brush. The British took heavy losses due to their accuracy at long-range. Morgan used a tactic that he had learned from the indians in the French and Indian War in which he would fire at the British with rifleman and then fall back. This technique allowed him to inflict heavy casualties without taking as many casualties himself. Freeman’s Farm proved fatal to Burgoyne who met up with Horatio Gates at Bemis Heights where his Northern Army received the final blow.
After being passed over for promotion multiple times Morgan resigned from the Continental Army only to be asked to return as a Major General by Nathanael Greene when he took command of the Southern Army. Greene divided his forces and placed General Morgan in charge of the other half. Morgan moved quickly throughout the South Carolina countryside while being pursued by the tenacious Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton was the British hero at Waxhaws and a villian to the colonists. Morgan and his men set up camp at Cowpens. With a river to his back and orders to shoot any man who fled he devised one of the greatest battle plans throughout the entire war. Tarleton walked into Morgan’s trap and acted just as Morgan predicted. The Battle was over within an hour and the result was Tarleton’s division being destroyed.
3. John Stark
William Prescott and Israel Putnam get most of the accolades for the Battle of Bunker Hill, George Washington gets the credit for Trenton, and Horatio Gates made sure that he received the praise for his victory at Saratoga, but John Stark played an important role in each of these campaigns.
Stark was a French and Indian War veteran who was well-liked by his men. He served in the Battle of Bunker Hill along Prescott and Putnam. It was his men that unleashed the first devastating volley into the Redcoats. He and his New Hampshire men fought bravely and retreated in an organized fashion. The British won the battle, but had taken so many casualties that the victory was bittersweet.
George Washington requested that Stark join him for the Battle of Trenton in which Stark obliged. He and his militia once again served with great distinction and played a role in another victorious campaign. After completing the battle Washington requested that Stark head to New Hampshire and recruit more men. Upon returning to New Hampshire he learned that Enoch Poor had received a promotion. Stark believed Poor to be a terrible general and was outraged over the promotion. He resigned his commission.
He was promoted to brigadier general of the New Hampshire militia shortly before the Saratoga campaign. He gave one exception, that he remain a separate entity from the Continental Army. It was agreed upon and he took command of the militia.
Burgoyne sent an expedition under Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum. Stark learning of this movement marched his men to meet Baum and the Battle of Bennington took place. Stark unleashed a very skilful assault on Baum’s position. The indians with Baum fled leaving him stuck. Stark took 14 casualties and captured all but 9 of Baum’s men. The battle raised American morale before Saratoga and promoted Stark to brigadier general of the Continental Army.
4. Benjamin Tallmadge
Benjamin Tallmadge was not a general and the highest rank he received was that of a colonel. Tallmadge was a friend of Nathan Hale and the leader of the Culper Spy Ring. He became the first spymaster of the United States for his work with the Culper Spies.
Tallmadge became one of Washington’s favorite officer and was a founder of American intelligence. Benedict Arnold and John André were planning treason. Arnold planned to hand over West Point to the British and was corresponding with André. Tallmadge and his spies intercepted the correspondence. Tallmadge kept monitoring the situation and had compiled evidence against Arnold. André was caught and the letters he and Arnold had written were in his boots. Arnold escaped but not before his entire plot was foiled by Tallmadge.
The Culper Spies did little else after 1780, but it set the stage for future intelligence networks.
5. Francis Marion
When I was in college I had a professor that told me one of the most popular heroes after the American Revolutionary War was Francis Marion. I can not prove if that is true or not, but I can promise you that it is not true today. I don’t know of anyone outside of those who love history that knows anything about this man and what he accomplished throughout the war.
Francis Marion was given the nickname Swamp Fox and is one of the founders of modern guerrilla warfare. His men were not paid, they supplied their own guns and horses, and ate their own food. They made a living at harassing the British supply lines and ambushing small British detachments. His men never engaged in a frontal assault with the British, rather they hid behind trees and made quick assaults and then retreated. Cornwallis sent Banastre Tarleton to track him who only returned frustrated and said, “as for this damned old fox, the Devil himself could not catch him.”
Francis Marion is credited in the lineage of Army Rangers.