General Greene

Greensburg was named after General Nathanael Greene.

Indianapolis attorney Phil Goddard grew up in Greensburg, son of Judge John and Alice Goddard. He asked about the origin of the name Greensburg.

“Has anyone thought about what or who is behind the name of Greensburg?” he inquired.

He said that many people are aware that when Colonel Thomas Hendricks founded this community in Indiana that he named it for the hometown of his wife who was from Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

“I do not recall any further conversation about the origin of the word Greensburg. Was it named after a person, color or an area of dense foliage and vegetation?” he wondered.

As a matter of fact, I did wonder and tried to find out some years ago. Times were different then and I got no information. After receiving Phil’s note, I contacted the Westmoreland Pennsylvania Historical Society and received the following from Anita Zanke at the library.

Westmoreland County was created in 1773. Its original capital, Hanna’s Town, was located on the Forbes Road, about halfway between Fort Ligonier and Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh). On July 13, 1782, the town was attacked and burned by a force of Seneca Indians and a few Canadian rangers. The town was eventually abandoned. Most of the people migrated about three miles to the south to a new settlement built along the new state road leading west. Christopher Truby, along with co-founder William Jack, named this new settlement Newtown in honor of Truby’s former hometown in Bucks County near Philadelphia.

By 1786, Newtown had become the new capital of Westmoreland County. Because confusion existed between Newtown in Bucks County and Newtown, Westmoreland County, it was decided to change the name. When Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene, under whom many area soldiers had fought, died in July 1786, word reached Newtown at the time when the name duplication was being considered. His name was adopted as the new one for “Greenesburgh.” General Greene never actually visited the area. The spelling was later simplified to Greensburg. It was officially incorporated as a borough by the state legislature on February 9, 1799.

That information came from A Bicentennial History of the City of Greensburg, 1799-1999 by Robert Van Atta.

So, a town in Pennsylvania named its community Greensburg in honor of this great American. Without question, Thomas Hendricks knew about Nathanael Greene when deciding to name a community in Decatur County Greensburg. It nevertheless remains a fact that in doing so, Greensburg, Indiana (also originally spelled Greensburgh) had adopted a name after the patriotic and heroic actions of a man instrumental in the creation of the United States of America.

Nathanael Greene (1742-1786) was considered the greatest military genius of the American Revolution. He was born in Rhode Island and was self educated in history, mathematics and military science. As a young man, he amassed and read a library of over 200 books. In 1770 he went to work in the family forge established by his father. In the same year, he was elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly and was returned to this office three times.

When it looked like there would be war between England and the American colonies, Greene took the colonies side and raised three regiments to join the fight. He was soon named brigadier general and marched his troops to Cambridge, Mass. to take part in the siege of Boston under General George Washington. The British fled Boston and Greene went to New York with Washington. Greene was at the side of Washington in every encounter during 1777. Washington counted on advice from Greene and sent him on vital missions. Once, when Washington had to be away from the army, he designated Greene to act as the commander in chief in his place, and on one occasion he let it be known that should he be killed or captured Greene would be his successor.

England was in control of the Carolinas and Georgia. Washington sent Greene to recover those states. By the end of 1781 Greene had cleared the British from the area and ran into Virginia and into the trap at Yorktown which led to England’s surrender. Greene’s brilliant strategy, characterized as “dazzling shiftiness,” consisted of dividing the enemy, eluding him, and tiring him. Greene is credited for his heroics at the Battles of Brandywine, Monmouth, Germantown, Guilford Courthouse, Siege of Boston, Eutaw Springs and Trenton.

Greene spent his last few years on Mulberry Grove near Savannah, which Georgia had given him in gratitude. He died of a sunstroke on June 19, 1786.

Thanks to Phil Goddard and Anita Zanke.

Decatur County resident Pat Smith may be contacted via this publication at news@greensburgdailynews.com.

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