The Nathanael Greene Monument is a public monument in Savannah, Georgia, United States. Located in Johnson Square, the monument was designed by William Strickland and honors Nathanael Greene, a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. While the cornerstone was laid in 1825, the monument was not completed until 1830, at which time it served as a joint monument for Greene and fellow Continental Army general Casimir Pulaski. The monument became solely dedicated to Greene in 1853, after which two bronze plaques honoring Greene were added to the structure. In 1902, Greene's body was reinterred under the monument. In 2018, one of the bronze plaques was vandalized with googly eyes, which drew national attention to the monument.
|Location||Johnson Square, Savannah, Georgia, United States|
|Height||50 feet (15 m)|
|Beginning date||March 21, 1825|
|Dedicated to||Nathanael Greene|
Background and dedicationEdit
Nathanael Greene was born in Rhode Island in 1742 and was raised as a pacifist Quaker. However, in the leadup to the American Revolution, he helped to found a militia in Rhode Island and eventually rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Continental Army. During the later part of the war, Greene participated in actions in the southern colonies, including in Georgia. For his actions during the war, the government of Georgia awarded him Mulberry Grove Plantation, a plantation seized from loyalists, and in 1786, Greene County, Georgia was named in his honor. He died later that year at Mulberry Grove and was buried in Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.
On March 21, 1825, during his visit to the United States, Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette laid the cornerstones for two monuments in Savannah. The two monuments were in honor of Greene and fellow American Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski, with the Greene cornerstone laid in Johnson Square and the Pulaski cornerstone laid in Chippewa Square. At the dedication ceremony for the Greene cornerstone, held in association with local Masonic lodges, Lafayette said,
The great and good man to whose memory we are paying a tribute of respect, affection, and regret, has acted in our revolutionary contest a part so glorious and so important that in the very name of Greene are remembered, all the virtues and talents which can illustrate the patriot, the statesman, and the military leader…
"Finishing" the monumentEdit
Fundraising efforts for the erection of the two monuments initially went poorly, and in November 1826, the Georgia General Assembly authorized a lottery to raise $35,000 for the cause. Given the difficulties in acquiring funds, commissioners for the monuments decided to focus on erecting only the monument in Johnson Square as a joint monument to both Greene and Pulaski. The Johnson Square monument was completed in 1830, having been designed by William Strickland. In 1853, with sufficient money raised, a monument solely dedicated to Pulaski was erected in Monterey Square.[note 1] Following this, the monument at Johnson Square became the Greene monument. Following the 1860 United States presidential election, the monument was the site of secession celebrations preceding the American Civil War. During the celebrations, the monument was draped with a large banner that featured a rattlesnake and the phrase "Don't Tread on Me", similar to the Gadsden flag.
In 1879, the city council of Savannah organized a committee with the Georgia Historical Society to create a plan for "finishing" the monument. It was decided that two bronze plaques would be added to the monument, with the costs split evenly between the city council and the historical society. These plaques were unveiled in a ceremony on May 6, 1885. One of the tablets gave information on Greene's life, while the other featured a bas-relief of Greene. Former President of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis, whose father had served under Greene during the Revolutionary War, attended the ceremony and gave a speech praising Greene. During the speech, Davis also defended the Lost Cause of the Confederacy and urged reconciliation after the Civil War.
While the exact location of Greene's grave in Colonial Park Cemetery was debated for several year, in 1901, his body was identified in a vault in the cemetery. The following year, on November 14, 1902, his body was reinterred under the monument. The remains of his son, George Washington Greene, were also interred at the monument. According to a 2014 article in the Savannah Morning News, the remains of the two individuals had been buried in the same vault and the decision to inter both of them was due to being unable to distinguish between the two. At the accompanying ceremony, the Savannah Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a bronze wreath directly above the place of Greene's body. The Governor of Rhode Island and the president of the Society of the Cincinnati also attended the ceremony.
In 1953, the Georgia Historical Commission erected a Georgia historical marker near the monument that gave information on both Greene and the monument. In 2012, money was raised by a local garden club for the erection of a wrought iron fence around the monument.
In October 2018, the statue was vandalized, with googly eyes affixed to the bas-relief of Greene. The vandalism was reported on by multiple national news sources, including CNN, CBS News, and USA Today, among others. The Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department were investigating the incident for criminal trespass and possibly criminal damage to property, depending on the cost of the damage.
The monument consists of a 50-foot (15 m) granite shaft. In 1853, bronze plaques were added to opposite sides of the shaft. One showed a bas-relief of Greene, while the other was inscribed with the following:
Born in Rhode Island 1742
Died in Georgia 1786
The Friend Of Washington
This Shaft has been reared by the
People Of Savannah In Honor
Of His Great Services
to the American Revolution
- The cornerstone at Chippewa Square, the initial planned location for the Pulaski monument, was moved to Monterey Square on October 11, 1853.
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