But Little Expense and Have Great Influence

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in about Warren

Date: 2 May 1777

[to John Adams]

The Monuments you are erecting to the Memory of the great Heroes Montgomery, Warren and Mercer, will be a pleaseing circumstance to the Army in general and at the same time a piece of Justice due to the bravery of the unfortunate Generals.  These things are attended with but little expence and have great influence.

[signed General] Nathaniel Greene

Source: Nathanael Greene to John Adams, ms letter dated May 2, 1777 in The Adams Papers, Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, Series III, Volume V, p. 171

Commentary: Rhode Islander Nathaniel Green, already a trusted subordinate of George Washington and an effective military leader, lobbied John Adams in the Continental Congress for monuments recognizing Generals Montgomery, Warren, and Mercer. The first two leaders had been killed in action; the last died within days of wounds suffered at the Battle of Princeton. Strapped for cash, the monuments where authorized by Congress but never funded or built.

Conceived more broadly, Greene’s note is an early statement, made just two years into the eight year Revolutionary War, recognizing the need and patriotic value of publicly recognizing fallen veterans and supporting the wounded, disabled, and their dependent families. Miss Mercy Scollay’s contemporaneous advocacy on behalf of Joseph Warren’s four orphaned children eventually led to precedent setting action involving public support of dead veterans’ families.

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