Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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GREENE, George Nears, soldier, born in Apponaug, Warwick, Rhode Island, 6 May, 1801. He is a descendant in the sixth generation from John Greene, deputy governor of Rhode Island, whose father, John, came from Salisbury, England, in 1635, and settled in Warwick, Rhode Island, in 1645. George Sears was graduated at the United States military academy in 1823, second in his class. He served in various garrisons and as instructor at West Point until 1836, when he left the army and became a civil engineer, building many railroads in the states of Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Maryland, and Virginia. In 1856 he served in the Croton aqueduct department in the City of New York. He designed and built the reservoir in Central park, and the enlargement of High Bridge. He re-entered the army in 1862 as colonel of the 60th New York regiment, and was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers, 28 April, 1862. He commanded his brigade at Cedar Mountain, 9 August, 1862, and was in command of the 2d division of the 12th army corps in the battle of Antietam. He also led his brigade at the battle of Chancellorsville. At Gettysburg, on the night of 2 July, 1863, with a part of his brigade, he held the right wing of the Army of the Potomac at Culp's Hill against more than a division of Confederate troops, thereby averting a disaster which would have resulted from turning the right wing of the army. He was transferred to the western armies in September, 1863, and in a night engagement at Wauhatchie, near Chattanooga, 28 October, 1863, was dangerously wounded in the jaw. This wound disabled him from active service till January, 1865, when he rejoined Sherman's army in North Carolina and participated in the engagements preceding Johnston's surrender. He was brevetted major general of volunteers for his services on 13 March, 1865, and retired from the army in 1866. In 1867 he became chief engineer and commissioner of the Croton aqueduct department, and held the office till 1871, when he was made chief engineer of public works in Washington, D. C., but resigned in 1872. He was president of the American society of civil engineers from 1875 till 1877, and since that date has been engaged as consulting engineer on various works. For several years he was also president of the New York genealogical and biographical society.--His son, George Nears, Jr., born in Lexington, Kentucky, 26 November, 1837, entered Harvard in 1866, but left before graduating, in order to study civil engineering under his father. He served as assistant engineer on the Croton aqueduct, on various railroads in Cuba, and in copper mining on Lake Superior. During 1868 he conducted extensive and accurate topographical surveys in Westchester County and Long Island City, New York, and at that time introduced several valuable improvements in instruments. These have since been adopted by the United States coast survey, and have come into general use. In 1875 he was appointed engineer-in-chief of the Department of docks. New York City, in which capacity he designed and executed River walls, wharves, and piers in difficult situations. In 1867 he became a member of the American society of civil engineers, was director from 1882 till 1886, and vice-president in 1885-'6. --Another son, Samuel Dana, naval officer, born in Cumberland, Maryland, 11 February, 1839; died in Portsmouth navy yard, New Hampshire, 11 December 1884, was graduated at the United States naval academy in 1859, and served as midshipman on the "Hartford," of the China squadron. On his return to the United States in 1861 he volunteered for service on the iron-clad "Monitor," then building at New York, and served continuously on this vessel from the day she was launched until she foundered off Cape Hatteras on the night of 29 December 1862. The "Monitor" left New York, 6 March, 1862, for Hampton Roads. She was built for River and harbor service, and on her way narrowly escaped sinking on two occasions, so that her officers and crew had been without sleep for forty-eight hours when they arrived at Hampton Roads on the morning of 9 March, 1862. Notwithstanding their exhaustion, they proceeded immediately to attack the " Merrimac," and in the memorable engagement that followed, her commanding officer, Lieutenant Worden, directed the movements of the vessel from the pilot-house, while Lieutenant Greene had charge of the guns in the turret. He personally fired every shot until near the close of the action, when the command devolved on him in consequence of the wounding of Lieutenant Worden. In the delay incident to the change of command the vessels drifted apart. As soon as Lieutenant Greene reached the pilot-house he turned the "Monitor" again toward the " Merrimac," but the latter was already in retreat toward Norfolk. Being without a pilot, he was unable to follow the "Merrimac" into the tortuous channel of the Elizabeth River, and, after firing a few shots after her, returned to the wooden vessels which had been saved from destruction by the timely arrival of the "Monitor." He was afterward engaged in the attack on Fort Darling and other naval actions on the James river. After the loss of the "Monitor" he served as executive officer of the "Florida" on blockade duty in 1863, of the "Iroquois," in search of the "Alabama," in 1864-'5, and on various other vessels from 1865 till 1869. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1866, and to commander in 1872, and commanded the "Juniata" in 1875, the "Monongahela" in 1876-'7, and the "Despatch" in 1882-'4. He also served at the naval academy as assistant professor of mathematics in 1865-'8, of astronomy in 1871-'5, and as assistant to the superintendent in 1878-'82. He received a vote of thanks from the legislature of Rhode Island for his gallant services in the action between the "Monitor " and the "Merrimac."--Another son, Francis Vinton, soldier, born in Providence, Rhode Island, 27 June, 1850, was graduated at the United States military academy in 1870, and assigned to the engineer corps. He served on the international commission for the survey of the northern boundary of the United States, as assistant astronoIner and surveyor in 1872-'6, was promoted to 1st lieutenant, 13 January 1874, and was military attache to the United States legation at St. Petersburg in 1877-'9, being for a year with the Russian army in the field. He was assistant to the engineer in charge of public works in the District of Columbia in 1879-'85, being made captain in January, 1883, instructor in practical engineering at West Point from 1 September, 1885, to January, 1886, and on 31 December of the latter year resigned his commission. He has published "Deflections of the Plumb-Line along the 49th Parallel" (.1876); " The Russian Army and its Campaigns in Turkey in 1877-'8" (2 vols., New York, 1879) ; "Army Life in Russia" (1880); and "The Mississippi " (in " Campaigns of the Civil War" series, 1882).
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