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Title: "Old Put" The Patriot
Author: Ober, Frederick Albion, 1849-1913
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book ""Old Put" The Patriot" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.









Copyright, 1904, by

_Published, September, 1904_

CHAPTER                                     PAGE

    I.--Birthplace and Youth                 1

   II.--"Old Wolf Putnam"                   11

  III.--First Taste of War                  25

   IV.--A Partizan Fighter                  39

    V.--The Adventurous Soldier             53

   VI.--Fighting on the Frontier            65

  VII.--Strategy and Woodcraft              79

 VIII.--A Prisoner and in Peril             92

   IX.--A Campaign in Cuba                 106

    X.--Tavern-Keeper and Oracle           120

   XI.--On the Side of His Country         134

  XII.--At the Battle of Bunker Hill       150

 XIII.--Holding the Enemy at Bay           171

  XIV.--In Command at New York             184

   XV.--Washington's Chief Reliance        198

  XVI.--Defending the Hudson Highlands     212

 XVII.--Last Years in the Service          226

XVIII.--The Disabled Veteran               243



"Old Put" escaping from the British at Horseneck      _Frontispiece_

The Wolf Den at Pomfret, Connecticut                         18

Fort near Havana where the Colonials landed                 112

Israel Putnam                                               188
  _From a painting by Trumbull._

Statue to General Putnam at Brooklyn, Connecticut           254




This is the life story of one who was born on a farm, and died on a
farm, yet who achieved a world-wide fame through his military exploits.
It has been told many times, it will be told for centuries yet to come;
for the world loves a man of high emprise, and such was Israel Putnam,
the hero of this story.

He was born January 7, 1718, in Danvers, then known as Salem Village,
Province of Massachusetts Bay, in New England. His father's Christian
name was Joseph, his mother's Elizabeth, and Israel (as he was called at
baptism, after his maternal grandfather, Israel Porter) was the
great-grandson of his first American ancestor, John Putnam, who had
come from England, where the original name of the family was Puttenham.
He had settled at Salem more than eighty years before, and his son,
Thomas, built, in 1648, the house in which Israel was born in 1718. On
the death of Thomas it had become the property of Joseph, who first
occupied it in 1690, after his marriage to Elizabeth Porter.

Here the young couple passed through the perilous "witchcraft times,"
during the worst period of which, in 1692 (it is a tradition in the
family), Joseph Putnam kept a loaded musket at his bedside every night
and his swiftest horse saddled in the stable, ready for a fight or a
flight in case the witch-hunters should come to carry him off to jail.
They had accused his sister, who saved her life only by fleeing to the
wilderness and remaining in hiding until the insane furor was over. He
and his wife survived that gloomy period, and in the ancestral homestead
lived happily for more than thirty years, raising a "baker's dozen" of
children, of whom Israel was the eleventh.

On both the maternal and paternal side Israel Putnam was descended from
a line of sturdy, prosperous farmers. The grandfather whose name he bore
had married a daughter of William Hathorne, who came from England and
settled in Salem about the year 1630, and who was an ancestor of the
famous romancist Nathaniel Hawthorne. John Hathorne, son of William, was
a military man and a magistrate. He presided at the infamous witchcraft
trials in Salem, and, like the near relatives of Joseph Putnam, looked
with severe disfavor upon any one who showed sympathy for the persecuted

Joseph Putnam died in 1723, leaving his widow with eleven surviving
children, nine older than Israel, who was then but five years of age,
and one, little Mehitable, only three. Several of the older children
were already married, and when, in 1727, Mrs. Putnam took a second
husband, one Captain Thomas Perley, of Boxford, only the younger members
of her family went with her to live in the new home. There Israel
resided until he was about eighteen, and Boxford being only a few miles
distant from his birthplace, in the same county (Essex), he made
frequent visits to the old farm, to which he finally returned as part
owner before he attained his majority.

Numerous anecdotes are still related of him in Danvers, all tending to
illustrate the early development of those high qualities for which in
after-life he became conspicuous. Courage, enterprise, activity, and
perseverance, says his original biographer, were the first
characteristics of his mind. His disposition was frank and generous, as
his mind was fearless and independent. From his earliest years he
craved, and was always in pursuit of, some daring adventure, yet he was
the most sober and apparently contented youth in the village, loving
hard work, even seeking to perform a man's task at daily labor, while
yet a mere stripling. Brought up mainly on the farm, spending his days
in severe labor and his nights in sweet slumber, he became the peer of
all his companions in athletic feats involving strength and skill. He
could "pitch the bar," run, leap, wrestle with the best of them, and
more than held his own with the most doughty champion. But he never
boasted of his strength, nor sought occasions to display his skill,
being content with their mere possession.

His sense of fairness and self-respect, however, would not allow him to
become the butt of other people's ridicule, and when the need arose for
putting forth his energies in a good cause, he held nothing in reserve.
Such an occasion occurred the first time he paid a visit to Boston, the
metropolis of his State. He was roaming about in rustic fashion, when he
attracted the attention of a youth twice his size, who began to "make
fun" of him. Young Putnam bore the insult as long as he could, then he
"challenged, engaged, and vanquished his unmannerly antagonist, to the
great diversion of a crowd of spectators."

There were very few diversions for the youth of Putnam's time, so long
ago; but the boys, like those of modern times, indulged in
bird's-nesting now and then. Climbing to a tree top one day, in his
endeavor to secure a nest, "Young Put" had a fall, owing to a branch
breaking in his hands. He was caught by a lower limb, however, and there
he hung, suspended by his clothes betwixt heaven and earth. His cries
attracted some companions, one of whom he commanded (as he had a gun) to
fire a bullet at the limb and try to break it. This the boy did, after
much coaxing on Putnam's part, and was so successful that his friend
came tumbling to the ground. He was bruised and lamed, but no bones were
broken; and the very next day the intrepid boy climbed up to the nest
again, and this time secured it. That was the "way with 'Old Put,'" the
man who in later years succeeded "Young Put" the youth. His motto was:
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

He always tried, and with his utmost endeavor, to accomplish the task
that faced him at the time. What is more, he generally succeeded; and
that is the chief reason why he is considered worthy a biography. There
are few men, perhaps, who did so many things worthy of emulation, and so
few unworthy. Dangerously near the latter, however, was one act of his
youth, when he caught a vicious bull in a pasture, and, having mounted
astride the animal's back, with spurs on his heels, rode the furious
creature around the field until it finally fell from exhaustion, after
seeking refuge in a swamp.

Young Putnam's education, as may have been inferred already, was
obtained mostly in the woods and open fields. While he possessed great
mental endowments, as afterward displayed in his career, yet his early
education was grossly neglected, in the school and college sense. Having
mastered the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, he was
considered well equipped for his destined calling, which was to be that
of a farmer. Throughout his whole life he suffered from this neglect of
early instruction. His letters, particularly, though they always
"displayed the goodness of his heart, and frequently the strength of his
native genius, with a certain laconic mode of expression, and an
unaffected epigrammatic turn," were "fearfully and wonderfully made,"
the despair of his correspondents and the ridicule of his enemies.

It is doubtful if he had any greater ambition than to become a good
farmer, as good as was his father before him, and like him, attain to a
competency. He was already fairly well to do the year he became of age,
for his father, after providing generously for the other children, had
bequeathed to him and his brother David the homestead, house and farm
attached. His mother was to have a home there so long as she desired;
but on her second marriage she relinquished her claim upon the
homestead, and the two brothers shared it between them. Israel's
portion was set off in 1738, and the next year he built a home in a
remote corner of the farm, but within sight of the house and room in
which he was born. For, after the fashion of those primitive times, when
early matrimony was encouraged, young Israel had been "courting" a
lovely girl, the daughter of a neighbor, who lived about four miles
distant from the home farm, near the boundary-line between Salem and
Lynn. Hannah Pope was her name, and she also was descended from one of
the first families of Salem Village. Being a sensible girl, she accepted
Israel Putnam as soon as he proposed, and the 19th of July, 1739, they
were married, when he was twenty-one years of age and she only eighteen.
Taking his young wife to the little house he had built with his own
hands on the farm, there Israel Putnam and Hannah, his wife, began their
married life. The next year a son was born to them, the first of ten
children who blessed their union, and he was called Israel.

The house in which the first Israel Putnam was born, an old colonial,
gambrel-roofed structure, still stands where it was erected by his
grandfather in 1648, near the foot of Hathorne Hill, in Danvers, on the
turn-pike road half-way between Boston and Newburyport. It contains many
relics of Putnam's time, but the most interesting portion of the house
itself is the little back chamber, with its one window looking out over
the farmyard, where the infant Israel first saw the light.

Of the house which he himself built, on a distant knoll of the home
farm, nothing now remains but the cellar and foundation stones, near
which is the well he dug, now choked with rubbish and overgrown with



Judging from the stability of his position in Danvers, it would seem
that young Farmer Putnam was established for life. He had land enough to
satisfy any ordinary cultivator of that period, and a comfortable house
in which dwelt with him wife and child, to cheer him by their presence.
But the future patriot felt within him an ardent thirst for adventure.
He longed for a wider field, and though to all appearances firmly rooted
in the soil of Salem Village, he was already thinking of transplanting
himself and family into that of another region. Hardly, in fact, had he
settled in the home he had made than he began preparations for removal
to what was then considered a comparatively wild section of New England.

In the old homestead at Danvers is still preserved the quit-claim deed
signed by Israel Putnam, "of Salem in the County of Essex and Province
of Massachusetts Bay in New England, husbandman," which records the
transfer by him to his brother David of his share in the ancestral house
and acres.

In the local history of the town of Brooklyn, Conn., occurs this
passage: "In the year 1703, Richard Ames purchased 3,000 acres of land
lying in the south part of Pomfret, where the village of Brooklyn now
stands, which he divided into five lots and deeded to his sons. Directly
north of this was situated a tract of land owned by Mr. John Blackwell,
comprising 5,750 acres, which was willed to his son John, and afterward
sold to Governor Belcher of Massachusetts, who divided it into farms and
sold them to different individuals, among whom was General Israel
Putnam. This tract went by the name of 'Mortlake.' A beautiful stream
which rises in the western part of the tract, and received its name from
the former proprietor, Blackwell, empties into the Quinnebaug."

These several transactions in real estate, taken together, will
sufficiently explain to the reader, perhaps, the subsequent movements of
Farmer Putnam. After disposing of property to his brother David, and
receiving therefor the goodly sum of £1,900, Israel Putnam joined with
his brother-in-law, Joseph Pope, in the purchase of more than five
hundred acres of land from Governor Belcher, for which they agreed to
pay at the rate of five pounds per acre. They paid for it partly in
"bills of credit on the Province of Massachusetts," and gave a mortgage
for the remainder. And so fertile was this wild land, and so thrifty was
the young pioneer farmer Israel Putnam, that within little more than two
years he had liquidated the mortgage and received a quit-claim deed from
the Governor, as well as purchased his brother-in-law's portion of the
tract they had bought together.

The two pioneers may have made a special trip to the Connecticut tract
before deciding to purchase; for it was not in the nature of them to
"buy a pig in a poke," as it were. And such a journey of nearly a
hundred miles, mainly through a wilderness, was no child's task in those
days. In after-years General Israel Putnam made many a longer journey,
through wilds swarming with hostile Indians, too, and thought nothing of
it; but this was the first of any account that he took very far away
from home.

What the young wife thought when the enthusiastic adventurer came back
with his story was never recorded. Neither, for that matter, was the
tale he told her, as well as his friends and neighbors, many of whom,
doubtless, would fain have dissuaded him from making what they viewed as
a rash and risky move. Details of Putnam's life at this period of his
career are lacking; but there stand the records, with their statement of
facts. They can not be gainsaid. The very fact that he, a prosperous
farmer, even then well off as to this world's goods, should make the
adventure--the first of his family in America to abandon the home acres
and seek others in the wilderness--is sufficient to attest his energy
and ambition.

Sometime in the latter part of the year 1740 the young husband of
twenty-two, with a wife under twenty and a babe only a few months old,
set out to make his fortune in the rough country adjacent to his native
State. Many of his race and family have since become pioneers in various
parts of the world, and this country owes them much for blazing out the
way in which others might follow; but young Israel Putnam was the first
of them--the pioneer of pioneers, in the great American movement.

A second time he set himself to the building of a house and the
establishing of a home, and as he found much of the material ready at
hand--stone for foundations and timber for the building--it was not long
before the farmer and his family had another roof-tree of their own
above their heads. This structure has gone the way of the first, and
long since disappeared, traces of the cellar and foundations only being
visible; but the large dwelling-house which he later built, and in which
he died, still stands at a little distance away. After clearing a
portion of the land, and working the stones with which it was
plentifully bestrewed into dividing walls, he planted an apple-orchard,
sowed grain of various sorts, and increased as rapidly as possible his
flocks and herds of live stock. His chief, perhaps his only, assistant
in these earlier labors was a negro servant, who figures, though not
greatly to his credit, in the narration of an adventure in which his
master took part, about two years after his arrival in Connecticut.
This, of course, is that famous encounter with the wolf, which has since
become part and parcel not only of local tradition, but of American
history. As many generations have been familiar with this story as
related in story-books and primers, particularly during the early part
of the nineteenth century, it will now be told in the language of a
contemporary, Colonel David Humphrey, who was an aide-de-camp to
General Putnam, and also to General Washington, during the Revolutionary
War, and who wrote the first and best biography of our hero, which was
published in his lifetime. "The first years on a new farm are not exempt
from disasters and disappointments, which can only be remedied by
stubborn and patient industry. Our farmer, sufficiently occupied in
building an house and barn, felling woods, making fences, sowing grain,
planting orchards, and taking care of his stock, had to encounter in
turn the calamities occasioned by drought in summer, blast in harvest,
loss of cattle in winter, and the desolation of his sheepfold by wolves.
In one night he had seventy fine sheep and goats killed, besides many
lambs and kids wounded. This havoc was committed by a she-wolf, which,
with her annual whelps, had for several years infested the vicinity. The
young were commonly destroyed by the vigilance of the hunters, but the
old one was too sagacious to come within reach of gunshot. Upon being
closely pursued she would generally fly to the western woods, and return
the next winter with another litter of whelps. This wolf at length
became such an intolerable nuisance that Farmer Putnam entered into a
combination with five of his neighbors to hunt alternately until they
could destroy her. Two by rotation were to be constantly in pursuit. It
was known that, having lost the toes from one foot by a steel trap, she
made one track shorter than the other, and by this vestige the pursuers,
in a light snow, recognized and followed the trail of this pernicious
animal. Having followed her to the Connecticut River and found she had
turned back toward Pomfret, they immediately returned, and by ten
o'clock the next morning their bloodhounds had driven her into a den,
about three miles distant from the house of Mr. Putnam. The people soon
collected, with dogs, guns, straw, fire, and sulphur, to attack the
common enemy, and made several unsuccessful efforts to force her from
the den.

[Illustration: The Wolf Den at Pomfret, Connecticut.]

"Wearied with the fruitless attempts (which had brought the time to
ten o'clock at night), Mr. Putnam tried once more to make his dog enter,
but in vain. Then he proposed to his negro man to go down into the
cavern and shoot the wolf; but he declined the hazardous service. Then
it was that the master resolved himself to destroy the ferocious beast,
lest she should escape through some unknown fissure of the rock. His
neighbors strongly remonstrated against the perilous enterprise; but he,
knowing that wild animals were intimidated by fire, and having provided
several strips of birch-bark, the only combustible material he could
obtain that would afford light in this deep and darksome cave, prepared
for his descent. Having accordingly divested himself of his coat and
waistcoat, and having a long rope fastened about his legs, by which he
might be pulled back at a concerted signal, he entered head foremost,
with the blazing torch in his hand. The aperture of the den, on the east
side of a very high ledge of rocks, is about two feet square; from
thence it descends obliquely fifteen feet, then running horizontally
about ten more, it ascends gradually sixteen feet to its termination.
The sides of this subterraneous cavity are composed of smooth and solid
rocks, as also are the top and bottom, and the entrance in winter, being
covered with ice, is exceedingly slippery. It is in no place high enough
for a man to raise himself upright, nor in any part more than three feet
in width.

"Having groped his passage to the horizontal part of the den, he found
it dark and silent as the house of death. He, cautiously proceeding
onward, came to the ascent, which he slowly mounted on his hands and
knees until he discovered the glaring eyeballs of the wolf, who was
crouching at the extremity of the cavern. Startled by the sight of fire,
she gnashed her teeth and gave a sullen growl. Having made the necessary
discovery (that the wolf was in the den), Putnam kicked at the rope, as
a signal for pulling him out. The people at the mouth of the den, who
had listened with painful anxiety, hearing the growling of the wolf, and
supposing their friend to be in the most imminent danger, drew him forth
with such celerity that his shirt was stripped over his head and his
skin severely lacerated.

"After adjusting his clothes, and loading his gun with nine buckshot,
holding a torch in one hand and the musket in the other, he descended
the second time. He drew nearer than before, and the wolf, assuming a
still more fierce and terrible appearance, growling, rolling her eyes,
snapping her teeth, and dropping her head between her legs, was
evidently on the point of springing at him. At this critical instant he
leveled his gun and fired at her head. Stunned with the shock and
suffocated with the smoke, he immediately found himself drawn out of the
cave. But, having refreshed himself, and permitted the smoke to
dissipate, he went down the third time. Once more he came within sight
of the wolf, who appearing very passive, he applied the torch to her
nose, and perceiving her dead, he took hold of her ears, and then
kicking the rope (still tied round his legs), the people above, with no
small exultation, dragged them both out together."

This is the story, told by one who knew Putnam intimately and who had it
from his own lips, while neighbors were still living who were "in at the
death" and could have refuted any misstatement or exaggeration. The
deed, in truth, was characteristic of the dauntless young farmer, whose
courage and heroic character (as his eulogist justly remarks) "were ever
attended by a serenity of soul, a clearness of conception, a degree of
self-possession, and a superiority to all vicissitudes of fortune,
entirely distinct from anything that can be produced by a ferment of the
blood and flutter of spirits, which not unfrequently precipitate men to
action when stimulated by intoxication or some other transient

That was "Wolf Put," or "Old Wolf Putnam," as he came to be called
thenceforth. But at no time in his active and wonderful career was he
an old man when he performed his deeds of valor. The wolf-hunt, in fact,
was mainly a young men's and boys' affair, Putnam himself being only
twenty-four at the time, and the wolf having been traced to her lair by
young John Sharp, a boy of seventeen.

The slayer of the old she-wolf was the hero of the time; but he bore his
laurels modestly, though exaggerated accounts of the affair were
published all over the colonies, and even in England, where they were
exploited in the public prints. By rising to the occasion, and doing the
right thing at the right time, he acquired a reputation for valor and
firmness that stood him in good stead in those coming conflicts, the
Seven Years' War and the Revolution.

Unknown to him, however, and unsuspected, were the heights to which he
subsequently rose. He devoted himself to his farm, becoming the best
agriculturist in the region in which he lived, and also performed the
duties of a good citizen, never shrinking from his share of civic
burdens. The youth of to-day could not do better than emulate the
example of this illustrious American; and they might do worse than take
part in the patriotic pilgrimages annually made to the scenes of his
early life. The citizens of his adopted State have religiously preserved
intact the second house he built in Brooklyn, then Pomfret; and the
she-wolf's den may still be seen, in the side of a wooded hill. The
entrance-way is at present too low and narrow to admit the passage of a
boy, much less of a full-grown man; but that is said to have been caused
by the falling in of the rocks, in the lapse of time since Putnam's day.



Israel Putnam's adventure with the wolf gave him an unsought, and in
some respects undesirable, notoriety; but that he did not court this
notoriety is shown by the fact that for the next twelve or thirteen
years he lived quietly on his farm, attending to his duties as a
cultivator of the soil and a simple citizen. During these years he
acquired an enviable reputation as one of the best farmers in all the
region of which Pomfret was the center, and had it not been for the
lamentable struggle between the French and the English for supremacy in
North America, he might have continued as the humble and prosperous
citizen-cultivator to the end of his days. The breaking out of the
prolonged strife which is known in history as the French and Indian
War, found Putnam in possession of what in those days was considered a
competency. Having received a good start from the paternal inheritance,
he had not hidden his talents in a napkin, but had put them out to good
purpose. He erected a large and substantial dwelling about a fourth of a
mile distant from the first he had built in Pomfret, and here he lived
most happily, with his good wife Hannah, surrounded by a growing family
of healthy children.

In the year 1755, when active operations began in this war between
England and France, fought out on the soil of America, Israel Putnam was
thirty-seven years old and in the prime of life. There was no immediate
necessity for him to volunteer in defense of the frontier, where the
hostile French were gathering, for it was far distant from his home, the
forests around which were threatened by no roaming savages with
tomahawks and muskets. But his patriotic instincts were aroused by the
reports of massacres committed in other regions; he knew the tide must
be met before it became irresistible and breasted in the North. Four
great expeditions were planned by the English to frustrate the schemes
of the enemy: against Fort Niagara, Crown Point on Lake Champlain, Fort
Duquesne, and against the French in Nova Scotia.

It was to take part in the expedition with Crown Point as its objective
that Israel Putnam abandoned his farm, early in the summer of 1755, just
when it needed him most, and started on his second long journey away
from home. He reached the rendezvous at Albany, after a toilsome march
through the forests that intervened between the Connecticut and the
Hudson, and there found three thousand other "Provincials" gathered for
the defense of the colonies. Most of them were sons of the soil, like
Putnam, and like him were yet to receive their baptism of fire; but they
were sturdy and valiant, though appearing rude and uncouth in the eyes
of the British veterans.

The commander-in-chief of the British Colonial forces in North America
at the beginning of the war was Governor William Shirley of
Massachusetts, and the commander of the Crown Point expedition was
General William Johnson, the famous and eccentric "sachem" of the
Mohawks. Having lived for many years with or near the Indians, this
Englishman had acquired a great influence over them, especially over the
Mohawks, of whose tribe he had been elected an honorary sachem. He had
learned their language, had even adopted their peculiar garb, and at
times adorned his face with war-paint and performed with his savage
friends the furious war-dance. His stanch ally was the ever faithful
chief of the Mohawks, the valiant Hendrick, who rendered invaluable
service to the English and was killed while battling for their cause.

As Putnam, the stalwart provincial soldier, was merely a private in the
ranks when he made the acquaintance of the famous general and the Mohawk
chief, he may not have attracted their attention; though he later won
encomiums from the commander. He could not but have admired the
General's sagacity in retaining the Mohawks as allies of the English
Colonials, when most of the Indian tribes had arrayed themselves on the
side of the French. At the time Johnson was assembling his army on the
Hudson, in that very month of July, 1755, General Braddock, commander of
the Duquesne expedition, met with most disastrous defeat, and almost his
last words were regrets that he had not taken the advice of his
aide-de-camp, a "young Virginian colonel named Washington," who had
earnestly besought him to abandon the British tactics and adopt the
American system of "bush-fighting."

"We shall better know how to deal with them another time," the defeated
Braddock had said to Washington, just before he died. But General
Johnson and the Provincial officers already knew how to deal with their
wily foes. They had taken leaves from the unwritten book of Indian
tactics; their men fought from behind trees and logs, as the savages
fought, and in this manner turned the tables upon the French commanders.

"It was owing to the pride and ignorance of that great general that came
from England," said an Indian chieftain, alluding to the terrible defeat
of Braddock. "He looked upon the Indians as dogs, and would never take
their advice, and that is the reason many of our warriors left him. We
are ready again to take up the hatchet with you against the French; but
let us unite our strength. You are numerous, and all the English
governors along your seashore can raise men enough. But don't let those
that come from over the great seas be concerned any more. They are unfit
to fight in the woods. Let us go by ourselves--we that came out of this

Colonel Washington knew of what the Indians were capable, for young as
he was then, he had been through a dreadful experience and had received
valuable lessons in their mode of warfare. "It is in their power," he
declared, "to be of infinite use to us; and without the Indians we
shall never be able to cope with these cruel foes of our country."

There is no doubt that the Indians turned the tide of the first battle
in which Israel Putnam took part--that of Lake George, on the eighth of
September, 1755. Having made all his preparations at Albany, General
Johnson took up his march for Crown Point by way of the "carrying-place"
(subsequently known as Fort Edward) and Lake George. After leaving some
of his troops to complete the fort he had begun at the "carrying-place,"
the commander proceeded to the south end of Lake George, where he made
camp. He had between five and six thousand New York and New England
troops and his loyal Mohawks. Not long had he been in camp before his
Indian scouts brought him intelligence of an approaching force of French
and Indians.

About the time that General Johnson had begun his march northwardly,
Baron Dieskau, with a force of 3,000 French troops, 800 Canadians and
700 Indians, had started southwardly from Montreal, also for Crown Point
on Lake Champlain. He had intended to proceed against Oswego; but
learning of the contemplated English expedition for the reduction of
Crown Point, he changed the direction of his march.

Had he waited for the English general to carry out his original
intention, the result might have been more favorable to the French, for
the former would then have been the attacking party and have borne the
brunt of the battle. As it was, the French commander nearly succeeded in
drawing the thousand men that Johnson had sent out to meet him into an
ambuscade, and among the slain was brave Colonel Williams, commander of
the Provincials in this engagement, and gallant Chief Hendrick, who had
accompanied him with two hundred Mohawks.

The Provincials fought fiercely, but vainly, for they were outnumbered,
and at first outgeneraled. They fell back upon the main body, the rear
of which was protected by the lake, the flanks by densely-wooded
swamps, and the front by a breastwork of trees, behind which were
mounted several cannon.

On came the enemy, in pursuit of the retreating Provincials, who sought
shelter behind the rude breastworks as rapidly as possible. They had
lost heavily, they had been partially ambuscaded, some of their best
officers were killed and some wounded; but they had no thought of
surrender. Recovering from the first shock of surprise, they quickly
adopted the Indian fashion of fighting from behind the trees and rocks,
thus exposing themselves very little and inflicting upon the enemy the
greatest possible punishment by their accurate marksmanship.

The gallant Dieskau was unable to control his Canadian and Indian
allies, but advanced his French regulars against the breastworks without
flinching. There, however, he committed the same mistake that had caused
Braddock's bloody defeat, by ordering his men to advance in a body and
fire by platoons. And again, though the Canadians and Indians fought
bravely, after their manner, posted behind the trees, they here
encountered what they feared so much, the fire of artillery.

It had been Dieskau's intention to march upon Fort Edward; but hearing
that there were cannon mounted there, his allies had refused to go. So
he changed his course and set upon Johnson at Lake George. Here,
however, his forces, victoriously advancing after their successes of the
morning, were met by the destructive fire of the few cannon which had
been hastily mounted, and which mowed down the regulars and struck such
terror into the savage allies that the latter fled in a panic, their
whoops of triumph changed to yells of fear.

It was then the turn of the Provincials to take the offensive, which
they did promptly, ably seconded by the Mohawks. They pursued the French
a long distance through the woods, and only halted when spent from

The French themselves had paused for rest on the very ground where the
battle of the morning had been fought, and here, reenforced by soldiers
sent by General Lyman from Fort Edward, the Americans set upon them a
second time and finally vanquished them completely. They covered the
ground with the slain and took many prisoners, among them being the
French commander, who was found leaning against a stump, having been
wounded in the second fight. He was alone, save for a companion, who was
shot down by his side. Seeing an American soldier approach, the Baron
felt for his watch, hoping probably to secure good treatment by
presenting him with it; but the soldier, mistaking the motion for an
effort to draw a pistol, shot him through the hips, inflicting a wound
from which he ultimately died. Johnson himself was shot through the
thigh, early in the action, and the command devolved upon General Lyman,
who conducted the battle to a successful issue, as narrated.

Thus was fought the battle of Lake George, September 8, 1755. The
brilliant victory gained here was greater than is apparent at a
superficial glance, for it checked the French advance upon the English
colonies; it probably saved Albany and other towns from destruction; it
was the means of driving the invaders back upon their defensive posts at
Ticonderoga and Crown Point, where they were eventually attacked and

Contrary to the expressed opinions (and perhaps advice) of the
Provincials, among whom was Putnam, General Johnson decided to advance
no further in that campaign, brief as it had been, but proceeded to
erect a fort on the site of his camp, alleging that this was necessary
to protect his base of supplies and maintain communication with Albany.
Had he followed up the victory and pursued the demoralized enemy to
Ticonderoga and Crown Point, he might have saved the English many
valuable lives and the humiliation of repeated defeats in their
subsequent efforts to reduce those important fortifications.

The reduction of Crown Point was abandoned for that season; but
notwithstanding this, and the fact that the brunt of the fight had been
borne by General Phineas Lyman and his New England militia, the
commander-in-chief was rewarded for the victory by a baronetcy and a
grant of five thousand pounds!

That the results of this victory at Lake George were far-reaching, and
not forgotten by posterity, was shown, for example, nearly a century and
a half after it was won, by the erection of a monument upon the site of
the battle-field. On the eighth of September, 1903, the governors of
four States--New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts--gathered
at the unveiling of a bronze memorial (erected by the Society of
Colonial Wars), the heroic figures of which, nine feet in height, are
General Johnson and Chief Hendrick. The inscriptions on the granite
pedestal tell the story: "Defeat would have opened the road to Albany
and the French.... Confidence inspired by the victory was of inestimable
value to the American Army in the War of the Revolution."

It should be borne in mind that Israel Putnam was present at this
battle, and rendered important service.



The shore of the beautiful lake was strewn with the slain, its waters
crimsoned by their blood, the French having lost nearly half their
regular force, and the English more than two hundred men. Several days
succeeding to the battle were passed in gathering the wounded and
burying the dead, in which dismal duty Putnam was engaged, with the rest
of the uninjured survivors.

As our hero kept no diary of his doings, we know only in a general way
that he was in the thickest of the fight, that he went out with the
devoted band under Colonel Williams, and was foremost at the finish
under General Lyman. It has been stated by some of Putnam's biographers
that he held the rank of captain in this, his first, battle; but a
careful search of the colonial records makes it appear that he was
merely a private. With his accustomed eagerness to be foremost in a good
cause, he had hurried to the front without thought of rank or wages; and
although the General Assembly of Connecticut, which convened in August,
promptly made him out a commission as captain of a company, it did not
reach him until after the fight.

He had outstripped his commission, had enlisted, had met the enemy,
acting, as he always acted, on his own initiative; and it seemed very
fit that he should be appointed to command a company of "partizans," as
the picked troops were called who made forays, performed scouting
duties, and led the advance of the main body.

He became associated with the redoubtable leader of the hardy company of
back-woodsmen known as "Rogers' Rangers," and he held his own with the
best of them. The duties of these rangers were particularly hazardous,
for they were ever in the advance, as scouts or skirmishers, employing
the Indians' tactics in bush-fighting, engaged as escorts for the wagon
trains, as well as for the artillery, etc. They were thoroughly
independent, in the fullest sense of the word, following their
commander's general rule only, which was: "Every man's reason and
judgment must be his guide, according to the particular situation and
nature of things, and that he may do this to advantage, he should keep
in mind the maxim, never to be departed from by a commander, viz., to
preserve a firmness and presence of mind on every occasion."

Had the foregoing rule been made expressly for our farmer-soldier, it
could not more exactly have exemplified the qualities he pre-eminently
possessed. He was a born "partizan," and entered at once into his
dangerous duties with ardor and zest.

There exists a "Report of Captain Putnam, who was sent by Captain Rogers
as a Spy to Ticonderoga," dated October 9, 1755, which illustrates both
the bravery of the young officer, and the defects of his early
education, to which allusion has been made. It is as follows:

     "Then left Capt. Rogers upon a neck of Land upon the west side of
     Lake George and Set out towards Tyconderogue to see what
     Discoveries we Could make and after we had marchd about 7 or 8
     miles we came upon a Large Mountain near the Heither end of the
     narrowes, and when we came there we Could make no Discovery at all,
     but after sometime we espyed three Barke Cannoes Drew upon the
     Shore upon a point of Land that Ran into the Lake, and then wee
     espyed two Indians Comeing out of the Bushes toward the Cannoes,
     after water, and after sometime wee espyed several french and
     Indians on the East side of the Lake ... and so Concluded to tarry
     there all knight and see what further Discoveries wee Could make by
     the fires in the knight, and just at the Dusk of the evening their
     came four Cannoes from the East and went to the west side of the
     Lake and landed on the point where the others were incamped, and
     Drew up their Cannoes on ye Shore and by this time wee began to
     Discover the fires on the point and on the east side of the Lake,
     but Could not Discover what number their was, because the Bushes
     were so thick by the Lake and about Day Brake they mustered their
     men to work and then wee Left the mountain and returned to Capt.
     Rogers on the point and when we Came within 60 or 70 Rods of the
     point we Espyed 13 Indians pass by within 10 Rods of us, towards
     the point where we left Capt. Rogers, and after they had passed by
     us we Came to the point where we left Capt. Rogers, and found all
     well this is the Chef of the Discovery and best account that I am
     able to give."

     "Israel Putnam."

Captain Putnam belonged to that class of soldiers, so large in the early
wars of our country, that would "rather fight than eat," and made much
less of wielding the sword than the pen. It may well be believed that
after receiving a few "Reports" like this herewith quoted, his superiors
vastly preferred he should stick to the sword, since he was so much
better at fighting than writing. He himself was doubtless of the same
opinion, so he was kept constantly employed at the dangerous and arduous
work of the ranger, and within a week of writing his first report he had
distinguished himself by saving his commander's life.

The French had retired to Crown Point and Ticonderoga, but the forests
between those points and Lake George were still swarming with hostile
Indians, engaged, like the Rangers, in reconnoitering the enemy's posts
and in cutting off stragglers. Captains Rogers and Putnam were ordered
by General Johnson to make a reconnaissance of Crown Point, and taking a
small party they penetrated the forests to within a short distance of
the works, where they left their men concealed, and, alone, set out on
their hazardous mission.

They lay all night within gunshot of the fort, and in the gray dawn of
morning approached more closely in order to secure the information
desired, when Captain Rogers, who was slightly in advance, was
discovered and set upon by a big Frenchman, who seized his musket and
gave the alarm. A companion sentinel hastened to the Frenchman's
assistance, but Putnam also was at hand, and getting in ahead brought
the guard to the ground by a well-aimed blow from the butt-end of his
musket, and while the enemy lay quivering in his death-agonies the two
companions hastened away. They rejoined their men and finally reached
the camp in safety.

An occurrence like this seemed of small moment at the time, perhaps, and
the ungrateful Rogers is said to have overlooked it entirely in his
report to General Johnson; but the same month (October, 1755) the two
again went out scouting, and another adventure followed which brought
Putnam's heroism into strong relief.

Going down the lake in their bateaux, on the last day of the month, they
landed at night at a point where they had discovered some camp-fires of
the enemy, and in the morning three spies were sent out into the forest.
These spies were Putnam, a man named Fletcher, and Lieutenant Robert
Durkee, who was afterward tortured to death by the Indians. They
accomplished the immediate object of their mission, which was to
ascertain the location of some detached camps of Indians, and one of
them, Captain Fletcher, returned to report. Putnam and Durkee kept on,
in order to reconnoiter the enemy's main camp at the "Ovens," and in
consequence nearly lost their lives.

Night overtook the two brave partizans before they had reached the
vicinity of the enemy, and when they saw the camp-fires gleaming they
incautiously approached, thinking that the French, like the English,
would be found within the circle. But the French pursued an altogether
different system, and probably the safer one, of building their
camp-fires within and themselves sleeping without the lines, protected
by the darkness of the night. Their sentinels were posted still further
from the center of the main body, so when the two spies approached and,
dropping to their hands and knees, crept cautiously toward the fires,
they had not gone far in this manner before they were discovered and
fired upon.

To their amazement, they then found themselves right in the midst of
the enemy, hemmed in on every side. Lieutenant Durkee was slightly
wounded in the thigh, but he and Putnam immediately rose to their feet
and made the best of their way out into the darkness amid a shower of
bullets, and pursued by the awakened enemy. Unable "to see his hand
before his face," Putnam soon fell into a clay-pit, and Durkee, like the
immortal "Jill" in the nursery rhyme, came tumbling after. Knowing that
the enemy were in swift and close pursuit, Putnam raised his tomahawk to
give the supposed hostile a deadly stroke, when Durkee fortunately
spoke. Thankful that he had escaped murdering his companion, Putnam
immediately leaped out of the pit, and followed by Durkee, groped his
way to some ledges, where they lay down behind a large log for the
remainder of the night. Before they lay down, the original narration
goes on to state, "Captain Putnam said he had a little liquor in his
canteen, which could never be more acceptable or necessary than on that
occasion; but on examining the canteen, which hung under his arm, he
found the enemy had pierced it with their bullets, and that there was
not a drop of liquor left. The next morning he found fourteen
bullet-holes in his blanket!"

His canteen was dry enough, but in falling into the clay-pit Putnam had
wet his gun, so that he could not return the fire of the Frenchmen, even
had he been so disposed. The tale as to the "fourteen bullet-holes in
his blanket" has often been held up to ridicule; but it is probably
true, for the blankets being rolled up, one ball alone might have cut
through many folds in its flight, and another have perforated his
canteen. At all events, he and his companion were in a most miserable
plight, all night in danger of being discovered. In the morning
(according to the official report by Captain Rogers) "they made the best
retreat they were able. Hearing the enemy close to their heels, they
made a tack and luckily escaped safe to our party."

"How he escaped a wound is passing strange," says one of Putnam's
biographers [Mr. J.T. Headley]; "but he was one of those men who seem
eternally seeking death without being able to find it. There are some
persons in the world who appear to bear a charmed life, which no amount
of daring or exposure can endanger. Foremost in the charge, and the last
to retreat, they are never found with the dead. Fate seems to delight to
place them in the most desperate straits, on purpose to make their
deliverance appear the more miraculous. Putnam was one of those favored
beings, and was not born to be killed in battle."

Another incident related of Captain Putnam shows his acute penetration
and acquaintance with Indian ways and wiles. It was in his second
campaign, when, after returning home for the winter, he had re-enlisted
and was again amid the scenes of his former adventures. He was stationed
at Fort Edward, the region immediately around which was infested with
savages bent on securing as many scalps as possible with the least
exposure. The sentinels on posts without the fort were in the greatest
danger, and there was one outpost in particular which had lost so many
of its sentries that at last no man could be found to accept a station
there voluntarily. One after another they had disappeared, as completely
as though the earth had opened and swallowed them. It was a post of such
danger that the officers at Fort Edward, having called for volunteers
repeatedly, all of whom had met the same mysterious fate, were compelled
to resort to drafting the men for duty there. As a commissioned officer
Putnam was exempt from the draft, but with his love of danger and from a
desire to penetrate the mystery, he volunteered for the hazardous
service for at least one night. His offer was accepted, although his
friends warned him of the risk he ran. He was already informed as to the
general instructions: on hearing the least noise to challenge promptly,
"Who goes there?" three times, and then, if no answer were returned, to
fire at whatever approached.

Mounting guard at his post as early as possible, Putnam took occasion to
make a thorough examination of the nature of his environment, with a
trained woodsman's eye noting every peculiarity of rock, stump, bush,
tree, and leaf. Even then, as darkness fell and the scene became faintly
illumined by the rising moon, his surroundings assumed an unfamiliar

He stood at his post till past midnight before anything unusual
happened, then his attention was attracted by what appeared to him a
wild hog which, with stealthy footstep, gradually neared his position.
There could be no danger in such a beast, any one less acute than he
might have reasoned; but anyway, he issued the challenge, and then, no
response having been made to his "Who goes there?" he immediately fired
at the animal. It was a groan, and not a grunt, that answered his
well-directed shot, and going up to the object, then writhing in its
death-struggles, he stripped off a bear-skin and revealed an immense
Indian, who had in this disguise approached the unsuspicious sentinels
previously stationed there, stabbed them, and carried them away.



The campaign of 1755-'56, abounding in opportunities for personal
adventure, in which Israel Putnam took great delight, showed the true
mettle of the provincial soldier from Connecticut. At one time in the
summer of 1756, five or six hundred French soldiers from Ticonderoga
descended upon some British baggage wagons at Halfway Brook, a spot
about midway between Fort Edward and Fort William Henry at Lake George,
and overcoming the escort, succeeded in getting away with a large
quantity of provisions. They retreated northward, in the direction of
their stronghold, by the Narrows of Lake Champlain, and in order to head
them off, if possible, Rogers and Putnam were ordered by their commander
to take one hundred Rangers, with "two wall-pieces and two
blunderbusses," and proceed by boat down Lake George to a point opposite
a certain part of the Narrows, where they were to cross overland and try
to intercept the enemy.

The orders were obeyed with such promptitude and exactness that the
pursuers reached the place appointed half an hour before the Frenchmen,
into whose boats, when they finally appeared, loaded down with their
plunder, they poured several deadly volleys, killing many of the oarsmen
and soldiers and throwing the party into confusion. Putnam had so placed
his men in ambush, behind bushes and trees, that they were entirely
concealed, while the enemy were exposed to their unexpected fire, which
was terribly effective. Had not a strong wind sprung up at this time,
few of the Frenchmen would have escaped; but several boatloads were
swept into South Bay, beyond musket-shot, and in a shattered condition
finally arrived at Ticonderoga.

As soon as it was made known that the Rangers were at the Narrows, and
full twenty miles from their boats, which they had left under guard at
Lake George, three hundred soldiers were sent post-haste in pursuit. It
was now the turn of the Provincials to retreat, and indeed they had lost
no time in setting out for their boats, as soon as the Frenchmen were
out of sight, being well aware of their perilous position. It was a
close race between them and their enemies, who, having passed them at
night, were discovered next day off Sabbath-Day Point, where they
offered battle. They allowed the French and Indians to approach within
pistol-shot without firing a gun, but at just the right moment they
discharged their wall-pieces and blunderbusses, followed by a
destructive fire from their muskets, so that the havoc and confusion
were great. Completely routed, the enemy made for the shore and
retreated without delay to Ticonderoga. Only one man was killed and two
men were wounded on the side of the Rangers; but while the total losses
of the French and Indians were unknown they must have been great, as one
canoe containing twenty Indians lost fifteen of the number, and many
were seen to fall overboard and drown.

In the preceding, the honors were shared between Rogers and Putnam; but
soon after the affair on the lakes the latter figured as the hero of an
exploit which was unique, if not altogether successful and creditable to
all concerned. General Webb, the commander of the forces, considered it
necessary to secure a French prisoner, for the sake of the intelligence
he might gain from him of the enemy's movements, and Captain Putnam was
deputed to accomplish the difficult task.

Taking with him five men, Putnam concealed himself and them near a trail
which led to Ticonderoga, and they had not lain long in the high grass
before a Frenchman and an Indian came along. The Indian was in advance,
so Putnam allowed him to pass, but when the Frenchman arrived opposite
his place of concealment he sprang out, and after running quite a
distance overtook and seized him by the shoulder. It happened that the
Frenchman was large and muscular, and Captain Putnam, though himself a
marvel of strength and agility, was not quite his equal, in fact, he
soon found he had "caught a Tartar." His men had not supported him,
while the Indian was hastening to his opponent's assistance, so he
loosed his hold and snapped his musket at the man's breast. It missed
fire, as the rude firearms of that time were often liable to do, and so
Putnam turned and ran for his life, hotly pursued by the irate
Frenchman, followed by the Indian.

There was a grim humor in the situation, for, since his men would not go
to the Frenchman, Captain Putnam was taking the Frenchman to them! They
had to assist him now, whether they wanted to or not, he thought; but as
they sprang up from the grass where they were hidden, the wary Indian
caught sight of them, gave the alarm to his companion, and both darted
off into the forest and escaped. Putnam was mortified as well as
enraged; but after denouncing his men as cowards and unfit for special
service, he sent them back to camp and finally accomplished his object

In such adventures as these Captain Putnam found vent for his energy and
activity. He was rarely at rest, either by command of his superior
officer or of his own volition, being engaged in scouting in the forest
and along the shores of the lakes. As both regulars and Provincials were
withdrawn from the north country during the severest of the winter
months, it is likely that the soldier-farmer paid a short visit to his
home; but if so, he was soon back again, on active duty employed, as
early in the spring of 1757 he is reported at Fort Edward.

The author of this biography has seen a most interesting letter, written
in June, 1757, by Lieutenant Samuel Porter, of Captain Putnam's company,
in which there are several references to our hero, as follows:

     "I received your letter May 20, at Fort Edward, from Capt. Putnam's
     hand.... I have sent you six letters before this. In the last I
     told you that Capt. Putnam had took out a number of his men and
     also a number of another company and made up a company of
     Rangers.... The next day after I wrote to you there was a number of
     our Connecticut men out at work with a guard, but the Enemy came
     and fired upon them and captivated four of them.... Capt. Putnam
     was then out for several days and when he came in he brought a
     Frenchman which he took near the Narrows."

Always active, alert, and good-humored, Captain Putnam was the idol of
his men, and easily the most noted of the Provincials. Such was his
nature, however, that he paid no attention to what men said of him, but
always marched in the road that led to duty. Much like him in his
devotion to duty and principle was another of his name, who now appears
in this narrative, having come to Fort Edward in a Massachusetts
regiment, in which he was a private. This was Rufus Putnam, who achieved
a reputation in later years hardly second to that of Israel; in many
respects he surpassed him. These two have been called cousins; but, to
state their exact relationship, Israel's father and Rufus's grandfather
were brothers, or half-brothers. Here is what Rufus Putnam says, in his
Memorandum Book of Family Concerns, respecting his American

     "I am the youngest son of Elisha Putnam, who was the third son of
     Edward, grandson of John Putnam, who settled in Salem in 1634.... I
     was born the 9th of April, 1738, at Sutton, Massachusetts."

By this it will be seen that Rufus and Israel Putnam were descended from
the same English ancestor, John Putnam; and further, it may be observed,
they had many high qualities in common. What concerns us especially, in
this connection, is the fact that Rufus Putnam had acquired the habit of
keeping a diary, or journal, and he faithfully recorded all the
happenings at Fort Edward, after his arrival. He could not but make
mention of the most prominent personage there, his distinguished
kinsman; though the latter was too busily engaged in fighting and
marching to concern himself as to diaries and chronicles.

Soon after arriving at Fort Edward, young Rufus Putnam was sent out
scouting with twenty-two men, and encountering some Indians, thirteen of
his comrades were killed. "This was the first sight I had of Indians
butchering," he writes, "and it was not agreeable to the feelings of a
young Soldier, and I think there are few if any who can view such Scenes
with indifference."

Few, indeed. But, while realizing to the full the horrors of savage
warfare, Israel Putnam's kinsman stuck to his task and did his duty
gallantly. His first experience must have been a severe trial, for he

     "Capt. Putnam then ordered three of us to follow the trale (of the
     Indians) a mile or more further, and there lie close until quite
     dark, to observe if any came back; for, said he, 'if they do not
     embark in there boats to-night they will send a party back to See
     if they are pursued.' We went back according to order but made no
     discovery, and here I would remark that Capt. Putnam's precaution
     Struck my mind very forceably, as a maxim always to be observed
     whether you are pursuing or pursued by an enemy, especially in the
     woods. It was the first Idea of Generalship I recollect to have
     treasured up."

These two remarkable men had a very similar experience in their youth,
for Rufus, like Israel, was deprived of his father by death at an early
age, the former at seven, and the latter at eight, and each went to live
with his stepfather after his mother had married a second time.

Israel Putnam had been given a major's commission by the Connecticut
Legislature, in 1757, and almost every year succeeding he was promoted,
until finally he was at the head of the forces of the State. In common
with his fellow Provincials, he suffered from the incompetency of the
British commanders sent over from England. Crown Point was the objective
for assault during several years, and still was not reached until the
hearts of all concerned grew heavy with hope deferred. One of the most
glaringly inefficient of Britain's generals in America was Lord
Loudoun, at this time commander-in-chief of all the forces. Against him
was pitted the acute and discerning Montcalm, in command of the French,
who, by the destruction of important forts, and checkmating Loudoun at
Louisburg, soon put the latter on the defensive. Instead, then, of
carrying the war into Canada, the British Colonials were compelled to
rest on their arms while Montcalm himself, taking advantage of the
depletion of the forces caused by Loudoun's futile expedition against
Louisburg, marched down from Montreal and made a demonstration against
the forts to the south of Lake Champlain.

Equally inefficient with Loudoun, the commander-in-chief, and in
addition cowardly as well (it would appear from the records of the
time), was General Webb, who commanded in the northern department, and
who, though he probably had intimation of the French army's approach,
allowed himself to be caught in a trap and lost thousands of his men. He
was warned by Putnam, who scouted to some purpose in the forest along
the lake shore, discovering the approaching hostiles; but he heeded not
the warning, and the result was a massacre.



Up to midsummer of 1757, the British had accomplished nothing of
account; the French, also, had little to show for all the marching and
counter-marching, fortifying, and skirmishing with their foes. But a
decisive blow was to be struck, and by Montcalm, who, having been
informed by his spies of the condition of affairs at the lakes, sent an
overwhelming force against Fort William Henry, at the south end of Lake
George. It happened that a few days before the French army arrived at
the lake, Major Putnam, with two hundred men, escorted his commander,
General Webb, from Fort Edward to Fort William Henry, his object being
to examine into the efficiency of the latter fortification. The fort
itself was a poor construction, but it was commandingly situated on
ground gently rising from the shore of the lake, and its approaches were
defended by felled forest trees forming an immense abattis deemed

With his customary caution, Major Putnam suggested to General Webb that
he should be sent down the lake to ascertain if the enemy were
approaching, certain inexplicable signs having aroused his suspicions.
His commander reluctantly consented, and Putnam took with him eighteen
volunteers and proceeded down the lake, but had not gone far before he
discovered a company of Frenchmen on an island. These men started out in
pursuit of Putnam in his whale-boats, and the latter retreated; but not
before he had, with the aid of a telescope, perceived a "large army in
motion." He reported to General Webb to this effect, and to his
astonishment that cowardly commander ordered him to make no mention of
the approach of the French army, though he agreed with Major Putnam
that it was destined for the reduction of the fort on the lake. He,
moreover, directed him to pledge his men to keep the matter secret from
the devoted garrison at Fort William Henry, and to make ready, without
loss of time, to return with him to headquarters at Fort Edward.

"But, your Excellency," exclaimed the amazed and indignant Putnam, "I
hope you do not intend to neglect so fair an opportunity of giving
battle, should the enemy presume to land!"

"What do you think we should do here?" replied the pusillanimous
commander; and no other answer would he give to the sub-ordinate who had
rashly ventured to expostulate with him. The next day, accordingly,
Putnam escorted Webb back to Fort Edward, whence the latter sent letters
to the Governor of New York, at Albany, urging him to send the militia
to his aid; and also despatched reenforcements to Fort William Henry
under Colonel Monroe, who was ordered to assume command of the
garrison, until then ignorant of their peril.

There were then about three thousand men at Fort William Henry, with as
many more held in reserve at Fort Edward, half a day's march only away.
Against the lake fort, however, Montcalm brought an army of eight or
nine thousand men, including not only a corps of Canadians, but a
"larger number of Indians in a body than had ever before been
collected." The French and Indians outnumbered the hapless garrison
three to one; but during the week in which they appeared before the fort
at Lake George (the first week in August, 1757), Sir William Johnson
reached Fort Edward with his Indians and militia from Albany, thus
augmenting the total British force considerably. He demanded to be
allowed to proceed to Fort William Henry, and was permitted to start
out, taking with him, besides his own force, Major Putnam and his
company of Rangers. Three miles from the fort, however, this rescuing
force was ordered to return, and thus such men as Johnson and Putnam
were compelled to remain at Fort Edward and listen to "the report of
cannon from Fort William Henry, two or three shots sometimes within a
minute or two of one another." Those fateful cannon-shots continued all
day long, and day after day, meanwhile, messengers were arriving from
Colonel Monroe asking for assistance in most urgent terms. For six days
the siege continued, with thousands of soldiers lying inactive at Fort
Edward while their brothers-in-arms were in peril of their lives at Fort
William Henry, only fourteen miles away. On the morning of the eighth of
August the cannon firing ceased, just as the last express from Colonel
Monroe arrived stating that he must give up the fort unless at once

The ammunition of the beleaguered garrison was almost exhausted, many of
their cannon were split, some of the soldiers were sick with smallpox,
and their losses in killed and wounded amounted to more than three
hundred men. The end was inevitable, and it came after General Webb had
sent a letter to Colonel Monroe advising him to surrender. This letter
was intercepted by Montcalm, who thus knew the exact situation and acted
accordingly. He sent the letter to Colonel Monroe, with an urgent demand
for surrender, promising him most liberal terms, and the despairing
officer, who had gallantly defended the fort to the last, gave in and
threw himself upon the mercy of his foe.

The Marquis de Montcalm may have intended to keep his stipulations,
which were that the garrison should be protected by an escort of French
troops to Fort Edward, and their sick and wounded cared for. Relying
upon these terms, they marched out of the fort without arms or baggage,
but were no sooner clear of the gates than they were set upon by more
than two thousand Indians, excited by the liquor they had discovered and
drunk, and frenzied at the prospect of the escape of their foes. Then
ensued a sickening scene of slaughter. Then was committed the massacre,
which, had Major Putnam's advice been followed, might have been
prevented. More than fifteen hundred, men, women, and children, were
indiscriminately butchered, despite the promises of the "noble" Marquis
de Montcalm, and the Indians reveled in a carnival of blood.

It having been reported that the victorious Montcalm intended to march
against Fort Edward next, Major Putnam was despatched with his Rangers
to "watch the motions of the enemy," and reached the lake shore soon
after their departure. The fort was entirely demolished, he reported to
Webb, next day; "the barracks and all buildings were heaps of ruins, the
fires still burning, the smoke and stench from which were offensive and
suffocating. Innumerable fragments, human skulls, and bones were still
broiling, half consumed, in the smoldering flames. Dead bodies, mangled
with knives and tomahawks, including those of more than one hundred
women, were everywhere to be seen, affording a spectacle too horrible
for description."

And this awful occurrence might have been obviated, if, in the first
place, Major Putnam's precautions had been adopted and a firm stand made
in the face of the enemy; or if, in the second place, the reenforcements
so often requested by the commander of the garrison had been sent.
Montcalm himself told Major Putnam, when he was a prisoner in Canada,
the next year, that when Sir William Johnson with the militia and
Rangers set out from Fort Edward one of his runners reported as to their
number, "If you can count the leaves on the trees, you can count them."

Believing, then, that a mighty force was advancing against him, Montcalm
was on the point of abandoning the siege, when General Webb's order to
return saved the situation for the French. Of a truth, the conduct of
General Webb, in command of the forces at Fort Edward and Fort William
Henry, deserves the execration of the world. Fuming inwardly against
their unjustifiable detention, yet so well disciplined as to accept
their commander's orders with impassive faces, the soldiers all,
Provincials as well as regulars, were compelled to inaction, and thus
became in a sense accessories to the blood-thirsty savages who had
murdered their friends.

We have no record of any oath that Putnam may have taken, but doubtless
one was registered in Heaven, that his comrades should be avenged, for
his acts accord with this assumption. He was even more active than
before in annoying the enemy and in taking prisoners, both French and
Indian; but there is no stain of cruelty affixed to any of his deeds. He
fought honorably, without thought of himself, without regard for what
Fame might say of him, or the future hold in store. His courage was of
the sort that shuts its eyes to the consequences and goes straight
ahead, in the path of duty and rectitude.

Soon after the massacre at Fort William Henry, General Webb was relieved
of his command and succeeded by General Lyman, an old soldier under
whom Putnam had already served. Even old soldiers make mistakes, as will
now be shown. Having despatched one hundred and fifty men into the
forests adjacent to Fort Edward, to cut timber for strengthening the
fortification, General Lyman sent along a company of regulars to protect
them against possible attacks by Indians. This was a prudent measure;
but the commander had not counted upon the wary nature of the foe. He
should have sent out the Rangers, who knew the Indians and their ways
and would have provided protection, without a doubt. But there chanced
to be a Ranger on duty as a sentinel, and early one morning, before the
sun was up, his attention was attracted to a flight of wonderful birds
silently winging their way across the sky. Suddenly, one of those
"birds" came with great force against the limb of a tree right over his
head, where it stuck, and then the sentry saw that those winged
messengers were Indian arrows! He lost no time in giving the alarm and
the working party began retreating toward the fort. They were promptly
attacked by a large body of Indians, who had hoped to kill the sentry
without any noise, when the workmen would have been cut off, without a

The regulars bravely stood their ground and poured a destructive fire
into the savage ranks; but the foe was persistent and soon obtained the
upper hand. It happened that, as usual, brave Putnam was not far distant
from the sound of battle, which he no sooner heard than he hastened in
its direction. As he and his men were posted on an island, he and they
waded through the water to dry land, and in pressing to the scene of
conflict passed near the fort, on the parapet of which stood General
Lyman, who, imagining the attack came from the main body of the enemy,
had called in his outposts and closed the gates. As Major Putnam and his
men dashed past on the double-quick, intent only upon rescuing their
friends from the savages, the General ordered them to return, believing
that they were needlessly exposing their lives in a vain attempt against
an overwhelming force.

For the first time in his military career (but not the last) Putnam
refused to obey the orders of his superior officer. Indignant at the
mere thought of abandoning his companions-at-arms at such a juncture, he
muttered something under his breath (which he afterward said was an
apology; but those who knew "Old Put" best thought otherwise) and pushed
on, without turning to right or left. And his obstinacy saved the day,
for, uniting with the regulars, the Rangers "rushed" the savages from
their position and chased them through the forest so long as daylight
lasted. Their victory was complete, and when they returned to the fort
the gates were no longer closed against them, nor was a reprimand
forthcoming from the General, the disobedience of whose orders made
Major Putnam more popular than ever.

That Major Putnam's bravery was of the sort requiring no artificial
stimulus, and proceeded solely from the promptings of a nature
superlative in every sense, was shown in the winter of 1757, when the
barracks at Fort Edward were consumed by a fire which threatened and
almost reached the powder magazine. Seeing the blaze from his aerie on
the island, Putnam attacked the fire as he always attacked the enemy,
with impetuosity. He at once took the forefront of danger, nearest to
the powder magazine, and, mounted on a ladder, threw upon the raging
flames the buckets of water which the soldiers brought him from the
river. Enshrouded in smoke, and so near the sheets of flame that a pair
of thick mittens was burned from his hands, Putnam heroically toiled to
subdue the fire, which was rapidly eating its way toward the magazine,
containing three hundred barrels of powder.

His commander at first begged him to descend, but as he was obstinate,
he provided him with another pair of mittens which had been dipped in
water, and, charmed at his pertinacity and bravery, exclaimed, "Well,
if we must be blown up we will all go together!" He then gave orders to
the men to redouble their efforts.

The sequel was that Putnam, though at times enveloped in smoke and
cinders, maintained his position, even when there was but a charred
strip of timber between him and the powder, finally extinguishing the
fire and saving the fort. One hour and a-half he had fought the flames.
"His legs, arms and face were blistered, and when he pulled off his
second pair of mittens, the skin from his hands and fingers followed
them." He was a month in hospital, recovering from his terrible burns;
but before the winter was over he was off scouting with his beloved
Rangers in the vicinity of Ticonderoga.



The year 1758 was the most eventful in Putnam's life hitherto,
notwithstanding the numerous adventures in which he had already been
engaged, and which were enough to satisfy the craving of the most
ambitious individual. The great event of that year, in which he took
part, was the attack made by General Abercrombie on Fort Ticonderoga;
and the most dire happening, to him personally, was being made a
prisoner by the Indians.

Before proceeding to narrate these occurrences, however, let us take
notice of two stirring incidents in his career, which further illustrate
his cool daring and his readiness of resource in the face of danger. In
the first instance, he was sent by his superior officer to a place
known as Wood Creek, in order to make such observations as were
possible, and also to intercept any parties of the enemy that might
chance to pass that way. With the intuition of a born strategist, he
posted his force on the bank of the creek where it jutted boldly into
the water, and there constructed a parapet of stone about thirty feet in
length, and masked it with young pine-trees in such a manner that they
appeared to be a part of the natural forest growth.

The provisions of the party running short, and a big buck opportunely
appearing, Putnam departed from a rule he himself had always insisted
upon--of never firing a gun when waiting for an enemy or in the enemy's
country, and shot him. The result was as he might have anticipated. He
and his men got the deer and replenished their stores; but the wily
leader of the Indian hostiles, Marin, heard the report, and came with
his men in search of the cause of it. He came at night, so cautiously
and silently that some of the canoes which held his men, about five
hundred in number, were abreast the fort before the sentinels
discovered them.

The creek at this point was scarcely a hundred feet in width, the banks
about fifteen or twenty feet in height. A full moon was shining in the
heavens, illumining spaces of water here and there, so that the oncoming
Indians were plainly visible to the men behind the parapet, there
awaiting, with fast-beating hearts, the signal to fire. At a critical
moment, one of the nervous soldiers accidentally struck his firelock
against a stone, and the sound being heard by the foe, in an instant
came the watchword for silence and caution--"Owish." The canoes in the
van halted, and the others coming up, they were soon huddled together
right in front of the breastwork. This was the moment awaited by Putnam,
who gave the signal for his men to fire by setting the example with his
own musket.

The plunging fire, directed into the midst of the canoes, committed
terrible execution. It was returned by the enemy; but being caught at a
disadvantage, and unable to perceive their foes, concealed as they were
behind the breastwork, their fire was ineffective. During the whole
engagement, which is said to have lasted through the greater part of the
night, only two of the Provincials were wounded, none being killed

There were but sixty men in Putnam's party, while the Indians were
estimated at not less than five hundred, half of which number were
either killed or wounded, it was thought, before daylight came.
Perceiving, from the intermittent fire, that it was a small party which
had ambuscaded him, Marin, the Indian scout and leader, attempted a
landing below the Americans, in order to cut off their retreat. But
Major Putnam had anticipated that move, and after sending a detachment
to repel the landing party, ordered his men to "swing their packs" and
retire up the creek, which they did in good order, leaving their wounded
men behind. This act was the one inexplicable occurrence of the affair,
for it was not creditable to Major Putnam, nor in accord with his
reputation for humanity and tender regard for his men. But the safety of
the greater number was considered, in preference to the security of the
two wounded men, one of whom, a Provincial of undaunted courage, was set
upon and hacked to pieces, after he had killed three of the approaching
enemy, as he lay on the ground unable to escape. The other, a friendly
Mohawk, was taken prisoner, and Major Putnam afterward saw him in

On the way back to Fort Edward, Putnam and his men were fired upon by a
scouting party of Provincials, who mistook them for Frenchmen; but they
were quickly undeceived when the doughty major ordered his men, "in a
stentorophonick tone," to advance and give a good account of themselves.
Putnam's "stentorophonick" voice--as his original biographer styles
it--was well known to all the army, having been heard many times rising
above the din of battle, and always in the forefront of the fighting. So
the commanding officer of the scouting party recognized it at once and
cried out that those approaching were friends. The volley had killed one
man only, and "Old Wolf Putnam," enraged, indignant, and yet sarcastic,
said to the opposing officer, "Friends or enemies, you all deserve to be
hanged for not killing more, when you had so fair a shot!" He had in
mind, of course, the numbers he and his men had slain, that night
preceding, when six or seven times their own force had fallen before
their unerring aim.

Having suffered so considerably at Putnam's hands, the French and
Indians, as may be imagined, were constantly on the watch to take their
arch enemy at a disadvantage. Not many weeks after the unsuccessful
attack upon Ticonderoga--to which allusion will presently be made--it
appeared as though the savages were about to accomplish their purpose,
for they surprised him, together with a small body of his men, on the
left bank of the Hudson, with the river between them and the fort. The
party of Indians was too strong to be successfully resisted, it was
impossible to cross the river without being shot, while below lay a
quarter-mile stretch of rapids through which a boat had never been sent
without disaster. But, with his customary promptitude, Putnam ordered
his men into their single boat, himself taking the helm, and pushed off
just as the savages came within sight of the shore. The disappointed and
infuriated Indians sent a shower of balls after the boatmen, but none
took effect; though the fugitives seemed doomed to certain death by
drowning in the foaming rapids of the river. Calmly taking the helm,
Putnam steered the boat through the roaring rapids, avoiding the
half-hidden rocks and protruding ledges, and, while the Indians looked
on in amazement, in a few seconds brought his charge into smooth water
at the foot of the falls. Throughout all this turmoil and danger, he
maintained his self-possession, his customary placidity of countenance
even; and it is said that after that the Indians looked upon him as more
than human and under the special protection of the Great Spirit.

It was the misfortune of the Provincials to become the sport of fate in
the shape of inefficient commanders from England, who led them, not only
to defeat, but to death by wholesale, in their endeavors to carry out
plans insufficiently matured and schemes which would not have received
the sanction of military experts at all. One of the most disastrous of
defeats was encountered at Ticonderoga, against which General
Abercrombie led a force of fifteen thousand men, consisting of six
thousand regulars and nine thousand Provincials. Crown Point and
Ticonderoga were still the British objectives, along with other posts of
greater or less strength, such as Louisburg, Frontenac, and Fort
Duquesne. All these last were taken before Crown Point and Ticonderoga
yielded; but it was fated that Ticonderoga, which had been seized and
fortified by the French in 1755, and which, together with Crown Point,
commanded the direct route from the St. Lawrence to the Hudson, should
first cost the lives of many men.

On the morning of July 5, 1758, a magnificent flotilla set forth from
the southern end of Lake George, consisting of 135 whale-boats and 900
bateaux, laden with soldiers, cannon, and military stores of every
description. As it sailed through the Narrows it made a line six miles
in length, and was indeed a most imposing spectacle. Sabbath-Day Point
was reached about five in the afternoon, and here the soldiers debarked
for rest and refreshment, but sailed on again about midnight, reaching
the northern end of the lake next morning at dawn. Soon after landing,
late in the day, a portion of the army became lost in the forest and
while entangled in the wilderness of trees encountered a French force of
observation which had been sent to watch their movements at Lake
George. This force, likewise lost in the woods, was cut to pieces by the
Rangers, only fifty escaping, while nearly three hundred were either
killed, wounded, or taken prisoners.

This was the sole success of the expedition, and this cost the lives of
many men, including young Lord Howe, who was a great favorite in the
army with both regulars and Colonials. He had insisted on forging ahead
with Putnam, who, as usual, was in front with his Rangers, and against
his urgent remonstrances went with him into the vortex of the fire,
where he was killed. The soldiers considered their success on the first
day as a foretaste of victory to follow on the morrow; but while
Abercrombie delayed his advance for various reasons, Montcalm and his
men did herculean work by felling a forest of trees and constructing an
impenetrable abatis in front of the fort.

It was this terrible entanglement, composed of thousands of trees with
pointed and jagged limbs turned outward, that really prevented the
British and Provincials from gaining even the outer works of
Ticonderoga, behind which lay not more than thirty-six hundred men under
Montcalm. Abercrombie's engineer having reported that the works were
unfinished, and might be easily captured if promptly attacked, the
British general gave the order for assault, though his cannon had not
arrived, and indeed were not used at all.

Not satisfied with one futile assault, in which his men were cut down by
hundreds, torn by grape-shot and mangled by cross-fires of musketry,
Abercrombie ordered another and another, until the heroic and desperate
fighting men were entirely exhausted. Never was there a greater display
of courage and senseless devotion to a mistaken sense of duty, than on
that day when the fifteen thousand British and Provincial soldiers tried
vainly to dislodge one-third their number of Frenchmen from their
position at Ticonderoga. And it was all on account of the incapacity of
a British commander, whom the home Government had sent out with
authority, not only over his own regulars, but Colonial officers whose
abilities were vastly in excess of his own. But it was not for these
Colonials to question; only to "do and die," and they did all in their
power, and died by hundreds, merely that an incompetent commander's
whims should be gratified.

When at last the inept Abercrombie had sacrificed the lives under his
command to the number of two thousand or more, and became convinced that
he could not take Ticonderoga that way, he was seized with panic and
ordered a retreat. As the Rangers under Putnam were the first in the
assault, so they were the last to retire, being obliged to protect the
retreat of the main army, and remained till dusk on the edge of the
forest, where they maintained a continuous fire, to prevent pursuit.
With but one-third as many soldiers as Abercrombie brought to the
attack, Montcalm did not feel like pursuing the retreating foe, but
contented himself with the great victory--a victory won not so much by
the valor of his men as by the incompetency of his chief opponent.

Had the advice of Putnam, Rogers, and others of the Provincials been
sought and accepted, much of this loss of life might have been averted,
for though themselves fighting with great courage, doggedly and against
all hope, they were averse to a direct assault without the cannon, with
which a breach might have been opened into the fort. But the cannon
reposed at the lake-side, whither retreated the defeated soldiers, with
such haste that they were enabled to embark that very night, leaving
their dead and many of their wounded in the forest where they lay. A few
days before, after the first engagement, Major Rogers, of the Rangers,
having been sent to bring off the dead and wounded of the enemy, had
cruelly despatched the latter, to the horror not only of his confrère,
Major Putnam, but of the British officers who became cognizant of the



The good fortune with which Major Putnam had been favored during three
years of fighting a wily and treacherous foe, suddenly deserted him
when, in the month of August, 1758, he found himself confronted by an
Indian warrior of herculean frame, during a skirmish near Fort St. Anne.
He and Major Rogers had been sent out by Abercrombie to ascertain the
whereabouts of a war party which was committing depredations between
Fort Edward and the lakes. The timid general was very much afraid of an
attack in force by the victorious Montcalm, and constantly on the watch.

One morning, as the Rangers were proceeding through a dense thicket,
with Putnam's Provincials in front, they ran into an ambush which the
wary Marin, the French partizan fighter, had prepared, by posting his
men in a semicircular position across the trail. Suddenly the air was
rent with yells and reports of firearms, and several Provincials fell in
their tracks. Putnam, taken unawares, yet as always cool and collected,
gave orders to return the fire, and sent word back for support, which in
the confusion incident to the sudden attack was not promptly
forthcoming. Forging ahead, he was confronted by an Indian chieftain, a
giant in size, against whose breast he at once placed the muzzle of his
fusee, which--as those primitive flintlocks were likely to do in an
emergency--missed fire. The savage then had him at his mercy, and
brandishing his tomahawk above his head compelled him to surrender, when
he tied him to a tree, and then left him to mingle in the fight again.
As the Rangers rallied to battle it happened that the tree to which
Putnam was bound came directly between the fires of both parties, and as
the bullets flew thickly around our hero's position was not by any
means an enviable one. Some of the balls passed through the sleeves and
skirt of his coat, and in this perilous position he remained for more
than an hour, unable either to move a limb or even his head.

No attention was paid to him, except that now and then a savage would
approach, and seeing him there helpless and a conspicuous mark would
throw a tomahawk at his head, to see how near he could come to this
living target without inflicting a fatal wound. An equally savage
Frenchman also approached, and aiming his fusee at his breast, would
have put him out of his misery had it not missed fire. This enraged the
scoundrel so that he gave Putnam a blow on the jaw with the butt-end of
his musket which nearly finished him, and then left him alone.

The battle waged unevenly for a while, but was finally decided in favor
of the Provincials, and the French and Indians hastily gathered their
prisoners together and fled northward toward Ticonderoga. Putnam's
captor stripped him of his coat and waistcoat, socks and shoes, then
after binding his wrists together he loaded him with as many packs as he
could pile upon his shoulders, and giving him in charge of another
Indian, left him to attend to the wounded.

Poor Putnam was soon in a deplorable condition, with hands swollen
terribly from the tightness of the ligature, and his feet gashed and
bleeding, as he trudged along the trail beneath his enormous burden. He
begged the savages to knock him on the head and end his sufferings; but
he was soon to experience even more horrible sensations, for, arriving
in advance of the main party at the place where they were to camp for
the night, the small body of Indians that had him in charge concluded to
burn him at the stake! He was suffering terribly from the blow on his
jaw, from his swollen hands and mutilated feet, and also from a tomahawk
gash in his cheek, so that he cared little what became of him, provided
the end came quickly. To be burned alive, however, was a fate that
brought a shudder to the frame of even stout-hearted Israel Putnam, and
he looked on in horror while his captors stripped him naked, bound him
to a tree and piled the dry brush they had gathered for fuel around him
in a circle. All the while, as they labored at their fiendish task, they
chanted a funeral dirge, which was almost as depressing to their captive
as their sinister preparations for his immediate immolation.

"Major Putnam soon began to feel the scorching heat," says his
biographer, Colonel Humphreys, who had these details from the chief
actor's own lips. "His hands were so tied that he could move his body,
and he often shifted sides as the fire approached. This sight, at the
very idea of which all but savages must shudder, afforded the highest
diversion to his inhuman tormentors, who demonstrated the delirium of
their joy by yells, dances, and gesticulations. He saw clearly that his
final hour was inevitably come. He summoned all his resolution, and
composed his mind, as far as the circumstances would admit, to bid an
eternal farewell to all he held most dear.... His thought was ultimately
fixed on a happier state of existence, ... the bitterness of death, even
of that death which is accompanied with the keenest agonies, was in a
manner past, ... when a French officer rushed through the crowd, opened
a way by scattering the burning brands, and unbound the victim."

The officer was no other than the redoubtable partizan, Marin, who
exerted a wonderful influence over his savage company. He at once sent
for the Indian who had captured Major Putnam, who did what he could to
make amends for the dreadful treatment the latter had received; but that
night, in order to prevent his prisoner from escaping, he stretched his
limbs out in the shape of a cross and bound them to four saplings, then
placed poles and bushes across his body as it lay on the ground with
several Indians at either side, who kept watch the night through.

Arrived at Fort Ticonderoga, Major Putnam had an interview with the
Marquis de Montcalm, who ordered him sent to Montreal, whither he was
taken without delay, and where he met a brother American, Colonel Peter
Schuyler, of New Jersey, who, possessing considerable influence,
compelled the Frenchman to treat their prisoner more humanely. The
capture of Louisburg, Frontenac and other posts, by the English that
year gave them numerous prisoners, which they were not slow to exchange
for those in the hands of the French. Thus it came about that the period
of Major Putnam's captivity was quite short, for he was in Montreal and
Quebec in the last days of August, his exchange was accomplished in
October, and in November he was on his way to his home in Connecticut.

If the French had known who it was they held a prisoner in the person of
Major Putnam, doubtless they would have been slow to permit his
exchange; but Colonel Schuyler kept this information to himself, and
when told by the governor that he might select whatever officer he liked
to be included in the cartel, he chose his friend.

"There is an _old man_ here," he said, "who is a Provincial Major, and
who wishes to be at home with his wife and children; he can do no good
here or anywhere else; I believe your Excellency had better keep some of
the young men, who have no wife or children to care for, and let the old
fellow go home with me."

This subterfuge availed, and Putnam went along with his friend; but
whether the latter was justified in alluding to him as an "old man" is
doubtful, as he was then only forty years of age. He had, however, won
the sobriquets of "Old Wolf Putnam" and of "Old Put," long before, and
doubtless was accustomed to be regarded as elderly, despite his jolly
countenance and ever-cheerful disposition.

His kind and affectionate nature was displayed at its best on the
journey home, which was long and wearisome, when he took charge of a
lady, Mrs. Howe, whose husband had been killed and scalped three years
previously. She had been in captivity ever since, and had endured untold
outrages from her captors. Her seven children were dispersed, but five
of them were recovered, and accompanied her back to her home in New
Hampshire. Colonel Schuyler had rescued her from captivity, and Major
Putnam constituted himself her protector during the long and toilsome
journey, leading her little ones, assisting the sorrowful mother over
the rough places, and sharing his meals with the unfortunate family.

What a welcome the hero received on his home-coming, from his loving,
constant wife and children! They had heard of his vicissitudes, had
almost given him up for dead; but at last he was with them again, and
the dismal past was buried. The joy of the family at meeting again was
clouded by sorrow, however, for death had entered the family circle
since the father and husband's departure. Israel, the eldest son, was
there, and the daughters; but the second son was absent, never to

On an old tombstone in the graveyard at Brooklyn, Connecticut, is this

     "In Memory of Mr. Daniel Putnam, son of Col^o. Israel Putnam & Mrs.
     Hannah his wife, who died Aug. 8th, 1758, Aged 17 Years."

     Also of David Putnam, Son of y^e above Col^o. Israel & Mrs. Hannah
     Putnam, who died Nov. 21, 1761, aged 1 month."

The first death, of Daniel, his pet and pride, occurred, it is said, on
the very day (August 8, 1758), at the close of which Major Putnam was in
direst peril, tied to a tree in the forest, environed by fire and within
a circle of whooping, yelling savages. The demise of David, whom he
never saw, took place while the father was away on the Amherst
expedition, or just before his return from that campaign. Sturdy Israel,
the first-born son, had taken charge of the farm while his father was
off on his various campaigns--or at least had done his best to do so,
and the family had not wanted for provisions during the enforced
absences of the head of the family. As he was now a robust young man of
nearly twenty, and possessed all the home-loving traits of his father,
Israel was considered perfectly competent to carry on the farm at least
another season, and in the spring of 1759 his father, now advanced to
the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, went away again to the wars.

Israel Putnam seemed never to know when he had enough of fighting; or
else his sense of duty to the king and his country was paramount to all
other considerations else. At all events, one of his bravery and force
could not be omitted from the great expedition that General Amherst (who
had been sent by Pitt to supersede Abercrombie) was then organizing. In
July, 1759, we find him with his command at Lake George, where the
second expedition against Ticonderoga set forth, following the route
taken by Abercrombie, over the lake to Ticonderoga, which was reached on
the 22d. On the 23d, the French officer in command of the fortress
suddenly departed down Lake Champlain with nearly all his men; but
Amherst did not know it, and kept on with his preparations for
bombardment, having his batteries in position before he was made aware,
by French deserters, that the place had been abandoned. Soon the powder
magazine blew up, having been left by the French with a lighted
slow-match attached for the purpose, the barracks caught fire, and
Ticonderoga, which had held out so well against British and Provincial
assaults, was at last laid low. It was reconstructed, as we know, and
served both British and Patriots in the Revolutionary War; but is now in
ruins, picturesque and imposing in their decay.

Crown Point was also evacuated by the French, and thus at last the main
object of so many months' toil in the wilderness with such woful waste
of life and vast expenditure of treasure, was accomplished. While Putnam
and his comrades were engaged in restoring the fortifications of Crown
Point, they heard the news of British victories on every hand: of the
fall of Fort Niagara; and of the storming and capture of Quebec, when,
on that fateful thirteenth of September, 1759, Wolfe and Montcalm found
death and fame, the former at the hour of victory, the latter in defeat.

Israel Putnam met nearly all the great British commanders, with the
possible exception of Wolfe, and had assisted with all his might at the
upbuilding of English power in America, so it was not strange that when,
later, the Revolution opened, he was looked upon by them more as a
friend than an enemy. The next year, when Amherst moved upon Montreal,
then the chief, almost sole possession of the French in Canada, Colonel
Putnam went along, as a matter of course, and, it is gravely related by
his first biographer, he assisted the general at a critical moment and
in a very novel way. Two armed vessels of the enemy were likely to cause
trouble to the British on the St. Lawrence, and Amherst was anxious to
put them out of the way before they could sink his boats. Putnam
proffered his services, declaring he could take the vessels in short

"How?" asked the General, somewhat amused as well as surprised.

"With beetles and wedges, and a boat-load of men," answered "Put." And,
the story goes, he rowed out to the vessels, in the dead of night, drove
wooden wedges in behind their rudders, and left them helpless, for when
the wind came up they would not answer the helm and were driven ashore,
where their crews were easily taken by the English.



It can not be denied that Israel Putnam was already quite a traveler;
but it must be added that he had so far traveled mainly within a
circumscribed area. Over and over again this faithful soldier had
plodded the trails and military roads, and pushed his way through the
swamps, morasses, forests, of the wilderness region of New York, which
by the end of 1761 he should have known almost as well as the woodland
pastures of his own farm. But he was destined to extend his travels and
make a foreign voyage, still in the service of the King of England, whom
he had served so long and so well.

He was present at the capitulation of Montreal, one September day, 1760,
and had the pleasure of meeting the Indian chief who had taken him
prisoner two years previously. He lived near Montreal, at the Indian
village of Caughnawaga, where he received his former captive with pride,
and was highly delighted to see his old acquaintance, "whom he
entertained in his own well-built stone house with great friendship and
hospitality; while his guest did not discover less satisfaction in an
opportunity of shaking the brave savage by the hand and proffering him
protection in this reverse of his military fortunes."

Returning home at the end of the 1760 campaign, Putnam remained on his
farm all winter, and the next spring set out again for what proved an
uneventful season, with much hard work on fortifications and
entrenchments, but no fighting of account. For, so far as the mainland
of North America was concerned, the long struggle between France and
England was nearly at an end. France had been shorn of her possessions
in Canada, and she was losing her islands in the West Indies, where,
early in 1762, beautiful Martinique (to become famous as the birthplace
of the Empress Josephine, and a rich land of sugar and spices) was
captured by the British.

In fact, the theater of war was transferred to the more southern regions
of the Caribbean Sea, and the New Englanders took a long breath and
congratulated themselves that at last they were at liberty to pursue
their callings unmolested. But in this they were somewhat premature, as
England was still engaged in fighting, and, no matter where her battles
were fought, she seemed to expect the loyal American colonists to
furnish soldiers for her wars. Connecticut, Putnam's home State, was
again called upon for the same number of able-bodied men she had
furnished year by year, and promptly proffered her bone and sinew to
fight the wars of King George the Third.

A thousand men, besides fifteen hundred from New York and New Jersey,
embarked at the port of New York, in the month of June, 1762, bound for
Havana in Cuba, where British regulars were dying by hundreds of
pestilence, and sorely needed those colonial reenforcements. On this,
his first sea voyage, Colonel Putnam had a rough experience all the way
down, and off the north coast of Cuba the transport containing himself
and five hundred of his men was wrecked on a coral ledge. "Old Put" was
calm and collected, never more so, though unused to life at sea, and
preserved strict discipline among his men, thus aiding the mariners in
their endeavors to get out rafts and boats, on and in which the entire
company finally reached the shore. To his perils by fire, twice
incurred, brave Putnam could now add that by flood, thus giving the
spice of variety to his various adventures.

"As soon as all were landed," wrote the biographer who knew him best,
"Putnam fortified his camp, that he might not be exposed to insult from
inhabitants of the neighboring districts.... Here the party remained
unmolested several days, until the storm had so much abated as to
permit the convoy to take them off. They soon joined the troops before
Havana, who, having been several weeks in that unhealthy climate, had
already begun to grow extremely sickly. The opportune arrival of the
Provincial reenforcement, in perfect health, contributed not a little to
forward the works and hasten the reduction of that important place. But
the Provincials suffered so miserably by sickness afterward, that very
few ever returned to their native land again."

This is all that Colonel Putnam's contemporary, Humphreys, has to say of
the most eventful episode of his hero's career, but it seems to the
present writer (who has personally investigated the British and Colonial
invasion of Cuba "on the spot") that the subject is worthy of more
extended notice. The English expedition against Havana was occasioned by
the King of Spain, Charles III, having entered into what was known as
the "family compact" with Louis XV of France, by which the Bourbons were
to support each other against British rapacity and aggrandizement, as
they styled it.

England had long looked covetously upon Havana, which the Spaniards
themselves called the "Key of the New World," situated at the mouth of
the Gulf of Mexico and (in the hands of a strong power) then controlling
the seaboard of territory at present comprised in the South Atlantic
States of our Union. So she hastened to seize the capital of Cuba, the
"Pearl of the Antilles," and early in June, 1762, the surprised and
frightened inhabitants were informed that a fleet of sixty ships-of-war
had landed more than 20,000 men at the little port of Cogimar, a few
miles to the east of picturesque and formidable Morro Castle.

Quickly, then, the Captain-General assembled the "Junta of Defense,"
composed of men most eminent in military affairs in Havana, and placed
before them the situation.[1] They resolved upon a spirited defense,
even though their soldiers were insufficiently armed and they had no
defensive works save the Morro, then about a hundred years old, and its
companion fortress called the Punta, between which two forts lay the
deep and narrow entrance to the harbor. This harbor was blocked by some
big war-ships, and a chain was stretched across the mouth, but the
English did not even essay an entrance, having landed their troops to
the east, and first marching upon the Morro from Cogimar and the town of
Guanabacao, which they took quite easily, and then sweeping over the
Cabañas hills, where the Spaniards later built the vast fortifications
which they should have constructed sooner for the defense of their
capital city.

[Footnote 1: From _Nociones de Historia de Cuba_, by Dr. Vidal Morales;
Havana, 1904.]

The Provincials arrived the last of July, and landed to the west of
Havana, where stands a small fort known as the Torreon of Chorrera,
which was defended with much valor, but compelled to surrender.
Afterward, however, they were transported to the Cabañas hills, and
there, on the site of the fortifications (above which, in 1904, the
American flag last waved in token of possession in Cuba), Israel Putnam
and his Provincials joined the British troops. And they were welcome,
beyond a doubt, for nearly half the British army was incapacitated
through fevers, and many men had died.

[Illustration: Fort near Havana where the Colonials landed.]

The arrival of the sturdy Colonials gave the besiegers of the Morro new
strength, and fresh courage, and within a few days they were called upon
to assist at carrying the castle by storm. The English had been a long
time sapping toward the fortress walls, and a breach having been opened
near the bastion, the combined assailants poured through in an
invincible flood. The Duke of Albermarle, who commanded the British
forces, had informed the comandante of the castle that he had mined the
bastion and demanded a capitulation. But the heroic commander, Don Luis
de Velasco, spurned the proffer, and as a consequence the castle was
stormed, and he was included among the five hundred slain on that
occasion. A tablet to his memory may be seen affixed against the
seaward wall of the Morro, and from the parapet may be traced the
British and Provincial line of approach.

The bastion they breached was afterward repaired; but nothing could
repair the terrible losses sustained by both armies through sickness
caused by exposure and bad water. More than one-third of the Colonials
died of disease; but nothing seemed to trouble sturdy Old Put, who was
everywhere among his men, with comfort and consolation, carrying water
to the wounded, supporting the dying. The chaplain of the Connecticut
troops one day recorded in his diary: "Col. Putman and Lt. Parks went
off into ye country to buy fresh provisions." Two days later he noted
the death of Putnam's companion in this trip into the country; and that
was in October, only a few days before orders were given for the
Colonials to embark for New York.

Havana capitulated soon after its only real defense, Morro Castle, was
taken, and the English entered into possession. But imagine the
feelings of the surviving soldiers who had gone so far and been exposed
to so great peril, when they learned, less than a year later, that the
city and fortress that had cost so dear had been given up, in exchange
for Florida and other Spanish territory east of the Mississippi.

In Havana, where he was one day roaming about unarmed, Colonel Putnam
met with an adventure which nearly cost him his life and made him the
involuntary owner of a negro slave. Seeing a Spaniard beating a black
man with a bamboo cane, he darted in with his old time impetuosity, and
seizing the stick, wrenched it away from its owner, who, joined by other
exasperated Cubans, turned upon the American and compelled him to flee
to a vessel for safety. Here he was followed by the negro, who so
successfully appealed to the soldier's tender sensibilities that he
allowed him to accompany him home to Connecticut. There he served him
faithfully, and when his master died he bequeathed to "Old Dick"--as he
was called--the "Havana cane," of which the colored Cuban exile was
inordinately proud.

Israel Putnam was now a man of substance, more than ever looked up to by
his neighbors and honored by the community in which he dwelt. Taking up
his duties of citizenship where he had left them on being summoned to
war, he threw off the military habit as he might an old garment now no
longer of service, and became again the contented, humble farmer. In
1763, about the time the treaty of peace between England and France was
signed, he was elected "selectman" of the town in which he lived, and
the ensuing spring appointed to receive the heads of such crows as
should be killed in the township, for which a bounty was offered of
sixpence each! Such humble offices as these he by no means despised,
always lending a hand to whatever appeared in the guise of duty.

It became his duty, he thought, to go to war again, in the year 1764,
when the Indians, neglected by both French and English, who had now no
further need of their services, found themselves in danger of being
ground between the upper and the nether millstones. They looked with
apprehension upon the forts the English were erecting on every hand, and
finally rose in rebellion, under the leadership of Pontiac, chief of the
Ottawas. He organized a widespread conspiracy among the Indian tribes,
believing he could eventually exterminate "those dogs dressed in red,"
as he called the English. The rising was appointed for the 7th of May,
1763, and no less than eight English garrisons were massacred, a
five-months' siege ensuing at Detroit, where Pontiac himself commanded
the Indians. The attacks were intermitted in the winter, but as they
were sure to be renewed in the spring, a call was sent out for colonial
troops. Appointed to command the Connecticut troops raised for this
service, Putnam took a prominent part in suppressing the uprising, going
out in the Bradstreet expedition. At Fort Ontario he met many old
friends, including Sir William Johnson and his band, also the Indian
chief who had captured him at Fort Ann in 1758, and who was now fighting
on the side of the English with as much zeal as he had previously served
the French.

On his return from this wearisome campaign, Colonel Putnam again settled
down to the chosen occupation of his youth and the solace of his latter
years, on the farm. Having given ten of the best years of his life to
soldiering, he felt that he was entitled now to the rewards of peace.
But alas! within five months of his arrival home he lost two of his dear
ones by death: his daughter Elizabeth, only seventeen years of age, who
died in the winter of 1764-'65, and his beloved wife, Hannah, who passed
away in the April following. Of the ten children born to Israel and
Hannah Putnam in the twenty-six years of their happy married life, seven
were living at the time of the mother's death, the youngest only three
months old, and bearing the name of Peter Schuyler, in honor of the New
Jersey colonel who had befriended his father when a captive in Canada.



No one could call in question Israel Putnam's loyalty, yet the year
following his last campaign in behalf of King George, he might have been
found opposing the Government and riding from town to town, for the
purpose of inciting men to make armed resistance to the iniquitous
"Stamp Act," which had been passed and made a law early in 1765. While
James Otis, Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry were eloquently declaiming
against it, Putnam was for putting words into action, and as one of the
"Sons of Liberty" was active in urging his countrymen to make a stand
for freedom.

Though prevented by an accident from taking part in the proceedings by
which the "stamp-master" for Connecticut was compelled to resign his
position and disavow the office to which he was appointed, yet Putnam
was foremost in bringing this condition of affairs about. It seems that
one Mr. Ingersoll was appointed stamp-master by the Crown, and, on being
requested to resign from such an obnoxious office by the Sons of
Liberty, he returned an evasive answer. Consequently, a body of them
mounted their horses and went out to meet him, as he was on his way to
Hartford. Finding him on the road, they caused him to dismount and, in
the presence of the company, now swelled to several hundred, to read his
resignation as a royal appointee, and to shout for "liberty and
property," three times, as loud as he could.

The spirit of the people, now thoroughly aroused, was very accurately
expressed by Colonel Putnam, who, deputed by the Sons of Liberty to wait
on the Governor of his State and inform him of the public sentiment
respecting the Stamp Act, made him understand that there would be no
temporizing whatever in the matter.

"But what should I do," asked the perplexed Governor, "if the stamped
paper should be sent me by the King's command?"

"Lock it up until we shall visit you again," replied Putnam, boldly.

"And what will you do then?"

"We shall expect you to give us the key of the room in which it is
deposited, and if you think fit, in order to screen yourself, you may
forewarn us not to enter that room upon our peril."

"And then what will you do?"

"Send the paper safely back again."

"But if I should refuse you admission?"

"In that case, your house will be leveled to the ground in five

The Governor, who desired to be loyal, and was inclined to receive the
paper, was not called upon to act, the determined attitude of the Sons
of Liberty, preventing any from being sent into the State. Elected a
representative in 1766, Putnam was prepared to do all in his power to
frustrate the intent of the Act; but, in common with his fellow
citizens, was made happy by the news of its repeal. As this was then
the only bone of contention between the Colonials and the King, the
former hastened to send the latter a loyal address of thanks, assuring
him of their continued devotion, etc., etc.

It would seem that farming, in colonial days, was almost as hazardous an
employment as fighting in the wilds, for Putnam was the victim of two
different accidents, by one of which he lost the first joint of his
right thumb, and by the other he received a compound fracture of his
right thigh. The latter being imperfectly attended to, rendered that leg
an inch shorter than the other, "which occasioned him ever after to limp
in his walk." Notwithstanding these injuries, he faithfully attended to
his duties as representative at Hartford. In June, 1767, two years and
two months after the death of his wife, Hannah, he was married to Mrs.
Deborah Lothrop, widow of John Gardiner, of Gardiner's Island, New York.

As his second wife had a fine property on Brooklyn Green, in the center
of the town, and as the entertainment of his numerous admirers (who
came from all over the country to see him) was becoming burdensome,
Farmer Putnam concluded to convert the newly acquired mansion into an
inn. So he moved himself and most of his belongings (including his stock
of war relics and anecdotes) from the farmhouse to the "Green," nearly
two miles distant, and there set up as "mine host" Putnam, putting out a
sign of the Wolfe--not of the beast he had slain in early life, but the
gallant general of that name who fell at Quebec. This veritable sign may
now be seen in Hartford, at the rooms of the Connecticut Historical
Society, where also are several other precious relics of Putnam and his
time, including some autograph letters by the hero himself.

Some one, long ago, wrote of this sign, which was affixed to one of the
great trees that stood in front of the tavern on the Green, "It
represents General Wolfe in full uniform, his eye fixed in an expression
of fiery earnestness upon some distant object, and his right arm
extended in emphatic gesture, as if charging on the foe or directing
some important movement of his army. The sign seems to have fared hardly
in one respect, being plentifully sprinkled with shot-holes!"

A contemporary wrote of him, about this time: "Col. Putnam served with
the Connecticut troops under Amherst in the last war. By his courage and
conduct he secured to himself a good share of reputation. When peace
commenced he returned to the civil line of life. Of late he has occupied
a tavern with a farm annexed to it."

As the landlord of a country tavern, the genial and loquacious colonel
with a past peculiarly his own, possessing the rotund figure, the frame
and habit of the traditional Boniface, seemed at last to have fallen
into his proper groove, where he fitted exactly. Now nearly fifty years
of age, with a record of ten years' fighting any one might well be proud
of, a reputation not confined within the boundaries of his own country,
and with some of his children already married and settled around him,
he had good reason to consider himself a fixture at Brooklyn Green.

He had joined the Congregational Church, soon after the death of his
first wife, in 1765, and took a leading part in building the structure
that stands to-day near the site of the first meeting-house, which was
erected in 1734. It was in the year 1771 that the new church was
erected, opposite the house that Putnam turned into a tavern, and the
old tree that bore the sign of Wolfe. Church and trees remain to-day,
separated only by the public road; but the tavern itself no longer
exists, the building having been torn down some time ago.

In 1772, it was voted by the parish that "Colonel Putnam take care of ye
new meeting-house and ring ye bell," for which service he was to receive
three pounds a year. Thus the duties of sexton and bell-ringer were
assumed by this many-sided man; but he had not performed them long
before he was called to go on a strange voyage in quest of lands in
West Florida, which were reported to have been granted to the survivors
of the French-and-Indian wars. The claims of the survivors were just
enough; but their quest was fruitless, for they were not given the
lands. However, a band of "military adventurers" set out, under the
leadership of General Phineas Lyman, who had been in command of
Connecticut's troops all through the wars, and Landlord Putnam was one
of them.

Urged, perhaps, by his admirers to preserve some chronicle of his doings
this time (having been so neglectful in this respect in the past) our
hero actually began a journal, writing on the blank leaves of the
"orderly book" which he used in his Havana campaign. This book, doubly
interesting to the present generation, is still preserved by a lineal
descendant of Putnam, and attests to the fact that the soldier of many
wars was not equal to the intellectual effort of writing even a legible
diary of his doings. He soon gave it up, in fact; but the few entries
he made are exceedingly quaint and simple, as for example:

     "friday ye forst of jenauary, 1773--this Day no work don--went to
     Church.... satorday ye 2--this day taking in goods for ye
     voige--good weathor. thorsday ye 7--this was a varey good Day and
     had almost all completed. Satorday ye 9 of Jenauary--had all things
     on bord and ready for sailing But the wind was so much to ye south
     it would not Do."

At last the "military adventurers" got away. On the 30th of January they
touched in at Mole San Nicolas, island of Haiti, and a week later made
port at Montego Bay, Jamaica, where, according to the veracious diarist,
"we waited on ye mannegor of the plantation who treted us very
hamseley--walked with ous--shewed ous all ye Works and the mills to
grind ye _Cain_ and as we went thare was a dog atacked ye manegor and in
ye fight I tumbelled into won of the vats that was full of Liquer to
make rum of--shifted all my Cloths and went on borde."

They finally arrived at Pensacola, where, learning to their sorrow that
no lands had been granted them, they set out on a short exploring trip
of the Mississippi, by the way of New Orleans, which ended north of
Natchez, to which spot General Lyman later returned and founded a
settlement, where he passed his last days. The gallant adventurers
returned to Pensacola, thence sailed to New York, where they arrived the
first week in August, 1773.

It was Colonel Putnam's intention to invest in lands on the Mississippi,
it is believed, but the events that shaped toward and brought about the
Revolution were yearly getting more exciting, intense, and his soldier
instinct was aroused. He keenly watched the trend of events, he
discussed in his tavern the exciting news of the day with visitors from
all parts of the country, and his convictions were becoming stronger and
stronger that something dire and dreadful was to happen.

The Boston massacre of the 5th of March, 1770, fired our hero almost to
a frenzy, and while there may have been men more eloquent in their
denunciations of the British soldiery, like Otis and Adams, there was
none more emphatic and in earnest. Between the massacre and the Boston
"Tea Party" in 1773, Putnam made his journey to the Mississippi; but he
was home, and as usual alert and anxious, when the latter event

From that moment he was most attentive to what was going on in Boston,
which was then the "danger spot" of the Colonies. He gave his time
freely to the anticipatory work of organizing his fellow citizens into
military companies and drilling them into proficiency, and he was made
chairman of the "Committee of Correspondence" for Brooklyn. As such he
bore to Boston, when the infamous "Port Bill" was passed, the
condolences and sympathy of his fellow citizens, in a letter eloquently
phrased, and--what was more satisfactory and substantial--the gift of a
flock of sheep.

"We send you," the committee wrote, "one hundred and twenty-five sheep
as a present from the inhabitants of Brooklyn, hoping thereby you will
stand more firm (if possible) in the glorious cause in which you are
embarked." And Israel Putnam, always the man for the emergency, always
ready to mount and away at a moment's notice, rode all the way to
Boston, driving that flock of sheep before him! When arrived there he
was not received as the farmer, the tavern-keeper, the drover, but as
the famous military man, hero of many battles, an American of renown. He
was the guest of Dr. Joseph Warren, the patriot who was killed at Bunker
Hill; but people of all classes and conditions united to do honor to
"the celebrated Colonel Putnam," one of the "greatest military
characters of the age," and "so well known throughout North America that
no words are necessary to inform the public any further concerning him
than that his generosity led him to Boston, to cherish his oppressed
brethren and support them by every means in his power." The newspapers
alluded to him as "the old hero, Putnam"; and yet he was only
fifty-four at the time, at the period of life in which a man should be
able to do his best work. "He looks fresh and hearty," wrote one of his
friends to another, "and on an emergency would be as likely to do good
business as ever."

And why not? Putnam himself might have asked this question, for he had
by no means reached his "grand climacteric," and was still ready,
willing--and able, as well--to fight the enemies of his country. He was
zealous in behalf of his fellow patriots, but during this visit to
Boston he found almost as many friends on the British side as on the
Colonial, including Governor Gage, with whom he had fought their common
enemies, the Indians. When one of them banteringly asked them whether he
was going to stand by the flag or the country he answered seriously, but
with perfect good nature: "I shall always be found on the side of my

"Now, Putnam," another asked him, "don't you seriously believe that a
well appointed British army of say five thousand veterans could march
through the whole continent of America?"

"No doubt," he promptly replied, "if they behaved civilly, and paid well
for what they wanted; but," he added, after a moment's pause, "if they
should attempt it in a hostile manner (though the men of America were
out of the question) the women would knock them all on the head with
their ladles and broomsticks!"



Ready and willing was Putnam--of that there is no doubt. Too willing,
some of his enemies declared, when in September, 1774, news coming from
Boston that American blood had been shed, without waiting to verify the
report, he started out to alarm the country. This proved a false alarm,
and he was strongly censured by those who had not kept a close watch on
happenings in Boston; but he defended himself so sturdily that his
critics were silenced. Two things were proved by this false alarm: that
the people were ready to be aroused on the slightest provocation, for
they filled the highways and flocked by thousands in the direction of
Boston; again, that the British intended to stay where they were, for
they extended their fortifications. Both sides were warned, and the
lines of demarcation began to be visible where before they had seemed
hardly to be distinguished, between loyalists and patriots. It was now
either for England or for America, even the common people felt, while
the leaders, like Israel Putnam, saw in the closer approach of warlike
preparations only the fulfilment of their predictions.

The very next month, October, 1774, the militia of Putnam's State were
ordered to provide themselves with an increased supply of powder,
bullets and flints for their muskets. More vigorously than ever now he
applied himself to the training of the sturdy militia; hoping for
continued peace, perhaps, but preparing for nothing less than war. When
war broke finally, with the first blood shed at Lexington, it found the
minutemen of New England better prepared than their enemies believed,
and when the news of this epoch-making event reached Israel Putnam, this
great exemplar of the minutemen proved a model worthy their emulation.

The messenger with the doleful tidings found him plowing in the field
back of his house at Brooklyn Green. His son Daniel was with him
driving the oxen, and when the patriot had gathered the full meaning of
the news he left the boy to unyoke the team, and himself hastened to his
barn, where he saddled and mounted his best horse and started out to
arouse the country again, as he had done seven months before. He had no
doubts this time as to the truth of the rumor, for it had come direct
and contained its own confirmation on its face.

The British, eight hundred strong, had left Boston for Concord, where
they hoped to find some military stores. Encountering a small body of
militia at Lexington, Major Pitcairn, in command of the British
soldiers, called out to them to throw down their arms and disperse; but
as they did not do so he ordered his men to fire, killing eight of the
sturdy Americans, who even then did not run away, but joined themselves
to other minutemen now assembling, and again came in contact with their
foes at Concord Bridge. Just how many were slain the first message did
not accurately report; but it was enough that blood had been shed, and
it mattered not whether that blood was from ten men or a thousand.

The die was cast, the moment for armed resistance had arrived, and
Israel Putnam tarried not for details, but sped straight for the home of
Governor Trumbull, at Lebanon (the same who was afterward known as
"Brother Jonathan"), and receiving from him mandatory permission to
proceed to the scene of strife, hastened back to Brooklyn, arriving at
his tavern home late in the afternoon. He had already been in the saddle
for hours, as the news reached him between eight and nine in the
morning, but before sunset the tireless warrior was again on horseback
and galloping for Cambridge and Concord. He probably had received
refreshment, food and drink at intervals, but he had not stopped to
change his working clothes for better, and went off on both long rides
in the farmer's frock which he wore when plowing in the field behind his

Though the Putnam mansion at Brooklyn Green is no longer in existence,
the great trees that stood in front of it in his time still cast their
grateful shade upon its site, and the walled field, sloping toward a
verdant meadow, may be seen by the visitor, much as it lay to the sun on
that lovely morning in April, 1775, when the farmer-patriot was
peacefully running his furrows.

The distance to Cambridge was nearly ninety miles, yet Putnam covered it
in an all-night's ride, going pretty much over the same ground he had
traversed when, a young man of twenty-two, he had taken his wife and
child to their new home in Connecticut. Thirty-five years had elapsed
since the young pioneer had made his first venture in the world, ten of
which he had passed in fighting for the King against whose soldiers he
was soon to lead his fellow countrymen in war. Trained to fight the
battles of Britain, yet those ten years of experience in warfare with
the Indians were to prepare him for a wider, vaster field. He must now
have felt this, his patriot friends must have believed it, for their
eyes were turned expectantly toward Israel Putnam, as soon as the first
blood was shed at Lexington and Concord.

See that sturdy figure, hurrying on horseback over the rough roads,
through the darkness of the night, toward the goal of duty! The British
had marched out of Boston at night, on the eighteenth of April, their
purpose and their route foretold by Paul Revere (who, by the way, was in
the campaign at Lake George, if not a comrade of Israel Putnam at that
time). At or near daybreak of the nineteenth, at Lexington, the shots
were fired "heard round the world"; at noon the British were in retreat
from Concord, where they had been routed by the minutemen, and by night,
exhausted, disgraced, defeated, they had reached Charlestown, under the
escort of Lord Percy and his 1,200 reenforcements, where they were
protected from the enraged militia by the guns of the fleet.

With such celerity traveled the news, that Putnam heard it on the
morning of the twentieth; and with such celerity traveled Putnam, that
he was at Cambridge _on the morning of the twenty-first_, and that same
day at Concord, wonderful as may seem the feat performed by gallant
horse and rider.

In the custody of the Connecticut Historical Society, at Hartford, the
original of the following letter may be found, which attests to Putnam's
arrival at Concord on the twenty-first, and to the use he made of his

     Concord, April 21, 1775.

     Col. Williams, Sir

     I have waited on the com'tee of the Provisional Congress and it is
     there Determination to have a standing Armey of twenty-two thousand
     Men from the New England colonys of wh'h it is soposed the coloney
     of Conecticut must raise Six Thousand and beg they would be on
     Parade at Cambridge as Speedy as may be with conveniency together
     with Provisions and Sufficiency of amonition for there own use, the
     Battle hear is much as represented at Pomfrett--Except that there
     is more killed and a Number taken Prisoners--The accounts are at
     Present so confused that it is Impossible to assertain the number
     exact. Shall inform you of the Prossedings from Time to Time as we
     have New occurencys.

     mean Time I am Sir yr very Humble Servt

     Israel Putnam.

     N.B. The Throop of Horse is not Expected to come on till further

     Sir. Being in hast and cannot write Disire a copy of this to be
     transmitted to Governor Trumble.

     A true copy, Ebenezer Williams.

     Pomfret, April 22, 1775.

In the Lexington-Concord fight, the first engagement between British and
native Americans, the former lost two hundred and seventy-three, and the
latter about one hundred, in killed and wounded, twenty-three towns
being represented among the wounded and slain. "It was not a great fight
in itself, but it was great, and even grand, in its consequences. On
that day a nation was born. Then the American learned for the first time
how to stand and fight for their own liberties."

The rallying minutemen flocked to the scene of the encounter, springing
to arms without a thought of consequences, rising to the defense of
their homes as one man, and within a week there were sixteen thousand
men investing the demoralized enemy at Boston. Their alacrity in
assembling at the common rendezvous has been a matter of wonder ever
since, for nearly all marched on foot, without the assistance of horses
or steam. The writer of these lines had an ancestor who was foremost
among those minutemen hurrying to the defense of liberty, and who, it is
a tradition in his family, ran nearly all the way from Beverly, twenty
miles distant, with his flint-lock on his shoulder. Hence, as all were
equally prompt in leaping at the enemy's throat, Putnam's remarkable
feat was not at the time considered extraordinary.

In a few days our hero was at home again, having been called to Hartford
by the legislators, who were desirous of consulting with their most
experienced warrior, and bestowed upon him the rank and title of
brigadier-general. All these events took place within the space of a
week's time, and before another week had passed Brigadier-General Putnam
was in headquarters at Cambridge, occupying a house which stood within
the present grounds of Harvard University. General Artemus Ward, of
Massachusetts, was commander-in-chief of the forces, having been
commissioned by the Provincial Congress; but Putnam was the greater
favorite with the soldiers, in whose vocabulary (to paraphrase a saying
common at the time) "the British were the Philistines, and Putnam, the
American Samson, a chosen instrument to defeat the foe."

It is a matter of record that General Ward relied upon the advice of his
old friend, with whom he had fought, under Abercrombie, at Ticonderoga,
and kept him always within call at headquarters. Had he followed his
advice more closely, however, it would have been better for their sacred
cause, as was shown in the crucial test at the battle of Bunker Hill,
when Putnam's repeated requests for reenforcements were at first denied,
then so hesitatingly granted that they proved of small avail.

To Putnam, then, and not to Ward, the officers and men of the assembled
militia looked for advice and encouragement. They were quite naturally
doubtful as to the result of their hasty action, and as most of them had
never been under fire they were timid and even down-hearted. But Putnam
was continually engaged in arousing both their patriotism and their
hopes. When General Warren asked him (wrote Putnam's son Daniel, many
years later) "if 10,000 British troops should march out of Boston, what
number, in his opinion, would be competent to meet them, the answer was,
'Let me pick my officers, and I would not fear to meet them with half
that number--not in a pitched battle, to stop them at once, for no
troops are better than the British--but I would fight on the retreat,
and every wall we passed should be lined with the dead!'"

"Our men," the General said on another occasion, "would always follow
wherever their officers led--I know this to have been the case with
mine, and have also seen it in other instances." And as Putnam's record
had long since proved that he always led, and asked no man to approach
nearer the foe than he himself was willing to go, the soldiers were
enthusiastic for "Old Wolf Put," the fighter, though lukewarm in their
feelings toward the commander.

They did not admire the methods Putnam employed to keep them out of
mischief--these raw and undisciplined militia, accustomed to do as they
liked and to take orders from no man--for he kept them actively employed
all the time. "It is better to dig a ditch every morning, and fill it up
at evening, than to have the men idle," said Old Put, and though the men
grumbled the results soon showed that he was right.

What they also needed more than anything else was confidence, and, in
order to inspire that, he paraded some two thousand of them through
Charlestown over the hills soon to become world-famous, and right in
sight of the enemy. He did this several times, and on one occasion took
with him his son Daniel, who wrote of it afterward: "I felt proud to be
numbered among what I then thought to be a mighty host destined for some
great enterprise."

Daniel was then only fifteen years of age, yet he performed a man's
work, proving himself worthy of his parentage, and was his father's
aide-de-camp and companion. During the progress of the battle at Bunker
Hill he acted as the guard and defender of a British refugee's wife and
family, and stoutly did his duty, boy that he was.

Perhaps the highest tribute paid to Putnam's prowess was the offer of
his old-time friend and comrade, General Gage, the British
commander-in-chief, to pay him a large sum of money, and secure him a
major-generalcy in the British army, if he would desert the "rebel"
cause and come over to that of the King. Putnam spurned this offer, of
course, as did sturdy Colonel Stark, another comrade of the Indian wars,
and several others. He was all the more active, if possible, in seeking
out the enemy's weak points and in attempts to reduce his supplies.

An opportunity offered, some time in the last week of May, both to annoy
the enemy and gain substantial recompense for a somewhat hazardous
adventure. Several hundred sheep and cattle were in pasture on Hog and
Noddles islands (the latter now East Boston), and as it was feared that
the British might secure them before the Colonials did, a small force
was sent to drive them to the mainland. It was sent by Putnam, whose
great and burning desire for a "brush" with the enemy was now about to
be gratified, and as a party of marines on guard over the live-stock
fired on the Americans, Putnam hastened to their rescue with a larger

A British sloop and schooner then joined in the fight; but the Colonials
turned their single cannon upon the craft, and soon disabled the larger
vessel, which drifted ashore and, after the crew had been either shot or
driven away, was set on fire. In this engagement ten or fifteen British
were killed and wounded, but no Provincial lost his life, though two or
three of Putnam's men were wounded. They fought with great spirit,
wading in water from knee to waist deep, and not only brought off all
the live-stock in safety, but also took away the guns, rigging and sails
of the schooner, as well as some clothes and money left by the sailors
in their flight. This brisk engagement gave the raw soldiers just the
confidence they needed, and they returned in high spirits to their camp.

"I wish we could have something of this kind to do every day," remarked
Putnam to Ward and Warren, as he reached his headquarters, where they
were waiting for him to appear. "It would teach our men how little
danger there is from cannon-balls; for though they have sent a great
many at us, nobody has been much hurt by them." He was wet from head to
foot, and covered with mud to his waist; but he did not mind that at
all, and was as hilarious as a boy just let out from school.

The British were greatly chagrined at this second defeat, the first
engagement after the Concord-Lexington fight, but at an exchange of
prisoners, conducted, on the one hand, under Putnam and Warren, and on
the other under Majors Small and Moncrief, the sixth of June, no ill
feeling was shown. Putnam and Small (whose life the former was
instrumental in saving at Bunker Hill, and who were old
companions-at-arms), embraced, and one eye-witness said, kissed each
other, in the excess of their joy at meeting; yet less than two weeks
later they were opposed in a fight to the death.



General Putnam was greatly elated over the exchange of prisoners,
recognizing, with the prescience of a statesman, that General Gage had
conceded a point of importance as to the status of his opponents. "He
may _call_ us rebels now, if he will," he said to his son, "but why then
doesn't he hang his prisoners instead of exchanging them? By this act he
has virtually placed us on an equality, and acknowledged our _right_ of
resistance." That was one point gained by the general; another was, the
consent of the Committee of Safety to his plan of operations against the
British in Boston.

General Ward and Dr. Warren were in favor of moderation, and opposed to
the scheme advanced by Putnam, of forcing the enemy to either fight or
retire. They urged that they had no battering cannon and but little
powder, there being but sixty-seven barrels in the whole army, and no
mills to make any more when that was gone. And again, they feared for
the steadiness of the men, once they found themselves opposed by the
best of Britain's soldiers. But Putnam was persistent, not in advocating
the bombarding of Boston, or of a large expenditure of powder and ball
in trying to force the British from their position; but in fortifying
the heights of Dorchester and Charlestown, which completely commanded
the city.

He knew the British mode of attack and defense, knew their tactics
through long observation in the ranks; and yet for him and his
compatriots those same British professed to feel naught but contempt.
They had always ignored the Provincials' claims to advancement on equal
terms with their own officers; they thought their soldiers in the Indian
wars were boorish and uncouth, merely because they paid little attention
to dress or discipline; yet here was one of those least regardful of
appearances (though an advocate of discipline) who knew them and their
tactics through and through. And he also knew the men of his command
better than any officers of inferior rank knew them. His one cry was,
"fight, fight; bring our men into contact with the enemy, in order that
they shall gain confidence and learn that they are really their equals,
and more than that. Fight and entrench, entrench and fight; run away
when it comes to a pinch, fight while you run; but fight!"

"But will our men stand before an enemy?" queried the timid ones. "Yes,
they will," declared Putnam with a laugh. "Our troops are not all afraid
of their heads, though very much concerned for their _legs_, and if you
cover these they'll fight forever!" In other words, put them behind
entrenchments, and he would pit them against the finest fighters that
could be brought against them. The result at Bunker Hill was a
vindication of his belief.

As Putnam had all along declared, it was in the nature of an
impossibility for sixteen thousand armed men to besiege ten thousand
other armed men without something happening partaking of violence. The
war was "on," there was no doubt of that, why then hesitate at warlike
measures? Still the commander-in-chief hesitated and paltered, while
Putnam fumed, but labored hard.

What Putnam had advocated as the highest strategy, the seizing of some
height commanding the British position, was forced upon the irresolute
commander-in-chief by the British themselves. Shortly after General
Gage's four thousand soldiers had been reenforced by six thousand more,
under Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne, the Americans learned that the enemy
intended to take and fortify the heights of Charlestown or Dorchester
themselves. As it was then the sixteenth of June, and their move was to
be made on the eighteenth, there was no time to lose if they were to be
forestalled; so orders were issued by the Committee of Safety,
sanctioned by a council of war, for taking possession of Bunker Hill in

A detail of a thousand men was made from three Massachusetts regiments,
to which, in order to placate General Putnam, two hundred Connecticut
soldiers were added under his friend, Captain Knowlton. This small body
of militia, with a few field pieces as artillery, was to sally forth to
rouse the British lion in his lair. The detachment was placed under
Colonel William Prescott, of Massachusetts, General Putnam "having the
general superintendence of the expedition," and about nine o'clock at
night, after having been paraded on Cambridge Common, and listened to
prayer by the president of Harvard College, this devoted band set forth
on its mysterious mission.

Striding ahead of his men, all of whom had perfect confidence in their
beloved officer, Colonel Prescott led the way, accompanied by two
sergeants carrying lanterns. Not until they had reached the foot of
Bunker Hill, where they found entrenching tools awaiting them which had
been sent ahead in wagons, did the rank and file know the object of
their march in the night; yet they faltered not, nor displayed a
disposition to retreat. Their leaders knew, of course; but even they
were in doubt, when once arrived at Charlestown, which of its eminences
to select. Their orders explicitly indicated Bunker Hill as the one to
fortify, but, "though this was the most commanding and most defensible
position, it was too far from the enemy to annoy their army and
shipping." Situated nearer the British general position was another
elevation, Breed's Hill; but this was only sixty-two feet in height, as
compared with Bunker Hill's one hundred and ten. This was finally
selected, but only after a long consultation, which lasted until near
midnight, when the veteran military engineer, Colonel Gridley (who had
been awaiting the decision in great anxiety, owing to the loss of
valuable time), at once proceeded to lay out the works.

On the summit of Breed's Hill the skilled engineer quickly ran the lines
of that world-famous redoubt in which our immortal freemen inflicted a
technical defeat upon Britain's bravest soldiers. It was planned and
constructed with a redan facing Charlestown which protected the south
side of the hill, and was only about eight rods square, continued by a
breastwork on its eastern side, from which it was separated by a
sallyport protected in front by a "blind," with a passage-way opening
rearward as a provision for retreat. The men were given picks and
shovels, and at once bent to their task with feverish energy. Scant four
hours they had before them, when daylight would reveal them and their
position to the enemy, for June's longest days and shortest nights were
near, with daylight at four in the morning. They all labored for their
lives, both officers and men, and toiled without cessation to the end.
The night was dark, but the stars shone bright, and by their light
Colonel Prescott and another officer, Major Brooks, stole down to the
shore to observe the enemy, where they were reassured by the "All's
well" from the British sentries on board the ships off shore.

All was not well--for them--most assuredly; but it was not until the
morning mists rolled away from the rounded summits of the hills in front
that they found it out. Then they might well gaze in wrath and wonder,
beholding that work as if of enchantment going on before them, on that
hill-top within short cannon-shot of their shipping. But they did not
spend much time in rubbing their eyes and in vain speculation, being
well assured at a glance that the "rascally American militia" had stolen
a march upon them in the night and brought all their plans to naught.

A brisk cannonade was opened from the war-ships upon the weary, toiling
men in the entrenchment; but they still worked on, incited to their
utmost by the gallant Prescott, who himself is said to have lent a hand
with pick and shovel. General Putnam's predictions as to their coolness
under fire were more than verified, and had he been there then he would
have been surprised at their indifference to the cannonading now going
on so furiously. One man only was killed in this preliminary firing, and
he had strayed outside the breastwork.

"Man killed, what shall we do with him?" asked a subaltern of Prescott.

"Bury him," was the laconic answer; and buried he was, in the ditch,
while the work on the redoubt went on.

General Putnam was not on the hill when the cannon-fire began, having
gone back to camp to change his tired horse for a fresher one; for his
gait, says the historian, was always fast and furious. At the first
report, however, he pricked up his ears and sent to Commander Ward for
another horse; but before his orderly returned, he had procured still
another and was already on his way to Charlestown. He had tried to
procure for his men not only reenforcements but refreshments, for they
had taken with them only one day's rations. In this he was disappointed,
General Ward refusing to send over any more men, at that time,
believing the British would take advantage of his weakened force to make
a direct attack upon the main army at Cambridge. But when, having
arrived at the hill, Putnam conversed with Prescott and noted the
necessitous condition of the men, he again mounted and in hot haste rode
back to Cambridge, with an urgent plea to the commander for assistance.
This time it was not refused, and again gallant Putnam rode across
Charlestown Neck, at the risk of his life, to take part in the coming

Meanwhile, there was a great commotion in the British camps, and from
their place of vantage on Breed's Hill the patriots could see the
gathering soldiers marching for the shore. General Gage had quickly
called a council, which instantly decided that the patriots must be
dislodged at whatever cost. As the prescient Putnam had foretold, the
occupation of a hill so near their lines made their position untenable.
They must move out or fight, and not even Putnam believed they would
retreat from their snug quarters in Boston town. He knew well what was
coming, and was not at all surprised to see, gathering beneath the
blazing morning sun of the torrid day that had succeeded to a sultry
night, the thousands of redcoats, armed and equipped for battle.

After informing the anxious soldiers on the hill of the promised succor
to arrive, Putnam rode along the lines and, casting his eye over the
situation, perceived that it would be a grave strategic omission to
neglect to entrench the hill in the rear, which was the original object
of their advance. As the main redoubt was then practically completed,
and the men were resting from their toil, he ordered the entrenching
tools to be taken to Bunker Hill, and another work begun which might
serve as a "rallying place" in case they were compelled to retreat--as
undoubtedly they would be. This entrenchment was begun but never
finished, owing to the lack of time. Had it been completed, and had the
men been able to avail of its defenses, there might have been a
different tale to tell of the final finish at Bunker Hill. But noon had
now arrived, the British frigates and floating batteries were by this
time not only raining shot like hail upon and around the redoubt, but
sending a scathing fire across the Neck, under cover of which
barge-loads of soldiers were landing on the peninsula preparatory to an

Noon came, but not the reenforcements which had been promised by General
Ward, so General Putnam "seized the opportunity of hastening to
Cambridge, whence he returned without delay. He had to pass a galling
enfilading fire of round, bar, and chain shot, which thundered across
the Neck from a frigate in the Charles River, and two floating batteries
hauled close to the shore," wrote one who had conversed with
eye-witnesses of this scene. The neck, or narrow passage-way between the
Charles and Mystic Rivers, was only about one hundred and thirty yards
across and exposed to that terrible cannonade; yet over it flew the
reckless rider, coat off, in shirt-sleeves, an old white hat on his
head; back and forth he rode, fearless and unscathed. The great painter
Trumbull, who produced the celebrated picture of the Battle of Bunker
Hill, which has excited the admiration of thousands, represented General
Putnam conspicuously placed in that scene, but arrayed in an immaculate
uniform, with ruffles and frills, and such like accessories which "Old
Put" would have spurned.

Still, the _man_ was there, if not the uniform. His appointment as
major-general was dated two days after that memorable 17th of June; but
he was then, as brigadier-general, the ranking officer present, until
brave Warren appeared upon the scene. The latter was discovered by
Putnam just as he was wheeling about after meeting and posting the
gallant Colonel Stark and his New Hampshire reenforcements behind the
rail fence and grass breastwork, where they gave such a good account of
themselves that day. Turning about, he saw the slender figure of the
newly-made major-general before him, a sword at his side, but a musket
on his shoulder.

"What, Warren, you here?" he is said to have exclaimed. "I am sorry to
see you ... but I'm ready to submit myself to your orders."

"No, no, I came only as a volunteer," replied Warren. "Tell me where I
can be most useful."

Pointing to the redoubt, Putnam said, "You will be protected there."

"I am not seeking a place of safety," rejoined Warren with warmth; "tell
me where the onset will be most furious."

"There," answered Putnam. "That will be the enemy's object. Prescott is
there and will do his duty; if that can be defended, the day will be

The shouts of the soldiers announced to Putnam the arrival of Warren in
their midst, and not long after another cheer proclaimed the arrival of
an old friend and comrade of his, Colonel Seth Pomeroy, a veteran of the
Indian wars, who, twenty years before, had succeeded to the command of
Colonel Ephraim Williams's regiment at the battle of Lake George. He had
been aroused by the tidings from the seat of war, and though, like
Putnam, he lived nearly or quite a hundred miles away, he had hastened
to be in the thick of the fight. He had borrowed a horse from General
Ward, but, with characteristic Yankee caution, had left it the other
side of the Neck, in charge of a sentry, and had walked over, amid the
hail of shot from the frigates and batteries.

Pomeroy and Putnam would have made a good pair to represent Valor and
Intrepidity, were statues desired for those noble qualities. When Putnam
saw him he cried out: "You here, Pomeroy? By God! a cannon-shot would
waken you out of your grave!" He was in his seventieth year, having been
born in 1706, and twelve years Putnam's senior.

So they gathered, the young and the old, the learned doctor and the
practical mechanic, for the defense of Freedom--a magnet that drew both
Pomeroy and Warren to that since-famous redoubt on the summit of Breed's
Hill. They offered their services to Colonel Prescott, and he gladly
accepted them, demurring as to Warren, and tendering him the command,
which was his by right of rank. But the patriot simply said, as before,
that he had come to fight as a volunteer, and at once mingled with the
men within the redoubt.

The movements of the British were slow, and mid-afternoon had arrived
before the agonizing suspense was over and they began their advance up
the hill. The eager Americans were hardly to be kept behind their
earthworks, much less restrained from firing at the advancing foe, as
the solid ranks came marching up the acclivity, ominously silent, with
deadly intent. But Putnam was with them, riding slowly up and down the

"Don't waste your powder, boys," he shouted. "Wait for orders, then fire
low, take aim at their waistbands. Aim at the handsome coats, pick off
the commanders!" They did as commanded, only a few anticipating orders,
and at the fatal command, "Fire!" the ranks in front of them melted away
like snow before the sun.

It was the same at the breastwork as at the redoubt, and at the second
or third volley the remaining redcoats broke and fled promiscuously down
the hill. It was not in the nature of even the bravest men to march to
certain destruction, and General Howe had difficulty in re-forming his
defeated troops for a second assault; but on they came, the intrepid
Howe in advance and on foot, until within even a shorter distance of
redoubt, breastwork, and rail fence, when a sheet of flame burst forth
that carried all before it to destruction.

The scene outspread from the hill was perfectly appalling, and, to add
to the terrors of thunderous artillery, from frigates, floating
batteries and field-pieces, clouds of smoke came pouring out from
Charlestown, which had been set on fire, enveloping the contestants, at
first, in semi-obscurity. It was the intention of the British, in
setting fire to Charlestown, to veil their movements as they marched up
the hill; but this was frustrated by the rising wind, which carried the
smoke aloft and away.

In the second advance, as in the first, the soldiers were led by General
Howe, who seemed, like Putnam, to bear a charmed life, at this time
having all his staff officers killed or wounded but one. For the
Provincials had strictly obeyed Putnam's orders, to pick off the men in
handsome coats. He himself was touched to the heart.

"Oh, my God, what carnage!" he cried, as he saw his former friends and
comrades fall before the withering blast. Seeing several of his men
aiming their pieces at the only officer remaining unhurt, he darted
forward and struck up their muskets, exclaiming: "For God's sake, lads,
don't fire at that man! I love him as I do my brother." It was Major
Small, a former companion of the Indian wars, who owed his life to
Putnam's intervention, and who afterward tried to requite the
favor--though vainly--when brave Warren fell, by entreating him to

The sword with which Old Put struck up the muskets of his men was always
visible in the thickest of the fight, waving in air, descending with
resounding whacks--the flat of it--upon recreant soldiers' shoulders;
held threateningly against the breast of cowardly artillerymen, when,
their cartridges proving inadequate, they were about abandoning their

The little field-pieces were too puny to do much harm, but they counted
for something, Putnam said, as he tore a cartridge in pieces and,
ladling the powder and canister into the gun, aimed and discharged it
into the advancing ranks of the foe, with effect. But all was of no
avail. The Americans had good cause to believe the enemy had had enough;
but Putnam knew the foe and cautioned them against overconfidence. True
to his predictions, they reformed for a third charge upon the hill, led,
as before, by the gallant Howe, and this time, as the Provincials had
nearly exhausted their supply of ammunition, they were forced to

Yet nearer than before, the British were allowed to approach, and, with
their artillery enfilading the redoubt and the breastwork with deadly
effect, the brave Provincials waited till they were within twenty yards
before they fired their last rounds into the foe. Then they clubbed
their muskets, dashed stones into the faces of the foe, fighting hand to
hand, as the British poured over the earthworks in a stream. Seeing his
forlorn position, Prescott ordered a retreat, and his men sullenly
obeyed, fighting to the last, stubbornly contesting every foot.

Down below, on the slope near the Neck, was the infuriated Putnam, doing
his utmost to urge forward the belated reenforcements. When he saw the
onpouring mass of men in retreat he was wild with rage. "Halt, you
infernal cowards!" he yelled. "Halt here and make a stand. We can stop
them yet!" But he was overborne by the resistless stream, and with an
impious imprecation on his lips he dismounted, near a field-piece, "and
seemed resolved to brave the foe alone." One man only, a sergeant, took
his stand beside him, but he was soon shot down, and brave Old Put was
left without support. "The enemy's bayonets were just upon him when he
retired," probably the last unwounded warrior to retreat from Bunker



The battle had been fought, and had resulted even better than the then
enraged Putnam himself could have anticipated, for although technically
defeated, the Provincials had achieved a real victory, the fruits of
which were to be enjoyed by generations then unborn. For they had
conquered themselves as well as the enemy, whom they had met with calm
confidence; and had they been better supplied with ammunition, that
enemy would never have seen the inside of the redoubt and the

British bayonets defeated them finally, as opposed to clubbed muskets
and stones cast by despairing men, whose very last thought was of
retreat. Many and many a man besides Prescott and Putnam, Stark and
Pomeroy, Knowlton and McClary, raged like wolves that day at its ending,
to find themselves compelled to accept a retreat as the alternative of
capture or death. Like lions making for their lairs in the hills,
Prescott and Putnam gave way at last before the overwhelming forces of
the enemy; and, after passing through the storm of cannon-balls still
hurtling across the Neck, they had leisure to count up their losses; for
the British were too exhausted, too much in awe of their prowess, even,
to pursue.

It was a very good showing for green troops, that which told the
respective losses of British and Americans: more than a thousand of the
former, as against less than five hundred of the latter. Each side lost,
in killed and wounded, about one-third the total number of its men, for
the British brought about four thousand five hundred troops into the
field; while the Americans in active conflict, including such
reenforcements as reached the hill, scarcely exceeded fifteen hundred.

A very good showing, a "great victory"--yet purchased at fearful cost
to both sides. A host of British officers, many of them bearing names
distinguished for valor and honorable lineage, went down before the
volleys of the Provincials, while the latter had also a sorrowful tale
to tell. Warren had fallen, one of the last to leave the redoubt; old
Pomeroy had his musket shattered, but drew off in good order, taking it
along with him for repairs; McClary was killed by a cannon-ball, while
boasting that the shot was not cast that would end his life; and so the
story went.

One of the strangest happenings was the end of Major Pitcairn, who had
ordered the first shots fired at Lexington, and who, one of the first
over the redoubt, was killed by a negro soldier named Salem, falling
into the arms of his son. It came about, some time after, that the
pistols he had carried at Lexington (which were taken from his holsters
when his horse was shot under him, and he lay on the ground feigning
himself dead) were presented to General Putnam. He carried them through
all his subsequent campaigns, and at present they may be found in the
custody of the Library at Lexington.

One field-piece only was saved out of six guns taken by the Provincials
into battle, and it was near the last one left in the field that the
enraged Putnam took his stand, between his retreating men and the
advancing foe, until "his countrymen were in momentary expectation of
seeing this compeer of the immortal Warren fall."

That was Putnam: one of the first in the field, the last to leave it. We
have seen (as all his biographers and many historians have agreed in
stating) that he took a most active part throughout, exposing himself
continually to the shots of the enemy, guiding, directing, leading; and
that no man's commands were so eagerly received and so promptly obeyed
as his. And yet there are cavilers who have raised the question as to
whether he or Prescott commanded at the battle of Bunker Hill--as though
it mattered much. Both were sons of Massachusetts, and Putnam an
adoptive son of Connecticut, fighting on Massachusetts soil.

It is certain that neither he nor Prescott gave a thought to this
matter, especially at the time the balls flew thickest.[2] They may have
had differences of opinion, as, for instance, when Putnam attempted to
take away some of Prescott's men from the redoubt to throw up earthworks
on Bunker Hill. Subsequent events proved that Putnam's scheme of defense
was the right one, and only lack of time and men prevented its being
carried out.

[Footnote 2: "Putnam," says Irving, in his Life of Washington, "also was
a leading spirit throughout the affair; one of the first to prompt and
the last to maintain it. He appears to have been active and efficient at
every point, sometimes fortifying, sometimes hurrying up reenforcements;
inspiriting the men by his presence while they were able to maintain
their ground, and fighting gallantly at the outpost to cover their

As soon as once assured that the defeat of the Provincials was
overwhelming, Putnam lost no time in entrenching at Prospect Hill, the
first spot at which he could halt his fleeing troops. Here he stayed,
working like a beaver and digging like a badger, and this strategic
position, which he had seized and selected almost intuitively, he
continued to occupy until appointed to the command of the center
division of the army at Cambridge, where, on July 2, 1775, he for the
first time met General Washington, who had come with his appointment as
Commander-in-Chief recently received from the Continental Congress.

Not long after formally taking command of the army, beneath the historic
elm at Cambridge, Washington made a tour of the fortifications and was
astonished at the progress Putnam had made at Prospect Hill, as well as
at the military skill he had shown in taking and fortifying it. Two days
later he presented him with his commission as a _Major-General_ in the
Continental Army, which had been unanimously bestowed by Congress on the
19th of June, two days after the battle of Bunker Hill, and which he
received on the 4th of July. Putnam's commission was the only one then
presented in person by Washington, though three others had been
appointed major-generals under him: Lee, Ward, and Schuyler. A great
deal of jealousy and heart-burning resulted from the appointments, one
of the brigadiers, General Spencer, over whom Putnam had been advanced,
threatening to resign.

In these days began the friendship which existed between the
Commander-in-Chief and Major-General Putnam during the remainder of
their lives. Putnam's honesty, industry, frankness, and integrity
interested General Washington, who was delighted with this bluff old
soldier who wore his laurels so modestly. "You'll find," wrote a
contemporary to a friend, "that Generals Washington and Lee are vastly
fonder and think higher of Putnam than any man in the army; and he truly
is the hero of the day!"

On the 6th of July, 1775, the Continental Congress sent out its formal
Statement, which was read at headquarters in Cambridge on the 15th, and
to Putnam's division, then at Prospect Hill, on the 18th. At the same
time the new standard recently sent from Connecticut was unfurled, to
the acclaim of a mighty "_Amen!_" and the thunder of cannon from the
fort. The commotion aroused the British in their dearly-bought
stronghold over at Charlestown. In the language of the Essex Gazette,
proclaiming this event: "The Philistines on Bunker Hill heard the shouts
of the _Israelites_, and being very fearful, paraded themselves in
battle array."

Putnam's bold stand at Prospect Hill, so promptly taken and so stoutly
maintained, kept the enemy within the territory they had purchased with
the blood of their best soldiers, and they never advanced any farther
into the country they coveted. The lines of investment around Boston
were drawn closer and made more nearly impregnable, yet weeks and months
went by without any material change in the relative positions of British
and Provincials, save that Putnam still kept on digging, and creeping
nearer and nearer to the foe. By fortifying Cobble Hill, an elevation
that more completely commanded the Charles than his main fortress at
Prospect Hill, Putnam was enabled to open fire upon the British
men-of-war and floating batteries, and soon silenced and drove them
away. Not satisfied with this achievement, a few days later his men were
at work upon an entrenchment within half a mile and under the fire of a
British man-of-war, a squad of these intrepid soldiers being commanded
by his eldest son, Israel.

The British were now alarmed, and doubtless believed, in the language of
a writer commenting on these events, that "every fort which was defended
by General Putnam might be considered as impregnable, if daring courage
and intrepidity could always resist superior force."

Still, while the British feared to advance upon the Americans, the
latter, though eager to drive them out of their stronghold, were unable
to do so from lack of artillery and ammunition. This lack was to some
extent supplied by the capture of some ordnance ships by our gallant
privateers, though as late as January, 1776, one of the Provincial
colonels wrote to another: "The bay is open; everything thaws here
except Old Put. He is still as hard as ever, crying out for
_powder--powder_--ye gods, give us powder!"

Cannon-balls, several hundred of them, he had secured (if we may credit
a story told at the time) by conspicuously posting some of his men on an
elevation in front of a sandy hill in sight of a British war-ship, from
which by this ingenious ruse he drew a rain of shot, which supplied his
needs for the time being, as they were afterward easily dug out of the

Among the captures by the privateers was a 13-inch brass mortar weighing
nearly three thousand pounds, which was taken to Cambridge, where
(according to the same veracious narrator of the "powder cry," the witty
Provincial colonel), it was the occasion of a great jubilation. "To
crown the glorious scene," he says, "there intervened one truly
ludicrous, which was Old Put mounted on the large mortar, which was
fixed in its bed for the occasion, with a bottle of rum in his hand,
standing parson to christen, while godfather Mifflin, the
quartermaster-general, gave it the name of Congress!"

Old Put never lost a chance for fun and frolic, though he was as stern a
disciplinarian as Washington himself, who, however, must have been
greatly shocked at this horse-play in which his favorite General took
part. But the rank and file were delighted; and it was the possession of
just such qualities, of hilarious good-humor combined with sturdy
common-sense, that made Old Put a universal favorite. For dignity he
cared nothing at all; for discipline he was a "stickler"; and, as the
men hated the one as much as they disliked the other, yet loved and
admired their rough-and-ready General intensely, Putnam proved the
coherent factor in the combination that held the army together. At
another "truly ludicrous" scene, somewhat later, in which Putnam was one
of the participants, the dignified Commander-in-Chief is said to have
laughed until his sides ached. Looking from a window of his chamber in
the Craigie mansion, one morning, Washington perceived Putnam
approaching on horseback, with a very stout lady mounted behind his
saddle, and riding as if for dear life. The woman was an accessory of a
British spy, whom Putnam had arrested, and had brought to his commander
to be disciplined. It was a long while before Washington could recover
his countenance sufficiently to proceed with the business.

At last, after months of waiting, the arrival of General Knox with
fifty-five cannon and a quantity of ammunition, which, with magnificent
daring, he had collected and brought from the forts on the frontier, put
the Provincials in possession of the means they needed for compelling
the British to retire. Following a council of war, Dorchester Heights
were occupied on the 4th of March, the attention of the enemy being
first diverted from the real object by a two-days' cannon-fire upon the
other side of the city, and after a futile attempt by General Howe to
assault the works erected by the Americans, on the 17th the British
hastily took to their ships.

Had this intended assault by the British taken place, Washington was
ready to make a direct attack upon Boston with the troops in two
divisions, under the command of General Putnam. At the last council of
war, it is narrated, when General Washington had requested Putnam to
give more attention to the matter in hand, he replied: "Oh, my dear
General, plan the battle to suit yourself, and I will fight it!"



The British had been forced out of Boston; they had embarked aboard
their fleet; but for more than a week they lingered in the outer harbor,
as if uncertain whither to go. While Washington was in doubt as to their
next movement, he shrewdly guessed that the city of New York, being so
advantageously situated, especially commanding communication with Canada
by the valley of the Hudson River, would be their ultimate, if not
immediate objective. He had already despatched thither General Lee, who
was planning defenses for the harbor; but as he desired Lee to command
in the South, he looked around for another man to take his place. Troops
were on the way, also, under Generals Heath and Sullivan, to be followed
by many more, and there was every indication that soon a large army
would be concentrated in and around New York.

Who to trust with this important command was a serious question for the
Commander-in-Chief, but he finally pitched upon Putnam, in whom he
seemed to have confidence, though with some misgivings which
foreshadowed the accuracy of his final estimate of the man. In a letter
treating of a similar situation, two months previously, Washington had
written to Congress: "General Putnam is a most valuable man and a fine
executive officer; but I do not know how he would conduct in a separate

But he resolved to entrust him with the command, and on the 29th of
March, only twelve days after the British had left, gave him his orders,
which concluded with this expression of confidence: "Your long service
and experience will, better than my particular directions at this
distance, point out to you the works most proper to be raised; and your
perseverance, activity, and zeal will lead you, without my recommending
it, to exert every nerve to disappoint the enemy's designs."

With his customary expedition, General Putnam lost no time in getting to
New York, arriving there on the 4th of April, whither he was followed by
Washington nine days later. The Commander-in-Chief found, when he
arrived, little to criticize and much to commend in what Putnam had
done, for he had already stopped the Tories from furnishing supplies to
the British fleet, had commenced to fortify Governor's Island and Red
Hook, increased the efficiency of the works on Brooklyn Heights,
barricaded the streets of New York with mahogany logs from the West
Indies, and organized a "navy" of schooners and whale-boats, to cruise
in the North and East rivers.

As Washington was absent much of the time in consultation with Congress
at Philadelphia, Putnam was practically in supreme command; yet his
arduous and important duties did not prevent him from attending a dinner
on the first anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. In a letter
written by an American officer describing this event, it is more than
intimated that he was ever ready to accommodate when called upon for a
song or a speech on such an occasion, for he says: "Our good General
Putnam got sick and went to his quarters before dinner was over, and we
missed him a marvel, as there is not a chap in the camp who can lead him
in the 'Maggie Lauder's song.'"

When in New York, Putnam's headquarters were on Bowling Green, where he
later had with him members of his family, including his wife, who had
also visited him at Cambridge, and had dispensed a generous hospitality
at the Inman mansion; while Mrs. Washington (with whom both Putnam and
his wife were in high favor) was at the Craigie house. His son Israel
was a member of his military family, which also included Major Humphreys
(who afterward wrote his biography) and Major Aaron Burr, his military
secretary. His justifiable severity in proclaiming martial law, and in
punishing Tories found guilty of harboring or assisting the enemy,
incurred the ill-will of New York's inhabitants, and militated against
his fortunes when later he fell into disrepute.

Plots against his life were formed, among them most conspicuous for its
scheme of wholesale assassinations being that in which one of
Washington's own guards was concerned, and for complicity in which this
same man, Thomas Hickey, paid the penalty with his life, being executed
on the 27th of June. Two days later a large British fleet was reported
off Sandy Hook, and by the 1st of July there were more than a hundred of
the enemy's war-ships and transports in the bay. The presence of this
immense fleet did not prevent the proper reception of the immortal
_Declaration of Independence_, proclaimed by the Continental Congress at
Philadelphia on the 4th of July, 1776, and which was read to the troops,
amid loud acclaim from officers and common soldiers, on the 9th.

[Illustration: Israel Putnam.

From a painting by Trumbull.]

The arrival of the vast fleet, the subsequent landing of an army of
nearly twenty-five thousand men, and the warlike preparations which the
British were feverishly making looking to the capture of the city, did
not alarm Old Put, with his total force of scarcely seventeen thousand.
He went on as calmly and as determinedly as though himself commander of
the larger army, for the hero of Bunker Hill never anticipated defeat.
He always fought to the last, after making every needful preparation for
whatever event, and at New York, although the chances were all against
him, he did his utmost to bring about success. He had fortified
Governor's Island and Red Hook in order to prevent the enemy's ships of
war from ascending the Hudson; he now sank several old hulks in the
channel for the same purpose; but, notwithstanding, two war-vessels
succeeded in getting up the North River, which they afterward descended,
without injury to themselves.

It having been recommended by Congress that "fire-rafts be prepared and
sent among the enemy's shipping," Putnam acted in accordance with the
suggestion by fitting out fourteen fire-ships for the purpose, though
nothing was accomplished with them. Still persistent in his endeavors to
drive off the enemy, he adopted the invention of David Bushnell, a
native of his own State, which the inventor called the "great American
Turtle," and which, in fact, was a submarine torpedo, probably the first
one thus used in warfare. It was to be guided by one man, and that man
was to have been Bushnell himself; but, unfortunately, he fell sick, and
the "turtle" boat with its infernal machine was entrusted to a
Connecticut sergeant named "Bije" Shipman, who promised to row the
"submarine"--diminutive prototype of all those which have committed such
destruction since--down the bay and attach the torpedo to the bottom of
the British admiral's ship. He reached the ship without being
observed--strange to say--and attempted to attach the torpedo; but the
attaching screw struck against an iron plate and caused great delay.
Coming up to get a breath of fresh air, "Bije" was seen and fired upon
by a sentinel, and at once rowed away as fast as his oars could carry
him. The torpedo, the explosion of which was regulated by clockwork
operating on a gun-lock, actually exploded about half an hour after,
sending up a great geyser of water, which frightened the British admiral
so that he gave orders to up anchor and seek another mooring-place.

The Yankee navigator of the submarine declared that when he struck the
iron plate he got "narvous," and couldn't affix the screw properly; but
that if he had had a fresh "cud of terbacker," he would have been all
right and the admiral's ship would have gone "a-kiting" into the air.
The attempt was not repeated, for some reason or other, probably because
the British got wary and kept farther away from shore. The next year,
however, inventor Bushnell succeeded in blowing up a British schooner
with his torpedo; but neither he nor quaint "Bije" Shipman ever
received the credit that was their due, the latter being one of the
forgotten heroes of the Revolution.

About this time the Putnam family entertained as guest the pretty
daughter of a British officer, Major James Moncrieffe, the same one to
whom, at the siege of Boston, "Old Put" had sent a present of
provisions, even though they were opposed as enemies. This young lady
was received by the family with affection, presented to General and Mrs.
Washington, and afterward provided with a pass through the lines and
sent to her father, accompanied by a letter of which (as she wittily
said to a friend) "the bad orthography was amply compensated for by the
magnanimity of the man who wrote it." Here is the letter: "Ginrale
Putnam's compliments to Major Moncrieffe, has made him a present of a
fine daughter, if he don't lick [like] her he must send her back again,
and he will provide her with a good twig [Whig] husband."

General Putnam's humor, like his generosity, was never-failing; but, as
"Josh Billings" once remarked of himself, "he was a bad speller" to the
end of his life. But he could spell _f-i-g-h-t_ as well as anybody; and
what is more, he could forgive his enemies, not only after the fight was
over, but while it was going on--as witness his generous actions on many

Though kept busy as a bee from morning to night, yet General Putnam
found life in New York irksome, and was glad enough when ordered by
Washington over to Long Island, to command at Brooklyn Heights and to
supersede Sullivan, who had superseded Greene, then sick with fever, who
had planned and erected the fortifications on the island. It was perhaps
this "lightning change" of commanders that was responsible for the
bitter defeat of the Americans in that encounter known as the "Battle of
Long Island." By the third week of August, when this battle took place,
the British were near New York with more than three hundred ships and
thirty thousand troops, including those of Clinton, Cornwallis, and
Howe. The last named was in command, and on the 22d of August he landed
twenty thousand troops, including five thousand hireling Hessians, at
Gravesend Bay, with the intention of flanking the Americans out of their
positions at Flatbush and the Heights and then advancing across the
island to East River and New York.

It was not until two days later that (in the words of a soldier writing
to his wife at that time) "General Putnam was made happy by obtaining
leave to go over--the brave old man was quite miserable at being kept
here," in New York. Only three days after his arrival the battle was
fought, which (in brief) was brought about by the British surprising an
outpost at one of the three passes to the American rear, on the night of
the 26th of August and thus turning the patriots' position. With more
than three times the numerical strength of the Americans, the British
were successful, and the former lost more than a thousand men, most of
them made prisoners, including Generals Sullivan and Stirling.

Washington hurried over reenforcements, until there were nearly ten
thousand men at the Heights; but Putnam soon found it impossible to
conduct its defense against twenty thousand of the enemy, with ten
thousand more in reserve, and, with Washington's sanction and
cooperation, he withdrew his men from their perilous position by a night
retreat across the river, which was a triumph of military sagacity and
achievement. The more than nine thousand men, with their ammunition,
arms, provisions, etc., were safely over the river before the British
became aware of what was going on. Then it was too late, and
notwithstanding that the Americans had been outflanked and defeated by
the most skilful strategy, the British lost the chief fruits of their
victory by procrastination.

The loss of Long Island meant, of course, the evacuation of New York,
since the city could now be commanded by the enemy's guns on the
Heights. This movement was decided upon by Washington and his generals
at a council of war; the garrison was withdrawn from Governor's Island,
and after the surplus ammunition and military stores had been forwarded
to a point of safety, the troops leisurely followed after toward the
north. Putnam, Heath, and Spencer were placed in command of the three
grand divisions into which the army was divided preparatory for retreat
and stationed along the East River, Putnam, as usual, having the most
perilous situation, at the lower end of the city. To him was committed
the removal of the troops and military stores, so that he had no more
time at command than formerly.

Yet the British did not move upon the city with precipitation.
Commander-in-Chief Howe had learned his lesson by heart at Bunker Hill,
and was no longer in haste to attack his brave opponents unless with
overwhelming numbers, whether entrenched or otherwise. He had resolved
upon a series of flank movements, for the purpose of cutting off the
American retreat northward, and on the 15th of September put the first
in execution. Washington was at his new headquarters, the Jumel mansion,
at Harlem Heights, and Old Put was busy hurrying off the last of the
detachments down in the city, when both heard the booming of cannon at
Kip's Bay. They met at Murray Hill, and together galloped toward the
sound of firing, but before they reached East River were met by their
own troops fleeing before the British advance.



It was at the retreat of the Americans before the British, who had
landed at Kip's Bay, that the unique spectacle was afforded of both
Washington and Putnam acting in unison, both in a towering rage, and
both attempting with all their might to turn their cowardly soldiers
face-about to stand against the foe. But all their efforts were in vain,
though Washington, in his endeavors to stem the tide of retreat, came
near being made prisoner, and would have been, probably, if one of the
soldiers had not taken his horse by the bridle and turned him in another

In the actual retreat to Harlem Heights that then followed, brave Putnam
took the post of danger again, and, while nearly everybody else was
heading northward, he himself went the other way in search of his
detachment, which, fortunately, his aide-de-camp, Major Burr, had taken
the liberty of setting on the move. He and his men were the last to gain
the Heights, barely escaping the British as they tried to hem them in,
and reaching the rendezvous long after dark.

It was a current rumor in camp, later, that his escape was not
altogether due to celerity of movement, nimble as he was, but to the
clever ruse of a fair Quakeress, Mrs. Murray (mother of Lindley Murray,
the renowned grammarian), who, being known to the British officers,
invited them in, as they filed past her door, to refresh themselves with
cake and wine. Being fatigued with their labors, and considering the
Americans as good as captured by their clever flanking movement, they
accepted the invitation gladly and remained enjoying her hospitality
about two hours, or just long enough for Putnam and his men to slip out
of the trap and scamper along the North River roads to the rendezvous.

Their joy at their escape when (as Major Humphreys, who was with them,
said) they had been given up for lost by their friends, was tempered
next day by the death of Colonel Knowlton, who had been sent out with
his rangers to reconnoiter the enemy. In the ensuing engagement, known
as the Battle of Harlem Heights, the gallant Knowlton was killed,
besides about one hundred and seventy of his men. Knowlton, who had
taken a prominent part in the battle of Bunker Hill, was an old friend
and comrade of Putnam in the Indian wars, as well as at Havana, and the
latter felt his loss most keenly.

There was no time for vain regrets, since the enemy were pushing after
the Americans, giving them no pause for a while. When at last there was
a cessation in their endeavors at direct assault, Washington was more
uneasy than before, and did not rest until he had discovered what it
meant. In short, General Howe was about trying the second in his
remarkable series of flanking movements, by which he hoped to get in
the rear of the Americans, and, with his overwhelming force, "bottle
them up" and compel a general engagement. But, with a force far inferior
to the British, Washington not only succeeded in avoiding a pitched
battle (for which he was wholly unprepared), but finally extricated his
army from the net which his enemy had spread on two sides and was now
attempting to sweep around to cut off his retreat.

Sending several war-vessels up the North River, or Hudson (which had no
trouble in breaking through the barrier stretched across it), General
Howe embarked the main body of his troops in flatboats for Westchester,
landing at a point about nine miles above the Heights of Harlem. The
enemy's object was then apparent, and Washington set about defeating it
by one of the most complicated and ingenious military movements on

Leaving General Greene in command of Fort Washington, on the Hudson, not
far from Kingsbridge and the Heights, Washington hastened northward
toward White Plains, seizing upon every naturally strong position by the
way, and establishing a chain of entrenchments on the hill-crests that
commanded all the roads leading from the North River to the Sound. The
last week in October the opposing forces came in collision at Chatterton
Hill, where was fought the so-called Battle of White Plains, at which,
wrote Rufus Putnam, who had planned the defensive works, "the wall and
stone fence behind which our troops were posted proved as fatal to the
British as the rail-fence with grass hung on it did at Charlestown, June
17, 1775."

General Putnam was ordered to reenforce General McDougall, who was in
command at the hill; but before he arrived the British had flanked the
Americans and driven them from their position. Putnam's men covered
their retreat by firing at the British and Hessians from behind fences
and trees, Indian and Ranger fashion, and that night Washington
practically began his famous retrograde movement to Fort Washington and
Manhattan Island. "By folding one brigade behind another," in rear of
those ridges he had fortified, he "brought off all his artillery,
stores, and sick, in the face of a superior foe." He took position,
first, at North Castle Heights, which he deemed impregnable; but after a
few days the British left for the Hudson, with the purpose (as was
afterward ascertained, and at the time divined by Washington) of
attacking forts Washington and Lee and invading New Jersey. In
anticipation of this move Putnam was detached with about four thousand
men and ordered into New Jersey. Crossing the Hudson, he penetrated
inland as far as Hackensack, near which place he encamped and awaited

General Lee was left at North Castle Heights with seven thousand men to
watch the movements of the foe, while Washington followed after Putnam
to Hackensack. He was shortly recalled to the Hudson by a despatch
informing him that the British were before Fort Washington in
overwhelming force, and had demanded a surrender. Brave Colonel Magaw,
in command of the garrison, refused a reply until he had consulted his
superior officers, and as General Greene, in charge of both forts, was
of the opinion that they could be held, the result was the storming of
the fort and the loss of more than two thousand men.

The assault of the British, who had threatened to put the garrison to
the sword, was witnessed by Washington, Greene, and Putnam from the west
bank of the Hudson. Their distress may be imagined at beholding the
slaughter that ensued, and there must have been some searching
self-questioning by the Commander-in-Chief as to the wisdom of his
policy, by which his divided forces became such an easy prey to the foe.

Lee could hardly be induced to leave his secure retreat, from which he
departed only after repeated requests from Washington, whose great
reliance at this time was sturdy Israel Putnam. He assisted at the
evacuation of Fort Lee (now rendered useless by the loss of its sister
fort across the river), and piloted the commander and his friends to his
camp at Hackensack.

British troops under Lord Cornwallis had landed above Fort Lee at the
base of the Palisades, and were now coming down to attempt to cut off
the Americans before they could extricate themselves from the marshes
lying between the Hudson and the Hackensack rivers. The latter left so
precipitately that their fires were burning, with camp kettles over
them, and tents still standing, when the British reached Fort Lee.

Parallel with the Hackensack River runs the Passaic, and across country
between the two Washington was compelled to hasten, lest he be hemmed in
again by the pursuing enemy. It was now late in November, the weather
was cold, and gloomy were these "dark days of the Revolution," when the
militia left the army by hundreds, their terms of enlistment having
expired, and no others took their places. While the little army of less
than four thousand men was constantly depleted, it seemed as if its foes
increased, in that country of loyalists and British sympathizers. It was
with only the "skeleton of an army" that Washington, on the eighth of
December, crossed the Delaware at Trenton, less than three thousand
troops remaining by him then. Cornwallis and his soldiers were not far
behind, during a portion of that gloomy retreat, a few days measuring
the distance between the rival armies; but they did not catch up with
the Americans that time.

The very day after his arrival at Trenton Washington ordered Putnam to
Philadelphia, where he was placed in absolute command, and where he
displayed the same energy and integrity of purpose that had always
animated him hitherto. He had been a sustaining force to the
Commander-in-Chief on that march across New Jersey, and of the few
generals who had stood by him, no one had endured with less complaint or
performed with more alacrity than Old Put. He was one upon whom to rely
in the proposed scheme of fortifying the city, and his long experience
at entrenching made him peculiarly fit for the work.

His sturdy nature, good sense, and ready wit made him at once a favorite
with the Continental Congress and the Committee of Safety; though the
former, acting on his advice, soon left the city for the greater
security of Baltimore. Putnam soon placed the city under martial law,
drafted all the citizens, except the Quakers, into the military service,
and put the place in the best posture for defense of which it was
capable. "There were foes within the city as well as foes without," for
the Tory element was strong in Philadelphia, and it was because of it
that Putnam was unable to cooperate with Washington when he dealt the
enemy the first of those telling blows at Trenton and Princeton. He
dared not withdraw his men from the city, even for a short absence, in
order to create a diversion while his Commander-in-Chief made the direct
attack. Had he done so, and also the other generals to whom were
entrusted the details of this affair, the Hessians might have been
entirely cut off in their retreat from Trenton and practically
destroyed. As it was, Putnam held to his command in Philadelphia, and
soon had the pleasure of entertaining some of the Hessian captives, for
whom he was obliged to provide quarters while passing through the city.

It must have fretted him vastly to be kept in Philadelphia while
Washington was pursuing the very tactics he himself would have used
against the enemy. After his first success Washington ordered Putnam out
to Crosswicks, a small place southeast of Trenton, "a very advantageous
post" for him to hold while his superior was planning his descent upon
Princeton. On the 5th of January, after Washington had launched his
thunderbolt at Princeton (of his intention to do which Putnam had been
informed by a letter from his adjutant, written at midnight preceding
that eventful third of January, 1777), he wrote at length to his trusty
friend and General: "It is thought advisable for you to march the troops
under your command to Crosswicks, and keep a strict watch upon the enemy
in that quarter. If the enemy continue at Brunswick you must act with
great circumspection, lest you meet with a surprise. As we have made two
successful attacks upon the enemy by the way of surprise, they will be
pointed with resentment, and if there is any possibility of retaliating
they will attempt it. _You will give out your strength to be twice as
great as it is._ Forward on all the baggage and scattered troops
belonging to this division of the army as soon as may be."

In accordance with Washington's suggestion as to the augmenting of the
number of his men, Putnam availed himself of the request of a wounded
British officer, who was his prisoner, that a friend in Cornwallis's
army might be sent for to make his will, to practise a ruse. It was in
Princeton, whither he had been ordered from Crosswicks. As he had but a
few hundred men, in order to prevent his weakness from being known to
the military visitor he was brought in after dark, all the windows in
the college buildings and private houses were lighted up, "and the
handful of troops paraded about to such effect during the night that the
visitor, on his return to the British camp, reported the force under the
old general to be at least five thousand strong!" In this manner the
shrewd but kind-hearted Putnam complied with his prisoner's request, and
at the same time turned it to his own and his soldiers' advantage.

Having failed in his attempt to "bag that old fox" (Washington), Lord
Cornwallis had scurried back to protect his baggage and communications
at New Brunswick, while Washington ensconced himself in the rugged
country about Morristown, and Putnam was left to protect the lowlands
and harass the enemy. So effectually did he perform the latter that his
aggregate of prisoners taken during the winter exceeded the number
captured by Washington at Trenton, and his captures of wagons laden
with provisions for the enemy were highly important.



Snugly and safely entrenched in the Morristown hill-country, Washington
left to Putnam the post he so dearly loved, that of real danger, within
fifteen miles of New Brunswick, where the enemy lay in strength. At
Princeton, thirty miles from headquarters, Putnam remained until May,
when he was detached and sent into the Hudson Highlands. The British had
lost fewer men at Trenton and Princeton than the Americans had lost at
Fort Washington, yet the former were singularly dispirited. With the
Commander-in-Chief withdrawn to the hills, the road to Philadelphia lay
open to the enemy, and only Old Put opposing them, like a lion in the
path; but for some reason they did not avail themselves of the

Putnam's division formed the right wing of the American army in
cantonment that winter, with the center at Morristown and the left wing
on the Hudson. At the opening of the spring campaign of 1777 Washington
was uncertain whether the British would leave their winter quarters in
New York for New England, the Hudson Highlands, or for Philadelphia. He
was inclined to believe that Philadelphia would be the first and chief
objective, and wished to hold himself in readiness for marching thither
at a moment's warning; but again there were rumors of an invasion from
Canada by way of the lakes and the Hudson, so this region must be

Existing forts must be strengthened, others erected, a boom stretched
across the Hudson to impede the passage of British ships, and obstacles
of all kinds placed in the path of the British, should they advance
northward. Needing a reliable man in this emergency, Washington sent
Putnam to Peekskill, on the Hudson, preceded by a letter to General
McDougall, then in command there, which was, to say the least, not very
flattering to the gallant soldier who had been his right-hand man in
the various retreats through the Jerseys. "You are acquainted with the
old gentleman's temper," he wrote; "he is active, disinterested, and
open to conviction," etc.

Washington would have been more fortunate if all his officers had been
as "active, disinterested, and open to conviction" as Old Put--for
instance, Lee, Arnold, Gates, and others--but he had allowed his
prejudices to warp his former opinion of Putnam's sterling qualities.

Hardly had Putnam begun his work on the Hudson before there was a mighty
movement in the port of New York, and, fearing there might be an attempt
upon Philadelphia, Washington drew upon the old soldier's command until
he had scarcely a thousand men at call. Then followed the commander's
magnificent strategy at Middlebrook, whereby he finally defeated the
British plans and brought about the complete evacuation of New Jersey,
after which Putnam was strengthened in his position; only to be weakened
again, the process being repeated until he felt called upon to protest.

Putnam was later accused by Hamilton, Washington's aide-de-camp, of
making a "hobby-horse" out of his desire to march upon New York, and of
riding it on all occasions; but it was no less a hobby-horse with him
than the defense of Philadelphia was with his Commander-in-Chief, who
many times imperiled the safety of other sections by withdrawing troops
in hot haste and flying to the succor of a city which was captured and
occupied by the British notwithstanding.

Washington rode his hobby-horse full-tilt at the unfortunate Putnam and
threw him to the ground. With one hand, as it were, he wrote him to keep
an eye on the movements of the enemy and be fully prepared to meet them;
but with the other he signed an order for the weakening of his force.
The consequences came when Burgoyne, having descended from Canada and
invaded northern New York, Putnam found himself between two fires, that
of the former and that of Sir Henry Clinton, who finally set out on the
long-meditated trip up the Hudson in order to cooperate with the
southward-marching army.

Putnam had learned of the successive moves on the military chess-board
as Burgoyne progressed in his triumphal march. First, of the fall of
Ticonderoga, in June; then of Fort Edward; finally, of the glorious
victory achieved by his former comrade in the Indian wars and at Bunker
Hill, the redoubtable General Stark, at Bennington. He was called upon
to furnish reenforcements not only to Washington, unfortunate in his
defense of Philadelphia, but to Schuyler and Gates in the north.

The post of danger, as usual, Old Put occupied in the Highlands, and he
was delighted; only repining that whenever he was nearly ready to do
something, away went his troops on some wild-goose mission, of which he
knew neither the end or aim.

Washington surmised that Howe's scheme of sailing southward with an
army aboard his ships was for the purpose of luring him away from the
real point of attack, which was to be in the Highlands, so he wrote
Putnam to be on the alert and to send spies down to New York to
ascertain Clinton's plans. "If he has the number of men with him that is
reported, it is probably with the intention to attack you from below,
while Burgoyne comes down upon you from above." Thus wrote Washington in
August, but still the depletion of the perplexed Putnam's command went
steadily on. When he protested he was recommended to hurry up the
militia from Connecticut, or some other New England State, and thus
supply the place of the seasoned troops he had trained, with raw

"The old general, whose boast it was that he never slept but with one
eye, was already on the alert. A circumstance had given him proof
positive that Sir Henry was in New York, and had aroused his military
ire," writes Washington Irving. This paragraph refers to one of
Clinton's spies, who was captured while gathering information in
Putnam's camp at Peekskill. When Clinton heard of it he sent a
war-vessel up the Hudson with a flag of truce, claiming the man as one
of his officers. This was Old Put's reply:

     Headquarters, _7th August, 1777_.

     Edmund Palmer, an officer in the enemy's service, was taken as a
     spy lurking within our lines. He has been tried as a spy, condemned
     as a spy, and shall be executed as a spy; and the flag is ordered
     to depart immediately.

     I have the honor to be, etc., etc.,
     Israel Putnam.

     P.S.--Afternoon. He is hanged!

The last week in September, Washington drew upon the patient commander
in the Highlands for more soldiers, so that he had only eleven hundred
men left with which to meet and withstand the British invasion of his
territory, which began on the 5th of October. Putnam was fully cognizant
of the situation, for he wrote to Governor Clinton, his coadjutor in
the defense of the Highlands, on the 29th of September: "I have received
intelligence on which I can fully depend that the enemy received a
reenforcement at New York last Thursday of about 3,000 British and
foreign troops; that General Clinton has called in guides who belong
about Croton River; has ordered hard bread to be baked; that the troops
are called from Paulus Hook to Kingsbridge; and the whole are now under
marching orders. I think it highly probable that the designs of the
enemy are against the posts of the Highlands, or of some parts of the
counties of Westchester or Duchess. P.S.--The ships are drawn up in the
river, and I believe nothing prevents them paying us an immediate visit
but a contrary wind!"

Within a week the enemy were in force on the river near Putnam's
position, and within ten days they had completely outmaneuvered both
Putnam and Clinton, and had taken forts Montgomery and Clinton, their
chief defenses, with great loss to the Americans. Clinton had made a
feint on Tarrytown and Peekskill, and after this diversion, under cover
of the river mist, landed troops on the west shore of the Hudson, and
marched rapidly through ravines and dense woods to the rear of the two
forts, which were carried by the bayonet, the defenders being taken by

The British had twice the number of men that Putnam commanded in this
attack, and also the advantage of ships of war in the river, but it is
thought that results would have been different from what they were had a
despatch for reenforcements from Governor Clinton reached him. It was
sent by a messenger who proved a traitor and carried it within the
enemy's lines. As it was, however, the British have the credit of
consummate strategy on this occasion, and poorly as he was equipped, Old
Put was greatly mortified over the defeat. He had good occasion for
writing to Washington, as he wrote on the 8th of October: "I have
repeatedly informed your Excellency of the enemy's design against this
post, but from some motive or other you always differed from me in
opinion. As this conjecture of mine has for once proved right, I can not
omit informing you that my real and sincere opinion is that they mean to
join General Burgoyne with the utmost despatch."

Further proof of British intentions was afforded by the capture of a
spy, who, on being arrested, was seen to swallow a silver bullet which,
being recovered, was found to contain a message written on very thin
paper and dated October 8th--the day before. This message read: "Here we
are, and nothing between us and Gates. I sincerely hope this little
success of ours will facilitate your operations." It was from Sir Henry
Clinton to General Burgoyne, and showed conclusively that the former had
set out to join with the latter. But events had so shaped in the north
that poor Burgoyne was then past all aid, General Gates then having him
at bay. Within a few days was fought the decisive battle that brought
about Burgoyne's surrender, and when the news reached Sir Henry Clinton
he immediately set about returning to New York, there being no longer
any incentive for action in the Highlands. Putnam and Clinton, after
blowing up their two vessels in the river, had effected their retreat to
Fishkill, where they entrenched; but on learning of the British retreat
they moved down to their former positions.

The saying that "troubles never come singly" proved true for General
Putnam that month of October, 1777, for on the 14th he lost by death his
faithful wife, who had been with him at headquarters. Washington wrote
him, on being informed of the bereavement: "I am extremely sorry for the
death of Mrs. Putnam, and sympathize with you upon the occasion.
Remembering that all must die, and that she had lived to an honorable
age, I hope you will bear the misfortune with that fortitude and
complacency of mind that become a man and a Christian."

The surrender of Burgoyne left the north free from foes, and
consequently with no use for great numbers of soldiers, so that Putnam
was soon in command of more than nine thousand men, mainly drafts from
Gates's army. He was then determined to carry out his twice-frustrated
scheme of marching upon New York, and was pushing forward his plans with
great confidence, when there appeared a marplot on the scene in the
person of Colonel Alexander Hamilton, at that time aide-de-camp to
General Washington, who peremptorily ordered Putnam to forward all the
new arrivals to the Commander-in-Chief and fill their places with

The order was a verbal one and delivered by a slender "snip of a boy"
scarcely out of his teens, so it received scant attention from Old Put,
who went on with his plans, while Colonel Hamilton mounted a fresh horse
and posted off to Albany, where he had also great difficulty in
impressing General Gates with the need of Washington for the best men in
his command. But he succeeded in detaching a few regiments, and then
hastened back to Peekskill, there to find, to his surprise and
indignation, that Putnam still had all his men--and what was more,
seemed inclined to keep them with him.

     "I am pained beyond expression," wrote this precocious youth to
     Washington on the 10th of November, "to inform your Excellency
     that, on my arrival here, I find everything has been neglected and
     deranged by General Putnam.... Not the least attention has been
     paid to my order, in your name, for a detachment of one thousand
     men from the troops hitherto stationed at that post. Everything is
     sacrificed to the whim of taking New York.... By Governor Clinton's
     advice, I have sent an order, in the most emphatical terms, to
     General Putnam, immediately to despatch all the Continental troops
     under him to your assistance, and to detain the militia instead of

This order "in the most emphatical terms" finally moved the general to
compliance; but it quite naturally excited his just resentment, and he
sent it to the Commander-in-Chief, with his comments. It would have been
a serious matter--detaching such a large body of troops on a mere verbal
order from a hot-headed stripling; yet Washington in effect reprimanded
the honest veteran by writing:

     I can not but say, there has been more delay in the march of the
     troops than I think necessary; and I could wish that in future my
     orders may be immediately complied with, without arguing upon the
     propriety of them. If any accident ensues from obeying them, the
     fault will be upon me, not upon you.

Death, defeat, a reprimand--all within one short month--might have
affected a stouter heart than Old Put's. But was there ever a stouter



Care sat lightly on Israel Putnam, who never went about looking for
trouble, nor gave it more than a scant welcome as a guest. Possessed of
sturdy common sense, an unblemished character, and a conscience "void of
offence," Old Put did not long harbor the hasty words of Hamilton, nor
dwell upon the tacit reprimand of his chief. He still sat astride his
"hobby-horse," as Hamilton had contemptuously termed his desire for
descending upon New York, and as soon as the latter had departed with
the reenforcements for Washington, he resolved to take a look at the
city, anyway. Taking some of his men down the east bank of the Hudson,
he himself reconnoitered to a point within three miles of the enemy's
outpost, and went to New Rochelle with the intention of invading Long
Island. The British got wind of his intent, and hastily left their
forts, having no relish for a brush with their dreaded enemy.

Although accused to Washington of being very lenient to Tories and other
disaffected persons, Putnam knew how to be severe on occasion, and in
reprisal for the repeated outrages committed by Governor Tryon's
murderous marauders, he destroyed by fire several residences of noted
loyalists, and fell upon Colonel DeLancey's infamous "Cowboys," taking
seventy-five prisoners, including the Tory officer himself, who was
drawn out from beneath a bed, where he had taken refuge at the approach
of Putnam's scouts.

Washington himself had given Putnam the idea of descending upon New
York, some time before; but circumstances had changed, and along with
them the need for this diversion. Having satisfied himself with this
reconnoitering expedition, however, Old Put went back very amiably to
his post in the Highlands, and proceeded to carry out his commander's
instructions respecting the selection of a new fort for the defense of
the Hudson. In January, 1778, we find him at West Point, directing the
men of Parson's brigade where to break ground--frozen ground, at that,
with snow two feet deep above it--for the first fort at the picturesque
post on the Hudson since become historic. It was subsequently named Fort
Putnam, either after Old Put himself, or his cousin Rufus Putnam, whose
great natural talents as an engineer were subsequently availed of here,
as they had been before Boston, at Dorchester Heights.

About mid-February, Putnam wrote to Washington, who had been constantly
and urgently pressing him to complete the work without delay, that "the
batteries near the water, and the fort to cover them, are laid out. The
latter is, within walls, 600 yards around, 21 feet base, 14 feet high,
the talus two inches to the foot. This I fear is too large to be
completed by the time expected." Even his placid disposition was by this
time slightly ruffled at the scarcely veiled distrust of his
capabilities by his chief, who had veered about with the wind blowing
from New York, and seemed to trust him no longer. His letter begins
stiffly: "The state of affairs now at this post, you will please to
observe, is as follows," and after this business has been stated, he
goes on to give some of the reasons for delay. One of his regiments was
at White Plains, "under inoculation with the smallpox. Dubois's regiment
is unfit to be ordered on duty, there being not one blanket in the
regiment. Very few have either a shoe or a shirt, and most of them have
neither stockings, breeches, or overalls.... Several hundred men are
rendered useless, merely for want of necessary apparel, as no clothing
is permitted to be stopped at this post."

No complaint was made, but merely a statement of facts; for Putnam must
have known that many of the soldiers under his commander were at that
very time half starved and half naked at Valley Forge. The day after
writing this letter to Washington, having secured permission for a
brief furlough, General Putnam went home to attend to private affairs
which demanded his attention. He had applied for this leave of absence
two months previously, but before receiving it had attended to the
exigent matter of fortifying West Point, like the good soldier that he

Since he last left home much had happened to distract and break him
down, including the loss of his wife by death, and the loss of
Washington's friendly support, through no fault of his own. He was
deeply grieved over the change in the commander's attitude toward him,
as well as puzzled to account for it, knowing full well that he had done
nothing to incur his displeasure, now so plainly manifested, not alone
to General Putnam but to others.

The change was probably due to their radical differences of temperament,
habits of life and education. While Washington the soldier recognized
the sterling qualities of Old Put, the veteran fighter, yet Washington
the aristocratic planter shrank from contact with Putnam the blunt, and
at times perhaps uncouth-appearing, farmer. Writing about that time, a
surgeon in the American army said: "This is my first interview with this
celebrated hero, Putnam. In his person he is corpulent and clumsy, but
carries a bold, undaunted front. He exhibits little of the refinements
of a well-educated gentleman, but much of the character of the veteran

This was not the style of soldier that the Commander-in-Chief liked to
have about him, and he allowed his personal prejudices to pervert his

"What shall I do with Putnam?" he breaks out in a letter to Gouverneur
Morris. "If Congress mean to lay him aside _decently_, I wish they would
devise the mode."

"It has not been an easy matter to find a just pretense for removing an
officer from his command" (he writes to Chancellor Livingston on the
12th of March, 1778) "where his misconduct rather appears to result from
want of _capacity_ than from any real intention of doing wrong...."
Livingston had written complaining of Putnam's "imprudent lenity to the
disaffected, and too great intercourse with the enemy"--or, in other
words, that he had not persecuted the people Livingston disliked, and
had shown generosity to the foe when in distress. Yet he felt compelled
to add: "For my own part, I respect his bravery and former services, and
sincerely lament that his patriotism will not suffer him to take that
repose, to which his advanced age and past services justly entitle him."

But Congress did not, fortunately, share the views of these
white-fingered, thin-skinned gentlemen, to whom a man's personal
appearance was vastly more than his distinguished services. They held,
with the doughty hero of many battles himself, that, as a soldier's duty
in war was to fight, it mattered not so much how he fought, nor in what
garb, so long as he won the victories. As to lack of capacity, and being
responsible for the loss of Forts Clinton and Montgomery, the court of
inquiry, which sat in the spring of 1778, entirely vindicated him,
holding that they fell, "not from any fault, misconduct, or negligence
of the commanding officers, but solely through the want of an adequate
force under their command to maintain and defend them."

Who was responsible for the lack of that "adequate force" none knew
better than the Commander-in-Chief, who had withdrawn Old Put's veterans
on six different occasions and compelled him to clothe the skeleton
ranks with raw militia, so that it ill became him to write (in his
letter to Livingston): "Proper measures are taking to carry on the
inquiry into the loss of Fort Montgomery, agreeable to the direction of
Congress, and it is more than probable, from what I have heard, that the
issue of that inquiry will afford just grounds for the removal of
General Putnam."

But the "issue of that inquiry" was in favor of Putnam, who demanded not
only a court of inquiry, but a trial by court-martial, "so that my
character might stand in a clearer light in the world." For, as he
justly observed in a letter to Congress, "to be posted here as a publick
spectator for every ill-minded person to make remarks upon, I think is
very poor encouragement for any persons to venture their lives and
fortunes in the service."

General Putnam received notice of this court of inquiry and of his
suspension from command pending its proceedings, as he was returning
from Connecticut, in March; but the month of July had arrived, the
battle of Monmouth fought, and General Lee's court-martial had been
ordered, before he was reinstated. Then Washington rather grudgingly
gave him command of the right wing of the grand army, at White Plains,
near or on Chatterton Hill, where he had vainly tried to reenforce
McDougall, in the fierce fight that took place there not quite two years
before. The three armies were then collectively of "greater strength
than any force that had been brought together during the war,"
consisting, says Major Humphreys, of sixty regular regiments of foot,
four battalions of artillery, four regiments of horse, and several corps
of State troops. "But, as the enemy kept close within their lines on
York Island, nothing could be attempted."

Putnam was afterward sent across the Hudson, where, notwithstanding the
prejudices alleged against him in that region, where he had formerly
commanded, he was retained until the army was ordered into winter
quarters. These quarters were finally located in his own State, and were
admirably chosen for the purpose at that time, which was to hold the
troops together until the spring campaign should open. "The site for the
winter cantonment became an important question," writes Charles B. Todd,
a talented son of Connecticut, and an authority on her history, "and was
long and anxiously debated. Many of the general officers were for
staying where they were in the Highlands. Putnam pronounced in favor of
some central location in western Connecticut, where they could protect
both the Sound and the Hudson, and especially Danbury, which was a
supply station, and which had been taken and burned by the enemy the
year previous. General Heath's brigade had been on guard in Danbury
during this summer of 1778, and while visiting him Putnam had no doubt
discovered the three sheltered valleys formed by the Saugatuck and its
tributaries which lie along the border line of what was then Danbury
(now Bethel) and Redding. These valleys, open to the south, are warm,
sunny, well watered, and in that day were well wooded, and so defended
by dominating hills and crags, that a handful could hold them against an
army. They were but three days' march from the Highlands."

Putnam himself superintended the laying out of the three camps, one for
each valley, where, in log huts similar to those erected at Valley Forge
the winter previous, the soldiers were quartered. Here the Army of the
North, consisting of two brigades of Continental troops, two of
Connecticut, one brigade from New Hampshire, with artillery and
cavalry, wore away the long and weary winter of 1778-'79. There were two
major-generals, including Putnam as commander-in-chief, and five
brigadiers, so it will be seen that the cantonment was one of great

"Putnam pilgrims" should by all means refresh their patriotism by a
visit to the site of that winter camp in western Connecticut, for it has
been carefully preserved by the State, which has laid out a magnificent
park, erected a monument, restored some of the huts, and collected every
relic available of that noble Army of the North. The house which Old Put
occupied that winter, as headquarters, was on Umpawaug Hill and is still
pointed out, while at a little distance stands the one-time residence of
Joel Barlow, the Revolutionary poet, who, with Major Humphreys, Putnam's
aide-de-camp and later his biographer, enlivened the camp that winter.
From the summit of Gallows Hill, where General Putnam hung a spy, and
had a deserter shot to death, one may see the sites of the original
camps, the only visible remains of which are rude piles of stones, the
ruins of the "chimney-backs."

In or near the camp preserved within the park, General Israel Putnam
once performed a deed which some have called his greatest act. "Greatest
if measured by results, and most typical of him. Who is not thrilled
with the poem of Sheridan's ride--turning a panic-stricken army, and
snatching victory from defeat; and here, near a century before, Putnam
rode after a deserting army and brought them back to victory ... a
victory over themselves."

These remarks refer to the defection of the Connecticut troops, that
winter, who, half starved and half frozen in their narrow quarters,
"badly fed, badly clothed, and worse paid," resolved to march to
Hartford, lay their grievances before the General Assembly, and demand
redress at the point of the bayonet.

     "Word having been brought to General Putnam," says Major Humphreys,
     who was present, "that the second brigade was under arms for this
     purpose, he mounted his horse, galloped to the cantonment, and thus
     addressed them: 'My brave lads, whither are you going? Do you
     intend to desert your officers, and to invite the enemy to follow
     you into the country? Whose cause have you been fighting and
     suffering so long in--is it not your own? Have you no property, no
     parents, wives or children? You have behaved like men so far--all
     the world is full of your praise--and posterity will stand
     astonished at your deeds; but not if you spoil all at last. Don't
     you consider how much the country is distressed by the war, and
     that your officers have not been any better paid than yourselves?
     But we all expect better times, and that the country will do us
     ample justice. Let us all stand together, then, and fight it out
     like brave soldiers. Think what a shame it would be for Connecticut
     men to run away from their officers!'"

The gallant general's rude eloquence prevailed, the men saw their error,
were indeed ashamed of it; they listened with attention, presented arms,
as their beloved commander rode along the line to the din of the drums,
and about-faced for camp, which they did not desert again during the
winter. "Thus was a great and mighty battle fought and won. A battle
fought with the British far away. A battle fought with hunger, want,
cold, and banishment from home. A battle fought in the wilderness, where
most of the world's greatest battles are fought."[3]

[Footnote 3: From an historical address by Prof. George A. Parker, of
Hartford, Conn., on the occasion of the visit of the famous Putnam
Phalanx to Putnam Park and Camp, June 17, 1903.]

This episode of the winter camp of 1778-'79 forms a fitting prelude to
another feat performed by Old Put, this time a physical one, which,
while not so worthy of renown, perhaps, as the great moral victory he
achieved over his men, has brought him greater fame. Both taken together
absolutely refute the insinuations of his enemies, to the effect that he
had suffered a decline of mental, moral, or physical force. Washington
wrote, commending him for his action in suppressing the mutiny; and as
for the feat now to be mentioned, it may be said to speak for itself. In
fact, it has been speaking, now, for a century and a quarter, since it
is that famous ride down the stone steps of Horseneck Height to which
reference is made.

It took place one morning in the last week of February, toward the close
of the long winter's vigil at Redding. Putnam and his men were out as
soon as the sap in the trees was flowing, and long before, in fact,
keeping watch upon and trying to check the operations of the notorious
Tryon and his crew. It chanced that he met the British, fifteen hundred
strong, when on a visit to his outpost at Horseneck, now "Putnam's
Hill," in Greenwich, Conn. Having but one hundred and fifty men and two
old iron guns, which latter he had posted "on the high ground by the
meeting-house," he was obliged to retreat. Ordering his men to seek
shelter in a near swamp, Old Put waited till the British dragoons were
almost within sword's length of him, when he put spurs to his horse and
dashed over the brow of the hill, zigzagging down a rude flight of
seventy stone steps set into the precipitous declivity.

The dragoons dared not follow after this intrepid horseman, but they
sent a flight of bullets, one of which passed through his hat. Arrived
on level ground he made no halt until he had reached Stamford, where he
collected a force of militia in short order, with which he turned upon
Tryon, compelling him to retreat, and chasing him to his lair, capturing
forty prisoners and retaking a large amount of plunder.



General Putnam was sixty-one years old at the time of his famous exploit
at Horseneck, and apparently in the full possession of his powers; but,
as it eventuated, this was the beginning of his last campaign, which
actually opened with the removal of the soldiers from Redding to the
Hudson, about the last of May, where Putnam was appointed to the command
of the right wing of the army, with headquarters on the west bank of the
river. Previous to removal, he wrote the following interesting letter to
a friend, Colonel Wadsworth, of Hartford, which the author of this
memoir copied from the original in possession of the Connecticut
Historical Society:

     Redding, _ye 11 of May, 1779_.

     Dear Sir: On my arrivol to this plas I could hear nothing
     of my hard mony and so must conclud it is gon to the dogs we have
     no nus hear from head Quarters not a lin senc I cam hear and what
     my destination is to be this summer cant even so much as geuss but
     shuld be much obbliged to you if you would be so good as to send me
     by the teems the Lym juice you was so good as to offer me and a par
     of Shoes I left under the chamber tabel. I begin to think the nues
     from the sutherd is tru of ginrol Lintons having a batel and
     comming of the leator it is said he killed 200 hundred and took 500
     hundred what makes me creudit it is becaus the acounts in the New
     york papers peartly agree with ours

     my beast Respeacts to your Lady and sistors and Litel soon.

     I am dear sir with the greatest respects your most obed and humbel

     Israel Putnam.

Old Put's anxiety as to his destination having been allayed, he
established his military family at or near Buttermilk Falls, about two
miles below West Point, where, says Major Humphreys, "he was happy in
possessing the friendship of the officers of the line, and in living on
terms of hospitality with them. Indeed, there was no family in the army
that lived better than his own. The General, his second son, Major
Daniel Putnam, and the author of these memoirs, composed that family."

Putnam was probably at this point when, on that dark and stormy night of
the fifteenth of July, "Mad Anthony" Wayne stormed and captured Stony
Point, on the river not far below. This remarkable exploit was not only
the most important event of the year, but, like the battle of Monmouth
of the year previous, almost the only action worthy of note. It had the
effect, probably, of causing the British to withdraw their troops from
along the Sound, where they were engaged in ravaging the seaboard places
of Connecticut; but the post was again taken by the enemy, who, like the
Americans, did not find it worth the while to hold it.

The most important members of Putnam's military family, his son Daniel
and Major Humphreys, accompanied him home on leave of absence, in
November, whence, early in December, the General set out on his return
to the army, which was to winter at Morristown. Soon after leaving
Brooklyn, and while on the road to Hartford, he "felt an unusual torpor
slowly pervading his right hand and foot. This heaviness crept gradually
on until it had deprived him of the use of his limbs on that side, in a
considerable degree, before he reached the house of his friend Colonel
Wadsworth"--the gentleman to whom he had written the letter of the
eleventh of May previous.

Having tried, though vainly, to shake off the terrible torpor and regain
the use of his limbs by exercise, the stricken soldier was at last
compelled to admit defeat and resign himself to the inevitable. He
returned home after a short tarry with his friend, and passed the
remainder of that winter at the farmhouse he had built in his younger
days, surrounded with loving care and affection by his children. At
first disposed to rebel against this stroke that had rendered him
useless while his country still stood in need of his services,
eventually he regained his cheerfulness and gave himself up to the
enjoyment of the home comforts of which for so many years he had been

The partial paralysis from which he suffered was premonitory of the
final stroke; but it was eleven years before it came and removed from
earth this stout-hearted man who had given his best years and his best
efforts to battling for his native land. There is no doubt that his
mighty struggles in the several wars--his daylight marches and nighttime
vigils; his tremendous exertions in emergencies like the fire at Fort
Edward, the running of the rapids at Fort Miller; long hours without
rest in the saddle, and in the trenches, with wet and frozen clothing
sometimes unchanged for days--all conduced toward the weakening of that
mighty frame prematurely stricken with paralysis.

But he had regrets only for what he was prevented from doing; not for
what he had done. Having recovered somewhat, he entertained hopes--vain
hopes--of rejoining the army; but was finally convinced that his active
career was ended. Major Humphreys having visited him in May, 1780, by
his hand he sent a missive to Washington, informing him of his
condition, and ending with this pathetic postscript: "I am making a
great effort to use my hand to make the initials of my name for the
first time. "I.P."--Israel Putnam."

Washington replied in July, congratulating him on his improved state of
health, and four years later, after peace was declared between Great
Britain and the United States, he wrote a long and cordial letter, which
the old General regarded as one of his most precious treasures. The
opening paragraph shows Washington's real and lasting estimate of his
former comrade in adversity, and is as follows:

     Your favor of the 20th of May I received with much pleasure. For I
     can assure you that among the many worthy and meritorious officers
     with whom I have had the happiness to be connected in service
     throughout this war, and from whom I have had cheerful assistance
     in the various and trying vicissitudes of a complicated contest,
     the name of a Putnam is not forgotten; nor will it be but with
     that stroke of time which shall obliterate from my mind the
     remembrance of all those toils and fatigues through which we have
     struggled for the preservation and establishment of the Rights,
     Liberties, and Independence of our Country.

It was not like Old Put to give up the fight so long as life held out,
and by the exercise of his iron will he kept up and about for years.
Within less than a twelvemonth from having been disqualified from
service on account of his affliction, he paid a visit to his former
command on the lower Hudson, where one of his old friends, General
Greene, complains, in a letter, that he is "talking as usual, and
telling his old stories."

It can not be denied that he was somewhat loquacious, especially in his
later years, and those "old stories" were not alone his solace, but the
delight of numerous audiences of admiring friends and neighbors. At
Major Humphreys's request he retold them, two or three years before he
died (1788) and they form the basis of his first biographical memoir.
But they were doubtless very stale to those of his hearers who had
listened to them again and again, as plainly intimated by General

As they were mainly about himself and his exploits, and as many of them
were of events that happened in the distant past, it is not unlikely
that some of them were slightly exaggerated, to say the least. Some
others told of Old Put and his doings are perhaps not entitled to
credence. Among these latter may be the tales of his dueling days, as,
for instance, the story of his challenge by an English officer on
parole, who, when he came to the place appointed, found Old Put seated
near what appeared to be a keg of powder, serenely smoking his pipe. As
the officer reached the rendezvous, Putnam lighted a slow-match from his
pipe and thrust it into a hole bored in the head of the keg, upon which
were scattered a few grains of gunpowder. Viewing these sinister
preparations for the "duel," the Englishman concluded that the best
thing he could do was to run away, which he did very promptly. "O ho!"
shouted Putnam after him, taking his pipe from his mouth. "You are just
about as brave a man as I thought, to run away from a keg of onions! Ha,
ha, ha!"

No date is given to this occurrence, nor to another account of the
"duel" he didn't fight with a brother officer whom he drove from the
field at the muzzle of a loaded musket. In fact, the "field of honor"
was not much frequented by Putnam, who preferred the field of battle,
where he always gave a good account of himself.

During his declining years he was cheered by the companionship of his
children, most of whom were married and settled near him, and being in
the enjoyment of a competence, he was vastly better off than the
majority of the soldiers who had fought with and under him during the
Revolution, for many of them were impoverished.

He preserved his strong will-power and great physical strength to the
end of his days, notwithstanding the ravages of disease, and in 1786,
four years before he died, performed a journey to his birthplace in
Danvers, riding all the way on horseback, though with frequent stops by
the way not only for rest, but on account of the people who flocked out
to see him and desired to entertain the famous fighter in so many wars.

This was the last of his ventures afield, and henceforth he confined his
excursions to visiting the homes of his sons and daughters, and to trips
around his farm, though on Sundays and "prayer-meeting nights" he would
always be found in the meeting-house at the Green, where he was a
regular attendant. It is related that at one of the evening meetings one
of his fellow worshipers aroused him, by expressing his own conviction
that any person who had ever used profane language could hardly be
considered a model Christian. Old Put at once accepted the reproof as
intended, for it was well known that in moments of excitement, when
carried away by the furore of battle, he had often used words which he
would not care to review in print. He detested a coward, and when he met
one in retreat he did not hesitate to employ strong language in
expressing his opinion. At Horseneck, declared the only witness of his
reckless ride down the hill, "Old Put was cursing the British terribly."
There was no evading his friend's pointed remarks, so the honest old man
rose from his seat and "confessed the failing which he had finally
overcome"; but he added, with a twinkle in his eye, "it was enough to
make an angel swear at Bunker Hill to see the rascals run away from the

[Footnote 4: Livingston's Life of Israel Putnam. An exhaustive work, by
a conscientious and painstaking author.]

In this respect he was no worse than his former Commander-in-Chief,
though he may have been oftener culpable, being so much more excitable
than the phlegmatic Washington.

The final summons came on Saturday, the twenty-ninth of May, 1790, when,
in a lower room of the house he had built nearly fifty years before, the
battle-scarred warrior, life's fitful fever ended, passed peacefully
away to his rest.

Israel Putnam was well prepared to die, declared his pastor in his
funeral sermon, and perfectly resigned to the will of God.

"He had been for years," says Major Humphreys, "in patient yet fearless
expectation of the approach of the King of Terrors, whom he had full
often faced on the field of blood."

On the first day of June the earthly remains of Israel Putnam, attended
by a distinguished company of former comrades and sorrowing friends,
were taken to the Brooklyn burying-ground, and placed in a brick tomb.

Upon the slab of the tomb was carved the lengthy epitaph, printed on the
next page, as composed by Dr. Timothy Dwight, Putnam's former friend and
chaplain in the army, who subsequently became President of Yale College.

[Illustration: Statue to General Putnam at Brooklyn, Connecticut.]

                    To the memory
                Israel Putnam, Esquire,
           Senior Major-General in the Armies
            The United States of America
                 Was born at Salem
          In the Province of Massachusetts
            On the seventh day of January
                      AD. 1718,
                      And died
            On the twenty-ninth day of May
                      AD. 1790.

                If thou art a Soldier
          Drop a Tear over the dust of a Hero
                   Ever attentive
        To the lives and happiness of his Men
                   Dared to lead
             Where any Dared to follow;
                   If a Patriot,
    Remember the distinguished and gallant services
                Rendered thy Country
    By the Patriot who sleeps beneath this Monument;
           If thou art Honest, generous & worthy
            Render a cheerful tribute of respect
                    To a Man
              Whose generosity was singular
               Whose honesty was proverbial
            Raised himself to universal esteem
             And offices of Eminent distinction
                 By personal worth
                      And a
                  Usefull life.

With the passing of the years, Putnam's tomb in the pleasant little
cemetery in Brooklyn became defaced through the ravages of time and
heartless relic hunters, so the State resolved to erect a more enduring
monument to "Connecticut's hero of the Revolution." This monument was
dedicated June 14th, 1888, nearly a century after the death of the one
it is intended to commemorate, and is in the shape of a beautiful bronze
statue, representing Putnam on his war-horse, beneath the pedestal
supporting which, embedded in the foundation, is a sarcophagus
containing his ashes. It stands near the old church which Putnam helped
to build, and not far distant from the field in which he was plowing
when the call came from Lexington and Concord. Dr. Dwight's original
epitaph is inscribed on the tablets, and a wolf's head in bronze
ornaments the pedestal on each side.

Little now remains to be added, except to call attention to Putnam's
character, eulogies upon which have been delivered by the ablest men of
his time and of the generations after him. This sterling character has
shone resplendent in his deeds, which we have noted; and we may almost
say of him, as of Washington, his great commander, "Whatever good may
at any time be said, it can never be an exaggeration!"

General Putnam, remarked his first biographer, "is universally
acknowledged to have been as brave and honest a man as ever America
produced.... He seems to have been formed on purpose for the age in
which he lived. His native courage, unshaken integrity, and established
reputation as a soldier, were necessary in the early stages of our
opposition to Great Britain, and gave unbounded confidence to our troops
in their first conflicts on the field of battle."

Over his open grave, on that day in June so long ago, were pronounced
the following words, as true now as yesterday, as they will be
henceforth, forever: "Born a hero, whom nature taught and cherished in
the lap of innumerable toils and dangers, he was terrible in battle....
But from the amiableness of his heart, when carnage ceased, his humanity
spread over the field like the refreshing zephyrs of a summer's evening.
... He pitied littleness, loved goodness, admired greatness, and ever
aspired to its glorious summit."

The name of Putnam, as Washington declared, is not forgotten--nor will
be, until time shall be no more.

  "He dared to lead
  Where any dared to follow. In their need
  Men looked to him.
  A tower of strength was Israel Putnam's name,
  A rally-word for patriot acclaim;
  It meant resolve, and hope, and bravery,
  And steady cheerfulness and constancy.
  And if, in years to come, men should forget
  That only freedom makes a nation great;
  If men grow less as wealth accumulates,
  Till gold becomes the life-blood of our States;
  Should all these heavy ills weigh down our heart,
  We'll turn to him who acted well his part
  In those old days, draw lessons from his fame,
  And hope and strength from Israel Putnam's name."


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