Israel Putnam

ISRAEL PUTNAM, a distinguished soldier in the French and English wars, and subsequently in that of the revolution, was born of English parents, at Salem, in the then province of Massachusetts, Jan. 7th, 1718. Being intended for a farmer, he received only a common education. He had a strong mind, vigorous constitution, great bodily strength, enterprise and activity, excelled in athletic exercises, and, while a stripling, was ambitious of performing the full labor of manhood. He married very young, and removed, in 1739, to Pomfret, in Connecticut, where he had purchased a tract of land. During his residence there, his flocks and those of his neighbors being terribly thinned by a monstrous she wolf, Putnam with a few associates, traced the ferocious animal to a deep cavern in a rock. Into this he crept alone, with a torch in one hand and a musk et in the other, and, at the utmost personal risk, destroyed the creature, When the war of 1755 broke out between France and England, he was appointed, at the age of thirty-seven, commander of a company, enlisted the necessary number of recruits from the young men in his vicinity, and joined the army then commencing the campaign near Crown Point. His services as a partisan officer were unremitting and great, and caused him to be promoted, in 1757, to the rank of major, by the legislature of Connecticut. In 1758, he fell into the Indian ambuscade, and was taken prisoner, when returning to Fort Edward from an expedition to watch the enemy's movements near Ticonderoga. The Indians were about to burn him to death, having already tied him to a tree and set fire to a circle of combustibles around him, when he was rescued by the interposition of their leader, Molang, a famous French partisan officer. He was then carried to Ticonderoga, where he underwent an examination before the Marquis De Montcalm, who ordered him to Montreal. There he found several fellow prisoners, among whom was colonel Peter Schuyler, who immediately visited, and found him almost destitute of clothing and dreadfully wounded and bruised. The colonel supplied him with money and, having clothed himself in a decent garb, he was immediately treated with the respect due his rank. An exchange of prisoners procured Putnam his liberty. He resumed his military duties, and, having been previously appointed a lieutenant-colonel, rendered especial service at the siege of Montreal by the British, in 1760. In 1762, after war had been declared between England and Spain, he accompanied the expedition, under Lord Albemarle, against the Havana. In 1764, having been appointed colonel, he marched, at the head of a regiment, with general Bradstreet, against the savages of the western frontier. On his return from this expedition, which resulted in a treaty between the contending parties, he betook himself, once more, to a country life, filled several offices in his native town, to represent it in the general assembly. In 1770, he went, with general Lyman and some others, to explore a grant of land on the Mississippi. General Lyman died there; but Putnam returned after having made some improvements on his tract. When hostilities commenced between England and the colonies (April 18th, 1775, ) Putnam received the intelligence as he was plowing in the middle of a field; he left his plow there, unyoked his team, and, without changing his clothes, set off for the scene of action. Finding the British shut up and closely invested with a sufficient force in Boston, he returned to Connecticut, levied a regiment under colonial authority, and marched to Cambridge. His colony now appointed him a major-general on the provincial staff, and congress soon after confirmed to him the same rank on the continental. About this time the British offered him the rank of a major-general in his majesty's army, with a pecuniary remuneration for his treason; but the temptation could not influence him. In the several preparatory operations for the battle of Bunker's hill, he took an active part. After the commencement of the retreat at the battle of Bunker's hill, Putnam arrived on the field with a reinforcement, and performed everything to be expected from a brave and experienced officer; the enemy pursued the retreating Americans to Winter hill; but Putnam halted there, and drove them back, under cover of their ships. On the evacuation of Boston, March 17th 1776, the greater part of the forces were dispatched to New York, and Putnam was, some time after, sent thither to take upon him the command. After the disastrous action on Long Island, and general Washington's masterly retreat from thence, Putnam was nominated to the command of the right grand division of the army. He served some time in the vicinity of New York and was sent to the western side of the Hudson, and shortly after, to suprintend the fortifications of Philadelphia. After the battles of Trenton and Princeton, he was posted at Princeton, where he continued till the ensuing spring, with a very inferior force, guarding a considerable extent of frontier, curtailing and harrassing the enemy, without sustaining the least disaster. During his stay at Princeton, by attacking the foraging parties of the enemy and assemblages of the disaffected who infested his vicinity, he captured nearly a thousand prisoners.

In the spring of 1777, he was appointed to the command of a separate army in the highlands of New York. There was no regular enemy in this neighborhood, but the country around was filled with tories, and a species of banditti, called cow-boys, who committed shocking depredations. Many of the tories clandestinely traversed the country, with messages from one British army to another, and even on recruiting expeditions for the royal service. One of them, a lieutenant in the new tory levies was detected in the American camp, and reclaimed by governor Tryon, his commander, with threats of vengeance in case of his punishment. H e received this laconic answer from general Putnam: 'Sir: Nathan Palmer, a lieutenant in your king's service, was taken in my camp as a spy; he was tried as a spy; he was condemned as a spy; and you may rest assured, Sir, he Shall be hanged as a spy. P. S. Afternoon. He is hanged.' After the capture of Fort Montgomery, Putnam selected West Point as the best calculated site for a fortress to protect the river. The reputation it afterwards attained, evinced the judiciousness of this selection. After the battle of Monmouth, Putnam was posted, for the winter, at Reading in Connecticut, that he might protect the country adjoining to the Sound, and the garrison at West Point. While he was on a visit to one of his outposts governor Tryon advanced upon him with 1500 men. Putnam had with him but 150 men and two field-pieces, with which he kept the enemy at bay some time. At length, seeing the enemy preparing to charge, he ordered his men to retire to a swamp, while he plunged down a precipice so steep as to have artificial steps, nearly one hundred in number, for the use of foot passengers. The enemy's dragoons stopped short, afraid to venture, although within a sword's length of him. While they went round the brow of the hill to gain the valley, he raised a force sufficiently strong to pursue Tryon on his retreat. In the campaign of 1779, he commanded the Maryland line, stationed near West Point. In the autumn of this year, the American army retired into winter quarters, at Morristown, and Putnam accompanied his family into Connecticut for a few weeks. At the commencement of his journey from thence to Morristown, while on the road between Pomfret and Hartford, he was seized with an extraordinary numbness of his right hand and foot, which crept gradually upon him, until his right side became, in a considerable degree, paralyzed. This severe, affliction produced a transient depression of his mind; but he conquered his dejection, and resumed his naturally cheerful temper. He was still able to walk and ride moderately, and the faculties of his mind were unimpaired. In this situation he lived to see his country enjoying that independence of which he bad been so able a champion, and died at Brookline, in Connecticut, May 29th 1790, aged seventy-two years.