The New International Encyclopædia/Putnam, Israel

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

PUTNAM, Israel (1718-90). An American soldier, prominent in the French and Indian and the Revolutionary wars. He was born in Old Salem Village (now Danvers), Mass.; removed to Pomfret, Conn., in 1740, and became a farmer and wool-grower there. In the winter of 1742-43, according to tradition, he gave evidence of unusual coolness and intrepidity by entering a cave alone and, by the light of a torch, shooting a wolf which had taken refuge there. In August, 1755, during the French and Indian War, he was commissioned lieutenant by the Connecticut Legislature, later in the year became one of Rogers's Rangers, in March, 1756, became captain, saved Fort Edward from being destroyed by fire in the winter of 1757, and in March, 1758, became major. In August, 1758, he was captured near the present Whitehall. N. Y., in an engagement with a force of French and Indians under the partisan leader Marin, but after undergoing many hardships and narrowly escaping death, was exchanged, in November, through the influence of Col. Peter Schuyler, himself a prisoner. He served under Amherst in the Montreal expedition, went as acting colonel of the Connecticut regiment on the expedition to the West Indies, and participated in the attack on Morro Castle, Havana, July 30, 1762. In Pontiac's War he was a major of Connecticut troops under Bradstreet. In 1765 he was an ardent opponent of the Stamp Act, and closely identified himself with the radical Whigs, becoming one of the leaders of the Sons of Liberty in Connecticut, and chairman of one of the committees of correspondence. In 1766 he was elected to the Connecticut Assembly. He opened a tavern at Brooklyn, Conn., in June, 1767. He was made a member of the so-called exploring committee of the Company of Military Adventurers organized by Gen. Phineas Lyman (q.v.) in 1772, and as such visited the Lower Mississippi Valley and West Florida, where land grants had been promised to the company.

In 1774 he was among those who sent material assistance to the Bostonians, who, through the operations of the Port Bill and their attitude thereto, were put in immediate need of the necessaries of life. In April, 1775, tidings of the battle of Lexington reached him while he was plowing; he left his plow in the field and, mounting his horse, rode to Cambridge in one day, a distance of sixty-eight miles. Returning, he was made brigadier-general by the Legislature, organized and drilled a regiment, and in a week was on his way back with his men to Cambridge. In May of that year he led a battalion to Noddle's Island, burned a British schooner, captured a sloop, and killed and wounded many of the enemy. By his advice it was decided to fortify Bunker Hill, in the engagement at which place he is considered by many to have been the commanding officer, though others claim this honor for Prescott. In this engagement Putnam displayed great energy and bravery, though he docs not seem to have been present in the main redoubt on Breed's Hill, where Prescott commanded. On the arrival of Washington at the camp to take command in July, 1775, he brought commissions from Congress for four major-generals, one of whom was Putnam. On the evacuation of Boston in the spring of 1776, Putnam was placed in command of New York. He held the chief command within the fortified lines during the battle of Long Island; was sent to Philadelphia to fortify that city in December, 1776; was afterwards stationed at Crosswick and Princeton; and in May, 1777, was ordered to take command in the Highlands of New York. In the summer of that year he was removed from his command in the Highlands on account of the surprise and loss of Forts Montgomery and Clinton, though he was acquitted of blame by a court of inquiry and restored to his command. In 1779, when stationed in Connecticut, Horseneck, one of his outposts, guarded by 150 men and two cannon, was attacked liv the British officer Tryon, with 1500 men. Putnam, being closely pursued while on his way with his men to a swamp, is said to have dashed down a steep hill and escaped. Riding to Stamford and collecting the militia, he formed a junction with his troops, pursued Tryon in his retreat, and took 50 prisoners. In the summer of 1779 he had command of the troops in the Highlands, and completed the fortifications at West Point. The army going into winter quarters, he returned home, and on starting out again for camp was stricken with paralysis, from which he never completely recovered. He died May 19, 1790. Consult Livingston, Israel Putnam, Pioneer, Ranger, and Major-General (New York, 1901).