m. 21 Apr 1690
m. 19 July 1739
Facts and Events
The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans: Volume IIV
PUTNAM, Israel, soldier, was born in Salem, Mass., Jan. 7, 1718; twelfth child of Joseph (half brother of Edward) and Elizabeth (Porter) Putnam; grandson of Thomas and Mary Verne Putnam and of Israel and Elizabeth (Hathorne) Porter, and great-grandson of John Porter, of William Hathorne and of John and Priscilla (Gould) Putnam, all immigrants from England about 1630-1634, and settlers in Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Israel's father died when he was quite young, and his mother marrying Capt. Thomas Perley of Boxford, he was brought up on the farm of his stepfather, receiving a portion of his father's farm near Salem, on reaching his majority. In 1739 he was married to Hannah, daughter of Joseph and Mehitable (Putnam) Pope, and in company with his brother-in-law, John Pope, he removed to Mortlake, Conn., and settled on a farm of 514 acres, purchased from Governor Belcher. He brought his wife and child to this place in the autumn of 1740, and on June 13, 1741, became sole owner of the estate, which he at once began to improve. He planted a variety of both fruit and shade trees in orchards and along the high ways which he laid exit through the place. His success in farming, as an orchardist, slid in sheep raising made him the leading citizen of the community, and he was an early promoter of good neighborhood schools. He was captain in the regiment of Col. Ephriam Williams, raised to preset the northern frontier from the invasion of the French in 1755. When he joined the army of Gen. Phineas Lyman in the expedition to Lake George and Crown Point, [p.436] and was present at the disastrous defeat of the Colonial army by Baron Dieskau in the woods near Lake George, Sept. 8, 1755, followed by the successful battle that resulted in the annihilation of the army of Dieskau, and the baronetcy of William Johnson. Putnam displayed such unusual skill in Indian warfare that he was made an independent scout, and operated with the rangers under Maj. Robert Rogers. After spending the winter of 1755-56 at home, he joined General Abercrombie at Fort Edward in the spring, and his exploits in saving the powder magazine during a fire in the fort, his rescue of a party of soldiers by passing the rapids of Fort Miller in a bateau, and his recapture of provisions and military stores seized by the French, his capture, torture, miraculous escape and final exchange, form an important part of the history of the French and Indian war. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel and took part in command of his regiment in the successful expeditions of General Amherst against Ticonderoga and Crown Point in 1759, and against Montreal in 1760. He accompanied General Lyman to the West Indies in 1762; and took part in the capture of Havana, Aug. 13, 1762, and in 1764 was promoted colonel and joined Bradstreet in his march to the relief of Detroit besieged by Pontiac. He had spent his winters at home, and in 1765 resumed his farming operations, also conducting a profitable inn in Mortlake Manor, which had been set off from Pomfret in 1751. Colonel Putnam became a member of the church, a selectman of the town, deputy to the general assembly, and in the winter of 1772-73 accompanied General Lyman to inspect the lands on the Mississippi river near Natchez given to the soldiers of Connecticut for their services in the French and Indian war. He was a Son of Liberty, having joined the order in 1765, and when General Gage was in Boston, he visited him, and declared his allegiance to the cause of the colonies. He heard the news of the battle of Lexington while plowing in his fields, and at once mounted his horse. After riding all night he reached Cambridge, Mass., the next morning, proceeding on the same day to Concord, Mass., whence he sent a messenger back to Pomfret to have the militia in readiness to meet the emergency. The next week he returned home and was appointed brigadier-general by the legislature, having command of the militia of the colony. He joined the patriot army at Cambridge, and commanded at the battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775, and on June 19, was made major-general in the Continental army, and placed in command of the division stationed at Cambridge. He was ordered to New York to assume chief command of the army, and on his arrival, April 4, 1776, he proceeded to place the city in a condition of defence, to this end declaring the inhabitants under martial law. Washington arrived April 13, and continued the work so efficiently begun by Putnam, who remained second in command. On August 17, Putnam announced to Washington the arrival of General Howe's fleet off Sandy Hook, and on August 22, 15,000 royal troops crossed the narrows from Staten Island to Gravesend, Long Island. On August 24, he succeeded General Sullivan in command of Brooklyn Heights, and his army was defeated August 27, and forced to cross the East River to New York, where his army of 5000 men found temporary refuge. On the retreat to Harlem, he commanded the rear guard, and after distinguishing himself in the battle of Harlem Heights, he was sent with a detachment to the support of General McDougall at White Plains, but arriving too late, crossed the Hudson River to Fort Lee, where after the capture of Fort Washington, Nov. 26, 1776, and the discovery of the treachery of General Charles Lee, he was placed in command of the troops in Philadelphia, where he constructed fortifications and prepared the city against threatened British attack. In January, 1777, he went into winter quarters at Princeton, N.J., and in May, 1777, was transferred to the command of the troops in the Highlands of the Hudson river, with headquarters at Peekskill, from which post he was forced by the British to retreat to Fishkill in October, but re-occupied Peekskill on the retirement of Sir Henry Clinton to New York. His delay in complying with Washington's directions to reinforce the army at Philadelphia now threatened by Howe and Clinton, cost him his command and a severe reprimand from the commander-in-chief, and he was placed on recruiting duty in Connecticut. He defended the state against the raids of Governor Tryon, when Danbury was burned, April 26, 1777, and during the winter of 1778-79, made his escape from Tryon's cavalry, by dashing down the precipice at Greenwood. He commanded the right wing of the American army at the battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778, and at West Point on the Hudson, July to December, 1779, and while on his return to Washington's headquarters at Morristown after a visit to Pomfret, he was stricken with paralysis at Hartford, Conn., and this disease closed his military career. He married as his second wife, in 1767, Deborah (Lathtop) Avery Gardner, widow of John Gardner, and she accompanied him on most of his campaigns, and died at his headquarters in the Highlands in 1777. An equestrian statue by J. Q. A. Ward was unveiled in Brooklyn, Conn., June 14, 1888. Lives of General Israel Putnam have been written by David Humphreys (1790); by O. W. B. Peabody in Sparks's "American [p.437] Biography"; by William Cutler (1846); by the Rev. Duncan N. Taylor, D.D. (1876), and by William Farrand Livington (1901) which gives much new light on his private and military life. In the election of names for a place in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, New York university, October, 1900, his name in "Class N, Soldiers and Sailors," received ten votes. He died in Brooklyn, Conn., May 29, 1790.
Israel Putnam (January 7, 1718 – May 29, 1790) was an American army general and Freemason, popularly known as "Old Put," who fought with distinction at the Battle of Bunker Hill (1775) during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). His reckless courage and fighting spirit were known far beyond Connecticut's borders through the circulation of folk legends celebrating his exploits.