Puslapio vaizdai



was opened upon them from the armed vessels and floating batteries in the harbor, and from the battery on Copp's Hill. The cannonade was kept up all the morning, but it effected nothing; the Americans suffered more from hunger than from the balls of their enemies. A little past noon a large detachment of British soldiers was sent against them. A pass of consequence being left undefended, Putnam ordered one of his officers, Captain Knowlton, to cover it. A rail fence was pulled up, and placed a few feet from another rail fence, and the space between was filled with new-mown hay. British van soon appeared in sight. Americans were so eager for the fight that they were with difficulty restrained from firing too soon. Putnam rode along the line, and ordered them not to fire until the British had arrived within eight rods, nor even then until the word of command should be given. "Powder is scarce," he said, (there was at that time only sixtyseven barrels in all Massachusetts!) "and must not be wasted. Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes. Then aim low. Aim at their waistbands; aim at the handsome coats; pick off the officers." The British troops advanced to the fatal line, when a well-aimed volley from the Americans swept away the whole front rank. Rank succeeded rank, and volley followed volley, mowing them down, till they were at length compelled to retreat. Three times did they advance to the wall of fire, and three times did they retreat, each time with a terrible loss. Meanwhile a detachment had landed from the Somerset man-of-war and fired the town. Under cover of the smoke they hoped to be able to gain the rear of the American army unperceived; but a sudden change of wind revealed the design. Putnam, who had been active in every part of the field, undertook to arrest this new movement; he shifted his cannon to the rail fence, and then to the brow of the hill overlooking Charlestown. Here he opened a deadly fire, dismounting, and pointing the guns himself.

Every ball took effect. One canister was so well directed that it made a complete lane through the columns of the British. Their cannon cartridges being all spent, the Americans took to their muskets, and suffering their assailants to approach nearer than before, poured in a volley with such deliberate aim that the

whole front rank was swept away, officers and men falling pell-mell together. All went on well in the intrenchments, which were defended with but small loss; but the ammunition being all exhausted, there was no alternative left but to retreat. General Howe commanded his soldiers to scale the works, and drive the Americans out at the point of the bayonet. The British artillery were ordered to advance at the same time, and, turning the left of the breastwork, to rake the line. As they drew near the Americans seized the stones of their defenses and threw them into the ranks; others clubbed their muskets, and were soon engaged in the pleasant occupation of battering out brains. Clubbed muskets, however, even in the hands of a people fighting for their native soil, are but a sorry defense against bayonets, so they were obliged to give ground and retreat. The retreat was bold and orderly. Put. nam especially was efficient and daring in bringing up and protecting the rear. threw himself between his countrymen and their foes, who were but twelve rods from him, and seemed to brave their fury. The balls fell around him like hail, but he bore a charmed life. Coming to a deserted field-piece, he dismounted and took his stand by its side; only one sergeant dared to remain with him. The sergeant was shot down, and Putnam himself retired only when the bayonets were close upon him, and he was in danger of being made a prisoner. The retreat was maintained in good order over the Neck to Prospect and Winter Hills, where the Americans took their position for the night, throwing up hasty intrenchments, which were soon strengthened and fortified. So began and ended the battle of Bunker's Hill-the Marathon of American liberty.


Without wishing to detract from the reputation of any of the brave fellows who fought on that never-to-be-forgotten day, (I have not mentioned Warren, the reader will perceive,) I cannot but think General Putnam the master spirit of Bunker's Hill. Never before or since did his coolness and bravery appear to so much advantage. He was an incarnation of boldness and daring. One who saw him on that day describes him as riding about without a coat, in his shirt sleeves, with an old white felt hat on! A hero in an old hat! what would Murat of the waving plume have said to that?

Washington arrived at Cambridge and took command of the army on the 2d of July. Until they met at Cambridge he and Putnam were personally unknown to each other; they were soon on terms of intimacy, and remained friends through the whole period of their military life. Writing to the President of Congress at that time, Washington called Putnam "a most valuable man, and a fine executive officer." In November Putnam erected a fortification on Cobble Hill. The fort was known as "Putnam's impregnable fortress." An anecdote of a council of war, in which a plan for a proposed assault on Boston was under discussion, shows the difference between Putnam and Washington. While the discussion was going on Putnam, who was to take charge of the affair, was continually going to the door and window to see what was passing outside. "Sit down, General Putnam," said Washington, at length; "we must have your advice and counsel in this matter, since the responsibility of its execution is to rest with you." "O, my dear general," replied Putnam, "you may plan the battle to suit yourself, and I will fight it.” It was characteristic of the man; fighting rather than planning suited his ardent and impetuous temperament. The British evacuated Boston on the 17th of March, and the city was occupied by the American troops, who marched in joyfully under the command of Putnam.

Twelve days after he hastened to New York to complete some works of defense which had been planned and laid out by General Lee. He was chief in command in that city. His head-quarters were in Broadway, opposite the Bowling Green. Here he established himself and family, and received and entertained his friends with great hospitality, carrying on, meanwhile, the fortifications intrusted to his

[blocks in formation]

On the 27th of August the Battle of Brooklyn was fought. Putnam did all that a man could do under the circumstances in which he was placed, but the British were victorious. On the night of the day after the battle, while they were breaking ground for the erection of a battery within six hundred yards of one of his redoubts, Putnam withdrew the American forces to New York, and with such silence and order that all the troops and military stores, the greater part of the provisions, and all the artillery, except a few of the heaviest pieces, were carried safely over before the British were aware of the movement. It was a masterly maneuver, and it redounded greatly to the glory of Putnam. The next best thing to a victory is a skillful retreat.

Putnam remained in the vicinity of New York after the British had occupied it, annoying them by frequent skirmishes, until December, when he was sent to take the command at Philadelphia, which was menaced by the British under General Howe. He placed the city under martial law, and superintended the construction of works of defense. His industry was so great that his health was for a while impaired. The success of Washington at Trenton and Princeton so weakened the cause of the British in Philadelphia, that Putnam was ordered ere long to take the field, and be ready for action. He remained at Princeton during the winter of 1777, within fifteen miles of the British stronghold at Brunswick. His force was exceedingly small, never more than a few hundred men, yet he maintained so good a front, and blinded the eyes of the enemy so successfully, that they made no attempt to dislodge him. While at Princeton one of his prisoners, a Scotch officer in the British service, who had been wounded and left on the ground after the battle, doubtful of his recovery, and wishing to make his will, desired Putnam to allow him the privilege of a friend from the British army at Brunswick. Putnam had but fifty men under his command at the time, the rest being out in detachments to cover and protect the country, consequently he was considerably embarrassed; but he luckily thought of an expedient which he put in practice. He sent a flag of truce to Brunswick to bring the Scotchman's mortuary friend, but ordered it not to return until after dark. In the evening he caused

several distinguished gentlemen, among others a noted French engineer, surveyed the whole region, and at last fixed upon

lights to be placed in every room of the college, and in all the vacant houses in the town. Then the fifty men, sometimes all together, and sometimes in small detach-West Point as the site for a new fortress. *ments, were marched from different quarters all night long past the house which contained the British officer. On his return he reported that General Putnam's army could not consist of less that four or five thousand men. Five thousand from fifty! it beat Falstaff's men in buckram by a long odds! Putnam had not fought in the Indian wars for nothing.

The fortress was commenced in January, 1788, when the snow was two feet deep. Putnam's troops were many of them in the condition of Falstaff's ragged regiment: some were inoculated with the small-pox, others were without shoes and stockings, and others without shirts and breeches. There was one whole regiment in which there was not even one blanket! Nevertheless the work went on rapidly, and West Point was ere long impregnable.

In the winter of 1778-9 a British foraging party, numbering fifteen hundred men, under the command of Governor Tryon, approached the town of West Greenwich, familiarly known as Horse Neck. was one of Putnam's outposts, and he happened to be there himself when Tryon ad

In the spring of 1777 Putnam was assigned to the command of the Highlands. Generals Greene and Knox having recommended to Washington that a chain should be drawn across the North River in the vicinity of Fort Montgomery, General Putnam was instructed to superintend it. The chain was safely laid; but the fort was taken after all, by a party of the British, who penetrated the defiles of the High-vanced. lands on the west side of the river. It was while he was in command in the Highlands that Putnam sent his celebrated note to Sir Henry Clinton. It was in this wise: Edmund Palmer, a lieutenant in a regiment of American Tories, was taken in disguise in the American camp, and condemned to die as a spy. Sir Henry sent a flag of truce to Putnam, claiming his release, and threatening vengeance in case his demand was not complied with. To which Putnam replied:

[blocks in formation]

It would occupy too much space to give a minute account of Putnam's operations in the Highlands; to follow him month after month in his various marches and countermarches, now advancing and skirmishing with the enemy, now retreating, but still skirmishing. Suffice it to say, that in spite of his exertions Forts Montgomery and Constitution fell into the hands of the British, and were demolished. It now became a question with the Americans whether they should be rebuilt, or whether a new and more eligible site should be selected. To settle this matter Putnam and


His force was vastly inferior to that of the British, consisting of a picket of one hundred and fifty men, with two pieces of artillery. He took his station, however, on the brow of a steep declivity, and resolved to do all the mischief that he could. His men discharged several volleys at the ranks of the enemy, upon which the dragoons, supported with a corps of infantry, prepared to charge. Putnam ordered his men to retire to a swamp close at hand, and inaccessible to cavalry, and then sought safety himself by spurring his horse down the declivity. When his pursuers came to the top of the precipice they were struck with amazement, and stopped short. They gave up the chase, and fired upon him as he wound his way along the zig-zag road; with the exception of a bullet through his hat he sustained no injury, but continued his route to Stamford, a distance of about ten miles. Arriving there, he collected a band of militia, and returning with all dispatch, formed a junction with his men who had taken to the swamp, and hung upon the rear of Tryon, as he in turn retreated, and took about fifty of his men prisoners. Such was the famous ride at Horse Neck, the memory of which has done so much to keep alive Putnam's reputation for reckless bravery

In December, 1779, while the army was in winter-quarters at Morristown, General Putnam obtained leave of absence for a few weeks, and went to visit his family in Connecticut. Before the end of the month


He he set out on his return to the camp. had proceeded but a few miles, however, when he was arrested by an attack of paralysis, by which he lost the use of his limbs on one side. The old warrior had fought his last battle; he was done with marches and camps; henceforth his life He was to be passed in quiet and peace. survived the attack over eleven years, living to see the glorious struggle in which he had so largely participated completely successful, and his country raised from a colony to a free and independent nation. If anything could have sweetened his latter days, it was so blessed a consummation to all his hopes and wishes. He retained his faculties to the last, and to a moderate degree the use of his limbs. He was able to walk and ride, and a few weeks before his death he traveled on horseback from Pomfret to Danvers, a journey of one hundred miles. He died on the 19th of March, 1790, in his seventy-third year.

It is difficult to sum up the characters of most men, they are so full of contradictions and inconsistencies; even when the character is well balanced it is no easy task to represent a man as he is. Your model man, excellent though he may be, We like is rather a dull fellow on paper. a man of angles rather than a symmetrical and harmonious man. There is no comparison between Washington and Napoleon; the one the soul of integrity and truth, the other as false as the arch fiend himself, Yet the the slave of his own ambition. mass of men, I venture to say, admire Napoleon more than Washington. They admire him for his unscrupulous greatness, Washington they love him for his faults. had but few faults, therefore he is less beAs a man he loved. So with Putnam. was inferior to Washington in everything but manliness and love of his country. His character was not so well balanced, his views were not so profound. He was a brave and daring, rather than a great soldier. He lacked the power of generalizing and planning. He was more a soldier than a general. It is true that he labored under disadvantages from which Washington and many other of our generals were happily free. His education was imperfect, and his early life was passed in unintellectual pursuits; and as for military education, in the strict sense of the term, it is What doubtful whether he had much. little he possessed was derived from his

experiences in the French and Indian wars,
rather than from books, and an original
turn of mind. Yet with all his deficiencies
I doubt not but he has as many and as ar-
dent admirers as Washington. He is on
of the few of our great men who are favor-
ites of the people. He is a people's man.
There was something aristocratic about
Washington. He was always neat and
Putnam, on the
careful in his dress, and dignified and
courteous in his manner.
contrary, was blunt and careless, apt to
indulge in profane oaths, and not remark-
able for love of dress. Witness the shirt
sleeves and old hat at Bunker's Hill. In
short, he was democratic, and the people
loved him. But why attempt to take the
measure of the man, when every child in
the land has an ideal of him in his heart?
Suppose the ideal a false one-could I, or
could any man correct it? By no means.
Honor, then, to Israel Putnam-bold, bluff,
grand old Israel Putnam.



early history of the Genesee Valley is so intimately associated with the Seneca Indians-the most powerful of the associated tribes-that a sketch of their hostilities with the whites may be of interest to the reader.

At the time of our first acquaintance with the Iroquois the Senecas were on terms of intimacy with the English, while the Indians of the upper lakes were attached to the French. Both these nations attempted to monopolize the Indian trade, which gave rise to jealousy and afterward In 1687 De la to frequent hostilities. Barre, Governor of Canada, having made an unsuccessful attempt against the Five Nations, the Marquis de Nonville, his successor, resolved to retrieve the fallen honor of his countrymen. For this purpose he sent messengers to the tribes around the nortnern lakes, and succeeded in collecting a considerable body of Indians to assist him in his enterprise against the Senecas. The advance of his army, consisting of two or three hundred Canadians, surprised two villages of the Five Nations, and put the inhabitants to death with great cruelty, to prevent them, it was said, from conveying intelligence, of the movements of the French to their own people. They were at once carried to the fort and

[graphic][merged small]

tied to stakes, to be tormented by the French Indians, (Christians, as they were called,) and during the torture continued singing in the manner of their country, and upbraiding the French with their perfidy and ingratitude.

On the 23d of June, 1687, De Nonville departed from Codorckui on his expedition against the Five Nations. One half of his army, embarked in canoes, followed the northern shore of Lake Ontario, while the other half, under his own command, proceeded coastwise along the southern shore, that no accident by water might altogether defeat the object of the expedition.

So well were the arrangements executed that both divisions arrived at Irondequoit on the same day, where their Indian allies appear to have been already assembled. Four hundred men were left to guard a slight fortification, and the main body of the forces advanced upon the principal town of the Senecas, the site of which is supposed to have nearly corresponded with that of the present village of Avon. The Indians, led by a party of Indian traders, formed the van, while the regular troops and Canadian militia composed the main body. On the first day they advanced four leagues without discovering an enemy. The morning of the second, scouts were dispatched in advance, who approached the corn-fields of the villages without making

[ocr errors]

any discoveries, a circumstance not very creditable to the sagacity of De Nonville's Indians, since they passed within pistolshot of an ambuscade of five hundred Senecas. Supposing that the warriors had all fled, De Nonville pushed rapidly forward for the purpose, at least, of coming up with and capturing the women, children, and old men. But no sooner had the French reached the foot of the hill (between the village of Avon and the river) than the war-whoop of the ambuscade rang on their ears, and a well-directed volley of musketry brought many of them to the ground. So complete was the surprise, and so great the panic, that the divisions of the French separated in the woods, and in their confusion fired upon each other. The Senecas then rushed upon their foes, tomahawk in hand. The battle was fierce and bloody, until De Nonville's regulars had time to rally and move against the enemy. The Senecas were repulsed, but to De Nonville it was an empty victory: even his Indian allies could not persuade him to a pursuit that day. On the following day he advanced with the intention of burning the villages of the Senecas, but anticipating his arrival, they had set fire to their wigwams. Two prisoners only were made-old men discovered in the castle-who, according to our authority, were cut to pieces and

« AnkstesnisTęsti »