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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Israel Putnam Monument

Above is a shot of the monument to Revolutionary War General Israel Putnam in Brooklyn, Connecticut. This 1888 equestrian statue stands on the town green, with Putnam’s sarcophagus placed in the massive foundation. His remains had been moved here from the South Cemetery due to his popularity and the great number of visitors who came to pay him tribute.

Perhaps Putnam, like many men of his generation, have become lesser known with the passage of time, and their elevated status as heroes in our society has diminished, but impressive monuments like this serve to illustrate for us that great art and great heroes seemed to go together at one time.

Here is an 1864 black and white photo in the collection of the Library of Congress of the portrait done by Jonathan Trumbull, another Connecticut Revolutionary War figure, of Israel Putnam. Though once an idol in a younger Connecticut, Putnam was actually born in Salem Village in Massachusetts (now the town of Danvers). He moved to Connecticut as a young man, became a fairly prosperous farmer, and took part in the French and Indian War with Rogers’ Rangers and with the regular British troops. One interesting story involves his capture by the Caughnawaga Indians, tied to a tree and nearly burned alive, but rescued by a French officer.

He also survived a shipwreck on a British expedition on Cuba, and legend has it Putnam returned with tobacco seeds from the island which was responsible for the propagation of the later Connecticut Valley tobacco farms.

By the time of the Revolutionary War, Putnam, like most of the colonists, traded his red coat for the uniform of the Continental Army. Legend also has it that it was Putnam (though some conjecture it was actually Colonel William Prescott) who hollered the famous warning to his troops at the Battle of Bunker Hill, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”

Putnam was known for being well liked among his troops, a bombastic, rough-and-ready soldier. His exploits in the Revolutionary War ended in December of 1779, when encamped in Redding, Connecticut, at the present day site of the Putnam Memorial State Park, he suffered a paralytic stroke.

He died at his farm in Brooklyn, Connecticut in 1790, living to see the new nation born. The magnificent monument is the work of Karl Gerhardt.

Here is a link to an interesting website all about Israel Putnam.


John Hayes said...

Great info as always. For what it's worth, I'm distantly related to old Israel thru my mother's side. My great-grandmother was a Putnam in the same line.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

How interesting! Quite a pedigree there, son. I love these old equestrian statues.

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