Israel Putnam

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Israel Putnam (January 7, 1718 – May 29, 1790) was an American army general who fought with distinction at the Battle of Bunker Hill (1775) during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). Although Putnam never quite attained the national renown of more famous heroes such as Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone, in his own time his reckless courage and fighting spirit were known far beyond Connecticut's borders through the circulation of folk legends celebrating his exploits.


Early life

Putnam was born in Salem Village (now Danvers), Massachusetts, to Joseph and Elizabeth Putnam, a prosperous farming family of Salem witch trials fame. His birthplace, Putnam House, still exists. In 1740, at the age of 22, he moved to Mortlake (now Pomfret) in northeastern Connecticut where land was cheaper and easier to obtain.

Strong oral tradition in northeastern Connecticut claims that, in his youth, Putnam—with the help of a group of farmers from Mortlake—killed the last wolf in Connecticut. The tradition describes Putnam crawling into a tiny den with a torch, a musket, and his feet secured with rope as to be quickly pulled out of the den. While in the den, he allegedly killed the she-wolf, making sheep farming in Mortlake safe. There is a section of the Mashamoquet Brook State Park in modern day Pomfret named "Wolf Den" (which includes the 'den' itself), as well as a "Wolf Den Road" in Brooklyn, Connecticut.

Between 1755 and 1765, Putnam participated in campaigns against the French and Indians as a member of Rogers' Rangers, as well as with regular British forces. He was promoted to captain in 1756 and to major in 1758.

As the commander of the Connecticut force in 1758, Putnam was sent to relieve Pontiac’s siege of Detroit. He was captured by the Caughnawaga Indians during a New York State campaign, and was saved from being roasted alive, after being bound to a tree, only by the last-minute intervention of a French officer.

In 1759, Putnam led a regiment in the attack on Fort Ticonderoga and later at Montreal. In 1762, he survived a shipwreck during the British expedition against Cuba that led to the capture of Havana. It is believed that Major Putnam returned to New England from Cuba with Cuban tobacco seeds that he planted in the Hartford area resulting in the development of the renowned Connecticut Wrapper agricultural product.

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