Avoid popularity if you would have peace. — Abraham Lincoln

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber




Putnam's Adventures

On the morrow of the battle of Monmouth, Washington found that Clinton had withdrawn his army so as to avoid a second battle. The British were now well on their way to New York, so Washington could no longer hope to overtake them. To hem them in, however, he stretched a line of American troops all the way from Morristown to West Point.

But Washington had to abandon his plan for seizing New York with the help of the French fleet, because the vessels drew too much water to be able to cross the bar. As the fleet could not reach New York, it made an attempt to seize Newport. Here it was met by British ships; but before a battle could take place, a sudden storm scattered both fleets, and caused so much damage that they had to refit.

When Clinton saw that Washington had drawn a close line about him in New Jersey, he tried to force the American general to break it by attacking the towns in Connecticut. But Washington would not stir, for he knew that General Israel Putnam, in charge of the forces there, was well able to look out for himself. As this Putnam is one of the heroes of the Revolutionary War, it will interest you to hear a few stories about him, which all Americans should know.

We are told that, even as a lad, Putnam was famous for his courage. Once, when a wolf caused great damage in his neighbors' herds, he determined to kill it. But the wolf withdrew into its den, where it could be reached only by crawling along through a narrow passage. As the creature could neither be smoked nor starved out, Putnam offered to go in and kill it. Tying a rope to his foot, he bade his companions pull him out when they felt the rope twitch, or heard a shot. Then he crawled along the passage on his stomach, carefully holding his gun. At the end of a few minutes he came to a place where the passage widened a little, and there, in the darkness, he saw the yellow gleam of the big wolf's eyes! Putnam raised his gun, shot, and was dragged out by his companions in such haste that his clothes were actually torn off his back, and his skin somewhat scraped.

Determined to know whether the old wolf was dead, Putnam, at the end of a few minutes, again crept into the den. When his companions obeyed the twitch of the rope a few minutes later, and drew him out a second time, they thought he was very heavy; but when he got out they found he was dragging by the leg the biggest gray wolf they had ever seen!

Putnam had taken part in the last French and Indian War. The year after the French took and destroyed Fort William Henry, he was with a British army that encamped on the same ground; and when this army advanced to attack Ticonderoga, his company led the way. While they were thus marching through the woods, the French surprised them; and had it not been that Rogers came to their rescue with more men, Putnam and his detachment would have fallen. At another time, we are told, Fort Edward took fire, and the powder magazine was in great danger. But Putnam fought the flames inch by inch, putting them out barely in time to prevent the explosion of the whole store of ammunition.

During this French and Indian War Putnam once volunteered to mount guard at a place where the sentinel was always found dead in the morning. While watching there, he heard a strange noise in the bushes, and saw what he took in the darkness for a wild pig or a bear. He fired at it without a moment's delay, and, on drawing near, found he had killed an Indian, who, covered by a bearskin, and imitating the actions of an animal, had always managed to get near enough to the sentinels to kill them.

Another time, when Putnam and Rogers were sent to recapture some baggage wagons, the latter spent the noon hour in target practice, although warned it was dangerous. The Indians, guided by the sound of firing, fell upon the British unawares, and seizing Putnam bound him to a tree.

For a while Putnam found himself between the fire of his own party and that of the Indians; and when the latter were driven from the battlefield, they took him away with them. After torturing him in many ways, breaking his jaw and cutting open his cheek, the Indians tied him to a tree and began to roast him alive.

The fire was raging around him when a sudden and violent shower put it out. But as soon as the rain was over the savages rekindled it. They would have succeeded in roasting Putnam alive, had not a French officer come up just then, rushed into the fire, cut him loose, and thus saved him from a horrible death.

Burned, gashed, disfigured, and bowed down by weakness, Putnam was taken to Montreal, where the other prisoners were careful not to tell who he was. So the French, thinking him a poor old man who would never have the strength to fight again, gladly exchanged him for one of their captive soldiers.

Putnam then went on fighting again till the war was over. He took an active part in the capture of Montreal in 1760, and in that of Havana two years later.

A British general once showed him a French vessel on Lake Ontario, saying it must be destroyed. Putnam immediately volunteered to destroy it, and rowing out in the dark, he secretly drove wedges behind the rudder. As the vessel could no longer obey its helm, it was soon driven ashore and wrecked.



Contents

Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell