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Full text of "Address of Henry C. Robinson"

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ADDRESS 



^./^'%^4\d^V 



m AT DEDICATION OF MONUMENT 



To 




GEN. ISRAEL PUTNAM. 




BROOKLYN, JUNE 14, 1888. 



HENRY C. ROBINSON. 







ADDRESS 



OF 



Henry C. Robinson, 



AT THE 



DEDICATION, 



STATE OF CONNECTICUT, 



OF 



Gen. PUTNAM'S STATUE, 



AT 



Brooklyn, June 14, 1888. 



HARTFORD, CONN.: 

Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co. 

1888. 



FH'Mli ^ 



ff 



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OtyVCi sor"*-vy^ . 



Ninety-eight years ago the wasted form of an 
old soldier, scarred by tomahawk and bullet, was 
laid to rest in yonder graveyard. The sacred acres 
were filled with mourners. He was consigned to 
sleep in the echoes of artillery and of musketry, and 
under the glories of the flag, the fibres of whose folds 
his own brave hands had so conspicuously helped to 
weave. His epitaph was written by the foremost 
scholar of our State. The fret of time, the frost of 
winter, and the selfish hand of the relic-hunter wasted 
the stone slab on which it was written. And here, 
above a handful of ashes, all that remains of that 
stalwart frame, which, in life, was the inspiration of 
Colonists, the hate of Frenchmen, the fear of English- 
men, and the awe of Indians, to-day, late, but not too 
late, a grateful State has built a seemly and enduring 
pedestal, has placed upon it his war-horse, and called 
again to his saddle, with his bronzed features saluting 
the morning, the Connecticut hero of the revolution. 

Blessed is a state which has a history. Its pres- 
ent is the natural evolution of its past. Out of strug- 
gles it has grown ; from storms and sunlight of other 
years it has made strength. Its greatness of other 
centuries is its renewed and transfigured greatness of 
to-day, its traditions are its inspirations, its buried 
heroes are its living prophets. It is the blessedness 
of continued personality, the manliness of the mature 
man ; its brain has developed with its muscles, its 
heart with its bones. Reverence and pride for the 
past, the kindling warmth of tender associations, and 
the hallowed flames of love are its attributes. The 



scholar reads about it, the poet sings of it, the phi- 
losopher studies it. The banks of its streams are 
sacred for the foot-prints upon them ; its mountains 
are dear for the brave steps that climbed them ; its 
groves are instinct with the meditations of its patriot 
fathers ; its churches pure with the purity of its saints ; 
its graveyards are peopled with the presences of its 
ancestry. Thermopylae was a perpetual legacy to the 
sons of Sparta, the atmosphere of the Academy was 
an everlasting inheritance to the men of Athens. 
The children of Israel sing the songs of Miriam and 
David, study the philosophy of Moses, and Ezra, and 
Hillel, fight over the battles of Saul and the Macca- 
bees, and rightly say, they are all ours. The wars 
are over, the wisdom is written, the lyrics are sung, 
the laws are written on papyrus, are cut in stone, are 
printed on paper, but the lesson in them all is as 
fresh as a bubbling spring. We stand almost aghast 
before the grandeur of a new state, as Dakota, 
but we find no leaves of history to turn over 
and study and ponder. But when we examine 
the record of the last two and a half centuries 
of human progress, the filial love of the people 
of Connecticut finds a catalogue of statesmen, 
and warriors, and orators, and philanthropists, a 
story of patriotism, and self-government, and edu- 
cation, and discipline, and virtue, and piety, better 
than all the traditions, gathered from three thou- 
sand years, which haunt the waters of the Ganges, or 
are assembled on the banks of the Nile. And the 
result of those early frictions and fights with rough 
nature and rougher man are written in the culture, 
and courage, and refinement, and sentiment of our 



little Commonwealth of to-day. There was choice 
seed dropped in the scant soil of the wilderness by 
the pilgrims and by the colonial rebels, but lo, the 
wilderness has become a garden and blossoms like 
the rose. 

A nation's character may be read in its heroes. 
It has been often said that no nation is better than 
its gods. Nor can it be unlike its demi-gods. Tell 
us what were the shrines in the Pantheon and whose 
ashes lie in Westminster Abbey, and we can more 
than guess what was Rome and what is England. 
And if the gates of the abbeys have opened chiefly at 
the bidding of kings, the people have found the graves 
of their heroes in the churchyard, have followed their 
ashes to the rivers where spite and malice flung them, 
have chanted their stories in song and set up their 
memorials in marble and bronze. If men of blood 
and ambition are the ideals of a nation, we find a 
nation of warriors ; if patriots are the heroes, be 
they on the battle-field or in the council chamber, 
we find a nation proud of its nationality. Nor are 
our heroes only the leaders. A personal friend of 
Mr. Lincoln tells how he rode with him in a carriage 
through the city of Washington when its squares 
were dotted with camps, and its streets were full of 
boys in blue. When generals and field-officers 
saluted him, he returned the compliment by the cus- 
tomary and formal wave of the hand, but when a 
private soldier presented arms, he rose in his carriage 
and took off his hat. He did not undervalue lead- 
ership, but he appreciated that patriotic, unher- 
alded support of the flag which was found in the 
lines. And so our people, in memorializing the 



critical struggle at Antietam, chose for a symbol, not 
a portrait of one of the many general officers who 
made great names on that historic ground, but 
the figure of an American soldier, with no state 
or regimental distinction, only a type of the hundreds 
of thousands who fought and fell, and whose 
names do not appear in the histories, but whose 
blood won the victory. 

If it is true that the admiration of a community is 
significant of its character, it is equally true of its con- 
tempt. It is not military greatness that we honor 
to-day, it is loyalty to manhood and to truth and to 
country. When the aggressions of the mother country 
became insufferable, and the cry was " to arms," there 
were two men upon the soil of our little Connecticut, 
who were especially conspicuous for their military ac- 
complishments. Both incarnated personal bravery; 
neither had learned an alphabet out of which the 
word " fear " could be made ; both were leaders. One 
gathered the sons of New Haven upon the Green and 
drilled them for war, — the other left his oxen in the 
field and rode to Boston. Both had achieved success 
and glory in the earlier wars. The eyes not only of 
Connecticut and New England, but of Virginia and 
the Carolinas turned to both of them. Both were 
offered high places by the enemy. One went through 
the struggle with an unclouded story, and to-day his 
name, the name of Putnam, is written upon nine 
counties in nine states, and we are bending in rever- 
ence before his statue. The other fled his country, 
died in ignominy, and an American community would 
as soon adopt the name of Judas as the name of 
Arnold. 



Nations are not created by acts of parliament, 
nor by acts of congress, nor are they made by treaties. 
Statutes and treaties imply states behind them. 
Nations grow — ^grow from the people. The United 
States are the result of no sovereignty but the sover- 
eignty of this great people — a people made and being 
made of the manifold strength of the older folk. 
Time has winnowed away the chaff and sifted out the 
grain from many peoples, and many races, and has 
brought many good " remnants " together, to work 
out in wholesome friction the best methods of 
self-government and constitutional law. Hither 
have come, each with a gift, first of all and best 
of all, the Puritan to New England, and the sturdy 
Scotchman, the honest Briton, the quick-witted 
Irishman, the Huguenot, son of a martyr and father 
of heroes, the Dutchman, full of honesty and trade, 
the German - happy combination of much good- 
ness and few faults, the Scandinavian, the Italian, 
the Mongolian, and the African, by the grace of 
God and the will of the people and the terrible 
tribulation of war, transformed from chatteldom 
to manhood. 

In studying the history of our country, we may 
and must study its biographies. Its own biography, 
so to say, is made up of the stories of its individual 
lives. It was once taught, with more or less truth, 
that the genius of a whole nation is the creation of 
a single life, as Alexander's and Solomon's and 
Julius Csesar's. It is only a partial truth. The in- 
dividual of mark represents, just as truly as he creates, 
a community. Marcus Aurelius and Christopher 
Columbus were not prodigies, springing from the air 



8 

or the sky or the rocks: — their roots struck into soil 
— they were born in the travail of forces, which are 
only lost to our sight because the chronicles are kept 
by courtiers. It is a flippant philosophy which sees in 
human progress only the work of individual greatness ; 
the great individual incarnates in blossom and fruit> 
the processes of society for an era, as the aloe expresses 
the natural forces of a century. We look at the 
liberal legislation of England for a quarter of a century, 
its education bills, its burials bills, its extension of the 
franchise, its disestablishments, and we give glory to 
Gladstone and Peel. But behind Gladstone and Peel 
there has been a great constituency, struggling with 
burdens and pleading for rights, often in inarticulate 
ways, and they have only waited for the strong arm 
of Peel and the matchless voice of Gladstone to strike 
and speak for them. We look back to the first half 
of the seventeenth century, and we glory in Winthrop 
and Hooker, but Winthrop and Hooker were largely 
representative of the common ideas of the little colony. 
We stand in reverence before Washington, in admira- 
tion before Trumbull, and Adams, and Hamilton, in 
enthusiasm before Putnam and Moultrie, but let us 
never forget the hardy, believing, self-denying men 
whom they represented and who supported them. 
When we honor Putnam, and Wooster, and Knowlton, 
and Chester, and Humphreys, let us never forget the 
thirty-one thousand, nine hundred and thirty-one men, 
most of them private soldiers, whom Connecticut sent 
to the revolutionary fields, from Ticonderoga to York- 
town. Neither let us forget that the atmosphere of 
Connecticut was charged with ozonic forces of the 
most patriotic and self-centered kind. Our ancient 



seat of learning at New Haven was a very furnace of 
patriotism. In 1774, Dr. (President) Stiles wrote 
" there is to be another Runnymede in New Eng- 
land." In 1779, President Napthali Daggett, with 
his fowling piece blazing away at British regulars, 
made the most picturesque single portrait of the war. 
And a greater than both, through the war a tutor, but 
afterwards President, one of America's chief educators, 
Timothy Dwight, whose distinguished grandson and 
successor to-day leads our worship of Almighty God, 
was firing the young men of Yale with that burning 
patriotism which prepared them so well for the promi- 
nent part which they were so soon to play in the 
trying campaigns of war. Of the small number of 
alumni upon Yale's catalogue in the days of the revo- 
lution, two hundred and thirty-four rendered con- 
spicuous personal service upon the battlefield. The 
universities have been the friends of freedom. Big- 
otry and tyranny are exorcised from the human mind, 
as evil spirits, by the influence of intelligence and 
education and culture, an influence covering and bless- 
ing both the learned and the unlearned. 

You will not expect an extended sketch of our 
hero to-day — only now and then a leaf from his life. 
Salem had the honor of his birth, in 17 18, and well did 
he repay the obligations of his Massachusetts' nativity, 
by the defense and deliverance which he brought to 
her territory. He was of sturdy English blood, and, 
curiously enough, the family crest was a wolf's head. 

Like Washington and Hale, in his youth he was a 
conspicuous leader in athletic sports. When he 
visited the city of Boston for the first time, and his 
rural appearance excited uncomplimentary comment 

2 



lO 



from a city youth of twice his size, who chaffed him 
in a way to which the country boy was not accustomed, 
the young Israel proceeded to amuse the Boston people, 
who even at that early day seem to have had a keen eye 
for the champion's belt, by a thorough, if not a scien- 
tific pounding of his antagonist. He was first married 
at twenty-one years of age, and at once moved to Pom- 
fret. He settled at Mortlake, and became a large pro- 
prietor of land. Here, in industry and domestic virtue, 
he pursued the hardy life of a Connecticut farmer. He 
was fond of horses and was interested in stock-breeding. 
Here occurred the wolf's den incident, a story which 
will be told to reverent and admiring boys as a classic 
so long as boys admire pluck and bravery — which may 
it be as long as grass grows ! In the French and Indian 
war, beginning as a captain under Sir William John- 
son in 1753, he continued in service until his final 
return from Canada, in 1762. 

In looking at the great deliverance from the op- 
pressions of England in our war for independence, 
we are sometimes tempted to forget the importance 
of the earlier struggles, in which our fathers fought, 
as British colonists, against the aggressions of France 
upon the North. This contest continued at intervals 
for nearly a century before the revolution. The Eng- 
lish colonists held the coast. They had brought here 
the free ideas of the common law, of 7nagna charta, 
and the bill of rights. They had done much more ; 
they had abolished primogeniture and entails, had 
introduced reasonable laws of inheritance, had estab- 
lished universal education, had made, in the cabin of 
the Mayflower, an embryonic attempt at a written con- 
stitution, and, at Hartford, in 1639, had indeed made 



II 

a written constitution which is the type of the written 
constitutions of modern civilization. They were learn- 
ing the sovereignty of the individual man, and were 
unlearning lessons of subservience and idolatry to 
rank, and title, and heredities, and despotisms, and 
divine rights, and prelacies, and spiritual and temporal 
lordships, which were entrenched in Bastilles, and 
behind pillars of Hercules, built up by centuries on 
centuries of assumptions, traditions, prescriptions and 
possessions, supported by credulity and superstition, 
by fears, natural and unnatural, by the power of 
money and of the sword, by punishments in the name 
of law and by threats of everlasting punishment in the 
flames of hell. Out of these bigotries and horrible 
oppressions of body, and mind, and soul, and into 
these regions of political right and moral sweetness 
and intellectual light, the Puritans in New England, 
and the colonists in Virginia and Maryland were 
leading a civilization better even than the advanced 
civilization of England. But there were other powers 
struggling to get possession of this fair land — little 
known then for its real physical worth, but at least 
known as a market for European wares, and as yield- 
ing something in the way of furs, and a few other 
articles of value. For many years French civilization 
on the North and West, and Anglo Saxon civilization 
on the East, wrestled for supremacy. The scene of 
the conflict was New York and Canada, and Northern 
and Eastern Pennsylvania. The French held the 
great rivers, could make war with the Indians for allies 
as against the English colonists, whose course with 
the Indians had always been unwise and unjust, a 
policy which we haven't yet out-grown. In the end the 



12 



flimsy Latin civilization was driven from the country, 
and we were delivered from the power of Bour- 
bonism and the hands on the dial went forward 
and not backward. 

And what a country was then saved for the larger 
humanities ! A land, the granary and garden of the 
world, the story of whose factories and agriculture and 
commerce is a very miracle of progress ; a land, great 
in material wealth and its innumerable agencies and 
demonstrations of mercantile success, and even greater 
in its elevations of the humble, its development and 
culture and education of the many, its abolition of 
class notions and class facts in political and religious 
life, its loyalty to law without the defence of bayonets, 
and its development of that personal freedom, which is 
the supreme Divine gift that lifts man to manhood ; 
a land offering to human study the sublime picture of 
a nation, inconceivably strong, and every year becom- 
ing stronger in geometrical progressions, according to 
the will of Almighty God, governing itself without 
the sceptre of a king, or the patronizing dominion 
of an enthroned ecclesiastic, or the tread and tramp 
of a standing army. 

And this repulse of haughty Bourbon France could 
never have been won by the British army alone, and 
her Braddocks and Abercrombies. They knew little 
of the country and less of the hostile Indians. But 
the provincials knew the Indians and their ways, and 
they knew the country, and its mountains, and rivers, 
and swamps, and its winters, too. 

We risk little in saying that for audacity, intre- 
pidity, ingenuity, for an imprudence which concealed 
the very genius of prudence, for sagacity, intuition, 



13 

prescience of hostile manoeuver, for leadership 
in woods and boats and swamps, no single man 
who entered into that conflict was the superior 
of Israel Putnam. He was not slow in exhibiting 
his peculiar genius in these campaigns. He soon 
found out the incapacity of many of his superiors. 
Several times he took unauthorized responsibil- 
ities, and once or twice forbidden ones, which were 
only saved from severe criticism by the brilliant 
success which attended him on each occasion, and 
by the demonstrations which he so often made of his 
larger intelligence. As an Indian fighter, Putnam 
had qualifications which have not been excelled in 
the long story of our conflicts with the red men, from 
John Mason, to George S. Crook. And, in the more 
regular contests with the Frenchmen, he was almost 
uniformly a successful and skilful officer. His bravery 
was of that highest kind which never lost its wisdom. 
When he and Major Rogers were examining Crown 
Point, and had moved up so close to the fort and so 
far from their troops that Rogers was taken, Putnam 
had no idea of letting Rogers go into captivity, nor 
any more idea of firing a gun to insure his own ; so 
he knocked the captor of his friend dead with one 
blow from his old fusee. The career of Putnam in 
in these earliest wars was as romantic as the journeys 
and battles of ^neas, and as real as martyrdom. 
In the forests and swamps and fields, in rapids and 
creeks, and on the lakes, by night and by day, in re- 
connoitre, or bush fight or battle line, as scout, or as 
company leader, in charge of a battalion or in single 
combat, he was tireless in action, fertile in expedients, 
absolutely insensible to fear and almost invariably a 



14 

victor. A prisoner, bound to a tree, struck in the 
jaw by the butt of a Frenchman's musket, his head 
made a target for Indian tomahawks, then released 
and tied to a stake, surrounded by faggots, and, when 
the flames were already scorching him, rescued by 
the bravery of an officer as by a miracle, his iron 
nerve never failed him. Prostrate upon his back and 
tied to two stout saplings at diverging angles, and 
surrounded by sleeping Indians, suffering the agonies 
of the rack, his humor bubbled into a laugh as he 
thought what a droll picture it all would make for a 
painter's canvass. He struggled with fire at the mag- 
azine for hours, until but a single thickness of board 
stood between the furious element and the gunpowder, 
and until he conquered, and saved fort, garrison, and 
magazine, his hands, and face, and legs blistered and 
burned, the very skin coming off with his burnt mit- 
tens. There is more pluck exhibited than glory in 
prospect in such a fight with fire at the very lip of a 
magazine. At last, maimed, worn and lacerated, he 
arrived a prisoner at Montreal. Here he met the cul- 
tured and patriotic Colonel Philip Schuyler. At the 
shocking sight of Putnam's condition, Colonel 
Schuyler said that it was difficult to restrain his 
language " within bounds consistent with the pru- 
dence of a prisoner and the meekness of a Christian." 

In this war Putnam was doing more than to 
help in whipping the French. He was studying as 
well the strength and the weakness of the British sol- 
dier, and the qualities and invincibilities of his provin- 
cial neighbors and brethren. 

For the next twelve or more years after the 
French and Indian war, Putnam remained at home 



15 

an object of admiration and love by his neighbors 
and many friends. He was honored by civil office 
and enjoyed the hearty esteem of the colonists. 

And here we claim for Putnam an intuition of 
the coming independence, which few, even of the 
most radical of the fathers, dared to hope for. A 
complete and successful separation and a new repub- 
lic were things which great and wise leaders re- 
garded as hardly to be desired, still less to be 
expected. Freedom under the crown was the 
general hope. But this unlettered man thought 
deeper and saw more clearly the struggles to come, 
and their issue. He waited for a war which he felt was 
at hand and for a victory which he felt was to be 
ours. He well understood the encroaching tyranny 
of the crown, he knew there could be but one solu- 
tion of provincial troubles and in that fearful contest, 
with its not unguessed agonies, and sorrows, and 
disappointments, and jealousies, and mistakes, he 
knew the ultimate invincibility of the American colo- 
nists. And so, when a stamp master was appointed 
to enforce the stamp act in Connecticut, Putnam 
inspired the measures, more forcible than polite, 
which resulted in his resignation. And his statement 
to Governor Fitch on the subject was so unmistak- 
able in its tenor that no stamps ever came to this 
colony from New York. When the Port bill 
oppressed Boston, Putnam sent on sheep and lambs, 
and openly declared that their blood was but a type 
of the sacrifice which he and his neighbors were 
ready to make in the common defence. And when the 
tidings of Lexington came, the old prophet saw the 
morning in whose twilight he had been watching. 



i6 



Even the accomplished Warren, upon whose green 
grave the muses of history, and poetry and eloquence 
have delighted to linger, no less a patriot than Put- 
nam, but more conservative, and inclined to hope yet 
in the power of persuasion, and perhaps trusting to 
the noble oratory of Chatham, failed to convince the 
the blunt old soldier that harmony was possible, and 
ultimately acquiesced in his bold measures. When 
British officers reasoned with him on the folly of 
colonial resistance, and asked him if he had any doubt 
that five thousand veterans could march through the 
continent, " no doubt " said he, " if they behaved civ- 
illy and paid well for everything they wanted ;" " but" 
he continued, after a pause, " if in an hostile manner, 
though the American men were out of the question, 
the women with ladles and broomsticks would knock 
them all on the head before they could get half 
through." Putnam expected to fight the mother 
country and expected to win. 

For these intuitions we claim eminence for our 
General. It is given to few to feel the first waters of 
tides, to know the gathering storms and coming sun 
bursts, to measure the patience and endurance of 
peoples in the shadow of death, and to forecast the 
issues of crises, as by instinct. Such power of insight 
we conceive was the highest trait in the composition 
of that peculiar man, Abraham Lincoln. Such 
powers normally belong to men of the people. Here 
kings and prelates have often failed. Putnam was 
thoroughly of the people. His call to the Major 
Generalship was by a vox populi^ which stood not 
upon proprieties of order in promotion. Untrained 
in letters, the wants of his countrymen and their 



17 

rights had been his alphabet. He had found out the 
capacities for endurance of man's physical nature, 
the inborn sovereignty of the people, the electric 
power of patriotism. And so he looked across the 
ocean to the King and felt the certain comings of 
continued and increasing exactions ; he looked over 
the rough hills of New England, and the plains of 
the South, and from Lake Champlain to Georgia he 
heard the speech of patriots and their prayers, and, 
clearly as he foresaw the snows of December and the 
foliage of June, he recognized the coming clash of 
arms and the deliverance of the oppressed. 

The call came soon. It found him in the field. 
Leaving his oxen unloosed and mounting his horse, 
he rode to Boston to the fight which he saw had 
come, and had come to stay until it should be forever 
settled upon principles of freedom and right. He 
forsook his home and the joys of domestic life to 
serve the people without a hesitating look or word. 
He returned from Massachusetts for troops, and was 
appointed a General by Connecticut. 

It was but a few weeks from Lexington to Bunker 
Hill. 

"God helps the heavy battalions" said Napo- 
leon. God helped David and his sling, says history. 
Is it to be a victory for Napoleonism, and the fire of 
hell which he made the genius and motive of battle, 
or shall wrath and its remainders be turned to praise 
and made to promote the ongoings of truth and the 
civilization of society .? 

It was a sorry match as a military problem. 
Here were regulars, veterans, victors of many fields, 
trained to touch shoulders, to hear commands, to 



i8 



march and wheel in time ; their arms were well ap- 
pointed and clean, their ammunition was plentiful and 
of the best ; their ofificers were educated, experienced, 
brave. Here were traditions, and prestige, and the 
grip of the leading monarchy of the world upon its 
colonies. Here were ships of war and the flames of 
fire striking terror by the horrors of a burning city. 
But here too, were tyranny, and oppression, and 
pride, and swelling self-confidence. 

There were a few hundred yeomen with insuffi- 
cient arms and short rounds of powder and shot. 
They have come from Massachusetts, and Connecti- 
cut, and New Hampshire. Their leaders have had 
little council together. They have scraped up a 
clumsy redoubt and have covered a rail fence with 
loose hay. Thank God they are on a hill ! But if 
they are awkward, untried soldiers, they are freeholders 
and freemen. If they have no common acquaintance, 
they have a common cause ; if they have no uni- 
formity of dress or of arms, they have but one purpose 
and a single inspiration. If they have left different 
firesides in different states, they have all left homes 
with kindred watch-words. They all love freedom 
and God ; they all hate oppression and the King. 
And w^ith them and over them are invisible things in 
holy concert; the elevation of man, the supremacy 
of constitutional law, the transfiguration of human 
beings from vassalage to independence, and the will 
of Almighty God that these vast millions of acres of 
land, and lake, and river, with treasures unguessed 
of soil, and stream, and mine, shall not be tributary to 
the haughty little island across the Atlantic. 



19 

The assault was made, and renewed, and again re- 
newed. The people watched the struggle from the 
roofs and steeples of Boston, and held up the cause 
of the patriots with their prayers. And the friends 
of man have returned to the picture of that struggle 
again and again, and with tears of joy. The un- 
disiplined yeomanry withstood the charge of the best 
disciplined troops, and the crowning victory of York- 
town was spoken from Bunker Hill. The last of the 
retiring patriots, he, who had filled, as nearly as the 
circumstances would allow anyone to fill it, the posi- 
tion of commanding general, who had superintended 
the construction of the humble fortifications, who had 
cautioned the patriots to hold their fire and to hus- 
band their powder, who had offered his stalwart body 
as a target for British balls from the beginning to the 
end, upon the hill, in the field, and in the highway, in 
the assault, in urging re-inforcements, and in the final 
withdrawal, was Israel Putnam. 

Three weeks after the battle Samuel B. Webb 
wrote from the seat of war at Cambridge : 

" You will find that Generals Washington and 
Lee are vastly prouder and think higher of Putnam 
than of any man in the army, and he, truly, is the 
hero of the day." 

On the 9th of July, 1775, Silas Deane, a Connecti- 
cut man of national reputation and intensely patriotic, 
wrote from Philadelphia, then the capital city : 

" The cry here is Connecticut forever. So high 
has the universally applauded conduct of our Gover- 
nor (Trumbull), and the brave intrepidity of old 
General Putnam and his troops raised our colony in 



20 



the estimation of the whole continent." And again 
on July 20th, 1775, he writes: 

" Putnam's merit runs through the continent ; his 
fame still increases, and every day justifies the unani- 
mous applause of the country. Let it be remembered 
that he had every vote of the congress for Major- 
General, and his health has been the second or third 
at almost all our tables in this city." 

But they were all heroes. Not only Putnam, and 
Prescott, and Warren, and Stark, and Knowlton, and 
Chester, and Grosvenor, but each one of the fifteen 
hundred who proved in the heat and carnage of that 
June afternoon that free hearts are invincible. On 
the 17th of June, 1775, Artemas Ward and Charles 
Lee were chosen to the ofKice of Major-General by 
congress, and on the 19th of June, Philip Schuyler 
and Israel Putnam were elected to the same rank, and 
of the four, Putnam alone was chosen unanimously. 

I have alluded to Putnam as the commanding offi- 
cer at Bunker Hill. It is enough to say that the voice 
of contemporaneous literature and the representations 
of the early sketches and pictures of the battle as pub- 
lished in this country and on the other side of the 
ocean, are substantially unanimous in demonstration 
of the fact. It was reserved for later and ill-judged 
criticism to question it. The artificial rules of eti- 
quette and precedence were then, as they had been 
before, and as they now are, and as they ever will be 
the cause of historical quarrel and discussion. The 
troops about Boston had their own State com- 
manders; indeed, Major Stark, of New Hampshire, 
was chosen to his rank by the soldiers upon the 
ground. There was little unity of plan. General 



21 



Ward, who was the officer in command of all the 
forces, was at Cambridge. It is almost certain that 
General Putnam represented him at the battle, but the 
troops on the hill were chiefly from Massachusetts, 
and the Massachusetts troops were in the redoubt 
where Colonel Prescott had personal command. It 
is a fair statement of the case to say that Putnam's 
rank gave him the command by his presence on the 
field ; that the plan of the engagement and its execu- 
tion were principally his, although he was unable to 
get the re-inforcements which were needed and for 
which he made loud demand and continued exertion. 
In the broad sense of leadership there can be no 
doubt in any impartial mind that he was the leader of 
the American troops, and was so considered by friends 
and foes at the day and time. 

It is to be regretted that doubts about Putnam's 
capacity for leadership, and even about his courage, 
have been raised, but they must have been. They 
were raised about Washington, and Greene, and every 
great leader in the revolution. And one only needs 
to read any history, so called, to see the strange possi- 
biHties of conclusion to which authorities can arrive in 
their accounts of battles, and estimates of military 
men and military affairs. Nor is this peculiarity of 
historical literature exclusively true of the battle- 
field. It has been several times argued, and last of 
all by the mysterious language of ciphers, by which 
any literary result conceivable can be attained, that 
the greatest of poets and dramatists did not write his 
own plays, and, still later, we learn that the most 
charming, characteristic, and inimitable reminiscence 
of a great war, written by our own greatest soldier 



22 

and greatest man, was, in fact, the literary achieve- 
ment of another, whose greatness the RepubHc had 
failed to appreciate. But while it is true, such is the 
power of partisanship, prepossession, and bias over 
the human mind, and so easily do we make into be- 
liefs those thoughts which are born of our wishes, 
that there can be few facts of history which, in a 
quarter of a century after their occurrence, will not 
be questioned, the world will still justly credit Hamlet 
to Shakespeare, his Memories to Grant, and Bunker 
Hill to Putnam. 

Washington did not meet Putnam until he came 
to Cambridge. They had both achieved glory in the 
Indian war; they knew and loved each other, but 
they met for the first time at the headquarters of the 
Continental army. And the absolute confidence 
which Washington had in Putnam never abated until 
death. He had no doubt about delivering his Major- 
General's commission to him with his own hands, 
while he hesitated in the case of others. He had no 
doubt in sending him to New York to take chief 
command, after the enemy had retreated from Bos- 
ton, and after Putnam himself had taken possession 
of the forts, provisions, guns, stores, and supplies in 
the name of the thirteen colonies. He dad no doubt 
in intrusting to him the supreme command at Phila- 
delphia in his own absence. He had no doubt in 
directing him to open his military letters. He had no 
doubt of his purity, patriotism and rare capacity, 
when he addressed him in words of deep tenderness, 
in the day of an assured peace based upon our 
national independence. 



23 

The story of Putnam's career from Bunker 
Hill until his paralysis in the winter of 1779-80 
is deeply interesting. He had his share, and no 
more, of the ill fortunes of the campaigns, and 
he had his full share of success. He fought the 
so called battle of Long Island under circum- 
stances for which he was not responsible, but 
which made success impossible ; he conducted the 
retreat through the present limits of the City of New 
York before the superior force ' of Lord Howe with 
characteristic fearlessness and courage. His dis- 
criminating eye selected the heights of West Point 
as a base of operations ; he captured hundreds, prob- 
ably thousands, of prisoners in the Jerseys ; he beat 
the bullets of the British drag^oons as he rode down 
Horseneck steps, where no red coat dared to follow 
him, and so aroused the admiration and wonder of 
Gov. Tryon, of odious memory, that he sent him a new 
cap for the one which had been ventilated by a 
British musket ball. He replied to the haughty 
demand of British officers for the return of the spy, 
Edmund Palmer, in such accurate and concise terms, 
that the letter has passed into classic literature. 

It was not to be that Putnam's voice should 
thunder commands and his sword flash in the 
final victories. The horrible shock of his cap- 
tivity in the earlier war, the re-action from his 
wearied life of exposure, the strain of his long 
ride to Concord and Boston, as glorious and 
heroic as Paul Revere's, had searched through the 
joints of even his matchless harness. As he was 
on his way to headquarters, at sixty-one years of age, 
the wild throbs of his noble heart pressed too sorely 



24 

upon his aching brain, and the strong man fell ; those 
muscles, which never before had refused to obey the 
commands of his sovereign will, gave no response. 
It was a sad ride back to his loved Mortlake, and the 
fields which he had made green, and the flocks which 
he had guarded, and the friends for whom he had 
long hazarded his life. But it was to be. He must 
wait, with moist eyes and lifted prayer, for the good 
end of whose coming he made no doubt. For eleven 
years, with unclouded mind, until the surrender of 
Cornwallis, and the final peace, and the recognition 
of the union by the European nations, and the 
adoption of the constitution, and the oath of the first 
President, watched by admiring friends, telling over 
and over again the adventures and victories of the 
past, he lived close to the spot where he now sleeps, 
until the 29th of May, 1790, when he went on to join 
the patriot Governor, Jonathan Trumbull, and the 
patriot martyr, Nathan Hale, and to wait awhile to 
welcome Washington and LaFayette. 

Think not as you read of Putnam's bravery that 
it was the bravery of thoughtlessness ; his courage 
was of the kind that thinks. Think not, as you see 
him soiled in the grime of battle and red with blood 
stains, that he rejoiced in destruction; he was as 
sensitive to the sufferings of others as a mother. 
Think not as you study his rugged features that he 
was vulgar and brutal, he guarded the honor of 
woman with the chivalry of a knight. Think not as 
you hear him hiss imprecations, in his lisping accent, 
upon the British troops, that he was a blasphemer; 
so were their enemies cursed by the devout Hebrew 
prophets and psalmists, whose battle hymns Putnam 



25 

studied as models inspired from heaven. Think not 
he loved war more than peace, the battle-field more 
than the farm, the camp more than home. He 
loved war for the sake of peace and freedom, he 
loved the battle-field because he loved his farm, 
he loved the camp because he saw through and 
beyond its tents the rest of home. 

Let us never for a moment believe that the 
fathers fought for military glory or for war's sake. 
They fought for peace and for law; for states which 
they loved and for a Union whose future they but 
dimly guessed. Indeed when the war was over, 
and the independence of the United States was 
assured, and the representatives of the states were 
convened to form a constitution, how little did even 
they know in what supreme architecture they were 
building, and how great things they were creating. 
There has never been assembled in the history of 
the world, in the name of country, or science, or 
religion, a company of men of like numbers, who 
brought to their duties larger intellectual capacity, 
and higher moral qualities and purer patriotism, nor 
one that was more apparently under the special guid- 
ance of the great Father of all men, than the little 
band of statesmen which met in Philadelphia to or- 
ganize a constitution for the people of the thirteen 
confederated states. And Connecticut was there by 
a representation inferior to none — by Sherman, sec- 
ond only to Franklin in wisdom, by Ellsworth, unsur- 
passed in eloquence, and by Johnson, unexcelled in 
scholarship. As to-day wc have a lineal descendant 
of President Dwight to lead our devotions, so are we 
fortunate in having a lineal descendant of Dr. Wil- 



26 

liam Samuel Johnson to sound the rythm of our 
verses. 

In passing, let me remind you that our Connect- 
icut Sherman was the only man who enjoys the sin- 
gular place in history of having signed the four 
supreme papers of American independence : the 
Articles of Association of the congress of 1774, 
the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of 
Independence, and the Constitution. 

Had that little body of men really felt the full 
greatness of their work, for themselves and their 
children, for the American people, and for humanity, 
they must have risen above their environment to 
heights of seership never before scaled. With 
local attachments, strong and dominant, and yet 
bound together by the success of a union against 
oppression, and conscious of the weakness of a con- 
federation which had no element of nationality in it, 
they wrought out that matchless instrument which 
reserved to the several communities self-government 
in the matters which are best left to local control, 
and bound a people into unity in those matters which 
make a nation for national defense, and national 
commerce, and national welfare. The rights of the 
states are safest in the sovereignty of a nation, and 
the nationality of the Republic is safest in the self- 
government of the states. So are the waves distinct, 
but it is one sea ; so are the trees distinct, but it is 
one forest ; so are the mountains distinct, but it is one 
range. And the older nations are copying more and 
more our example of home rule in local matters, and 
national control in national things, and the will of 



27 

the people, limited only by the solemn, catholic, 
unimpassioned principles of organic law, supreme in 
each. 

As we recall the history of the fathers, reverence 
and gratitude bid us bend at many a battle field and 
in many a council chamber. And how often are we 
tempted to say of this or that or the other one, that 
his strong arm, or his heart s blood, or his foresight, 
or his patience, or his genius at harmonizing discord, 
or his zeal of enthusiasm, or his inspiring magnetism, 
or his clarion word of command, or his silent act of 
obedience, was the salvation of the young nation, as 
it escaped destruction in ten thousand crises ! 

But it is neither easy, nor wise, nor necessary to 
separate too sharply the greatness of the revolution- 
ary heroes into its individual forces. It is seldom 
that nature resolves her shafts of light into prismatic 
colors and writes their elemental hues upon the sky. 
The dash of Wayne, the daring of Putnam, the tire- 
less strategy of Greene on the field, the wisdom of 
Trumbull, the courageous and tenacious counsel of 
Adams and Quincy, the eloquence of Ellsworth, the 
sagacity of Franklin and Sherman, the genius of 
Hamilton, and the foresight of Morris, in the state^ 
and the supreme and unique judgment, patriotism, 
and leadership, both on the field and in the state, of 
the one and only Washington were all blended in 
the harmonies of a historic whole which has bathed 
humanity with a flood of light leading on toward a 
perfect day. 

Putnam was not learned in martial lore, he was 
not a master of the alleged chess-board of war; 
he was not a combiner of great military causes to 
bring about great strategic results. In managing 



28 



divisions, corps, and brigades, in distributions of the 
different arms of the service, artillery, cavalry, in- 
fantry, commissary, and hospital, in generalizations 
of campaigns, or of a single battlefield, he was sur- 
passed by many of his revolutionary associates — by 
many, whose commissions ran out for one cause or 
another before the end — as well as by Washington 
and Greene. Like Wayne and Arnold, he fought 
whatever was in front of him ; battle-line, fortress, 
bushman, hostile boats, white man, black man, red 
man — if it hindered his cause, if it stayed his ad- 
vance, it must go away or go down. He believed in 
hard pounding in attack, so did Wellington and 
Grant. He was fertile in plan within certain 
ranges, and could fight the fire of stratagem with 
the fire of counter stratagem. Like Grant again, 
he moved very early in the morning, and like 
that same great general and greater man, he never 
learned that there was a time to quit the field 
while a ray of light flamed in the sky. He was a 
military leader rather than a great general. His 
leadership was marked by enthusiasm and faith, by 
daring and tenacity and endurance. And he was in 
every fibre of his being a true man — kind, honest, 
pure, conscientious, devout. He loved goodness, and 
good men, and good things ; he hated jealousies, and 
envies, and bitterness, and injustice. 

Putnam was not a scholar ; he knew nothing 
of the dead languages of Virgil and Herodotus, 
but he needed no pedagogue to translate for him 
the legend " E pluribus unum," nor clerkly min- 
ister to interpret for him the motto " Qui trans- 
tulit sustinet. " He was unfamiliar with the 
written philosophies of state craft, but he knew 



29 

that freemen were competent to make a state 
without the consent of a king. He knew nothing of 
navigation, but when duty called him to descend the 
rapids of the Hudson, he found a new course through 
boiling waves, and past sharp edged rocks. He 
knew little about the scientific distinction between 
original and reflected light, and he never heard of 
the spectroscope, but he knew that the moonlight on 
the river was his ally to scourge the treacherous In- 
dians. He had never heard of evolution nor studied 
the birth of nations, but out of the travails of cam- 
paigns in Canada, and bitter suffering by Lake 
Champlain, by the stone walls of Lexington, and the 
hay-fence ramparts of Bunker Hill, he felt the certain 
birth of an independent nation at that early hour, 
when even the great Washington and Adams only 
dared to hope for a better and more honorable 
dependence upon the mother country. The fibres 
of his being were neither by nature nor by 
culture delicate or refined, but his heart beat 
and his nerves thrilled with a patriotism as pure and 
true as the on-rushing waters of Niagara. If there 
was no place in his garden for tropical flowers, there 
was no room there for poisonous grasses. If he had 
little conception of the great universe of stars and 
planets, he knew there was to be a new day, and he 
stood and waited for the dawn with his sword in hand. 

What went ye out into the wilderness to see } a 
reed shaken with the wind ? 

But what went ye out into the wilderness to see ? 
a man clothed in soft raiment ? Behold they that 
wear soft raiment are in king's houses. 

But what went ye out to see.^* a prophet.? 

Yea, I say unto you and more than a prophet. 



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