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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 




THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 



Jl 




BARON STETTBEN 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

EDITED BY 

JARED SPARKS 

k . 

ISRAEL PUTNAM 

By 
OLIVER W. B. PEABODY 

BARON STEUBEN 

By 
FRANCIS BOWEN 

Vol. 8 




HARPER & BROTHERS 

PUBLISHERS 
NEW YORK AND LONDON 1902 



-Added-Gopy 

Ke, v rA 

GIFT 



I- 1 10 



37? 






CONTENTS 

PAGE 

LIFE OF ISRAEL PUTNAM 3 

CHAPTER I 

His Birth and Education. Becomes a practi 
cal Farmer. Singular Adventure in killing 
a Wolf. Enters the Army as Captain of a 
Company of Rangers. Engages in the War 
against the French and Indians on the Can 
ada Frontiers 3 

CHAPTER II 

Raised to the Rank of Major. Various Ad 
ventures in the War. Capture of Fort Wil 
liam Henry. Putnam stationed near Fort 
Edward. Encounters the Enemy at South 
Bay. Expedition against T^onderoga. 
Death of Lord Home 21 

CHAPTER III 

Perilous Descent of the Rapids at Fort Miller. 
Battle with the Indians. Putnam taken 
Prisoner and treated with great Cruelty. 
Sent to Ticonderoga, and thence to Montreal. 
Exchanged, and returns to the Army. 

M775801 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Colonel Schuyler. Putnam is commissioned 
Lieutenant-Colonel. Serves under General 
Amherst. Takes part in the Expedition 
against Havana. Engaged in an Enterprise 
against the Western Indians. Retires from 
the Army after Ten Years Service ... 39 

CHAPTER IV 

Colonel Putnam opposes the Stamp Act. 
Goes to Mississippi River to select Lands. 
His Intimacy with the British Officers in Bos 
ton. Hastens to the Army on hearing of the 
Battle of Lexington. Made a Brigadier- 
General of the Connecticut Troops. Battle 
of Bunker s Hill 59 

CHAPTER V 

Putnam is appointed Major-General in the Con 
tinental Army. Remains at Cambridge till 
the Evacuation of Boston. Commands at New 
York. Suggests a Mode of obstructing the 
Navigation of the Hudson, to prevent the Ene 
my s Vessels from ascending it. Commands 
on Long Island. New York evacuated. 
Retreat through New Jersey. Putnam sta 
tioned at Philadelphia, and afterwards at 
Princeton. Anecdotes ...... t 7^ 

CHAPTER VI 

Putnam commands in the Highlands. Opera 
tions during the Campaign. The British 
ascend the Hudson. General Putnam super- 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

intends the Construction of the Fortifications 
at West Point. His perilous Adventure at 
Horseneck. Retires from the Army in Conse 
quence of a Paralytic Attack. His Death. 
His military and personal Character ... 97 



LIFE OF BARON STEUBEN 119 

v 



LIFE 

OF 

ISRAEL PUTNAM 

BY 

OLIVER W. B. PEABODY 



i s R A EL PUT N 



CHAPTER I. 

His Birth and Education. Becomes a prac 
tical Farmer. Singular Adventure in killing 
a Wolf. Enters the Army as Captain of a 
Company of Rangers. Engages in the War 
against the French and Indians on the Can 
ada Frontiers. 

OUR history, from its beginning until a compar 
atively recent time, gives us abundant instances of 
men, in whom the deficiences of education have 
been supplied by natural resource and energy. 
Thrown into novel situations, where instruction 
and experience would sometimes have availed 
them little, they have yet accomplished all that 
any exigency could require. Some of them were 
called to lay the foundations of civil institutions in 
the wilderness ; some to subdue a fierce and unre 
lenting savage foe ; some to encounter the hostility 
of other nations, as well as of that which they re 
garded as their own. Privation and suffering, ir> 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

every form/in wh-jch; tjiey commonly exhaust the 
frame and . oyercpme the, -spirit, were to attend 
them ofen :by .ttie fireside/ and* always in the en 
gagements of life. These evils, if evils they were 
which led to immortality, were encountered with 
manly and heroic firmness ; and it must needs be, 
that the personal history of men, exhibiting the 
vigor and flexibility of character required by the 
circumstances in which they were thus placed, 
should be full of freshness and diversity. Without 
pretending to claim for General Putnam the very 
highest rank among such individuals, we may yet 
venture to assign him an honorable place. His 
biography has been already written by a friend and 
fellow-soldier, who gathered from his own lips a 
portion of his history ; * and we shall freely avail 
ourselves of the materials, which have been thus 
collected, in connexion with such as have been 
gained from other sources., in attempting to present 
a sketch of the life of one, who stands forward as a 
prominent example of some of the most striking 
traits of the genuine American character. 

ISRAEL, PUTNAM was bora at Salem, in Massa 
chusetts, on the 7th day of January, 1718. His 
grandfather with two brothers emigrated from the 

*"An Essay on the Life of Major- General Israel Put 
nam ; addressed to the State Society of the Cincinnati 
in Connecticut By DAVID HUMPHREYS." 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 5 

South of England, and was one of the earliest 
settlers of that ancient town. His father was a 
farmer, and the son was destined to the same 
pursuit, for which no great extent of education 
was then believed to be required. The arts of 
reading, writing, and a tolerable proficiency in 
arithmetic, were the only attainments to be ac 
quired in the common schools ; and the higher in 
stitutions, or "the schools of the prophets," as 
they were called, were appropriated to the candi 
dates for the liberal professions. We should be 
slow to censure our ancestors for this, before we 
ascertain how far the state of the fact is altered at 
the present day ; for their efforts in the cause of 
education, considering their circumstances and 
condition, have not yet been excelled by any of 
their sons. 

It is plain, then, that the literary advantages of 
young Putnam could not be very great ; and, such 
as they were, it is not likely that this species of 
improvement was uppermost in his mind. His 
constitution of body was firm and vigorous ; and 
he early displayed that insensibility to danger, 
which was so strikingly exhibited in his subsequent 
career. It was the custom of the young men of 
that day to pursue athletic exercises, of which 
running, leaping, wrestling, and pitching the bar 
were the favorite ones, and were regarded as the 
surest tests of st-rergth and skill; and in these 



6 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

manly sports, which have fallen of late irf.o almost 
entire neglect, young Putnam was surpassed by 
none of his competitors. But the research of his 
biographers has redeemed from oblivion scarcely a 
single incident in the youthful history of one, then 
quite unknown to fame ; and the exploits of child 
hood are rarely of sufficient moment to compen 
sate for the labor of inquiry. There is one, 
however, characteristic enough to deserve a pass 
ing notice. On Putnam s first visit to Boston, he 
was treated by a boy of the metropolis with the 
sort of courtesy, with which rustic boys are not 
unfrequently welcomed. His antagonist was twice 
as old and large as himself; but he requited the 
attention with a sound beating, to the entire satis 
faction of a numerous body of spectators. 

In the twenty-first year of his age, Mr. Putnam 
was united in marriage to the daughter of Mr. John 
Pope, of Salem. After her death, which occurred 
in 1764, he married a Mrs. Gardiner, who died in 
1777. About the time of his first marriage he 
removed to Pomfret in Connecticut, where he 
purchased a tract of land, and entered upon the 
occupation of a farmer. At first he met with 
some of the discouragements, which are apt to 
render the life of a settler a school of no gentle 
discipline ; but in the course of a few years he 
became an enterprising and successful cultivator, 
and was rewarded by a fair measure of prosper- 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. V 

ity. In this quiet retreat he remained till the 
opening of the Seven Years War presented him 
with a broader field of action. 

It would be quite unpardonable, in writing the 
life of Putnam, to omit to notice his victory over 
the she-wolf, at Pomfret ; the story of which is 
familiarly known to every schoolboy in the coun 
try, and is very minutely detailed by his principal 
biographer. This renowned animal had for some 
years been the scourge and terror of the farmers, 
whose pursuit of her had been altogether fruitless ; 
though they had succeeded in destroying her 
young, whom she brought in winter with her 
from the forest, to bring up in her own arts of ma 
rauding. In an evil hour for her own safety, she 
made an onset upon Putnam s farm-yard. Seventy 
of his sheep and goats were killed, and many 
others wounded, in the course of a single night ; 
and it was determined to resort to decisive meas 
ures. Several of the farmers, among whom was 
Putnam, accordingly entered into an offensive alli 
ance against the common enemy ; the condition of 
the compact being, that the pursuit should only 
cease with the destruction of the foe. 

Fortunately her track was easily recognised, a 
portion of one of her feet having been lost by an 
accidental intimacy with a trap. Her pursuers 
were thus enabled to trace her course to Connecti 
cut River, and thence back again to Pomfret, 



8 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

where she took refuge in a cavern, near the resi 
dence of Putnam. The place was selected with 
great judgment to withstand a siege ; as very few 
persons beside Putnam himself could have been 
persuaded to reconnoitre the position of its inmate. 
It is entered by an aperture about two feet square, 
on the side of a huge ledge of rock. The path 
way descends fifteen feet obliquely from the en 
trance, then pursues a horizontal direction for ten 
feet, and thence ascends gradually about fifteen 
feet to its extremity ; being in no part wider than 
three feet, nor high enough to permit a man to 
stand upright. The access to the interior is ren 
dered very difficult in winter, by the accumulation 
of ice and snow. 

No time was lost by the confederates in devising 
various methods of attack. A competent force of 
dogs was collected, with such munitions as were 
thought suited to this novel warfare. But the 
hounds that entered the cave retired in great dis 
gust, and could not be prevailed on to repeat the 
experiment ; the smoke of blazing straw was inef 
fectual ; and the fumes of burning brimstone, 
which were expected to prove quite irresistible, 
wasted their sweetness in vain. This system of 
annoyance was continued through the day, until a 
late hour in the evening, when Putnam, weary of 
the unsuccessful efforts, endeavored to persuade 
his negro servant to go into the cave ; a propo- 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 9 

sition which was declined; and his master, after 
somewhat unreasonably reproaching him with cow 
ardice, resolved, against the earnest remonstrance 
of his neighbors, to undertake the enterprise him 
self. 

He first procured some birch bark, to light his 
way and intimidate the wolf by its flame ; then 
threw aside his coat and vest ; and, causing a rope 
to be secured to his legs, by which he might be 
drawn out at a concerted signal, set fire to his 
torch and groped his way into the cavern. At 
the extremity he saw the wolf, who welcomed her 
unexpected visitor with an ominous growl. His 
examination being now completed, he gave the ap 
pointed signal ; and his companions, supposing 
from the sounds within that the case must be an 
urgent one, drew him out so precipitately, that his 
clothes were torn to rags, and his body sorely 
lacerated. 

He now provided himself with a musket, and 
bearing it in one hand and a lighted torch in the 
other, proceeded a second time upon his perilous 
adventure till he drew near the wolf. "Just as she 
was on the point of springing, he took deliberate 
aim and fired ; then, stunned by the explosion 
and almost suffocated by the smoke, he was again 
drawn out as before. After a brief interval, he 
entered the cavern for the third time, applied his 
torch to the wolf s nose to satisfy himself that hei 



10 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

repose was not affected, and, seizing her by the 
ears, was drawn forth with his prize, to the infi 
nite satisfaction of the party. 

This story is not without value, as an illustra 
tion of its hero s character. The life of a New 
England farmer is not usually very fruitful of ad 
venture ; nor is there any other incident on record 
relating to Putnam before the time, when he ex 
changed his occupation for a less pacific one. One 
may readily conjecture, that the tranquil pursuits 
of agriculture could hardly satisfy the ambition of 
a spirit like his, always most at home in the midst 
of perilous adventures ; and that he must have 
exulted in the opportunities of acquiring fame and 
honors, which were afforded by the opening of 
the great French war, in 1754. 

The causes of this eventful struggle belong too 
closely to the province of history to be required to 
be stated here. There was a general disposition 
among the people to prepare for some decisive 
measures in the following spring. It was with this 
view, that the memorable plan of the union of the 
Colonies was projected and matured ; but as this, 
from various causes, proved ineffectual, the ar 
rangement? for the campaign were not completed 
until the arrival of General Braddock in this coun 
try, early in 1755. A convention of the several 
governors was held at his suggestion early m tha, 
year, by which it was resolved that three indepen 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. H 

dent expeditions should be undertaken. The first 
was destined against Fort Duquesne, and was con 
ducted by General Braddock in person ; the sec 
ond, at the head of which was Governor Shirley, 
against Forts Niagara and Frontenac ; and the 
reduction of Crown Point was the object of the 
third, which was composed wholly of colonial 
troops, under the command of Sir William John 
son. A body of troops was to be levied in Con 
necticut to serve in this last expedition, and the 
command of one of the companies composing it 
was bestowed on Mr. Putnam, His personal pop 
ularity rendered it easy for him to obtain the best 
recruits, and the regiment with which he was con 
nected joined the army, near Crown Point, at the 
beginning of the campaign. 

Throughout the war, very important services 
were rendered by the various corps, distinguished 
by the name of Rangers. They acted indepen 
dently of the line of the army, and were employ 
ed in executing many perilous duties ; reconnoi 
tring the positions of the enemy, serving in the 
capacity of guides, surprising detached parties, 
and obtaining prisoners, in order to gain intelli 
gence, by force or stratagem. Among the other 
offices they were expected to perform, were those 
of destroying the houses, barns, barracks, and bat- 
teaux of the French, killing their cattle, and way 
laying their convoys of provisions. They ren- 



12 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

dered the most valuable aid as scouting parties ta 
watch the movements of the enemy, of which no 
accurate intelligence could be procured but with 
the greatest hazard, the country being full of wan 
dering and hostile Indians. 

It is obvious, that a mode of life like this re 
quired the utmost prudence, sagacity, and alert 
ness, and must have afforded abundant opportu 
nities for wild and difficult adventure. In the 
Journals * of Major Rogers, the celebrated New 

*The first part of this work, which purports to contain 
an account of the "several excursions made by the au 
thor under the generals who commanded upon the con 
tinent of North America during the late war," was 
printed in London in 1765. It presents rather copious 
sketches of the personal services of the writer, though 
with less reference to the general operations of the sev 
eral campaigns, than the reader at this day could desire ; 
but it is by no means destitute of interest ; and a work 
can hardly be regarded as a fair subject of criticism, 
which was written " not with science and leisure, but 
in deserts, on rocks and mountains, amidst the hurries, 
disorders, and noise of war, and under that depression 
of spirits, which is the natural consequence of exhausting 
fatigue." Very few notices are to be found in it, at any 
length, of the prominent individuals, who acted in concert 
with Major Rogers ; the name of Putnam is rarely men 
tioned, and never with any comment indicating that the 
least importance was attached by the author to his ser 
vices The trifling incident of the preservation of his 
life by Putnam, is not once alluded to. 

A work, published in 1831, in Concord, New Hamp- 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 13 

Hampshire partisan, are preserved the regulations 
drawn up by himself for the government of the 
Rangers under his command ; and one needs 
only read them to be convinced, that it was a ser 
vice in which only the bold and resolute could 
be expected to engage. We are not informed 
whether the corps of Putnam were known from the 
outset as Rangers ; it is very probable that they 
were so ; as they were employed almost exclusive 
ly in that capacity, and appear to have been soon 
distinguished by that name. No service could 
have been better suited to the character and taste 
of Putnam. 

The campaign of 1755, though distinguished 
by the stain upon the British arms at Braddock s 
overthrow, and the victory of the Provincials over 
Dieskau near Lake George, was not a long one, 
and afforded less than usual scope for the exertions 
of the Rangers. A similarity in some respects of 

shire, and entitled "Reminiscences of the French War," 
purports to contain among other matter, this Journal of 
Rogers ; but the editor, without apprizing his readers of 
the fact, has mutilated the original in a very remarka 
ble manner. Hardly a single sentence is unaltered, 
and it is quite curious to compare a page of Rogers own 
composition with one which has undergone the scalping- 
knifeofthe New Hampshire editor. We doubt whether 
the proceeding is to be justified under any circumstan 
ces ; but it becomes unpardonable when it is attempted 
without the slightest intimation to the reader. 



14: AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

character and disposition produced an intimacy 
between Putnam and Rogers ; and they frequently 
acted in concert to reconnoitre the positions of the 
enemy, surprise their advanced pickets, and ob 
tain intelligence of their purposes and movements. 
In one of their excursions, it was the fortune of 
Putnam to preserve the life of Rogers. Both 
these officers had been detached with a party of 
light troops from Fort Edward, to ascertain the 
state of the fortifications at Crown Point. To 
approach them with their whole force would have 
made it difficult to guard against discovery, while 
the number of straggling Indians in the neighbor 
hood rendered it scarcely less dangerous to advance 
without support. They, however, left their men 
concealed behind a willow thicket, and went them 
selves sufficiently near the w r orks to procure the 
information they desired. It was now about the 
hour of sunrise, when the soldiers began to issue 
in such numbers from the fort, that the partisans 
found no opportunity to rejoin their men without 
detection. In the course of an hour or two, a 
soldier came directly to the spot where Rogers 
lay concealed at a little distance from Putnam, 
ana, on discovering him, called for aid to an adja 
cent guard, attempting at the same time to seize 
Rogers s fusee with one hand, and to stab him 
unth a dirk which he held in the other. Putnam 
Derceived the imminent danger of his associate. 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 15 

ind ; being unwilling to alarm the enemy by firing, 
ran up, and struck the Frenchman dead before 
him with a single blow from his fusee. The out 
cry of the soldier had already alarmed the guard ; 
but the partisans succeeded in rejoining their 
troop, and in returning without loss to their en 
campment. 

By the terms of their enlistment, the colonial 
troops were engaged to serve only during the cam 
paign ; but the commission of Captain Putnam 
was renewed, and he entered again on duty in the 
spring of 1756. The general military operations 
of this year were less fortunate than those of the 
preceding one. The advantage of many expen 
sive and laborious preparations was wholly lost by 
the inaction of the British generals. Oswego, an 
important fortress, was captured by the French, 
and no attempt was made to dispossess them of 
their outpost at Ticonderoga. A very different 
result would probably have been exhibited, had 
the operations of the army been conducted by 
Provincial officers, who were thoroughly conversant 
with the country, and the foe with whom they 
would have had to deal ; points, of which the 
British generals appear to have been profoundly 
ignorant. It is a relief to turn from the detail of 
their misconduct, to the personal adventures of the 
more deserving officers, who acted under them. 

Captain Putnam was directed to reconnoitre 



16 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the position of the enemy at the Ovens, near Ti- 
conderoga. He was accompanied in this enter 
prise by Lieutenant Robert Durkee, a gallant 
officer, who afterwards encountered the severest 
fate, under which humanity can ever be called to 
suffer.* The two partisans proceeded on their 
way, until they came near the enemy. It was 
the custom of the British and Provincial troops to 
set fires by night in a circle round their camp. 
The French, on the contrary, more wisely placed 
them in the centre, so that their sentinels were 
screened from observation by the darkness. 

Putnam and Durkee were unfortunately not 
aware of this usage, and were creeping slowly on 
their hands and knees, in order to approach the 
fires, when they were confounded at finding them 
selves in the midst of the camp of the enemy, by 
whom they were discovered and fired upon. Dur 
kee received a bullet in his thigh ; but there was 
no time to be lost, and they began an expeditious 
retreat. Putnam led the way, and in a few min 
utes fell head foremost into a clay-pit, followed 
by Durkee, who had kept closely at his heels. 
Supposing his companion in the pit to be one of 

* He was an officer in the revolution. At the battle 
of Wyoming, in 1778, he was wounded and made pris 
oner by the Indians ; by whom he was burned at the 
stake, and treated during his expiring moments with the 
most savage cruelty. 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 17 

ihe pursuers, Putnam had raised his arm to stab him, 
when he recognised Durkee s voice. Both then 
rushed from their retreat, in the midst of a shower 
of random bullets, and threw themselves behind a 
log, where they spent the remainder of the night. 
On examining his canteen, Putnam found it 
pierced with balls, and its contents entirely gone ; 
and next morning at day-light, he discovered that 
his blanket was sorely rent by fourteen bullet-holes. 

On another occasion, a convoy of baggage and 
provisions was intercepted by six hundred of the 
enemy at Halfway Brook, between Fort Edward 
and Lake George. The plunderers retreated with 
their booty, having experienced little interruption 
from the troops, by which the convoy was escort 
ed. When the news of this disaster was received 
at the camp, Captains Putnam and Rogers were 
ordered in pursuit. They were directed to take 
with them one hundred men in boats, furnished 
with two wall-pieces, and the same number of 
blunderbusses. With these they were to proceed 
for a certain distance down Lake George, and 
thence over land to the Narrows, to cut off the 
enemy s retreat. 

Shortly after they had reached the designated 
spot, they saw from their place of concealment the 
French batteaux, laden with the plunder of the 
convoy, sailing into the Narrows, entirely unsus 
picious of danger. They ?wait in silence the 



18 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

approach of the batteaux ; at the critical moment, 
they pour upon them a close and most destructive 
fire ; many of the boatmen fall, and several of the 
oatteaux are sunk. A strong wind sweeps the 
remainder with great rapidity through the passage 
into South Bay, or the destruction would have 
been complete. They carry to Ticonderoga the 
news of their disaster, and a detachment is instantly 
sent to intercept the Provincials ; who, anticipating 
such a movement, have in the mean time hurried 
to their boats, which they reach before the close 
of day. 

Next morning they set sail, and, at Sabbath- 
day Point, meet the detachment of the French, 
consisting of three hundred men, advancing in boats 
with the expectation of an easy victory. Not a 
musket is discharged until they come within pistol 
shot; then the enemy are thrown at once into 
confusion by the artillery, aided by a close fire ot 
musketry. The carnage becomes dreadful ; of 
twenty Indians in one of the canoes, fifteen are 
killed, and very many are seen to fall overboard 
from others ; while, on the side of the Provinc als, 
only one is killed and two others are wounded. 
No farther attempt is made to obstruct the retreat 
of the Provincials, who return in safety to the 
camp. 

Late in the same season, General Webb, who 
commanded at Fort Edward, sent out Captain 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

Putnam to procure a prisoner ; the usual and very 
compendious method of learning on the best au 
thority the motions of the enemy. He concealed 
his men near the highway leading from Ticonde- 
roga to the Ovens ; but these valiant gentlemen 
thought fit to ascribe his caution to the influence 
of fear, and, as there was no enemy in sight, 
were with much difficulty induced to remain un 
der shelter. Presently an Indian passed by, and 
at a little distance behind him a Frenchman ; and 
Putnam, calling on his men to follow, sprang to 
seize upon the latter, overtook him and ordered 
him to surrender. His men were now convinced 
of the advantage of concealment, and disregarded 
his order ; and, as Putnam was the only person in 
view, his intended captive preferred to run the 
hazard of resisting him. Putnam levelled his 
piece, but it missed fire, and he retreated followed 
by the Frenchman, in the direction where his men 
were posted ; but the other, falling on this unex 
pected ambuscade, changed his course without 
delay, and effected his escape. The men, 
whose conduct had been thus discreditable, were 
dismissed with disgrace ; and Putnam soon ac 
complished his object with other aid. The in 
cident is worthy of relation, only as it shows the 
nature of the tasks imposed upon an active parti 
san, and the hazard to be encountered in per 
forming them. 



20 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

The character and services of Putnam had now 
become generally known ; he was found to unite 
with a total insensibility to danger, a caution and 
sagacity, which gave him the command of his 
resources at the moment when they were most 
required. Nor could any service be better adapt 
ed to the exhibition of these qualities, than that 
in which he was engaged; though it was unfor 
tunately in a sphere too limited, to secure for 
him a place in history. He was endeared to the 
soldiers by the cheerfulness with which he shared 
their perils and privations, and the gallantry, which 
suffered none to go where he did not himself 
lead the way ; to his superior officers, by the en 
ergy and promptness with which he executed their 
commands; and he began to rise in the esteem 
of the public generally, as one who was destined 
to become distinguished in a broader field of ac 
tion 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 21 



CHAPTER II. 

Raised to the Rank of Major. Various Ad 
ventures in the War. Capture of Fort Wil 
liam Henry. Putnam stationed near Fort 
Edward. Encounters the Enemy at South 
Bay. Expedition against Ticonderoga. 
Death of Lord Howe. 

IN 1757, the legislature of Connecticut con 
ferred on Putnam the commission of a major. 
The Earl of Loudoun, one of the most incompetent 
British generals who had commanded in the colo 
nies, was then at the head of the military forces in 
this country. He had arrived at Albany in the 
summer of the preceding year ; but the capture of 
Oswego by the French had induced him to sus 
pend offensive operations, and to think only of 
guarding against further loss. By the next spring, 
the generous efforts of the colonists enabled him 
to take the field with a numerous and effective 
force ; and it was expected, not without reason, that 
he should open the campaign in the direction of 
Canada with some decisive blow. But the people 
were not yet fully acquainted with the character 
of their military chief. About midsummer, they 
were somewhat surprised to learn that he had 



22 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

sailed for Halifax with six thousand of his troops. 
It was his intention there to join a reinforcement 
of five thousand men, who had lately arrived from 
England under the command of Lord Howe, and 
to attempt the reduction of Louisburg in Cape 
Breton ; but, learning that the garrison of that 
place had been augmented by an armament from 
France, he returned to New York and reposed 
upon his laurels. 

While the British commander was prosecuting 
his voyage of discovery, the condition of Fort 
William Henry, then a frontier post, was such as 
to invite the assault of the enemy. This ill-fated 
fortress, the name of which still awakens melan 
choly recollections, was situated at the southwest 
ern extremity of Lake George. It was a structure 
of no great strength, on a small eminence, which 
rose gradually from the waters of the lake. Its 
garrison at this time consisted of about three 
thousand men ; and, as an additional security, Gen 
eral Webb was stationed about fifteen miles distant 
at Fort Edward, with a force considerably larger. 

The Marquis de Montcalm, the French com 
mander, having collected about eight or nine thou 
sand men, including a large body of Indians, ap 
peared before Fort William Henry on the third 
of August, with a summons to surrender. In his 
letter to the commanding officer of the garrison, he 
urged the capitulation by considerations of human 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 23 

ity, declaring that his power to restrain the In 
dians would be lost, after the blood of any of them 
should be shed. No written answer w r as given to 
the summons : a verbal reply was returned by the 
bearer, that the fort would be defended to the 
ast extremity. 

Another sad illustration w r as yet to be afforded 
of the incapacity of generals, and a still more 
melancholy one of the atrocities of savage war 
fare. Just before the siege began, General Webb, 
accompanied by Major Putnam and tw r o hundred 
men, went to Fort William Henry, to ascertain 
the state of its defences. While the General was 
thus engaged, Major Putnam offered to go with 
five men to Northwest Bay, sending back the 
boats to prevent detection, and obtain accurate 
information respecting the situation of the French 
at Ticonderoga. 

This proposition was rejected as too hazardous 
He was, however, permitted to undertake the en 
terprise, with eighteen volunteers. They imme 
diately embarked in three whale-boats, and set 
forward on their expedition. Before they arrived 
at Northwest Bay, a large body of the enemy was 
discovered on an island. Leaving two of his boats, 
as if for the purpose of fishing, Putnam returned 
with the remaining one to communicate what he 
nad seen. The general, whose valor was his 
least shining accomplishment, seeing the Major 



24 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

make for the land with his force thus reduced, de 
spatched a skiff to him with orders to come to 
the shore alone. 

With some difficulty, he obtained permission to 
return in quest of his companions, and to make 
additional discoveries. He found his men in the 
place where he had left them, and immediately 
after encountered a large number of boats in mo 
tion on the lake, from the foremost of which he 
was enabled to escape only by the superior fleet- 
ness of his own. There was no longer any room 
for doubt, that this armament was destined against 
Fort William Henry ; and Putnam so informed 
the General, who ordered him to preserve strict 
silence on the subject, and to exact an oath of se 
crecy from his men. 

In vain he endeavored to urge the necessity 
of meeting the enemy on the shore. "What 
do you think we should do here ? " was the dis 
creet reply. Next morning, the general return 
ed with his escort to Fort Edward, and detached 
a reinforcement to Fort William Henry. In 
twenty-four hours afterwards, the fortress was in 
vested by the enemy. 

During six days was it defended against a far 
superior force, provided with artillery. Express 
after express was in the mean time sent to Fort 
Edward for relief; but, though the force of Webb 
had been increased by the addition of Johnson s 



ISRAEL, PUTNAM. 



25 



iroops and the militia, he made not the slightest 
effort to avert its fate. Once, indeed, he yielded 
to the solicitations of Sir William Johnson, and 
permitted those, who would volunteer in the ser 
vice, to march for its relief. The privilege was 
eagerly embraced by the Provincials, including 
Putnam s Rangers ; but scarcely had they begun 
their march, when the general s heart failed him, 
and they were ordered back. They returned 
with tears of indignation and sorrow. 

General Webb believed his duty sufficiently dis 
charged when he wrote to Colonel Munroe, the 
commander of the fort, advising him to surrender ; 
and it is a striking example of the danger of pusil 
lanimity, that the indecision of this strangely inef 
ficient personage was the direct cause of the sub 
sequent disaster. When Putnam was a prisoner 
in Canada, he was assured by Montcalm himself, 
that the movement of the Provincials from Fort 
Edward had been reported to him by his Indian 
scouts, who represented them to be as numerous 
as the leaves upon the trees ; that the operations 
of the siege were suspended, and preparations for 
retreat were immediately made, when the news of 
their return encouraged him to persevere with 
greater vigor. 

All expectations of relief were now at an end ; 
two of the largest guns of the fort had burst, and 
further resistance must be obviously unavailing ; 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

articles of capitulation were therefore signed, by 
which protection against the Indians was pledged 
to the garrison, and they were to be permitted to 
march forth with the honors of war. 

The event which followed, and which was long 
known throughout the continent as the Massacre 
of Fort William Henry, can hardly be recited now 
without a thrill of horror. The troops began their 
march from the fortress. Just as the rear-guard 
issued from the gates, the whole body of the Indians 
fell upon them with the utmost fury, slaughtering 
them in cold blood. Great numbers were killed, 
and others were taken prisoners. No efforts were 
made by the French to put an end to these atro 
cities ; no protection, demanded alike by honor 
and humanity, was given, until only a miserable 
remnant of the garrison was left. 

Early the next day, Putnam, who had been 
sent out with his Rangers to watch the movements 
of the enemy, reached the scene of carnage, just 
as the rear-guard of the French were embarking 
on the lake. The barracks were still burning, and 
hundreds of human bodies lay half-consumed among 
the rums. Those of more than one hundred 
women were scattered around, torn and mutilated 
in a manner which no language is adequate to tell. 
One may conceive with what feelings the generous 
and warm-hearted soldier must have looKed upon 
a scene like this. As we read the dark and bloody 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 2 

tale, we almost pardon the stern vengeance with 
which our fathers strove to crush so merciless a 
foe ; but what a picture does it give of modern 
civilization, that the most enlightened nations hesi 
tated not to employ these demons as the instru 
ments of war ? 

General Lyman soon after this took the com 
mand at Fort Edward, and labored to strengthen 
its defences. With this view he employed a party 
of one hundred and fifty men to procure timber in 
its neighborhood, and stationed Captain Little at 
the head of a morass, about a hundred rods east 
ward from the fort, to cover them. This post was 
connected with the fort by a tongue of land, on 
one side of which was a creek, and the morass 
extended on the other. One morning at day 
break, a sentinel saw what he imagined to be 
birds, flying swiftly from the morass over his head ; 
but he was enlightened as to the true genus of 
these feathered messengers, when he saw an ar 
row quivering in a tree, just by him. A body of 
savages had concealed themselves in the morass in 
the hope of surprising the party, and had resorted 
to this noiseless method of despatching the sen 
tinel. 

The alarm was instantly given ; the laborers 
fled towards the fort, and were furiously attacked 
by the Indians ; but their progress was arrested by 
the close and seasonable fire of Little s party, 



28 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

which enabled such of the fugitives as were not 
wounded to reach the fort in safety. The situa 
tion of the small band, pressed as they were by an 
overwhelming force, became very precarious ; but 
the commander of the fort, instead of sending a 
detachment to their aid, ordered all the outposts to 
be called in and the gates to be closed. 

Putnam was stationed with his Rangers on an 
island, near the fort, where intelligence soon 
reached him of the peril of Little and his party. 
Without the hesitation of an instant, they dashed 
into the water, and waded as rapidly as they could 
to the scene of action. On their way they passed 
so near the fort, that General Lyman called to 
them from the parapet, and ordered them per 
emptorily to return ; but Putnam made a brief 
apology, and, without waiting to ascertain whether 
it was satisfactory, hurried on with his men. 

In a few minutes they were at the side of the 
little band of regulars, who gallantly maintained 
their ground ; then, at the command of Putnam, 
they rushed with loud huzzas upon the savages 
directly into the morass. The charge was com 
pletely successful ; the Indians fled in every direc 
tion, and were pursued with great slaughter until 
night-fall. Colonel Humphreys remarks, that all 
is not right in the military system, when the orders 
of superior officers are disregarded with impunity, 
and intimates that Putnam should have been sub- 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 29 

jected to the discipline of a court-martial. Noth 
ing of the kind, however, appears to have been 
attempted ; the general was probably content with 
the result, and cared not that his own conduct 
should be contrasted with that of those, who served 
him contrary to his will. 

In the winter of this year, the barracks adjacent 
to the northwestern bastion of Fort Edward acci 
dentally took fire. Within twelve feet of them 
stood the magazine, containing three hundred bar 
rels of powder. By the orders of Colonel Haviland, 
who then commanded at this post, some heavy 
pieces of artillery were brought to bear upon the 
barracks, to batter them to the ground, but without 
success. Putnam reached the fort from his station 
on the island, while the flames were spreading 
fiercely in the direction of the magazine, and took 
his post on the roof of the barrack, as nearly as 
possible to the blaze. A line of soldiers was formed 
through a postern to the river, from which watei 
was conveyed to Putnam, who threw it on the fire, 
standing all the while so near it, that his mittens 
were burned from his hands. He was supplied 
with another pair soaked in water, and kept his 
post. 

Colonel HavUand, considering his situation to 
be too dangerous urged him to descend ; but he 
replied that a suspension of his efforts would be 
fatal,, and entreated to be suffered to remain ; and 



SO AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the colonel, encouraged by his intrepidity, gave 
orders that nothing more should be removed from 
the fort, exclaiming, that if they must perish, all 
should be blown up together. The barracks be 
gan to totter ; Putnam came down and took his 
station between them and the magazine ; the ex 
ternal planks of this building were consumed, and 
there remained only a partition of timber between 
the powder and the flames ; still he refused to 
quit his post, and continued pouring on the water 
until the fire was happily subdued. 

He had contended with the flames for an hour 
and a half; his face, his hands, and almost his 
whole body were blistered ; and, in removing the 
mittens from his hands, the skin was torn off with 
them. Several weeks elapsed, before he recov 
ered from the effects of the exposure ; but he was 
rewarded by the earnest thanks of his commander, 
and by the consciousness that, but for him, the 
fortress must have been in ruins. 

A brighter day began to dawn upon the British 
arms in every quarter of the country, but the 
neighborhood of Lake George and Lake Cham- 
plain. There, the same fortunes whicn had hitherto 
attended them underwent no immediate change. 
The popular voice had overborne the royal will, 
and had compelled George the Second to receive 
Mr. Pitt as his prime minister. The name of 
this great man is more closely associated with 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 31 

commanding energy of character, than any other 
in the history of England ; it made, as, in the elo 
quent language of Burke, it kept the name of 
his country respectable in every other on the 
globe. Nowhere was that name held in greater 
respect, and nowhere did it inspire more confi 
dence, than in America. 

He assumed the direction of affairs in the sum 
mer of 1757 ; and his attention was at once 
directed to the conduct of the war in this coun 
try. The colonies, justly appreciating his vigor 
and talent, renewed their generous but exhausting 
efforts to recruit the army for the next campaign ; 
and the extent of their exertions can only be un 
derstood, when it is considered that fifteen thou 
sand men were supplied by Connecticut, Massa 
chusetts, and New Hampshire, at a time when the 
resources of all were hardly equal to those of 
any one of them now. 

Three expeditions were proposed to be under 
taken ; Louisburg was the destination of the first, 
Fort Duquesne of the second, and Crown Point 
and Ticonderoga of the third. The results of the 
two first are sufficiently well known ; the course of 
our narrative will lead us into some detail respect 
ing the last. Not even the ability of Pitt could 
immediately turn the current of adverse fortune, 
which had been flowing with so little interruption 
in the region, where the scene of our story has 
thus far been laid. 



82 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

General Abercromby, who now assumed the 
chief command in this department, ordered Major 
Putnam to proceed with fifty men to South Bay 
in Lake George, in order to watch the motions of 
the enemy, and intercept their straggling parties 
The detachment marched to Wood Creek, near 
the point where it flows into South Bay ; there, in 
obedience to Putnam s directions, they constructed 
a parapet of stone, thirty feet in length, on a cliff 
that overhangs the water ; securing it from obser 
vation by young pines, so disposed that they ap 
peared to have grown upon the spot. Fifteen of 
the soldiers, who became unfit for duty, were sent 
back from this station to the camp. 

Late in the evening of the fourth day since he 
occupied the post, Major Putnam was informed 
that a large number of canoes, filled with men, were 
slowly entering the mouth of the creek. All the 
sentinels were called in, and each man was sta 
tioned at the point where his fire would be most 
erffective, receiving positive orders from Putnam 
to reserve it, until he should give the word. The 
moon was at the full, and every movement of the 
enemj was perfectly in view. The most advanced 
canoes had passed the parapet, when a soldier acci 
dentally struck his firelock against a stone. Alarm 
ed at the sound, those in the foremost canoeg 
ceased to advance, and the whole were crowded 
Ji a body at the very base of the temporary r orti- 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. o3 

fication. The leaders consulted together, and 
apparently resolved to return into the Bay. 

Just as they were changing their course, Put 
nam gave the word to fire, and it was obeyed 
with terrible effect ; hardly a shot failed to find its 
victim, amidst the dense mass of the enemy be 
neath, whose fire was wasted on an invisible foe. 
The carnage had continued for some time, when 
the enemy, perceiving from the fire that the num 
ber of their assailants must be small, detached a 
party to land below in order to surround them ; 
but the movement had been watched by Putnam, 
and the party was repulsed by twelve men, under 
the command of Lieutenant Durkee. During the 
whole night were the enemy exposed to the mur 
derous fire from the parapet. At day-break, Put 
nam learned that a detachment had effected a 
landing at some distance below ; his ammunition 
also began to fail, and he gave the order to retreat. 

It was afterwards ascertained, that the enemy 
consisted of a corps of five hundred men, com 
manded by the well-known partisan Molang ; and 
that more than half their number perished on 
that fatal night. Two only of Putnam s little 
band were wounded; they were ordered to the 
camp under the escort of two other soldiers, but 
were pursued and overtaken by the Indians. Find 
ing their own fate inevitable, they persuaded their 
escort to leave them, and quietly awaited the 

vni. 3 



34 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 



approach of the foe. One of them, a provincial, 
whose thigh had been broken by a bullet, killed 
three of the savages by a single discharge of his 
musket He was instantly put to death ; but the 
other, an Indian, was made prisoner, and related 
these circumstances afterwards to Putnam, who 
encountered him in Canada. 

While the party were effecting their retreat, 
they were fired on by an unexpected enemy. 
Putnam, who was never disconcerted, ordered his 
men to charge, when the leader of the other party, 
recognising his voice, cried out that they were 
friends. Friends or foes, replied Putnam, they de 
served to perish for doing so little execution with 
so fair a shot ; only one man had been wounded 
by the fire. Soon after, they were met by a corps 
detached to cover their retreat, and regained the 
fort on the following day. 

The expedition against Ticonderoga, which has 
been already mentioned, was led by General 
Abercromby in person. His force consisted of six 
teen thousand men, amply provided with artillery 
and military stores. On the morning of the 5th 
of July, 1758, they were embarked in batteaux, 
and began to descend Lake George, the whole 
array presenting a brilliant and imposing specta 
cle. They reached Sabbath-day Point at evening 
Here they halted for a few hours, and then re 
sumed their voyage, Lord Howe leading the van. 



ISRAEL PUTNAM 35 

An officer, who had been sent to ascertain 
whether the proposed landing-place was unobstruct 
ed, returned at day-break with the information, that 
it was in possession of the enemy. Another place 
of landing was selected, and the troops were dis 
embarked at mid-day on the 6th of July. Rogers 
advanced with his Rangers and drove the enemy 
before him, and the columns of the army began 
their march. Lord Howe led the centre, and 
Putnam was at his side. Some musketry was 
heard upon the left. " What means this firing ? " 
said Lord Howe. " I know not, but with your 
Lordship s leave will ascertain," replied Putnam. 
He went, accompanied, in opposition to his earnest 
remonstrances, by Lord Howe with one hundred 
of the van. The firing proceeded from a portion 
of the advanced guard of the enemy, who had lost 
their way in the woods, while retreating before 
Rogers. They were soon encountered ; and, at 
their first discharge, Lord Howe fell. 

No heavier loss could well have been sustained. 
This young nobleman was in the prime of man 
hood, of fine address, full of amiable qualities, 
and eminent for manly virtue ; his military fame 
was already high, and presented the most bril 
liant promise for the future. Never was a British 
officer so much endeared to the Provincial troops, 
or enjoyed more of the general esteem and con 
fidence. He was regretted equally for what 



36 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

"he was, and what he was expected to become ; 
but the man, over whom the tears of a people 
are shed, cannot be said to have descended imma- 
turely to the tomb. 

His death was avenged by his troops, who 
charged the enemy, and drove them from the 
field. Having accomplished this, they were return 
ing to the lines, when they were fired upon, on 
the supposition that they were of the French ar 
my. Several men were killed ; nor was the danger 
averted, until Putnam ran through the midst of the 
fire, explained the mistake, and thus secured his 
men from farther injury. He remained himself 
upon the field until evening, attending to the 
wounded French, and providing them with such 
alleviations as he had it in his power to bestow.* 

" The fall of Lord Howe," says Rogers in his 
Journal, " appeared to produce an almost general 
consternation and languor." Certain it is, that 
from that hour the enterprise wholly ceased to 
prosper. No progress was made during the next 

* Colonel Humphreys assures us, in his Life of Put- 
nam, that Major Rogers was sent next morning to bring 
off the wounded prisoners ; " but, finding the wounded 
unable to help themselves, in order to save trouble, he 
despatched every one of them to the world of spirits." 
We have no means of contradicting or confirming a 
fltory, which every reader would be glad to believe 
unfounded. 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 37 

day ; but the principal engineer was sent forward 
to examine the defences of Ticonderoga ; ne re 
ported in favor of hazarding an attack without 
waiting to bring up the artillery, and the prepara 
tions were immediately made. This fortress stood 
on a peninsula in Lake Champlain, very near the 
shore ; and the French lines, which were defend 
ed by two redoubts and strong abatis, extended 
across the neck of the peninsula. 

The garrison at this time consisted of six thou 
sand men ; three thousand more, who had been 
detached to the Mohawk river, were hourly ex 
pected to return. On the morning of the 8th of 
July, the British troops advanced to the attack 
over a tract swept by the deadly fire of a sheltered 
enemy ; and were shot down by hundreds as 
they rushed forward to the abatis, and vainly la 
bored to remove this fatal obstacle. Three times 
in the course of four hours, did they assault the 
works with unyielding resolution ; but their gal 
lantry was wholly unavailing, and their officers at 
last put an end to this wanton sacrifice of life, and 
ordered them to retire. 

About two thousand of the assailants perished in 
this rash attack, during the whole progress of which 
General Abercromby remained in safety two miles 
from the scene of action. Not a single piece of 
artillery was ordered up, and the assault was made 
precisely in the spot where the lines were best 



38 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

defended. Even at the moment of their retreat, 
the English force was more than twice as great as 
that of the garrison ; the fortress might still have 
been reduced by a well-conducted siege ; but all 
further operations were at once abandoned. Ma 
jor Putnam, who had been employed throughout 
the action in bringing up the provincial regiments, 
rendered great service in securing the retreat ; and, 
by the evening of the next day, the whole army 
had regained their camp at the south end of Lake 
George. The annals of even this war give no 
example of a more unfortunate or Ill-conducted 
enterprise. 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 30 



CHAPTER III. 

Perilous Descent of the Rapids at Fort Miller- 
- Battle with the Indians. Putnam taken 
Prisoner and treated with great Cruelty. 
Sent to Ticonderoga, and thence to Montreal. 
Exchanged, and returns to the Army. 
Colonel Schuyler. Putnam is commissioned 
Lieutenant- Colonel. Serves under General 
Amherst. Takes part in the Expedition 
against Havana. Engaged in an Enterprise 
against the Western Indians. Retires from 
the Army after Ten Years 9 Service. 

ONE day in the course of this summer, while 
Major Putnam was lying in a batteau with five 
men on the east side of the Hudson, near the Rap 
ids by Fort Miller, he was suddenly warned from 
the opposite shore that the Indians were upon him. 
His batteau was at the head of the Rapids ; to re 
main or cross the river would be inevitably fatal. 
Before the batteau could be put in motion, the 
Indians opened their fire from the bank ; one 
man, who, being at a little distance from the rest, 
had been of necessity left behind, was instantly 
seized by them, and killed. 

Without a moment s hesitation Putnam seized 



40 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

the helm, and steered his batteau directly down 
the river ; there was scarcely even a chance for 
escape ; the current was broken into whirlpools 
and eddies, as it rushed furiously over shelves and 
among projecting rocks. Without any aid from 
his companions, who were aghast at the danger, 
he guided his boat, as it shot down, in the course 
which seemed least threatening, avoiding the 
rocks and stemming the eddies. Sometimes it was 
turned fairly round, again it sped onward with the 
fleetness of a dart ; till, in a few minutes, it was 
gliding quietly over the smooth stream below. 

" On witnessing this spectacle," says Colonel 
Humphreys, " it is asserted that these rude sons 
of nature were affected with the same sort of su 
perstitious veneration which the Europeans, in the 
dark ages, entertained for some of their most val 
orous companions. They deemed the man invul 
nerable, whom their balls on his pushing from the 
shore could not touch ; and whom they had seen 
steering in safety down the Rapids that had never 
before been passed. They conceived it would be 
an affront against the Great Spirit to kill this fa 
vored mortal with powder and ball, if they should 
ever see and know him again." It will be seen, 
however, that some of the race were not inclined 
to push these religious scruples so far, as to deny 
themselves the satisfaction of subjecting him to the 
ordeal of fire. 



ISRAEL PUTNAM 1 

In the month of August, Major Putnair. was de 
serted by the fortune which had hitherto attended 
him, and encountered some of the most remarka 
ble of those perils, which give a character of ro 
mance to his personal history. A corps of five 
hundred men, under the command of Major Rogers 
and himself, was detached to watch the enemy 
in the neighborhood of Ticonderoga. When the 
party reached South Bay, it was separated into 
two divisions, which were stationed at a consider 
able distance from each other ; but, being discov 
ered by the enemy, it was deemed expedient to 
reunite them, and to return without delay to 
head-quarters at Fort Edward. 

They were arranged for this purpose in three 
divisions. Rogers headed the right, Putnam the 
left, and the central one was led by Captain Dal- 
zell. At the close of the first day s march, they 
halted on the borders of Clear River. Early the 
next morning, Major Rogers, with a strange disre 
gard of those precautions to which the Rangers 
were so often indebted for security, amused him 
self by a trial of skil. with a British officer, in 
firing at a mark ; and this signal act of imprudence 
was followed by the loss of many lives. 

Molang, the French partisan, had been sent out 
with five hundred men to intercept the party, and 
was at this moment lying scarce a mile from their 
encampment. The sound of the firing guided him 



r 42 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

at once to their position ; and he posted his men in 
ambush along the outskirts of the forest, near the 
paths through which they were to pass. Soon 
after sunrise the Americans resumed their march 
through a thicket of shrubs and brushwood, over 
land from which the timber had been partially 
cleared some years before ; and, owing to the dif 
ficulty of forcing their way through these obstruc 
tions, they moved in close columns, Putnam lead 
ing the way, Dalzell being stationed in the centre, 
and Rogers in the rear. Just as they had trav 
ersed the thicket and were about to penetrate the 
forest, they were furiously attacked by the French 
and savages. 

The assault, however unexpected, was sustained 
with gallantry and coolness ; Putnam ordered his 
men to halt, returned the fire, and called upon 
Dalzell and Rogers to support him. Dalzell came 
immediately up ; but Rogers, instead of advancing 
to the aid of his associates, stationed his men be 
tween the combatants and Wood Creek, in order, 
as he affirmed, to guard against an attack in the 
rear ; or, as was suspected by others, to relieve 
himself from the necessity of making one in an 
opposite direction. The action began to assume 
a desperate character. Putnam was determined to 
maintain his ground ; his soldiers, as occasion re 
quired, fought in ranks in the open spaces of the 
forest, or fired from behind the shelter of the trees. 



ISRAEL PUTNAM 43 

But his own fusee chanced to miss fire, while he 
held its muzzle against the breast of an athletic 
savage ; thus defenceless, he was compelled to 
surrender ; and his antagonist, having bound him 
securoly to a tree, returned to the battle. 

Captain Dalzell, who now commanded, main 
tained the fight with signal intrepidity ; but the 
Provincials were compelled to retreat for a little 
distance, closely followed by the savages, exult 
ing in their fancied triumph, and rushing forward 
with shouts of victory. The Provincials rallied 
and drove them back beyond their former posi 
tion , and the battle here grew warmer than 
before. The tree to which Putnam was secured 
was thus brought midway between the combat 
ants, in the centre of the hottest fire of both ; and 
he stood, wholly unable to move his body, or even 
to incline his head, in the midst of a shower of 
balls, of which many lodged in the tree above 
him, and several passed through the sleeves and 
skirts of his coat. 

In this position, than which it would be difficult 
for the imagination to conceive one more appal 
ling, he remained for more than an hour ; each of 
the parties meanwhile giving ground several times 
*n succession, but not so far as to place him beycnid 
the field of contest. Once, when the Provincials 
had retired a little and the savages were near him, 
a young Indian amused himself by throwing his 



44 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

tomahawk at the tree, apparently to ascertain how 
nearly he could cast it to the body of the prisoner, 
without striking him ; and the weapon more than 
once lodged in the tree, within a hair s breadth of 
the mark. When this barbarian grew weary of his 
sport, a French subaltern drew near, and levelled 
his musket at Putnam s breast. Fortunately it 
missed fire. It was in vain that the latter claimed 
the treatment due to him as a prisoner of war. 
The Frenchman, instead of desisting, pushed him 
violently with his musket, and after dealing him 
a severe blow upon the cheek with the but-end 
of his piece, left him to his fate. 

After a long and gallant contest, the Provincials 
remained in possession of the field; the enemy 
were routed with the loss of ninety of their num 
ber, and retired, taking with them their prisoner, 
who was destined to undergo still greater suffering. 

When the Indians had retreated to a considera 
ble distance from the field of the battle, they de 
prived Major Putnam of his coat, vest, stockings, 
and shoes, bound his hands tightly together, and 
piled the packs of a number of the wounded on 
his back. In this wretched condition, exhausted 
by fatigue, and severely suffering from the injuries 
he had received, he was forced to march for many 
miles through a mountainous and rugged tract ; 
until the party, overcome with weariness, at length 
halted to rest themselves. Meantime, the tight* 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 45 

ness of the cords around his wrists had caused 
nis hands to swell, and made them exquisitely 
painful ; the blood was flowing from his torn and 
naked feet ; the weight of his burden became intol 
erable to his exhausted frame ; and he entreated 
the savages to loose his hands or to release him 
from his sufferings by death. 

A French officer interposed, removed the liga 
tures, and relieved him of a portion of his burden ; 
the Indian, who had made him captive and who 
nad remained behind to attend to the wounded, 
also came up, provided him with moccasons, and 
expressed much indignation at the treatment which 
he had received ; but soon went back, without 
taking measures to secure him against its repetition 

A spot for the evening s encampment was se 
lected, and the Indians, taking with them Major 
Putnam, went thither in advance of the rest of the 
party. On the way he experienced fresh out 
rages, and was deeply wounded on the cheek by a 
blow from a tomahawk. He had been thus far 
spared for a darker purpose ; it had been resolved 
that he should perish at the stake, with all those 
refinements of torture, by which the savages know 
how to enhance the bitterness of death. The 
depths of the forest were chosen as the scene of 
sacrifice. The victim was bound entirely naked 
,o a tree ; large piles of fuel were laid in a circle 
around him ; and, while these fearful preparations 



46 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

were in progress, they were rendered more ap 
palling by the wild songs and exultation of the 
Indians. 

When all was ready and their victim was await 
ing the hour of death with the fortitude which 
never failed him, the fire was set to the fue 
about him ; but a sudden shower extinguished the 
flames. After repeated efforts, the blaze began tc 
rise from every portion of the circle. Putnam s 
hands were closely bound, but he was still able to 
move his body ; and his convulsive writhing to 
avoid the flame gave infinite diversion to his tor 
mentors, who accompanied their orgies with songs 
and dances, and their usual terrific expressions of 
delight. 

All hope of relief was now at an end, and na 
ture was beginning to yield to the excess of suf 
fering, when a French officer rushed through the 
throng, dashed aside the blazing brands, and cut 
the cords of the prisoner. A savage, touched by 
some sudden impulse of humanity, had hurried to 
inform Molang of the proceedings of his fellows , 
and it was this brave partisan himself, who had 
thus, at the last extremity, redeemed from the 
most horrible of deaths a gallant foe. After sternly 
reprimanding the Indians for their cruelty, he took 
Putnam under his protection, until he could re 
store him to his savage master. 

The kindness of this master (for so the Indian 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 47 

who captured Putnam was considered) bore some 
resemblance to the tender mercies of the wicked. 
He appeared to feel for the sufferings of his pris 
oner ; and, finding him unable to eat the hard bread 
set before him, in consequence of the injury in 
flicted by the Frenchman, moistened it with water 
for his relief. Apprehensive, however, that Put 
nam might take advantage of the darkness to 
escape, he removed his moccasons, and bound them 
to his wrists ; then placed him on the ground upon 
his back, and, extending his arms as far asunder 
as possible, secured them to two young trees. His 
legs were next secured in the same ingenious man 
ner. Several long and slender poles were next 
cut, and laid, together with bushes, transversely 
across Putnam s body ; on the extremities of these 
lay several Indians, in such a manner that the 
slightest effort to escape must awaken them. 

Having completed this singular cage, the In 
dians were content with the provision they had 
made for his safe-keeping ; and in this particularly 
inconvenient prison Putnam spent the dreary 
night that followed his release from death. He 
was accustomed to relate, that, even while thus 
reposing, he could not refrain from smiling as he 
thought of the odd subject for the canvass which 
was presented by the group, of which he consti 
tuted the most prominent figure ; but his merri 
ment was probably of short duration. 



48 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Next morning he was released from durance 
qnd provided with a blanket; some bear s meat 
was given him to allay his hunger, and he was 
permitted to resume his march without a burden. 
Some vexation was occasionally shown by the sav 
ages, by menacing signs and gestures, on account 
of the loss of their expected entertainment ; but 
they were no longer suffered to molest him, and he 
reached Ticonderoga the same night, without ex 
periencing farther violence. On his arrival there 
he was placed in the custody of a French guard. 

After having been examined by Montcalm, 
Major Putnam was transferred to Montreal. He 
was conducted thither by a French officer, from 
whom he received a courtesy and kindness which 
were the more welcome, from the indignities he 
had so lately suffered. Several American prison 
ers were in that city at the time ; among the num 
ber was Colonel Peter Schuyler. When he heard 
of the arrival of Putnam, Colonel Schuyler has 
tened to ascertain the place of his abode. The 
Provincial Major had been suffered to remain with 
out a coat, vest, or stockings ; the remnant of his 
clothing was miserably tattered, and his body 
exhibited serious marks of the violence he had 
endured. Colonel Schuyler, when he came into 
his presence, was so affected by the sight, that he 
could hardly in the language of Humphreys, 
" contain his speech within limits consistent with 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 49 

the prudence of a prisoner, and the meekness of 
a Christian." 

He immediately supplied his countryman with 
all that his necessities required ; and, after securing 
to him, by the most active intercession, the treat 
ment to which his rank entitled him, found means 
to render him a more important service. The 
capture of Frontenac by the British occasioned an 
exchange of prisoners, of which Putnam reaped 
the benefit by a stratagem of Colonel Schuyler. 
There were several officers among the prisoners, 
whose claim to be exchanged was superior to his ; 
and Schuyler, fearing that the opportunity might 
be lost if the character of the prisoner should be 
known, prevailed upon the Governor to permit him 
to name an officer to be included in the cartel. He 
then assured his Excellency, that he should name 
an old Provincial major, who was of no service 
there or elsewhere, but was very anxious to re 
turn to his wife and family, in preference to the 
young men, who had no families to care for. 

There is another instance of the beneficence of 
Colonel Schuyler, not wholly unconnected with the 
object of this narrative. Mrs. Howe, the story of 
whose captivity by the Indians is familiar to Amer 
ican readers, was an inmate of his family in Mon 
treal, at the time of which we speak. The first 
husband of this lady had been murdered by the 
Indians, several years before Mr. Howe, the 

viii. 4 



50 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

second, met with a similar fate at Fort Dummer, in 
1756 ; and his wife, with seven children, was carried 
into captivity. They wandered for many months, 
exposed to the extremity of hardship and privation. 
Her two daughters were destined by the Indians 
to become the wives of two young warriors ; but 
this scheme was defeated by the address of their 
mother, who prevailed upon the French com 
mander to procure them admission into a convent 
at Montreal. The sons, five in number, were 
distributed among various Indian tribes. She was 
herself ransomed from the Indians by an old French 
officer, from whose rude importunities, as well as 
those of his son, she found it difficult to escape. 

She had heard of Colonel Schuyler, and found 
means to acquaint him with her story. With his 
usual generosity he immediately paid the price 
of her ransom, and thought his work of charity 
imperfectly accomplished, until all her sons were 
restored to her. It became necessary for him to 
return home before the other prisoners were ready 
for the journey ; and he recommended Mrs. Howe 
and her family to the charge of Major Putnam, 
with whom she returned in safety to her friends ; 
b;th having experienced a larger measure of suf 
fering, than humanity is often called to undergo. 

In 1759, a plan was formed for the entire 
expulsion of the French from their possessions on 
this continent. Three powerful armies were to 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 51 

enter Canada by different routes ; General Wolfe 
was appointed to conduct an expedition up the 
St. Lawrence against Quebec ; General Amherst, 
after reducing Ticonderoga and Crown Point 3 was 
to join him under the walls of that city ; and a 
third army was destined against Fort Niagara. 
General Prideaux, the commander of the last, 
after reducing that fortress, was to attack Mon 
treal, and, if successful, was to unite himself with 
the grand army at Quebec. This vast scheme was 
only partially accomplished before the close of the 
campaign. 

The name and victory of Wolfe are familiar in 
the mouths of all as household words. Amherst 
succeeded in the reduction of Ticonderoga and 
Crown Point, but at so late a period as to prevent 
him from advancing into Canada ; the fortress of 
Niagara was also taken by Prideaux, but it was 
not thought prudent to hazard an attack on Mon 
treal. Such was the general condition of affairs at 
the close of 1759. Putnam, who had been raised 
to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, accompanied 
the army of Amherst, and was employed during 
the latter part of the season in strengthening the 
defences of Crown Point ; but we have no means 
of giving any particular detail of his operations. 

The next season, that of 1760, witnessed the 
termination of the war in this portion of America. 
Montreal was the only important post remaining 



52 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

in possession of the French, whose whole force 
was concentrated in its neighborhood. General 
Amherst, the British commander-in-chief, had 
employed the winter in preparations to unite his 
forces under the walls of that city. With this 
view, General Murray was to advance upon it by 
water from Quebec ; Colonel Haviland was to 
proceed thither from Crown Point by the way of 
Lake Cbamplain ; while Amherst himself, at the 
head of an army of ten thousand men, was to 
enter the St. Lawrence by the way of Lake Onta 
rio, and descend it to Montreal. 

In falling down the river, the progress of the 
troops was arrested by two armed vessels near the 
mouth of the Oswegatchie, in a position which 
effectually prevented the British from attacking 
the fort of the same name in the vicinity. Lieu 
tenant-Colonel Putnam s activity and resources 
were called into requisition to remove the obsta 
cle ; and he undertook, with one thousand men, in 
fifty batteaux, to carry the vessels by boarding. 
Having made his preparations, he took his station 
in the van, with a chosen crew, and provided with 
the somewhat odd munitions of a beetle and 
wedges; with these he intended to secure the 
rudders of the vessels, so that they might be pre 
vented from bringing their broadsides to bear. At 
the appointed signal, the batteaux were put in 
motion, Putnam having quite unnecessarily assured 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 53 

his men, that he should show them the way up 
the vessels sides. But the object was effected in 
a less sanguinary way ; at the moment of attack, 
the crew of one of the vessels compelled its cap 
tain to strike and the other was run on shore. 

The fort of Oswegatchie was situated on an 
island, and was defended by abatis, overhanging 
the water, and apparently quite inaccessible. Put 
nam again devised a method of attack, for which 
he was indebted to no mortal engineer. With the 
permission of General Amherst, he caused a num 
ber of boats to be prepared, with musket-proof 
fascines along the sides, forming a complete shelter 
from the fire of the enemy ; and a broad plank, 
twenty feet in length, was so attached to the bows 
of each, that it could be elevated or depressed at 
pleasure. It was his intention to force the boats 
directly against the abatis ; when the planks, till 
then upright, were to be lowered, so as to form 
a species of bridge over the projecting stakes, 
and thus enable the assailants to scale them; 
the attention of the enemy was meanwhile to be 
distracted by simultaneous attacks upon various 
portions of the works. The signal had been 
given, and the boats were moving in order to the 
attack, when the sight of their strange enginery 
discomposed the nerves of the besieged, who sur 
rendered without a blow. 

Putnam was highly complimented for his inge- 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

nuity and courage by the general-in -chief; ana 
it is in no small degree to be attributed to him, 
that the armies of Amherst and Murray, approach 
ing Montreal from opposite directions, arrived 
on the same day beneath its walls. Colonel 
Haviland came in immediately after, when the 
conquest of Canada became complete, oy the 
capitulation of the French. 

It deserves to be mentioned that Putnam met 
once more with his savage master, at an Indian 
village in the neighborhood of Montreal, and was 
welcomed by him with much hospitality. The 
change of circumstances had given him an oppor 
tunity, which he did not neglect, of requiting the 
attentions of the Indian, whose kindness, though 
not of the most delicate kind, had been quite 
beyond the usual standard of his race. 

In the spring of 1762, war having been declared 
by Great Britain against Spain, a powerful arma 
ment was prepared at Portsmouth for the reduc 
tion of Havana. A body of four thousand regu 
lars was ordered from New York to join the ex 
pedition on the coast of Cuba, and a large Pro 
vincial force, under its own officers, cooperated in 
the enterprise. The regiment from Connecticut 
was under the command of General Lyman ; but 
as he was called to the command of the whole 
Provincial force, the charge of it devolved on 
Lieutenant-Colonel Putnam. 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 55 

The fleet arrived in safety on the coast of Cuba , 
but a violent storm arose before the troops were 
landed, and one of the transports, in which was 
Putnam with five hundred men, was thrown upon 
a dangerous reef. No aid could be afforded by the 
other ships, which with difficulty rode out the gale ; 
but rafts were prepared of masts and spars, secured 
together with cordage, by means of which every 
individual reached the shore in safety. Having 
fortified his camp, Putnam remained for several 
days until the storm subsided ; his troops were 
then reembarked in the convoy, and joined the 
armament before Havana. Their seasonable ar 
rival gave fresh courage to the English, who had 
landed several weeks before, and had already lost 
half their number by privation, disease, and the 
sword. Their efforts were at length successful, 
but the success was very dearly purchased ; the 
troops sunk by hundreds beneath the influence of 
the burning climate ; scarcely any of the Ameri 
can soldiers, and a feeble remnant of the officers, 
returned to their own country. 

The hostilities of the Western Indians were not 
terminated by the treaty of Paris in 1763 ; and a 
new expedition was undertaken against them in 
the course of the next year, to which Connecticut 
contributed four hundred men. This corps was 
under the command of Putnam, who now for the 
first time received the commission of a colonel. 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

Among his companions in the expedition was the 
Indian chief, of whom he had been formerly the 
captive. Little opportunity, however, was af 
forded for brilliant services ; the savages were 
overawed, and next year concluded a treaty with 
the English. 

A single incident occurred, which requires to 
be mentioned here. Before the Provincials reached 
Detroit, it had been invested by the Indians. 
Among its defenders was Captain Dalzell, the old 
associate and friend of Putnam. He had been de 
tached by General Amherst to raise the siege, and 
found means to gain admission to the fortress; but, 
reluctant to disobey the orders of his commander, 
made a desperate sally against a formidable force. 
His troops were surrounded, and attempted to re 
treat. They had gained a temporary shelter, when 
he saw one of his sergeants without, desperately 
wounded, and exposed to capture by the enemy ; 
his men were ordered to bring him in, but they 
declined the undertaking, as too hazardous ; Cap 
tain Dalzell then went forth alone, declaring that 
he would never leave his comrade at the mercy of 
the savages. As he was raising the wounded man 
from the ground, the fire of the enemy was poured 
in, and they fell together. No nobler death ever 
ended the triumphs of the brave ! 

Colonel Putnam had now been engaged in the 
military service for about ten years ; and no 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 57 

quitted it with greater honor. A larger measure 
of hardship and danger than had fallen to his lot, 
is rarely crowded into the compass of a single life. 
All this had been encountered, and all his duties 
been discharged with a chivalrous bravery and 
fulness of resource, which commanded universal 
admiration. Military education, except such as 
was the result of his experience, he had abso 
lutely none ; his early instruction was very defec 
tive, and, had it been otherwise, could have done 
little towards qualifying him for the life which he 
had chosen ; but he had a calm good sense, 
a ready ingenuity, unbounded energy and self- 
possession in the midst of danger, which had made 
him fully equal to all the stations he was called 
to fill. 

Personal bravery is perhaps the cheapest of the 
military virtues ; but there was something cool, 
daring, and unostentatious in that of Putnam, 
which attracted equally the wonder of the culti 
vated and the rude. In the words recorded by a 
personal friend upon his monument, he had always 
" dared to lead, where any dared to follow." His 
disposition was full of the frankness of the soldier, 
united with a kindness and generosity, not always 
found in union with the sterner qualities demanded 
by the life of camps ; an extended intercourse 
with others had refined the asperities of his man 
ners, without impairing the simplicity of his 
genuine New England character. 



58 AME&ICAN BIOGRAPHY 

He carried with him into private life the esteem 
and confidence of all. Throughout the country, 
tnere prevailed a strong feeling of respect for his 
services and military talent ; and he was regarded 
as not the least able proficient in that seminary of 
no gentle discipline, the Seven Years War. As 
there was now no call for the display of his ability 
as a soldier, he returned to his plough ; and his 
fellow citizens took pleasure in offering such testi 
monies of esteem to it was in their power to give, 
oy electing him to fill the higher municipal offices, 
and to represent them in the General Assembly 
of the State. 



ISRAEL PUTNAM 



CHAPTER IV 

Colonel Putnam opposes the Stamp 

Goes to Mississippi River to select Lands 
His Intimacy with the British Officers in Bos 
ton. Hastens to the Army on hearing of the 
Battle of Lexington. Made a Brigadier- 
General of the Connecticut Troops. Battle 
of Bunker s Hill 

THE great drama of the Revolution had already 
opened. In 1764, the British Parliament resolved 
that it would be proper to impose certain stamp 
duties, with a view to raise a revenue in America ; 
and next year the fatal scheme was consummated 
by the passage of the Stamp Act. The ties, 
which bound the colonies to the mother country, 
were nearly severed, and a flame began to ascend, 
which could be extinguished only with blood. 

From the outset, Putnam s heart and hand were 
devoted to the cause of freedom ; and he brought to 
its support that manly energy and firmness, which 
never failed him in the hour of danger. He was 
among the foremost to compel the stamp-masters, 
appointed in Connecticut, to relinquish their odious 
office ; and, when this was accomplished, became 
one of a committee appointed to confer with the 



W AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

governor of the colony upon the subject. He was 
asked by Governor Fitch what he, as chief ex 
ecutive magistrate, was to do, if the stamped paper 
should be sent him by the orders of the King r 
" Lock it up," replied Putnam, " and give us the 
key ; then, if you think proper, to screen yourself 
from responsibility, prohibit us from entering the 
room where it is deposited ; we will send it safely 
back." " But should I refuse you admission ? " 
" In five minutes your house will be levelled witfr 
the dust." 

Colonel Humphreys remarks, that the report of 
this conversation was believed to be one reason 
why the stamped paper was never sent to Connec 
ticut. The repeal of the obnoxious act, in 1766, 
having somewhat tranquillized the popular feeling, 
Colonel Putnam returned once more to his agri 
cultural labors. They were interrupted by two 
accidents, by one of which he was deprived of a 
portion of the thumb of his right hand, while the 
other was attended by a compound fracture of the 
thigh, which made him slightly lame for the re 
mainder of his life. 

General Lyman, whose name has been already 
mentioned, had been deputed by the surviving 
officers and soldiers of the expedition to Havana, 
to receive in England the portion of their prize- 
money, remaining due. He also acted as the agent 
of a company, who were solicitous to procure a 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 61 

grant of land upon the Mississippi. After a delay 
of some years, the application for the grant was 
successful ; and, in 1770, General Lyman, accom 
panied by Colonel Putnam and two or three other 
persons, went from Connecticut up the Mississippi 
to explore the tract. Putnam placed some labor 
ers on his portion, but did not himself remain or 
derive any permanent advantage from the under 
taking. General Lyman revisited Connecticut 
with the rest of the party, but soon returned to 
Natchez, where he formed a settlement, and re 
mained until his death. 

In the interval between this period and the 
beginning of hostilities, Colonel Putnam had occa 
sion frequently to visit Boston. He was familiarly 
known to General Gage, Lord Percy, and the 
other principal British officers, and often conversed 
with them on the subject of the controversy. 
Whenever he was questioned as to the part which 
he proposed to take, his answer was that he should 
be found on his country s side, and stand ready to 
abide the issue. It was intimated to him, that 
one acquainted as he was with the military power 
of Great Britain, could hardly think it unequal to 
the conquest of a country unprovided with any 
regular forces, magazines, or ships of war ; and his 
reply to this suggestion is full of sense and judg 
ment. If the united forces of Great Britain and 
the colonies had required six years to conquer 



62 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Canada, he thought it would not be easy for Brit 
ish troops alone to subdue a country, with which 
Canada bore no comparison ; and he believed that 
the consciousness of a sacred cause would give 
vigor to the efforts of the colonists. Being asked, 
whether an army of five thousand veterans might 
not march from one end of the continent to the 
other ; " No doubt," he said, " if they conducted 
themselves properly, and paid for what they want 
ed ; but, should they attempt it in a hostile manner, 
the American women would knock them on the 
head with their ladles."* 

On the 19th of April, 1775, the hour of trial 
came. Colonel Putnam was laboring in the field, 
when the news of the battle of Lexington was 
brought to him ; he left his plough standing in the 
furrow, and without even waiting to exchange his 
clothes, rode with the utmost expedition to the 
scene of action. On the 21st, he attended a coun 
cil of war at Cambridge. The Assembly of Con- 

* There are some other weapons, to which the women 
might possibly have resorted in such an emergency. In 
1684, Cranfield, the governor of New Hampshire, under 
took to tax the people of that colony without their con 
sent, but found it impossible to enforce the imposition. 
The provost, to whom the tax-bills were committed for 
collection, testified, that the people of Exeter drove the 
sheriff away with cudgels ; the women having prepared 
red-hot spits and boiling water, by way of increasing th< 
warmth of his welcome. 



ISRAEL, PUTNAM. 63 

necticut was then in session. He was summoned 
back by that body to confer with them respecting 
the preparations for the campaign ; and, when the 
object was effected, received a commission as 
brigadier-general, and returned to the camp, leav 
ing orders for the troops to follow as rapidly as 
possible. These, to the number of three thousand, 
were soon upon their march. 

On the 21st of May, General Ward was com 
missioned as major-general and commander-in- 
chief of the troops of Massachusetts ; and his orders 
were obeyed by all the officers of other colonies 
within the province. General Putnam was first 
in rank among the officers of Connecticut ; but the 
troops from the various colonies were distributed 
among the several stations. The head-quarters 
of the commander-in-chief were at Cambridge, 
with eight thousand Massachusetts troops, and one 
thousand from Connecticut ; the latter, with two 
other regiments, being stationed at Inman s Farm, 
an advanced position, under the immediate com 
mand of General Putnam. The right wing of the 
army, consisting of two thousand men from Massa 
chusetts, one thousand from Rhode Island, and 
the remainder of the Connecticut troops, was at 
Roxbury, under the command of Brigadier 
General Thomas ; and the left was composed of 
one thousand from New Hampshire under Col 
onels Stark and Reed, who were at Medford, and 



64 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

another detachment of the same troops, together 
with three companies of Gerrish s regiment, at 
Chelsea. General Ward had with him five compa 
nies of artillery, and General Thomas three or four. 
The British army in Boston, at the close of the 
month of May, consisted of ten thousand men. 

Perhaps there was no officer in the Americar. 
army, eminent as many of them certainly were, 
who enjoyed more of the public confidence than 
General Putnam. Several of them had become dis 
tinguished in the old French war, and there were 
some, whose capacity to conduct large military op 
erations was perhaps superior to his ; but there 
was no one of greater promptness and energy in 
action, or who had acquired a higher reputation 
for adventurous bravery. 

In the course of the month of May, it was de 
termined to remove the cattle from the islands in 
Boston harbor, in order to cut off the supplies of 
the enemy, who were blockaded in the town 
For this purpose, three or four hundred men were 
detached, and succeeded in removing them from 
Hog Island and Noddle s Island. A skirmish was 
thus occasioned, in which several of the marines, 
who had been stationed to guard them, were killed 
The Americans were fired on by the British ves 
sels in the harbor, and a reinforcement of three 
hundred men, with two pieces of artillery, was 
ordered to support them. One of the armed 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 65 

vessels, a schooner, which lay near the shore, was 
set on fire by the artillery, and destroyed ; and a 
second was towed beyond the range of the shot by 
the boats of the fleet. The affair was not of much 
importance, except as it served to inspire confi 
dence in the troops, who found that they could 
encounter the enemy with success. On this occa 
sion, General Warren accompanied Putnam as a 
volunteer. 

The spirit of the Americans was high, and they 
were impatient to be led into action; but their 
disorganized and unprovided state rendered such a 
step very hazardous. Many of the officers and 
men, who had been accustomed only to the irreg 
ular service of rangers, could not appreciate the 
necessity of long and thorough discipline ; and the 
general voice of the people called for some deci 
sive measures. 

General Putnam was himself desirous, that the 
advantage of this spirit should not be lost by inac 
tion ; and he urged the necessity, not of hazarding 
a general engagement, but of some partial action 
in which the Americans, under cover of intrench- 
ments, might cause the enemy to feel their skill as 
marksmen ; it being a favorite maxim with him, 
that, if the militia could find protection for their 
legs, they were quite indifferent to the welfare of 
the rest of their persons. The same opinion was 
maintained by Colonel Prescott and other veteran 

yin. 5 



66 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

officers, and the subject was considered with much 
earnestness in the council of war. 

General Ward and General Warren, on the other 
hand, were apprehensive that the issue of an action 
could not fail to prove disastrous ; the supply of 
ammunition was very limited ; and they feared that 
it must terminate in a general engagement, in which 
the Americans would be defeated. But the bolder 
counsel at length prevailed. The Committee of 
Safety had received information, that it was the 
intention of the British to occupy the heights of 
Dorchester and Charlestown ; and the necessity 
of anticipating them in at least a portion of this 
scheme was obvious to all. The committee there 
fore recommended to the council of war, to take 
possession of Bunker s Hill without delay. The 
heights of Charlestown had already been exam 
ined by Putnam and other officers, and the advan 
tage of the position fully ascertained. 

For the information of those who are unac 
quainted with the place, it may be proper to 
remark, that the peninsula of Charlestown is some 
what more than a mile in length from east to 
west, and eleven hundred yards across from north 
to south ; washed on the north by Mystic River, 
and on the south by Charles River, which ap 
proach within about one hundred yards of each 
other at the Neck of the peninsula. The eastern 
part is separated from Boston by a narrow channeL 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 67 

From the Neck rises Bunker s Hill, to the height of 
a little more than one hundred feet, terminating in 
a tongue of land, which extends for a considerable 
distance along the shore of Mystic River, about 
twenty feet above the water. The summit of 
Breed s Hill, which is about sixty feet in height, 
rises in a southeasterly direction from Bunker s Hill, 
towards Boston ; between this and the tongue oi 
land, on the north, is a slough, and the village of 
Charlestown lay on the south, on the declivity ana 
at the base. Morton s Point is the northeast 
ern extremity of the peninsula, and the hill of the 
same name, thirty-five feet high, rises near it. 

The detachment, intended for the expedition, 
consisting of about one thousand men, under the 
immediate command of Colonel Prescott, were 
assembled on Cambridge Common at an early 
hour on the evening of the 16th of June, where 
prayers were offered by the President of Harvard 
College. General Putnam accompanied the de 
tachment. They moved at nightfall through 
Cambridge and across the Neck of the peninsula, 
Colonel Prescott, dressed in his calico frock, lead 
ing the way. A question now arose respecting 
the height, which was intended to be fortified. 
Bunker s Hill had been designated for the pur 
pose by the Committee, while Breed s Hill ap 
peared better suited to the object of the expedition; 
but it is orobable, that the former name was 



68 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

usually applied indiscriminately to both the heights., 
So much time was consumed by the discussion, 
that it was nearly midnight before it was con 
cluded to erect the principal work on Breed s Hill, 
and a subsidiary one on Bunker s Hill for tae 
protection of the rear, and as a rally ing-point in 
the event of their being driven from the other. 

A redoubt, about eight rods square, was ac 
cordingly laid out on the summit of Breed s Hill, 
with a breastwork, extending from its northeastern 
angle down the northern declivity to the slough. 
Before the action, the American line was extended 
to the left across the tongue of land to Mystic 
River. This was done by General Putnam, who 
ordered Captain Knowlton, just as the enemy were 
landing, to take post with some Connecticut troops 
behind a rail fence, running in the direction already 
mentioned, about two hundred yards in the rear of 
the breastwork ; and an imperfect intrenchment was 
made by disposing other fences in a parallel line 
and throwing some newly-mown grass between. 

While the men were engaged in their labors on 
the breastwork and redoubt, General Putnam re 
turned to Cambridge to procure a reinforcement ; 
but the report of a sudden cannonade induced 
him to repair without hesitation to his post. The 
operations of the detachment were unknown to 
the British until daylight, when a heavy fire was 
opened on them by the ships and batteries. At 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 09 

the suggestion of some of his officers, who were 
anxious that the men should be relieved, Colonel 
Prescott convened a council of war ; expressing 
at the same time his aversion to the proposition, 
and insisting, that, as they had endured the labor, 
they were entitled to the honor of the victory. 

Putnam again returned to Cambridge for pro 
visions and a reinforcement, and equally without 
effect. Colonel Prescott now called another coun 
cil of war, still refusing to ask to be relieved ; but 
he consented to apply to General Ward for the 
aid which had been twice asked in vain. Move 
ments had already been observed among the 
British troops in Boston, indicating their design to 
prepare for an attack. By eleven o clock, General 
Ward had issued his orders to the troops of Col 
onels Stark and Reed at Medford, to proceed to 
the scene of action ; but, before this fact could 
be ascertained, all possible preparation had been 
made to repel the enemy. 

Putnam had withdrawn a detachment from the 
redoubt to throw up the contemplated work on 
Bunker s Hill, a position by which Breed s Hill 
was completely commanded ; and he resolved to 
make another effort, before the preparations of 
the enemy could be completed, to procure an 
additional force from Cambridge. He repaired 
thither for the third time across the Neck, which 
was now swept by the fire of a man-of-war and 



70 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

floating batteries ; but, learning there what orders 
had been issued, he hastened back to Charles- 
town. 

The expected reinforcement at length arrived ; 
and Putnam, reserving a portion of them to aid in 
the construction of the work on Bunker s Hill, or 
dered Stark and Reed to join the Connecticut 
troops at the rail fence with the residue. Colonel 
Prescott had on his part been indefatigable in his 
preparations, and all were anxiously awaiting the 
approach of the enemy. 

Never was the fearful spectacle of battle pre 
sented to the eye, under circumstances more strik 
ing, or of deeper interest. Every movement of the 
troops on either side was distinctly open to the 
view of thousands, who watched from the neigh 
boring roofs and spires the changes of the scene. 
On the one hand, the hopes of freedom depended 
on the issue ; on the other there was a deep solici 
tude to support the honor of the British name. 
The day was beautifully clear and cloudless. 

At noon, twenty-eight barges, containing four 
battalions of infantry and twenty companies of light 
infantry and grenadiers, with six pieces of artillery, 
moved in perfect order across the channel, their 
brilliant arms flashing in the sun of June. They 
landed at Morton s Point, and were soon joined 
by a second detachment. Shortly after, a third 
detachment reached the shore, near the east end 



ISRAEL PUTNAM 71 

of Breed s Hill. The united force consisted of 
about five thousand men. 

A fire was now opened on the American lines 
by the British artillery at Morton s Hill ; and it 
was answered by a few pieces from the redoubt, 
which soon became useless and were carried to the 
rear. As one of the captains of artillery was re 
treating over Bunker s Hill, Putnam ordered him 
oack to his post, threatening him with death if he 
should disobey. He returned; but the pieces 
were deserted, and his men took their stations in 
the line. 

A single horseman rode at full speed over Bun 
ker s Hill, and encountered General Putnam. It 
was General Warren ; and Putnam offered to re 
ceive his orders. Warren replied, that he came 
only as a volunteer, and desired to know where his 
services would be most useful. Putnam pointed 
to the redoubt, remarking that he would be covered 
there. " I came not," said Warren, " for the pur 
pose of security ; tell me where the onset will 
oe most severe." " Go, then, to the redoubt," 
said Putnam ; " Prescott is there, and will do his 
duty ; if that can be defended, the day is ours." 
Warren rode forward to the redoubt, where he was 
received with loud acclamations. Again he was 
offered the command by Colonel Prescott, but 
still declined it ; observing, that he was happy to 
study the art of war under such an officer. 



72 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

At three o clock, the British line was formed, and 
the troops moved in perfect and imposing order 
towards the rail fence and redoubt. Putnam has 
tened from his post on Bunker s Hill, rode along the 
lines, and ordered the men to reserve their fire 
till the enemy were within eight rods, and then to 
prove their well-known skill as marksmen ; the 
same order was enforced by Prescott, Stark, and 
all the veteran officers. As the British were ad 
vancing, all within those low intrenchments was 
silent as death. Just as the enemy were upon 
them, the signal was given ; a close and deadly 
fire blazed along the lines, and the front ranks of 
the enemy were swept down before it. Rank fol 
lowed rank, but in vain ; the order was given to 
retreat, and a shout of victory rung through the 
American line. 

In the mean time, reinforcements from Cam 
bridge reached the Neck, but were reluctant to 
encounter the enfilading fire. When the Brit 
ish had retreated, Putnam hurried to the spot to 
bring them over, riding backward and forward 
several times, while the earth was thrown up by 
the balls around him ; but few could be persuaded 
to follow. 

The British commander had now rallied and 
re-organized his men ; a second time he led them 
against the Americans, who were ordered to 
reserve their fire, till the enemy should be nearer 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. To 

than before. Charlestown was at this time set 
on fire, and, as the troops were advancing, the 
flames ascended on their left. They hurried on, 
firing with the coolness and precision of a holiday 
review. Once more the American lines were 
still, until the enemy came to the appointed dis 
tance ; again the fire blazed forth with the same 
fatal precision as before, and the ground in front 
of the intrenchments was covered with the dead 
and wounded. 

Nearly a thousand of the enemy, with a vast 
proportion of officers, had now fallen; and the 
order to retreat was given for the second time. 
Major Small, the old friend of Putnam, was stand 
ing alone ; the muskets were levelled at him, when 
Putnam threw them up with his sword, and he 
retired unhurt. But the ammunition of the Amer- 
cans was at length exhausted. Colonel Prescott 
ordered his men to club their muskets, and hurl 
the stones of the parapet against the enemy 
should they venture on a third attack ; while 
Putnam galloped to the rear, and labored in vain 
to bring up the scattered reinforcements. 

The British threw aside their knapsacks, and 
were ordered to reserve their fire, and trust to the 
bayonet. They then concentrated their force on 
the redoubt and breastwork, where every effort 
was vainly made to repel them. Prescott, unpro 
vided with bayonets and exhausted of his ammuni- 



74 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

lion, at length gave the reluctant order to retreat ; 
and his troops moved slowly down the western 
declivity of the hill. It was at this moment, that 
the gallant Warren fell. The American left con 
tinued to repel the enemy, but finding their flank 
opened by the retreat of the right, were compelled 
in their turn to retire. Putnam indignantly urged 
the troops to make a stand upon Bunker s Hill. 
He took his station between them and the enemy, 
exposed to the hottest of the fire ; but the men 
were unable to encounter the British bayonet. 
The Americans continued their retreat over the 
Neck to Prospect and Winter Hills, where they 
took up their position for the night. 

In presenting this sketch of a battle, so impor 
tant to the cause of freedom, it was of course 
impossible to enter very minutely into the conduct 
and services of others, who shared with General 
Putnam the glory of the day ; and this has been 
rendered unnecessary by the diligent research of 
Colonel Swett, who has written a very interesting 
account of its details. 

We have thus far refrained from saying any 
thing of the particular command allotted to Put 
nam on this occasion. In the work to which we 
have just rderred, he is mentioned as having the 
general control and superintendence of the expe 
dition ; and this opinion is supported by the fol 
lowing considerations. He was the only general 



ISRAEL PUTNAM 75 

officer who was present at the battle ; and it is 
very improbable, that the various detachments 
should have been left without a commander of the 
whole. He appears also to have acted, throughout 
the battle and the previous arrangements for it, in 
this capacity. 

Such was the purport of his own constant dec 
larations ; and if any evidence were wanting of 
his personal honor, it may be found in the language 
of President Dwight respecting him. " His word 
was regarded as an ample security for any thing, 
for which it was pledged ; and his uprightness 
commanded absolute confidence." On the other 
hand, the orderly book of General Ward is silent 
on the subject of the expedition, and no orders 
for its conduct and command are now to be dis 
covered. Under these circumstances, it is diffi 
cult to speak with certainty upon the question 
However it may be determined, there can be no 
doubt, that the part taken by General Putnam 
was in the highest degree important and effective. 

Shortly after the battle of Bunker s Hill, it was 
proposed to Putnam by Sir William Howe, through 
the medium of Major Small, to accept the commis 
sion of major-general in the British service. A 
large pecuniary offer was at the same time made 
to him. It is needless to say, that these offers 
were indignantly rejected. 



76 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



CHAPTER V. 

Putnam is appointed Major- General in the Con* 
tinental Army. Remains at Cambridge till 
the Evacuation of Boston. Commands at New 
York. Suggests a Mode of obstructing the 
Navigation of the Hudson, to prevent the Ene 
my s Vessels from ascending it. Commands 
on Long Island. New York evacuated. 
Retreat through New Jersey. Putnam sta 
tioned at Philadelphia, and afterwards at 
Princeton. Anecdotes. 

ON the 15th of June, George Washington was 
unanimously elected by Congress general and 
commander-in-chief of the American army ; and 
Generals Ward, Lee, Schuyler, and Putnam were 
appointed to act as major-generals under him. 
He arrived at Cambridge on the 2d of July, and 
next day entered upon his most momentous and 
responsible command. He had no personal ac 
quaintance with Putnam before this period ; but 
he found him bold, energetic, and single-hearted, 
frank and generous in his disposition, and diligent 
and faithful in the discharge of all his duties 
" You seem, General Putnam," said he, after ex 
amining a work which had been erected with great 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 



77 



expedition, " to have the faculty of infusing your 
own industrious spirit into all the workmen you 
employ." 

In one of his letters from Cambridge, addressed 
to the President of Congress, he speaks of Put 
nam as " a most valuable man, and a fine executive 
officer " ; and the commendation of Washington 
was never thoughtlessly bestowed. These are the 
very words, which the reader of Putnam s history 
would probably consider best suited to describe his 
personal and military character ; and they are im 
portant, also, as indicating the keen glance with 
which Washington penetrated the qualities of those 
around him. In General Putnam s own sphere, 
which was that of prompt and chivalrous action, 
he had no superior ; and it costs us nothing to 
admit, that, in the conduct of war upon a very ex 
tensive scale, he might be excelled by some of his 
fellow laborers in the cause of freedom. 

During the remainder of this season, the condi 
tion of the army was such, as to render it inexpe 
dient to venture upon hostile operations ; there 
was little or no powder in the magazines, and the 
troops were in every respect so deficient and ill- 
provided, that General Washington, as he himself 
declared, was compelled to use art to conceal their 
situation from his own officers, as well as from the 
enemy. Meantime the people of the country, 
not knowing or unable to appreciate these diffi- 



78 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

culties, were constantly expecting some decisive 
blow; and on the 22d of December, Congress 
resolved, that, if General Washington and his 
council should be of opinion, that a successful 
attack could be made upon the troops in Boston, 
he should make it, " notwithstanding the town and 
property in it might thereby be destroyed." 

The harbor was frozen over by the middle 
of February, and Washington himself was then 
desirous of hazarding a general assault ; but 
nearly all his officers were hostile to the 
scheme, and it was reluctantly abandoned. They 
recommended, however, in partial compliance 
with his suggestions, that preparations should be 
made to occupy the Heights of Dorchester; a 
measure, which could scarcely fail to be followed 
by a battle. It was determined, also, that, if a 
sufficient number of the enemy should march to 
the assault of that position, materially to reduce 
the garrison of Boston, a body of four thousand 
men, under the command of General Putnam, 
should land in the west part of the town, and 
force their way to the Neck at Roxbury, where the 
troops from that quarter were to join them. 

The Heights of Dorchester were accordingly- 
occupied ; but the plan formed by the enemy to 
carry that position was defeated by a storm, and 
on the 17th of March, the town was evacuated. 
When the first intelligence of the preparation* 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

of the British for departure was received at Cam 
bridge, several regiments under the command ol 
Putnam were embarked in boats, and dropped 
down the river. On landing at its mouth, the fact 
of the departure of the British was fully ascer 
tained, and a detachment was ordered to take pos 
session of the town. Another detachment marched 
in at the same time from Roxbury, and the whole 
were placed under the command of Putnam, 
who proceeded to possess himself of all the 
important posts. 

Early in January, General Washington had 
been informed, that an expedition was fitting out 
at Boston, with the view to take possession of 
New York ; and he ordered General Lee to repair 
immediately thither, with such volunteers as he 
could assemble on his march, and to make the 
best arrangements for its defence, that circum 
stances would admit. General Lee was also in 
structed to disarm all disaffected persons, and to 
examine the state of the fortifications on the North 
River, in order to secure them from the danger of 
surprise. 

On his arrival at New York, it was determined 
to fortify some commanding position in the city, 
to erect batteries at Hell Gate for the security of 
the entrance of the harbor, as well as for the pro 
tection of the communication with Long Island, 
where a fortified camp was proposed to be estab- 



80 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

lislied, and to strengthen and garrison the defences 
of the Highlands. 

It soon appeared, that the expedition already 
mentioned was destined farther south ; and Lee 
was ordered from New York by Congress, on the 
1st of March, to take command of the Southern 
department of the army. After the evacuation of 
Boston, General Washington, deeming the preser 
vation of New York as of the last importance to the 
cause, sent on a portion of his troops to that city ; 
and, on the 29th of March, General Putnam was 
ordered to assume the command at that station, 
and to execute the plan of defence, which had 
been projected by General Lee. 

General Putnam, on his arrival at New York, 
devoted himself, with the utmost assiduity, to the 
charge with which he was intrusted. The British 
fleet had been thus far amply supplied with fresh 
provisions from the shore ; a species of accommo 
dation, which he forthwith made the subject of a 
pointed prohibition ; and the good effects of this 
step were soon exhibited by the departure of 
some of the vessels from the harbor. By the 
middle of April, General Washington arrived with 
the greater portion of his army, and entered on the 
chief command ; but the preparations for defence 
were still prosecuted by General Putnam. On 
the 21st of May, Washington, in obedience to the 
call of Congress, went to Philadelphia to confer 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. SI 

will) them respecting the condition of affairs , 
during his absence, General Putnam was com 
mander of the army. 

The judgment of Washington had easily fore 
seen, that New York and the Hudson would be 
the first objects of the attention of the enemy. 
Early in July, General Howe, who had sailed for 
Halifax after evacuating Boston, returned and 
landed with his army at Staten Island ; where he 
was soon joined by a powerful armament from 
England, under the command of Lord Howe, his 
brother. Before the arrival of the squadron, Gen 
eral Washington, under the direction of Congress, 
had instructed General Putnam to prepare fire- 
rafts and gondolas to prevent the ships from enter 
ing the New York Bay or Narrows ; and he was 
also charged with the supervision of various other 
schemes, designed for a similar object. 

The plan of destroying the British fleet by 
means of fire-ships, had been suggested to Con 
gress by a Mr. Anderson. General Putnam him 
self projected a novel species of chevaux-de-frise 
to obstruct the channel. Two ships, about seventy 
feet distant from each other, connected by the 
sterns with large pieces of timber, were ordered to 
be sunk with their bows towards the shore. But 
neither of these plans was ultimately successful ; 
the chevaiix-de-frise were broken by the ships of 
war, and an attempt made with the fire-ships to 



82 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

destroy the vessels, that had passed up the river, 
was followed only by the burning of a single 
tender. 

Another experiment was made, under the eye of 
General Putnam, with a singular machine, which 
was invented by David Bushnell, of Connecticut. 
It was a boat, so constructed as to be capable of 
being propelled at any depth below the surface of 
the water, and of being elevated or depressed at 
pleasure; to this was attached a magazine of pow 
der, designed to be secured by a screw to the 
bottom of a ship ; when the magazine should b 
disengaged from the boat, certain machinery was 
to be set in motion, which would cause it to ex 
plode at any time desired. The whole was to be 
managed by a single person, stationed in the boat. 
Mr. Bushnell, the inventor, was too feeble to un 
dertake its management himself, but had taught 
the secret to his brother, who chanced to be ill at 
the time when the British fleet arrived. 

His place was supplied by a sergeant of the 
army, who was instructed to manage the machine 
as well as time and circumstances would permit 
Late in the evening he set forth upon his expedition, 
and sailed directly underneath the Eagle man-of- 
war, the flag ship of the British admiral ; but the 
screw, with which he was to penetrate the copper 
sheathing, struck some iron plates, near the rudder ; 
the tide was strong, and the inexperience of the 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 83 

sergeant prevented him from applying the proper 
remedy to remove the difficulty, before the day 
began to dawn. He therefore abandoned the 
magazine to its fate, and reached the shore, where 
General Putnam was anxiously awaiting the issue 
of the enterprise. A prodigious explosion fol 
lowed at some distance from the ship, to the 
infinite consternation and perplexity of all who 
were unacquainted with the secret ; but various 
circumstances occurred to prevent a repetition of 
the experiment. 

As the safety of New York essentially depended 
on the possession of Long Island, a body of troops 
was early stationed on the peninsula of Brook 
lyn, where a camp had been marked out and for 
tified. This was expected to be, as it proved, the 
first object of the enemy s attack. The works had 
been erected under the supervision of General 
Greene, who alone possessed a thorough knowl 
edge of the posts and of the routes by which the 
British would probably approach ; but he was 
unfortunately taken ill, and the command de 
volved on General Sullivan. The British army 
anded on the island on the 22d of August, and it 
oecame certain that an engagement must soon take 
place. On the 23d, General Putnam was ordered 
with reinforcements to take the command at 
Brooklyn ; but the time intervening between Ins 
appointment and the battle was too short to 



: 84 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

permit him to obtain the essential information, to 
which we have above alluded. The British army 
was now arranged in the following order. Loid 
Oornwaihs, with the right wing, was at Flatland ; 
the centre, under General De Heister, was at 
Flatbush ; the left, commanded by General Grant, 
extended to the western shore ; the centre being 
about four miles, and the right and left wings 
about six miles, distant from the American lines at 
Brooklyn. Besides the direct road leading from 
Flatbush to Brooklyn, there was another which 
led more chcuitously by the way of Bedford. 
A strong redoubt had been erected by the Ameri 
cans on the former, and a detachment was posted 
on the other ; another detachment was also sta 
tioned to guard the passes by the western shore, 
General Putnam appears to have expected, that 
the principal attack would be made in the last of 
these directions. 

On the morning of the 27th, General Clinton 
led the British van on the road to Bedford, de 
signing to turn the American left, while De Heister 
and Grant advanced at the same time from their 
respective positions. Lord Stirling, with two 
regiments, was ordered by General Putnam to 
repel the corps of Grant ; General Sullivan ad 
vanced on the direct road leading to Flatbush ; 
and the American left, which consisted of two 
regiments, under the command of their respective 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 



85- 



colonels, occupied the road leading from that 
place to Bedford. While General Clinton was 
effecting his main purpose of gaining the rear of 
the American left, attacks were made by Grant 
and De Heister on the right and centre, in order 
to withdraw their attention from this most decisive 
movement. The purpose of Clinton was at length 
effected ; the British centre, which had hitherto 
advanced only to divert the attention of the Amer 
icans, now attacked the troops of Sullivan ; and 
these, discovering the movement of Clinton upon 
their left, were broken and fled, leaving their 
general a prisoner. 

Lord Stirling, in the mean time, whose situa 
tion had been rendered extremely critical by the 
defeat of the other divisions, gave the order to 
retire ; and, to cover more effectually the retreat 
of the main body of his detachment, charged a 
corps of the British under Cornwallis with spirit, 
and for a time with success ; but was at length 
compelled to surrender. The whole American 
force engaged in this action, amounted to about 
five thousand men, while the British army ex 
ceeded twice that number ; but the loss of the 
Americans was comparatively very great. It 
was shown by the result of the battle, that the 
camp of Brooklyn was no longer tenable ; and, on 
the night of the 29th, while the British were 
encamped within six hundred yards of the works 



86 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 



the troops were withdrawn to New York, by 
General Washington himself, with so great celerity 
and skill, that nearly all the artillery and stores 
were saved. The movement was undiscovered by 
the enemy, until half an hour after the works 
had been evacuated, though the noise of their 
spades and pickaxes was distinctly heard within 
the American lines. 

It was now obvious, that the city of New York 
must be sooner or later abandoned ; but the prin 
cipal officers of the army were solicitous to retain 
possession of it, as long as might be in their power. 
The army was arranged in three divisions ; one of 
which, under General Putnam, was stationed in 
the city, another at Kingsbridge, and the third 
occupied an intermediate position, so that it could 
be readily brought to the support of either. 

On the 12th of September, a council of war 
came to the resolution to evacuate the city, and 
the events of the few succeeding days demon 
strated, that this measure was quite indispensable. 
Three days after, some British ships ascended the 
North River as high as Bloomingdale, while Sir 
Henry Clinton, with four thousand men, landed on 
the eastern shore of the island, at Kipp s Bay. 
Their landing was covered by the fire of five ships 
of war. The new levies stationed to defend the 
works at this position fled, without w r aiting for 
the enemy ; and two brigades of Putnam s division, 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 87 

which had been ordered to support them, imitated 
their example ; breaking at the approach of about 
sixty of the British, and flying without firing a 
single shot. General Washington met them in 
their flight, and vainly used every possible effort 
to rally them ; he was left alone within eighty 
yards of the enemy ; but he refused to fly, and 
was rescued only by the care of some of his attend 
ants, who seized his horse s bridle, and turned him 
from the field. Orders were immediately given 
to secure the Heights of Haerlem ; and they were 
at once occupied by the fugitives and the other 
troops in the vicinity. 

The main road leading from the city to Kings- 
bridge was in possession of the enemy, and Gen 
eral Putnam resolved to secure the retreat of his 
division by the route of Bloomingdale. The man 
ner in which it was effected will be best described 
in the words of an eyewitness. 

" Having myself," says Colonel Humphreys, 
" been a volunteer in his division, and acting adju- 
ant to the last regiment that left the city, I had 
frequent opportunities, that day, of beholding him 
(Putnam), for the purpose of issuing orders and 
encouraging the troops, flying, on his horse covered 
with foam, wherever his presence was most neces 
sary Without his extraordinary exertions, the 
guards must have been inevitably lost ; and it is 
probable the entire corps would have been cut in 
pieces. 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

" When we were not far from Bloomingdale, an 
aid-de-camp came from him at full speed, to inform 
that a column of British infantry was descending 
upon our right. Our rear was soon fired upon, 
and the colonel of our regiment, whose order was 
just communicated for the front to file off to the 
left, was killed upon the spot. With no other 
loss we joined the army, after dark, upon the 
Heights of Haerlem. Before our brigades came in, 
we were given up for lost by all our friends. So 
critical indeed was our situation, and so narrow the 
gap by which we had escaped, that, the instant we 
had passed, the enemy closed it by extending their 
line from river to river." 

The enemy s shipping having passed up the 
North River, notwithstanding the obstructions, the 
American army was withdrawn from the island of 
New York to the neighborhood of the White Plains. 
On the 28th of October, the British forces ad 
vanced in order of battle, and a brigade of Hessians 
was detached to dislodge a corps of about sixteen 
hundred militia from Chatterton s Hill, where they 
were stationed to cover the right flank of the 
army. After a sharp encounter, the Hessians 
remained in possession of the hill. Major-General 
Putnam, who had been ordered to support the 
militia, met them in full retreat, and it was then too 
late to attempt to retake the post ; but no attack 
was made upon the camp of Washington, who 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 89 

withdrew, on the night of the 1st of November, 
to the heights in the rear of his first camp. 

A few days after, General Putnam was sent 
across the Hudson, to provide against a descent 
of the enemy upon New Jersey ; and on the 
13th, General Washington passed the river with 
about five thousand men, and took post at Hack- 
insac. And, when Fort Washington and Fort 
Lee had fallen, began the retreat of the " phan 
tom of an army," as it was emphatically called 
by Hamilton, through New Jersey ; when Wash 
ington was compelled to face a powerful army 
with scarce three thousand men ; unprovided with 
all that makes a soldier s life endurable, and this 
too in the depth of winter, and abandoned by 
General Lee, to whom the command on the east 
bank of the Hudson had unfortunately been con 
fided. 

There was no darker period in the history of 
the Revolution ; scarcely any spirit, but that of 
Washington, was unshaken by the accumulated 
weight of difficulty and disaster ; nor could he, 
without deep emotion, witness the suffering, which 
he had no power to relieve. 

Throughout this season of peril, until the army 
had crossed the Delaware, General Putnam was 
at his commander s side ; and it may be well im 
agined, that he would have been one of the last 
to intermit his efforts in the almost hopeless cause. 



90 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

The passage of the Delaware was effected on the 
8th of December ; it became now all-important to 
prevent the enemy from occupying Philadelphia, 
and General Putnam was ordered to make imme 
diate provision for its fortification. Congress had 
already resolved that it should be defended to the 
last extremity. 

At this time an incident occurred, which 
strikingly illustrates the foresight and sagacity of 
Washington. A report had been circulated, that 
Congress was about to separate ; and on the llth 
of December it was resolved by that Assembly 
that the commander-in-chief " be desired to contra 
diet this scandalous suggestion of the enemy, this 
Congress having a better opinion of the spirit and 
vigor of the army, and of the good people of these 
States, than to suppose it can be necessary to 
disperse ; nor will they adjourn from the city 01 
Philadelphia in the present state of affairs, unti 
the last necessity shall direct it." This resolution 
was forwarded on the same day to Washington, 
who was at once convinced that its publication 
would be attended with evil consequences, and 
took upon himself the responsibility of suppressing 
it in the next day s orders. 

In a letter addressed on the 12th to the Presi 
dent of Congress he says ; " I am persuaded, if the 
subject is taken up and reconsidered, that Con 
gress will concur with me in sentiment. I doubt 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 



01 



not, but there are some, who have prc pagated the 
report ; but what if they have ? Their remaining 
in or leaving Philadelphia must be governed by 
circumstances and events. If their departure 
should become necessary, it will be right ; on the 
other hand, if there should not be a necessity for 
it, they will remain, and their continuance will 
show the report to be the production of calumny 
and falsehood. In a word, Sir, I conceive it a 
matter, that may be as well disregarded ; and that 
the removal or staying of Congress, depending en 
tirely on events, should not have been the subject 
of a resolve." 

Well was it for Congress, that their resolution 
was suppressed by Washington ; for, on the self 
same day on \vhich he wrote, that body adjourned 
to meet again in Baltimore on the 20th of Decem 
ber. It appears, that General Putnam, who had 
entered on the command, and General Mifflin, his 
predecessor in the station, had been summoned 
by Congress to a conference ; and it was in con 
sequence of their judicious suggestions, that the 
resolve for an adjournment was adopted.* 

" Upon the salvation of Philadelphia," was the 
earnest language of Washington, " our cause 
almost depends ; " and his selection of General Put 
nam to command it at this crisis denotes the confi- 

* See Writings of Washington, Sparks s edition, VoL 
IV. p. 210. 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

dence reposed by the commander-in-chief in his 
energy and skill. Nor were his expectations 
disappointed ; General Putnam entered on his 
duties with his usual diligence, forwarded with 
all his power the construction of the fortifications, 
and labored with untiring zeal to reconcile con 
tending factions, and to animate the citizens tc 
efforts for their own defence. 

While he was thus employed, General Wash 
ington was preparing to attack the enemy at 
Trenton. It was a part of his original plan to call 
Putnam to cooperate in the enterprise, with the 
troops at Philadelphia and a corps of the Penn 
sylvania militia; but he was induced to change 
this plan by an apprehension of an insurrection 
among the Royalists within the city. General 
Putnam had therefore no share in the victory at 
Trenton, nor in that of Princeton, by which it was 
succeeded. 

So great was the effect of these enterprises on 
the enemy, that Washington began to entertain the 
hope of driving them beyond the limits of New 
Jersey. On the 5th of January, 1777, he ordered 
General Putnam to march with the troops under 
his command to Crosswick, a few miles southeast 
of Trenton, using the utmost precaution to guard 
against surprise, and laboring to create an impres 
sion that his force was twice as great as it actuallv 
was. The object of the commander-in-chief was 



I S R A E L P U T N A M. 93 

partially accomplished by the concentration of the 
British forces at New Brunswick and Amboy ; 
and General Putnam was soon after ordeied to 
take post at Princeton, where he passed the re 
mainder of the winter. This position was scarcely 
fifteen miles distant from the enemy s camp at 
New Brunswick ; but the troops of Putnam at no 
time exceeded a few hundred, and were once fewer 
in number than the miles of frontier he was 
expected to guard. 

Captain Macpherson, a Scotch officer of the 
seventeenth British regiment, had received in the 
battle of Princeton a severe wound, which was 
thought likely to prove fatal. When General Put 
nam reached that place, he found that it had been 
deemed inexpedient to provide medical aid and 
other comforts for one who was likely to require 
them for so short a period ; but by his orders the 
captain was attended with the utmost care, and at 
length recovered. He was warm in the expres 
sion of his gratitude ; and one day, when Putnam, 
in reply to his inquiries, had assured him that he 
was a Yankee, averred that he had not believed it 
possible for any human being but a Scotchman 
to be so kind and generous. 

Indeed, the benevolence of the general was one 
day put to a somewhat delicate test. The patient, 
when his recovery was considered doubtful, so- 
.icited that a friend in the British army at New 



AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Brunswick might be permitted to come and dd 
him in the preparation of his will. Full sorely 
perplexed was General Putnam, by his desire on 
the one hand to gratify the wishes of his prisoner, 
and a natural reluctance on the other, to permit 
the enemy to spy out the nakedness of his camp 
His good nature at length prevailed, but not at 
the expense of his discretion ; and a flag of truce 
was despatched, with orders not to return with the 
captain s friend until after dark. 

By the time of his arrival, lights were displayed 
in all the apartments of the College Hall, and in 
all the vacant houses in the town ; and the army, 
which then consisted of fifty effective men. were 
marched about with remarkable celerity, some 
times in close column, and sometimes in detach 
ments, with unusual pomp and circumstance, 
around the quarters of the captain. It was sub 
sequently ascertained, as we are assured by Colo 
nel Humphreys, that the force of Putnam was 
computed by the framer of the will, on his return 
to the British camp, to consist, on the lowest 
estimate, of five thousand men. 

During his command at Princeton, General 
Putnam was employed, with activity and much 
success, in affording protection to the persons in 
his neighborhood, who remained faithful to the 
American cause. They were exposed to great 
danger, from the violent incursions of the Loyalists; 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 

and constant vigilance was required, in order to 
guard against the depredations of the latter. 
Through the whole winter there raged a war of 
skirmishes. On the 17th of February, Colonel 
Nielson, with a party of one hundred and fifty 
militia, was sent by General Putnam to surprise a 
small corps of Loyalists who were fortifying them 
selves at Lawrence s Neck. They were of the 
corps of Cortlandt Skinner, of New Jersey, a brig 
adier-general of Provincials in the British service. 
We know not how to relate the result of this affair 
more briefly than it is given in the following extract 
from a letter addressed by Putnam to the Council 
of Safety of Pennsylvania, on the day after i* 
occurred. 

" Yesterday evening, Colonel Nielson, with a 
hundred and fifty men, at Lawrence s Neck, 
attacked sixty men of Cortlandt Skinner s brig 
ade, commanded by the enemy s renowned land 
pilot, Richard Stockton, and took the whole pris 
oners ; among them the major, a captain, and three 
subalterns, with seventy stand of arms. Fifty of 
the Bedford Pennsylvania riflemen behaved like 
veterans." 

On another occasion, he detached Major Smith 
with a few riflemen, against a foraging party of 
the enemy, and followed him with the rest of his 
forces; but, before he came up, the party had 
oeen captured by the riflemen. These, and other 



96 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

similar incidents, may appear individually as of 
little moment ; but before the close of tne winter, 
General Putnam had thus taken nearly a thou 
sand prisoners, and had accomplished the more 
important object of keeping the disaffected io 
continual awe. 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 97 



CHAPTER VI. 

Putnam commands in the Highlands. Opera 
tions during the Campaign. The British 
ascend the Hudson. General Putnam super- 
intends the Construction of the Fortifications 
at West Point. His perilous Adventure at 
HorsenecJc. Retires from the Army in Conse 
quence of a Paralytic Attack. His Death. 
His military and personal Character. 

IN the month of May, 1777, General Putnam 
was ordered by Washington to assume the chief 
command of the army of the Highlands, on Hud 
son s River ; and was particularly charged with the 
execution of a plan, devised by Knox and Greene, 
to obstruct the passage of the enemy s ships in 
the river. Much uncertainty rested at this time 
on the ultimate purposes of the British generals, 
Burgoyne and Howe ; and it became necessary for 
the Americans, with forces quite inadequate to the 
purpose, to prepare for the defence of the three 
important points of Ticonderoga, Philadelphia, and 
the Highlands. 

Sometimes there was reason to believe that 
Burgoyne and Howe intended to unite their forces 
on the Hudson River ; at others, that the troops 

viii. 7 



98 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

of the former would be transported by wat&r for 
the purpose of reinforcing General Howe, without 
advancing from Canada; and, for a considerable 
period, the destination of the force of Howe him 
self, who sailed with the British fleet from New 
York towards the close of July, was wrapped in 
equal mystery. As circumstances appeared to 
favor either of these suppositions, the American 
forces at different stations, including the greater 
part of that of Putnam, were detached in different 
directions. All that remained for him to do was 
to stand ready to execute the orders of Washing 
ton, and to transmit such intelligence of the 
enemy s movements as came into his possession ; 
and he attended to these objects with the activity 
and vigilance required by the exigency. 

On the 3d of August, Sir Henry Clinton, who 
commanded the British force in the city of New 
York, sent up a flag of truce to General Putnam 
at Peekskill. Edmund Palmer, a lieutenant of a 
Tory regiment, had been detected in the American 
camp, and it was the purpose of Clinton to claim 
him as an officer in the British service. The fol 
lowing was the reply sent back by Putnam. 

"Head Quarters, 1th August, 1777. 
"Edmund Palmer, an officer in the enemy s 
service, was taken as a spy lurking within our 
lines ; he has *>een tried as a spy, condemned as a 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 99 

spy, and shall be executed as a spy, and the flag 
is ordered to depart immediately. 

" ISRAEL PUTNAM. 
" P. S. He has been accordingly executed." 

A few weeks afterwards, Sir Henry Clinton 
availed himself of the opportunity afforded by the 
absence of the main American army, to make an 
incursion into the interior of New Jersey. On the 
12th of September, with a force consisting of about 
two thousand men, in four divisions, he proceeded 
to ravage the country, with little opposition. When 
General Putnam received intelligence of this 
movement, he sent General M c Dougall across the 
Hudson with fifteen hundred men ; but they were 
too late to overtake the enemy, who returned on 
the 16th to New York, with considerable booty. 

General Putnam himself now devised a plan for 
attacking the enemy at the four different points of 
Staten Island, Long Island, Paulus Hook, and the 
Island of New York, at the same time. He had 
been encouraged to expect the aid of large 
bodies of militia from Connecticut, and hoped to 
derive similar assistance from New Jersey and 
New York ; and thus supported, he entertained 
no doubt of his ability to succeed in the enterprise. 

On the 23d of September, however, he received 
an urgent letter from Washington, which compelled 
him to abandon his design. Affairs were assuming 



100 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

a critical aspect in the neighborhood of Philadel 
phia; and twenty-five hundred men were sum 
moned to the main army from the force of Putnam, 
who was instructed to call in the militia to supply 
the : : place. For this purpose he made instant 
requisition on the governors of Connecticut and 
New York ; but, as no hostile demonstrations ap 
peared, and the militia were impatient of deten 
tion at the time of harvest, he discharged such 
portions of them as had not spontaneously deserted 
him. 

His force now consisted of about fifteen hundred 
men, stationed at Peekskill, on the east side of the 
Hudson. The defences of this river had employed 
much of the attention of General Washington, who 
relied upon them to arrest the progress of the 
enemy. Fort Independence was the lowest on the 
eastern side, just above Peekskill; four or five 
miles higher, on the opposite bank, were Forts 
Clinton and Montgomery, and about two miles 
above, on an island near the eastern shore, was 
Fort Constitution. 

Forts Clinton and Montgomery, which may be 
considered as one, were regarded as the strongest ; 
and various obstructions, defended by two frigates 
and a galley, were thrown across the river at their 
base. The garrison consisted of about six hundred 
men, under the command of Governor Clinton, 
of New York. Partly with the view of destroying 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 101 

some military stores collected in the neighborhood, 
and partly to make a diversion in favor of General 
Burgoyne, an expedition against these fortresses 
was undertaken by Sir Henry Clinton. 

On the 5th of October, he landed at Verplanck s 
Point, just below Peekskill, on the east bank of 
the Hudson, with about three thousand men ; and 
General Putnam retired on their approach to the 
high grounds in his rear. The next morning, 
under cover of a fog, a portion of ihe British 
crossed the river to Stony Point, and .marched ,un 
observed through the . HOxmnteiris-m*^ fSiieetion 
of Forts Montgomery and Clinton. Governor 
Clinton, at ten o clock, received the intelligence 
of their approach, and sent for reinforcements to 
Putnam, who, believing that Fort Independence 
was the real object of the enemy, was engaged, as 
well as the state of the atmosphere would permit, 
in reconnoitring their position. The express, sent 
by Clinton, failed to reach him.* 

* This failure is attributed by Chief Justice Marshall 
to the absence of General Putnam for the purpose of 
reconnoitring, when the messenger arrived. Colonel 
Humphreys, who was upon the spot, says, that the letter 
of Clinton miscarried through the treachery of the mes 
senger ; that Putnam, astonisned at hearing nothing from 
the enemy, rode to reconnoitre them, and that he (Col 
onel Humphreys) being alone at head-quarters when the 
firing began, urged Colonel Wyllys, the senior officer in 
camp, to send all the men not on duty to Fort Montgom 
ery ; which was immediately done, but unhappily too late 



102 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

At five o clock in the afternoon, both of the 
forts were assaulted at the same time by the 
British. They were resolutely defended until 
dark, when they were entered by the enemy at 
various points, and a portion of the garrison made 
prisoners. The greater number, from their familiar 
knowledge of the mountain passes, and under 
cover of the night, effected their escape. No 
intimation of the assault was received at the camp, 
until if was made known by the firing on the west 
bank of the river ; a reinforcement of five hundred 
men tva s^fceV despatched, But, before they could 
cross the river, the forts were in possession of the 
enemy. 

In consequence of this disaster, Forts Indepen 
dence and Constitution were evacuated ; General 
Putnam was compelled to retire to Fishkill ; the 
entire command of the river was lost, and the way 
was thrown open to Sir Henry Clinton to ascend 
it. In the course of a week, the arrival of 
the militia having increased the force of Putnam 
to six thousand men, he retook Peekskill and the 
mountain passes, and employed the main body 
of his troops in watching the progress of the Brit 
ish up the river. While on his march with this 
design, he received intelligence of the capitulation 
of Burgoyne, and five thousand men were sent to 
his aid from the northern army ; but, before they 
arrived, the British had returned to New York, 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 103 

When the fact of the surrender of Burgoyne 
had been ascertained by Washington, but before 
he was aware of the return of Clinton to New 
York, he suggested to General Putnam the expe 
diency of uniting his forces with those of Gates, to 
gain, if possible, the rear of the British, and take 
possession of the city. This was on the 25th of 
October, several days after the convention of Sar 
atoga, of which Washington had not yet been 
informed by Gates. 

Five days afterwards, when the commandei 
m-chief had been apprized of the return of the 
British to New York, Colonel Hamilton, one of 
his aids-de-camp, in obedience to the decision of a 
council of war, was despatched by him to Putnam, 
to direct him to send forward the brigade he had 
received from the northern army. Having done 
this, Hamilton proceeded to the camp of Gates, to 
instruct him to detach a large portion of his force to 
the vicinity of Philadelphia. The British force in 
Philadelphia and its neighborhood amounted to 
ten thousand men ; while that of Washington, the 
militia included, whose stay was very uncertain, 
did not much exceed that number. 

On his return from Albany, Hamilton addressed 
a letter to General Putnam, expressing his sur 
prise and regret that the orders of the commander- 
in-chief had not been complied with. This letter 
was forwarded to Washington by Putnam, with a 



104 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

complaint that the reflections of Hamilton were 
illiberal and unjust ; that he was unconscious of 
having omitted any portion of his duty ; but that, 
without explicit orders from Washington, he coi -d 
not think of remaining at his post, and sending his 
troops away ; the effect of which would certainly 
be the reinforcement of Howe s army from New 
York. The course of Hamilton having been in 
conformity with the orders of Washington, was 
fully approved by him, and he expressed dissatis 
faction at the delay of General Putnam in com 
plying with his orders. 

This is the only instance, in which the conduct 
of General Putnam gave occasion to the censure 
of his commander ; and it is probably to be attrib 
uted to a disposition, which he had long cherished, 
to attempt a descent upon New York, and a too 
high estimate of the importance of such an enter 
prise. 

After the departure of the troops, General 
Putnam moved down the Hudson with a part of 
his remaining force. When General Dickinson 
made a descent upon Staten Island, he ordered 
two brigades to march upon Kingsbridge, in order 
to divert the attention of the enemy ; but their 
purpose had been penetrated, and the British 
withdrew at their approach. 

He now took post at New Rochelle, and ar 
ranged a plan for attacking the forts at Satauket 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 105 

uid Huntington, on Long Island ; but both were 
in the mean time evacuated. 

This was followed by another enterprise, on a 
more extensive scale ; the object of which was to 
destroy the materials collected on Long Island for 
barracks in New York, together with the ships 
sent thither to obtain wood from Newport, to 
attack a regiment stationed about eight miles 
eastward from Jamaica, and to capture or destroy 
tne public stores. The execution of this scheme 
was intrusted to General Parsons and Colonel 
Webb ; the former of whom succeeded in taking 
d few prisoners, and in destroying a sloop, to 
gether with a large quantity of boards and timber ; 
but the other portions of the enterprise were 
unsuccessful. 

About the middle of December, General Put 
nam, in obedience to the orders of Washington, 
returned with his troops to the Highlands, where 
he spent the winter ; a winter, which was passed 
by Washington in his dreary encampment at 
Valley Forge ; in the course of which he wrote, 
(and a darker picture of suffering could not easily 
be drawn,) that he had " no less than two thou 
sand eight hundred and ninety-eight men in camp 
unfit for duty, because they were barefoot and 
otherwise naked." Nor was the situation of 
Putnam in any respect more enviable ; his troops 



106 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

bore their full share of suffering and priva 
tion.* 

General Washington had never lost sight of the 
defences of the Hudson ; and, on the 25th of 
January, he urged on General Putnam the neces 
sity of placing them on a respectable footing before 
the spring. All the old works had been demol 
ished by the British. Early in January the several 
positions had been examined by Putnam, in com 
pany with Governor Clinton and others ; all of 
whom, with the exception of Radiere, a French 
engineer, agreed in selecting West Point, as the 
best position for a fortress. Colonel Humphreys 
claims for General Putnam the merit of this selec 
tion. However this may be, there can be no 
doubt that he is entitled to a large portion of the 
credit, particularly as it was made in opposition to 
the remonstrances of the engineer, who enjoyed 
the confidence of Congress and of Washington. 
Their judgment was confirmed by that of the 
committee of the Assembly and Council of New 
York, among whom was Governor Clinton, and 
the ground was broken in the month of January, 

* On the 13th of February, 1778, General Putnam 
wrote to Washington as follows : " Dubois regiment is 
unfit to be ordered on duty, there being not one blanket 
in the regiment. Very few have either a shoe or a 
ehirt,and most of them have neither stockings, breeches, 
nor overalls." 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 107 

oy a brigade despatched by Putnam for the 
purpose. 

Congress had directed that an inquiry should 
De made into the causes of the loss of Forts Clin 
ton and Montgomery ; and General Putnam, who 
had on the 12th of February returned to Connec 
ticut on a visit to his family, was of course required 
to attend, as the commander of the army of the 
Highlands at the time of the disaster; but the 
report of the court, constituted for this purpose, 
attached no blame to any officer. He was, how 
ever, superseded in his command ; and the cir 
cumstances attending this change demand some 
notice. 

In a letter addressed to him by Washington on 
the 16th of March, we find the following passage ; 
" General M c Dougall is to take the command of 
the army of the Highlands. My reason for making 
this change is owing to the prejudices of the peo 
ple, which, whether well or ill grounded, must be 
indulged ; and I should think myself wanting in 
justice to the public and candor towards you, were 
I to continue you in a command, after I have been 
almost in direct terms informed, that the people ot 
New York will not render the necessary support 
and assistance, while you remain at the head of 
that department." 

The complaints to which Washington refers 
were very general, and had probably their origin 



*108 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

chiefly in the ill success of Putnam s efforts to 
prevent the incursions of the enemy, and the loss 
and inconvenience, which were thus occasioned. 
General Schuyler s history, however, is sufficient 
to show, that such prejudices are not always wel 1 
founded in proportion to their violence ; though 
in this instance it was necessary for the com 
mander-in-chief to yield to them, without deciding 
the question of their justness. 

Among the charges urged against him, was that 
of exercising too much lenity in his treatment of 
the Tories, and of too great facility in allowing in 
tercourse with the enemy. His situation was cer 
tainly a difficult one ; his disposition inclined him 
to alleviate as much as possible the evils resulting 
both from the civil war which was raging in that 
quarter, and the contest with the foreign enemy ; 
nor is it certain that a different course would have 
relieved him from all imputation. 

Colonel Humphreys has given us an explana 
tion of these circumstances, which is entitled to 
much consideration, as proceeding from one, who 
had every opportunity to ascertain the truth. He 
declares, that General Putnam became the object 
of this prejudice in- consequence of his humanity, 
in showing all the indulgence he could, consist 
ently with duty. " He had conceived," adds this 
writer, " an unconquerable aversion to many of 
the persons who were intrusted with the disposal 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 109 

of Tory property, because he believed them to 
have been guilty of peculation, and other infamous 
practices. But, although the enmity between him 
and the sequestrators was acrimonious as mutual, 
yet he lived in habits of amity with the most le- 
spected characters in public departments, as well 
as in private life." It is difficult at this time to 
determine the precise weight which should be at 
tached to the charge on one hand, and the vin 
dication on the other; it is sufficient to say, 
that the former imputed to him no improper de 
sign, nor affected in any way the purity of his char 
acter. 

After the termination of the inquiry, already 
mentioned, General Putnam was ordered to Con 
necticut, to hasten the march of the new levies 
from that quarter. He returned to the camp 
shortly after the battle of Monmouth, and took the 
command of the right wing of the army ; but no 
important operation occurred before the retire 
ment of the troops into their winter-quarters, the 
arrangement for which was made early in Novem 
ber. General Putnam, with three brigades, com 
posed of the Connecticut and New Hampshire 
troops, and two other regiments, was then stationed 
at Danbury, in Connecticut. 

In the course of the winter, a spirit of insubordi 
nation arose among a portion of these troops, 
which, but for the vigor and promptness of their 



110 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

commander, might have been attended by the 
most serious results. The General Assembly of 
Connecticut was in session at Hartford ; and a plan 
was matured by the brigades belonging to that col 
ony, of marching thither to demand redress of the 
grievances under which they labored. One of 
them was already under arms, when the intelli 
gence of their proceedings was brought to Gen 
eral Putnam. He rode instantly to their canton 
ment, and addressed them with his usual energy, 
n an appeal which went directly to a soldier s 
heart; when he concluded, he ordered them to 
march to their regimental parades and lodge their 
arms ; and the command was instantly obeyed. 

In the course of the winter, General Putnan 
was one day visiting his outposts at West Green 
wich, when Governor Tryon, with a corps of 
fifteen hundred men, was on his march against it. 
Putnam had with him only one hundred and fifty 
men, with two pieces of artillery ; with these he 
took his station on the brow of a steep declivity 
near the meeting-house. The road turned to the 
north, just before it reached the edge of the steep ; 
after proceeding in this direction for a considerable 
distance, it inclined to the south, rendering the 
descent gradual and tolerably safe. As the British 
advanced, they were received with a sharp fire 
from the artillery ; but, perceiving the dragoons 
about to charge, Putnam ordered his men to retire 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. Ill 

to a swamp, inaccessible to cavalry, while he him 
self forced his horse directly down the precipice. 
His pursuers, who were close upon him, paused 
with astonishment as they reached the edge, and 
saw him accomplish his perilous descent ; and be 
fore they could gain the valley by the road, he 
was far beyond their reach. 

The declivity, from this circumstance, has since 
generally borne the name of Putnam s Hill. He 
continued his route to Stamford, where he found 
some militia, with whom, added to his former band, 
he pursued Tryon on his retreat; and, notwith 
standing the inferiority of his force, succeeded in 
taking about fifty prisoners. 

The military career of General Putnam termi 
nated with the campaign of 1779, during which 
he commanded the Maryland line, stationed near 
West Point, but was engaged in no impor 
tant operations. His time was principally occu 
pied in superintending the erection of the new 
defences of that commanding post. There he re 
mained until the army retired to their winter- 
quarters at Morristown, when he returned with his 
family on a visit to Brooklyn, in Connecticut, the 
place to which his residence had been transferred. 
As he was journeying towards Hartford on his 
way back to Morristown, his progress was arrested 
by an attack of paralysis, by which the use of his 
limbs on one side was temporarily lost. For a 



112 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

season, he was reluctant to admit the real charac 
ter of his disease, and resorted to very active 
exertion for relief; but the complaint refused to 
yield to the influences of such a remedy, and he 
was doomed to pass the remainder of his life n 
a state of comparative inaction. 

In closing the recital of the military services of 
General Putnam, it would be unjust to his memory 
to omit a portion of a letter addressed to him by 
General Washington, in 1783, after the conclusion 
of the treaty of peace. "I can assure you, that, 
among the many worthy and meritorious officers, 
with whom I have had the happiness to be con 
nected in service through the course of this war, 
and from whose cheerful assistance and advice I 
have received much support and confidence in the 
various and trying vicissitudes of a complicated con 
test, the name of Putnam is not forgotten ; nor will 
be but with that stroke of time, which shall oblit 
erate from my mind the remembrance of all those 
toils and fatigues, through which we have struggled 
for the preservation and establishment of the rights, 
liberties, and independence of our country." 

General Putnam survived the close of the war 
about seven years ; a period of repose, strongly 
contrasted with the animation and vicissitude which 
had marked his early and maturer life ; presenting 
little incident for his biographer to record, yet 
forming an appropriate termination of a busy and 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 113 

adventurous career. His age and bodily infirmities 
disqualified him for any public occupation, but did 
not impair his ability to enjoy the tranquil pleas 
ures, that constitute the solace of declining years. 
He was enabled to take the moderate exercise, 
which the preservation of his measure of health 
required ; and the vigor of his mind remained 
unbroken to the last. Fortunately, his early agri 
cultural labors had provided him with a compe 
tency, and shielded him from the embarrassment 
and sorrow, which darkened the old age of many 
of his brethren of the army of the Revolution ; and 
thus, in the retirement of his family, enjoying the 
regard of those around him, and the grateful 
respect of his countrymen, his life gradually wore 
away. On the 17th of May, 1790, he was sud 
denly attacked by an inflammatory disease, and 
foresaw that his end was nigh ; the consolations 
of religion sustained him in his closing hours, and, 
two days afterwards, he died with resignation and 
in peace. His remains were borne by his fellow- 
citizens to the grave with the martial honors due 
to the memory of a brave and patriotic soldier, 
and a feeling eulogy was delivered by a neighbor 
and personal friend. 

It only remains for us to say a few words 
respecting the military and personal character of 
one, whose history we have thus attempted to 
delineate. His qualities as a soldier are already 

viii. 8 



3.14 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

apparent to the reader. Under all circumstances, 
however critical, he was perfectly fearless and self- 
possessed, and full of the most active energy 
and resource at the time when they were most 
urgently required. No man could surpass him in 
the fiery charge, of which the success depends so 
much upon the leader ; in this respect he reminds 
the reader of Murat, the gallant marshal of Napo 
leon ; nor would the general feeling deny him the 
proud title, by which another of those marshals 
was distinguished, that of the bravest of the brave. 
At the same time, as has been already intimated, 
he was somewhat less successful in the more 
extended operations, which require the combined 
action of large and separate masses of men. Yet 
when it is remembered, that, wholly without mili 
tary education and with scarcely any other, ana 
simply by the force of his own energy and talent, 
he rose through all the gradations of the service to 
the station of first major-general in the army of the 
United States, till he stood second in rank to Wash 
ington alone, no better evidence could be given or 
required of his capacity and conduct as a soldier. 
Nor should it be forgotten, that his humanity was 
always as conspicuous as his bravery ; his treat 
ment of the sick and wounded was such as to 
attract the warm attachment of his own soldiers, 
and to extort the gratitude of the enemy. He is 
certainly entitled to the praise of disinterested, 



ISRAEL PUTNAM. 115 

ardent, and successful efforts in the cause of his 
country ; and he will be long remembered among 
those who served her faithfully and well, at a 
season when she wanted either the ability or the 
inclination to reward their toils and sacrifices. 

But the military reputation of General Putnam, 
high as it was, concealed no dark traits of personal 
character beneath its shadow. In all the domestic 
relations, the surest tests of habitual virtue, he was 
most exemplary ; and his excellence in this respect 
deserves the more notice, as the stern discipline 
and wild adventure, in which so much of his life 
was spent, were more favorable to the growth 
of severer qualities. His disposition was frank 
generous, and kind ; in his intercourse with others, 
he was open, just, sincere, and unsuspecting ; libe 
ral in his hospitality, and of ready benevolence 
wherever there was occasion for his charity. 
Those who knew him best were the most forward 
to express their admiration of his excellence. 
The late President Dwight, who was his friend, 
but very unlikely to sacrifice the claims of truth to 
those of personal regard, has in his writings more 
than once expressed the sentiment, which he has 
embodied in the inscription on General Putnam s 
monument ; that he was " a man, whose gener 
osity was singular, whose honesty was proverbial ; 
who raised himself to universal esteem, and offices 
of eminent distinction, by personal worth and a 



116 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

useful life." Such is the language of others who 
have borne witness to his private virtues; and 
whai more needs to be added, than that his moral 
excellence flowed from a religious fountain, and 
that the character of a man of worth was adorned 
and dignified in him by the higher qualities of a 
Christian ? 



LIFE 

OF 

BARON STEUBEN 



BY 



FRANCIS BOWEN 



BARON STEUBEN 



AT the commencement of the American revo-- 
.ution, peace generally prevailed in Europe ; and 
the consequent want of employment induced many 
French and German officers to look to this coun 
try, as a proper field for the display of military 
talent. The services of some of them were val 
uable and important. In a pecuniary point of 
view, nowever, the prospect was not a tempting 
one, for the poverty of Congress was as well 
known abroad as at home. Most of the adven 
turers, therefore, who crossed the Atlantic, were 
led by a desire of fame, or by an enthusiastic 
wish to engage in a contest for freedom. Such 
spirits were well adapted to imbibe the republican 
principles of their American associates, and, on 
their return home, to carry out these principles to 
the full extent, by engaging in the domestic 
troubles, which a long train of events had been 
preparing in Europe. The names of Lafayette 
and Kosciuszko, first conspicuously known on this 
side of the ocean, were destined to become the 



120 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

watchwords of liberty to their own countrymen. 
It was well for this country, that jealousy of Brit 
ish power so far blinded the ministers of Louis the 
Sixteenth, that they could not foresee this result. 
Without their aid, the contest here might have 
terminated in 1778, in favor of England, or have 
been protracted at an expense, for which even the 
blessings of liberty might, for a time, have proved 
an inadequate compensation. 

The services of foreign officers, important in 
every respect, were peculiarly valuable in organ 
izing and disciplining the army, introducing a 
system of military tactics, and creating the en 
gineer and artillery corps. The colonists had 
been well trained, during the French and Indian 
wars, in a kind of partisan service, in which long 
experience had demonstrated their superiority over 
the regularly disciplined troops of England. But 
they were now to contend in the European mode 
of warfare, against organized soldiery in the open 
field, and in the attack and defence of fortified 
towns Their inability to sustain a contest of 
such a character was taught in a woful lesson, by 
the campaign of 1776 in New York and the Jer 
seys. Nothing but the indomitable spirit of the 
people, and the great prudence and sagacity of 
the Commander-in-chief, enabled the army to re 
trieve the losses of this disastrous year. But the 
skill of the General turned these defeats to so good 



BARON STEUBEN. 121 

an account, that at last they learned from the 
enemy the art to conquer. The study of tactics 
was commenced under the instruction of the 
European volunteers, whose exertions at length 
placed the regular line on an equal footing, in re 
spect of discipline and military skill, with the 
English soldiers. No one rendered more impor 
tant services in this respect, than the subject of 
the following memoir. 

Of the early history of FREDERIC WILLIAM 
AUGUSTUS, BARON STEUBEN, nothing is known. 
He was born in some part of Germany, about the 
year 1730.* We first hear of him in the service 
of the king of Prussia, with whom he attained 
the rank of aid-de-camp, and was particularly 
connected with the Quartermaster-General s de 
partment. This arrangement was in conformity 
with a part of the Prussian system, by which 
each department had some person near the mon 
arch, to whom the officers directed their requests, 
and the king applied for any information relative 
to the condition of the corps. 



* A letter from the father of Baron Steuben to Dr. 
Franklin, making inquiry about his son, which is now 
before me, is dated at Custrin, in Prussia, October 8th, 
1779, and is signed "W. K. von Steuoen, Major and 
Chevalier of the Order of Merit" In this letter the 
father says he is eighty-one years old, and his wife 
seventy-three. 



122 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Steuben was not, however, a Prussian by birth ; 
for on one occasion he was heard to remark, that 
if he had been a native subject, the great Fred 
eric would certainly have despatched him as a 
prisoner to Spandau, for daring to request a dis 
mission from his service. As the Baron possessed 
a small estate in Suabia, it is not unlikely that he 
was bora in that province. 

Steuben was fortunate enough to engage the 
friendship and confidence of Prince Henry, the 
King s brother, to whose family he was for some 
time attached. In an unfortunate campaign, the 
Prince incurred the displeasure of his inexorable 
brother. He was ordered to retire from the field, 
and his suite were placed in situations intended to 
make them feel the misfortune of being friends to 
a man, who had dared to displease the King. Steu 
ben was sent into Silesia, with orders to recruit, 
equip, and discipline, within a certain period, a 
regiment broken down by long and hard service. 
The pecuniary allowance was wholly insufficient 
for the end proposed ; but, in such a service, no 
intrinsic difficulties could excuse a failure in exe 
cuting the King s commands. The Baron repaired 
to the appointed spot, and, by his unwearied exer 
tions, the regiment was marched complete to 
head -quarters within the time prescribed. This 
service was performed at an early period, and 
probably procured the appointment, which he 



BARON STEUBEN. 123 

subsequently held, of aid-de-camp to Fredaric 
himself. 

It is not unlikely, that another arbitrary exer 
tion of the royal authority induced him, in 1763, 
to withdraw from the Prussian service. Perhaps 
the reduction of the army, consequent on the 
peace of Hubertsberg, which was ratified this 
year, may have reconciled Frederic to this pro 
ceeding. Steuben did not forfeit the favor of the 
King, who accepted his resignation with kindness, 
and gave him, by way of pecuniary reward, a 
canonry in the cathedral of Havelburg, with a 
salary of twelve hundred German florins. Fred 
eric relied more on the revenues, than on the 
spiritual services of the church, and used its funds 
without scruple to pension off* his retired officers. 
The Baron was certainly well fitted to be a valu 
able officer in the church militant. He ever re 
tained a strong attachment for his stern old master, 
and was observed to be much affected, when, in 
America, he received the news of that monarch s 
death. 

That his military talents were highly esteemed 
in Prussia is shown by a fact of more recent date. 
When, in the course of the revolutionary war in 
this country, Congress applied to the several Eu 
ropean courts for a transcript of their military 
codes, the Prime Minister of Prussia replied, that 
their military instructions had never been publish 



124 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

ed, nor even transcribed, except for the use of 
the generals. He added, that he was surprised at 
the request ; for he understood that Baron Steuhen 
was employed in the American service, and that 
no one was better able to give accurate informa 
tion respecting the minutest details of the Prussian 
system. 

Upon leaving the army, Steuben repaired to his 
estate of Weilheim, on the borders of Baden and 
Wurtemberg. As the income of this property, 
even when united to the emoluments of his eccle 
siastical office, was insufficient to maintain him in 
a style suitable to his rank, he sought employment 
in a military capacity from some of the German 
princes. Liberal offers were received from the 
king of Sardinia, but, by the advice of his friend, 
Prince Henry of Prussia, these were declined, 
and he accepted an appointment from the Prince 
of Hohenzollern-Hechingen, who, in 1764, made 
him Grand Marshal of the court, with a salary of 
twelve hundred florins. He was at the same pe 
riod appointed Colonel in the circle of Suabia, an 
office more honorable than lucrative. The troops 
of the circle were chiefly militia, and the duty 
consisted in little else than attending a periodical 
review. 

In 1767, the Prince Margrave of Baden made 
Steuben a knight of the Order of Fidelity, and 
soon afterwards gave him the chief command of 



BARON STEUBEN. 125 

the troops, with the title of General, and yearly 
emoluments to the amount of two thousand flo 
rins. As several of the offices enumerated were 
held at the same time, the situation of the Baron 
was now so agreeable, that he refused two liberal 
proffers from the Prime Minister of Austria 3 to 
induce him to enter the service of the Emperor. 

Steuben retained through life the pride of an 
old soldier. He always wore the insignia of his 
order, a star ornamented with gold and diamonds, 
suspended at the breast of his coat. His military 
subordinates were obliged to conform strictly to 
the rules of etiquette, in rendering the outward 
testimonials of respect due to his office. A little 
incident, which occurred near the close of the 
American war, affords an amusing illustration of 
this amiable weakness. 

One day, while at dinner at head-quarters, the 
Baron happened to express himself with much 
feeling and energy on some important subject. 
Gouverneur Morris, who sat at his right hand, was 
peculiarly struck with the remark, and, in his frank 
way, slapped Steuben somewhat roughly on the 
back, and cried out, with an oath, " Well done, 
General, well done ! " Much irritated at the in 
sult, as he deemed it, the old Baron instantly 
quitted the table, and retired to his marquee, 
exclaiming, with great warmth, " Confound the 
fellow ! with his old wooden leg, he will govern 
the whole country." 



126 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

The situation of Steuben at the courts of Baden 
and Hohenzollern, for he seems to have divided 
his time between the two, was sufficiently agreea 
ble. His yearly income, which amounted in all 
to about five hundred and eighty guineas, afforded 
ample provision, in that country, for all the expen 
ses that became his rank; while the various offices 
which he held, employed his time and attention, 
without being burdensome. He was able to em 
ploy a part of each winter in making excursions 
to France and the principal courts of Germany, 
where he had a taste of court pleasures, and an 
opportunity to enlarge his circle of friends. In this 
way, he formed an acquaintance with the Count de 
St. Germain, whom he met in Alsace at the house 
of the Baron de Waldner. In a trip to Montpel- 
lier, he was introduced to Prince de Montbarrey ; 
and in 1775 he formed a friendship with several 
English noblemen, among whom were Lord Spen 
cer and Lord Warwick. 

These gentlemen gave him a pressing invitation 
to come and spend a summer with them in Eng 
land. Not disinclined to so agreeable a project, 
he was yet compelled by circumstances to post 
pone the affair till the year 1777, when he began 
to think seriously of putting the plan in execution. 
He went to Paris in April, with the intention of 
leaving that place for Calais, on his way to Lon 
don, about the end of June. Having arrived at 



BARON STEUBEN. 127 

Paris, he sent a note to the Count de St Ger 
main, who was then the French Minister of War, 
testifying a desire to visit him at Versailles. The 
same evening, Colonel Pagenstecher, a gentleman 
attached to the court, waited upon Steuben to in 
form him, that St. Germain desired him not to 
come to Versailles, but to be at the Arsenal in 
Paris in the course of a few days, where the Count 
wished to converse with him on business of im 
portance. As Steuben had no project to execute, 
nor any favor to ask of the Count, there was a 
mystery in this proceeding, which he could not 
fathom. At the interview, however, which oc 
curred at the appointed time and place, all was 
explained. 

The ministers of France had watched with 
interest the commencement of trouble in the Eng 
lish colonies, and, eager to weaken the power of 
the rival country, wished to aid the revolutionists 
as far as they could, without openly compromising 
themselves with England ; a result which they 
desired to avoid, till the colonists had given better 
evidence of being able to maintain themselves in 
the contest. With the privity of the French min 
istry, arms and money, to a considerable amount, 
had been shipped to America, and only a mock 
opposition was made to the wishes of many 
French officers, who were desirous of enlisting 
personally in Uie struggle. Aware of the weak 



128 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

points of the American army, they were anxious 
to send over an officer of experience, who might 
drill the undisciplined troops, and introduc . such 
a system of tactics, as would enable them to con- 
end against a well equipped and organized enemy. 

Steuben was peculiarly fitted for this purpose 
His military experience was known, and his talents 
were undoubted. To one, who had served through 
the seven years war under the great Frederic, but 
had now been on a peace establishment for more 
than fourteen years, the prospect of engaging 
once more in active service could not be unac- 
ceptaole. Even if the plan should reach the ears 
of the British minister resident at Paris, still the 
Baron was not a Frenchman, and had not been 
received at court, so that no handle could be made 
of the affair. 

At the arsenal, St. Germain laid the project 
before Steuben in as flattering colors as possible. 
The colonists had declared themselves indepen 
dent, and fought single-handed with Great Britain 
for more than two years. The French wished to 
aid them, but the time had not yet come. There 
was a fair opportunity of acquiring military glory, 
and he might rely on the gratitude of the young 
republic for valuable services, rendered at an early 
and pressing period. The Spanish minister, Count 
d Aranda, the Prince de Montbarrey, and finally, 
Vergennes himself, added the weight of their au 
thority to the proposal of St Germain 



BARON STEUBEN. 129 

On the other hand, Steuben objected the haz 
ard of the enterprise, his time of life, and his 
ignorance of the English language. Besides, as 
his personal fortune, independent of the offices 
which he must resign, was very small, he could 
not engage in the service without a prospect of 
adequate remuneration. As the French ministers 
had no authority to treat upon this point, they re 
ferred him to the American envoys then in Pans. 

At the house of M. de Beaumarchais, he was 
introduced to Dr. Franklin and Silas Deane. At 
the same place, he became acquainted with Peter 
S. Du Ponceau, then a young man only seventeen 
years of age, whose services as an interpreter, for 
he spoke English fluently, were peculiarly valuable. 

The envoys showed a desire to enlist the Baron 
in the American service ; but, when the terms 
were mentioned, a difficulty immediately arose. 
Mr, Deane was willing to enter into any proper 
engagement ; but Dr. Franklin demurred, and 
Bnally said, that he had no authority from Con 
gress to form any contract whatever with a foreign 
officer, still less to make the required advance of 
funds to defray the expenses of the voyage. On 
the contrary, Congress had refused to ratify the 
conditions, upon which he had already engaged 
M. Ducoudray and the officers of his suite to em 
bark for America. 

To the Baron this answer was decisive ; and he 

viii. 9 



130 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

would have resumed his former plans immediately, 
but for the instances of St. Germain, who was 
still anxious that the negotiation should not be 
broken off. By his means the affair was protract 
ed till the middle of July, when Steuben, seeing 
no prospect of a satisfactory arrangement, and as 
"t was now too late for his proposed excursion to 
England, determined to return to Germany. 

He accordingly took leave of his Parisian 
friends, and on the 25th of July set out for Ra- 
stadt, with the intention of resuming his employ 
ment under the Prince of Baden. But, on his 
arrival, he found letters from Beaumarchais and 
St. Germain, informing him that a vessel was then 
ready to sail for America, and pressing him to 
return and embark immediately. They assured 
him, that satisfactory arrangements should be made. 
After consultation with his friend, Prince William of 
Baden, the Baron decided to accept the invitation. 

He resigned his several offices, and, by consent 
of the king of Prussia, transferred the canonry, 
which he held, to his nephew. Early in August 
he returned to Paris, and had an interview with 
the French ministers at the house of Vergennes 
It was there determined, that, without any stipula 
tion with the American ministers, he should merely 
obtain from them letters of introduction to Wash 
ington and the President of Congress. On his 
arrival in the United States, if h^ r.nnld not do 



BARON STEUBEN. 131 

otherwise, he was to offer his services as a volun 
teer, and after exerting himself to the utmost for 
the success of the cause, was, on the failure of 
every other chance, to rely on the French court 
for remuneration. Beaumarchais agreed to fur 
nish the funds which were immediately required 
for the undertaking. 

The French ship IJ Heureux, of twenty-eight 
guns, commanded by Captain Landais, who had 
served under Bougainville in his voyage round 
the world, was appointed for the expedition. Her 
name was changed to Le Flamand, and she was 
ostensibly freighted by private individuals for a 
voyage to Martinique. But her lading really 
consisted of arms and munitions of war for the 
American service, and the captain had secret 
orders to proceed to the United States. The 
Baron embarked at Marseilles on the 26th of Sep 
tember, under the assumed name of Monsieur de 
Franck. His suite consisted of M. Du Ponceau, 
who acted as his private secretary, and three 
French officers, Romanai, L Enfant, and Ponthiere 

After a rough and dangerous passage, the ship 
arrived at Portsmouth, ]Mew Hampshire, on the 
1st of December. On their first communication 
with the shore, they received the news of the 
capture of Burgoyne, an event of happy omen to 
Steuben, as it assured him that he had not em 
barked in a desperate cause. 



132 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

He wrote immediately to General Washington, 
enclosing a copy of Dr. Franklin s letter of intro 
duction, and requesting permission to enter the 
American service, if no other arrangement could 
immediately be made, in the capacity of a volun 
teer. " I could say, moreover," he added, " were 
it not for the fear of offending your modesty, thai 
your Excellency is the only person under whom, 
after having served under the King of Prussia, I 
could wish to pursue an art, to which I have 
wholly given up myself. I intend to go to Bos 
ton in a few days, where I shall present my letters 
to Mr. Hancock, member of Congress, and there 
I shall wait for your Excellency s orders, accord 
ing to which I shall take convenient measures." 

On the 9tb of January, 1778, Washington re 
plied to this letter, and informed Steuben, that it 
rested entirely with Congress to make suitable 
provision for him in the army. He must, there 
fore, proceed to Yorktown, in Pennsylvania, where 
that body was then convened, lay his credentials 
before them, and receive their directions for his 
future conduct. The Baron accordingly set off 
for Yorktown, where he arrived in February, and, 
having delivered his letters, was received by the 
President of Congress with every mark of distinc 
tion. The day after his arrival, a committee of 
five members was appointed to confer with him. 
Dr. Witherspoon was the chairman of this com- 



BARON STEUBEN 133 

mil tee, and the only one to whom Steuben could 
explain himself in French. 

In answer to the questions of this committee, 
the Baron stated, that he had entered into no 
agreement with the Commissioners at Paris ; that 
he made no demand for rank or pay, but had 
come to serve as a volunteer in the army, expect 
ing, however, that his expenses would be defrayed 
in the style that was usual for officers, who had 
served with distinction in Europe. He was not 
rich ; and, in order to come to America, had re 
signed offices in Europe, which gave him an in 
come of six hundred pounds sterling. If his 
services should not prove acceptable, or if the 
United States should fail in establishing their inde 
pendence, he would hold them quit of any obliga 
tions to him, either for indemnity or reward. But 
if the value of his services should be acknowledged 
by the Commander-in-chief, and the war should 
have a prosperous issue, he hoped that Congress 
would restore the money he had advanced, would 
render him an equivalent for the offices he had 
resigned, and give him such further compensation 
as they might deem he had deserved. In the 
mean time, he expected that the officers of his 
suite should receive employment suitable to their 
experience, and to the rank which they had held 
in Europe. To this end, he requested a major s 
commission for M. de Romanai ; one of captain 



134 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

in the engineer corps for M. L Enfant, and the 
rank of captain of foot for his secretary, M. Du 
Ponceau. 

As the grant of these terms could not interfere 
with the rival pretensions of other officers, the 
committee declared, that they were perfectly sat 
isfied, and made their report to Congress accord 
ingly. That body voted their thanks to Steuben for 
his disinterested offer, and ordered him immediate 
ly to join the army, which was then in winter- 
quarters at Valley Forge. 

On his way to the camp, the citizens of Lan 
caster, many of whom were Germans, or of Ger 
man descent, gave a public ball in honor of his 
arrival. His reputation had preceded him, and 
all rai.ks were eager to see and greet the distin 
guished foreigner, who came to devote his military 
skill to the cause of American freedom. 

The condition of the Continental troops, during 
the gloomy winter at Valley Forge, is too well 
known to need description. It was wretched in 
the extreme. Reduced to a mere handful in 
point of numbers, half clothed, and ill sheltered 
from the inclemency of the weather, they owed 
their preservation to the supineness or ignorance 
of the enemy. The Baron frequently declared, 
that no European army could be kept together 
under such dreadful deprivations. Discipline was 
relaxed, and the performance of military duties 



BARON STEUBEN 135 

frequently postponed, from the necessity of em 
ploying the soldiers in excursions to procure daily 
subsistence, or of keeping them housed, because 
they were too ill clad to endure I he open air. As 
he passed through the cantonment, says his aid- 
de-camp, the Baron was obliged to see through 
the open windows and half-closed doors of the 
huts, the wretched figures of the soldiers, with 
only a blanket thrown over them, and to hear, at 
every turn, their complaints for want of pay, 
clothes, and provisions. 

The irregularities of conduct, arising from the 
want of equipments and necessities, were height 
ened by the officers ignorance of military system, 
and by the short periods for which the men were 
enlisted. Many were unpractised even in the 
manual exercise, and none understood the evolu 
tions requisite for the proper arrangement of tree ;s 
in the open field. Being collected from different 
States, they had never been trained to any unifonn 
system of tactics. Utter carelessness prevailed in 
the use of arms and equipments, and great waste 
was made of their slender means from the want 
of proper rules, by which accountability for losses 
might be pushed home to individuals. 

Richard Peters, who then belonged to the War 
Department, affirmed, that it was customary in 
the estimates of that office, to allow five thousand 
muskets beyond the actual numbers of the muster 



136 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

of the whole army. Yet this allowance was 
never sufficient to guard against the waste and 
misapplication that occurred. We have the same 
authority for the assertion, that in the last inspec 
tion return of the army, before he left the War 
Department, Baron Steuben being then Inspector- 
General, only three muskets were deficient, and 
those accounted for. 

The want of economy in the management of 
camp equipage, horses, and cavalry and artillery 
accoutrements, caused the most serious difficulties 
Many of those who went home, at the expiration 
of their term of enlistment, carried with them 
their arms and military furniture, while the men 
who came in were entirely unprovided. 

When the spring opened, partial supplies were 
received, and the new levies arrived in considera 
ble numbers. To bring order out of the general 
confusion, to reduce the raw recruits to a homoge 
neous mass with the old troops, to accustom the 
whole to the utmost precision of movement and 
management of arms, and to yield punctilious 
obedience to orders, was the hard task assigned to 
Baron Steuben. He was obliged to instruct equal 
ly the officers and the men ; the former to lead, 
and the latter to follow, in intricate evolutions, with 
which all were alike unacquainted. His difficul 
ties were increased by his ignorance of the Eng 
lish language. His secretary, Du Ponceau, who 



BARON STEUBEN. 137 

might have aided him in this point, was sick and 
absent from the army. 

At the first parade, the troops neither under 
standing the command, nor being able to follow 
in movements to which they had not been accus 
tomed, were getting fast into confusion. At that 
moment, Captain Walker, then of the fourth New 
York regiment, advanced from the line, and 
offered his assistance to translate the orders and 
give them out to the troops. " If I had seen an 
angel from heaven," said the Baron, many years 
after, " I should not have been more rejoiced. 
Perhaps there was not another officer in the arm) , 
(unless Hamilton be excepted,) who could speak 
French and English, so as to be well understood 
in both." Walker became his aid-de-camp, and 
in future was hardly ever absent from his side. 

Still, as the Baron slowly acquired our lan 
guage, his eagerness and warmth of temper would 
frequently involve him in difficulties. On such 
occasions, after exhausting all the execrations he 
could think of in German and French, he would 
sail upon his faithful aid for assistance. " Venez, 
Walker, mon ami ! Sacre, de gaucherie of desf 
badauts, je ne puis plus. I can curse dem nc 
more." 

A temporary department of inspection was or 
ganized, and the Baron was placed at its head 
Trained under so expert a tactician as the great 



138 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Frederic, he was well qualified for the service 
and entered upon it with great earnestness. From 
the moment that instruction began, no time or 
pains were spared to promote the object he had 
in view. Whenever the troops were to mano3uvre, 
and this was every fair day, the Baron rose at 
three o clock in the morning, and, while the servant 
dressed his hair, he smoked, and drank one cup 
of strong coffee. At sunrise he was on horse 
back, and, with or without his suite, galloped to 
the parade ground. There was no waiting for a 
tardy aid, and one who came late was sufficiently 
punished by a reproachful look for the neglect of 
outy. 

The labor of inspection was always performed 
with the utmost care. Dr. Thacher in his " Mili 
tary Journal " describes a scene, showing how great 
attention was paid to the minutest details. " The 
troops were paraded in a single line, with shoul 
dered arms, every officer in his particular station. 
The Baron first reviewed the line in this position, 
passing in front with a scrutinizing eye; after 
which he took into his hand the musket and ac 
coutrements of every soldier, examining them 
with particular accuracy and precision, applauding 
or condemning, according to the condition in 
which he found them. He required, that the 
musket and bayonet should exhibit the brightest 
polish ; not a spot of rust, or defect in any part, 



BARON STETJBEN. 139 

could elude his vigilance. He inquired also into 
the conduct of the officers towards their men, 
censuring every fault, and applauding every meri 
torious action. Next, he required of me, as sur 
geon, a list of the sick, with a particular statemem 
cf their accommodations and mode of treatment 
and even visited some of the sick in their cabins." * 

The value of Steuben s services v as soon ap 
parent, in the improved condition of the troops, 
and was fully appreciated by Washington. On 
the 30th of April, when the Baron had been with 
the army but a few weeks, the Commander-in- 
chief wrote to Congress, attesting his merits in 
strong terms, and recommending him to receive 
immediately a permanent appointment. The fol 
lowing is an extract from the letter. 

" I should do injustice, if I were to be longer 
silent with regard to the merits of Baron Steuben. 
His knowledge of his profession, added to the 
zeal which he has discovered since he began upon 
the functions of his office, leads me to consider 
him as an acquisition to the service, and to recom 
mend him to the attention of Congress. His 
expectations with respect to rank extend to that 
of major-general. His finances, he ingenuously 
confesses, will not admit of his serving without 
the incidental emoluments ; and Congress, I pre 
sume, from his character, and their own knowledge 

* Thacher s Military Journal, 2d ed. p. 160. 



140 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

of him, will without difficulty gratify him in these 
particulars." 

In conformity with this recommendation, the 
Baron, on the 5th of May, was appointed inspec 
tor-general of the army, with the rank of major- 
general ; his pay to commence at the time of his 
joining the army. The department of inspection, 
which hitherto had been on a temporary footing, 
was now arranged on a permanent basis. Two 
ranks of inspectors were appointed ; the lowest 
were charged with the inspection of brigades, and 
were chosen by the field-officers of the body to 
which they belonged. Over these were placed, 
as sub-inspectors, five officers with the rank of 
lieutenant-colonel. Among these were two French 
gentlemen, Ternant and Fleury, whose knowl 
edge of both French and English made them 
necessary assistants to Baron Steuben. 

The duty of the inspectors was to superintend 
the exercise and discipline of the troops, and to 
assist in the execution of all field manoeuvres, 
especially in time of action. They reviewed and 
inspected the number and condition of the men, 
and the state of their arms and accoutrements, 
and reported to the Commander-in-chief any loss 
or damage, and by what means it had occurred. 
To this end, they were furnished with blank re 
turns, so that minute accounts were kept, and not 
a brush or picker couli be mining without the 



BARON STEUBEN. 141 

responsibility for its loss falling upon an individ 
ual. 

These various arrangements were projected 
and matured with great labor by Steuben himseif, 
and in their operation were productive of the 
happiest effects. Much unnecessary expense was 
avoided, and habits of order and carefulness were 
mtroduced throughout the army. 

In the exercise and discipline of the troops, the 
plans of the Baron were equally successful. The 
European systems were too minute and compli 
cated to be literally adopted, and were therefore 
varied and accommodated with great skill to the 
condition of the army. The regimental officers had 
written instructions relative to their several func 
tions, and the manoeuvres were illustrated by a 
company which the Baron himself trained. 

Much embarrassment was experienced in carry 
ing the system into effect, from the want of cloth 
ing and arms. Colonel Fleury, \vho had been 
sent to Wilmington to discipline the troops under 
General Smallwood, writes to Steuben on the 13th 
of May, giving a mournful picture of the condi 
tion of the troops. Many of them, from their 
utter nudity, could not appear on the ground. 
"Most of the recruits are unprovided with shirts, 
arid the only garment they possess is a blanket 
elegantly twined about them. You may judge, 
Sir, how much this apparel graces their appear 
ance on parade." 



14:2 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

Notwithstanding such difficulties, the success 
of Baron Steuben s efforts was such, that, little 
more than a year afterwards, in a letter to Dr 
Franklin at Paris, he wrote as follows respecting 
the condition of the troops. 

" I leave it to your other correspondents to 
give you an account of the present state of our 
army. If they tell you, that our order and dis 
cipline equals that of the French and Prussian 
armies, do not believe them. But do not believe 
them e sther, if they compare our troops to those 
of the Pope ; take a just medium between these 
two extremes. Though we are so young that we 
scarce begin to walk, we have already taken 
Stony Point and Paulus Hook, at the point of 
the bayonet, without firing a single shot. This is 
very premature ; yet we still have many weak 
nesses which bespeak our infancy. We want, 
above all, the true meaning of the words liberty, 
independence, &c., that the child may not make 
use of them against his father, or the soldier 
against his officer." * 

The Baron was particularly attentive to the 
personal appearance of the men, and never al 
lowed any instance of care or negligence in this 

* The Baron always wrote his letters in French, but 
those to his English correspondents were translated by 
his aids. 



BARON STEUBEN. 143 

respect to pass without immediate praise or cen 
sure. On one occasion, when reviewing Colonel 
Jackson s regiment, he noticed in the ranks a very 
spruce young lad, handsomely formed, standing 
erect with a soldierly air, and his gun and equip 
ments in perfect order. Patting him under the 
chin, to raise his head still more, the Baron viewed 
him with a smile, and asked him how old he was. 
" Seventeen, Sir." Steuben asked him several 
other questions, how long he had been a soldier, 
and whether he had a wife ; then turning to the 
commander, said, " Colonel Jackson, this is one 
fine soldier in miniature." 

Dr. Thacher relates another anecdote, which 
displays in a pleasing manner Steuben s rigid 
sense of justice. " I recollect, that at a review 
near Morristown, a Lieutenant Gibbons, a brave 
and good officer, was arrested on the spot, and 
ordered into the rear, for a fault, which it after 
wards appeared another had committed. At a 
proper moment, the commander of the regiment 
came forward and informed the Baron of Mr. 
Gibbons s innocence, of his worth, and of his acute 
feelings under this unmerited disgrace. < Desire 
Lieutenant Gibbons to come to the front, Colonel. 
< Sir, said the Baron to the young gentleman, 
the fault which was made by throwing the line 
into confusion, might, in the presence of an enemy, 
have been fatal. I arrested you as its supposed 



144 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

author ; but I have reason to believe that I was 
mistaken, and that in this instance you were blame 
less. I ask your pardon ; return to your command. 
I would not deal unjustly by any, much less by 
one, whose character as an officer is so respecta 
ble. All this passed with the Baron s hat off, the 
rain pouring on his venerable head." 

Steuben was particularly anxious, that the high 
er officers should not think it beneath them to 
attend to the minutiae of the drill, even to instruct 
ing the men singly in the proper use of their arms. 
As we have seen, he trained one company him 
self, that it might serve as a model to the others, 
and that his example might have weight with his 
brother officers. Learning the more complicated 
manoeuvres was necessarily postponed to the ne 
cessity of making the troops perfect in the simpler 
operations, and enabling them, on the field of 
battle, to display or fold a column, or change a 
front with ease and correctness. " We have not 
time," said Steuben, " to do all. The business 
is, to give our troops a relish for their trade, to 
make them feel a confidence in their own skill. 
Your officers, following the miserable British ser 
geant system, would think themselves degraded 
by an attention to the drill. But the time will 
come, when there will be a better mode of think 
ing. Then we will attend to turning out the toes." 

This prophecy, observes one of his aids, was a 



BARON STEUBEN. 145 

year or two afterwards literally fulfilled. "Do 
you see that, Sir ? " said Steuben, " there is your 
colonel, instructing that awkward recruit. I thank 
God for that." 

On the 18th of June, Baron Steuben left the 
encampment to visit Congress at Yorktown. He 
carried with him a highly complimentary letter 
from Washington to the President of Congress. 
He had made very extensive arrangements in the 
army, and his object was now to obtain a sanction 
of his proceedings from the Board of War. Hav 
ing succeeded in this end, he returned to the 
army, to take his share of active duty in the cam 
paign of 1778. 

Late in June of this year the British troops 
evacuated Philadelphia, and a council of war was 
held, in the American army, to decide upon the 
propriety of attacking them in their retreat. The 
general opinion was in favor of sending a detach 
ment to attack the enemy s rear, while the main 
body should take a proper position, to act as cir 
cumstances might require. But opinions differed 
respecting the strength of the detachment. Steu 
ben, with others, was in favor of a strong body 
being sent for this purpose, and their views coin 
cided with the judgment of Washington. 

The arrangement was carried into effect, and it 
produced the battle of Monmouth, which was 
fought on the 28th of June. To the valuable 

improvements, which Steuben had introduced into 
viu. 10 



146 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

all the ranks of the army, among other causes, the 
successful issue of this action is undoubtedly to be 
ascribed. Colonel Hamilton declared, that he 
had never known nor conceived the value of mili 
tary discipline until that day. 

As he had no command in the line, Steuben 
was employed during the action in forming the 
troops and reconnoitring the enemy. In this last 
service, he narrowly escaped being taken. His 
report to Washington of the unaccountable retreat 
of the van, commanded by General Lee, called 
forth some expressions from that officer, of which 
the Baron, prompt to take offence, demanded im 
mediate explanation. Lee was already involved 
in difficulties enough, and he made the required 
apology in satisfactory terms. 

It is pleasant to see the little courtesies of life 
exchanged between members of contending armies. 
We find Steuben writing to his countryman, Gen 
eral Knyphausen, then serving under Sir Henry 
Clinton, and requesting him to extend some favors 
Jo Mr. Garoutti, a young gentleman who had been 
made prisoner by the British. In a very polite 
reply, Knyphausen informed the Baron, that after 
some search he had discovered the person in ques 
tion, had supplied him with necessaries and every 
thing that he desired, and would take care, that 
he should be included in the first general exchange 
of prisoners. Such little events as this alleviate 
the painful feelings that naturally arise, when we 



BARON STEUBEN. 147 

see those who were born on the same soil, engaged 
in opposite parties in war, and both in the service 
of strangers. 

In July of this year, Steuben became desirous 
of exchanging his office of inspector-general for 
a command of the same rank in the regular line. 
As his labors had established the department of 
inspection on a regular footing, and no other duty 
now remained to him but that of a general super 
intendence, he naturally wished for a more active 
life, and an opportunity to acquire fame by com 
manding troops on distinct operations. Circum 
stances had enabled- Washington to gratify this 
wish to a small extent. When the main army 
marched from Brunswic, as there were but few 
major-generals, and most of the brigadiers were 
in attendance at the court-martial held for the 
trial of General Lee, the Baron was appointed to 
conduct one wing of the army to the North River. 

Though this arrangement was temporary, and 
so expressed in the general orders, it created some 
uneasiness among the brigadier-generals. They had 
willingly seen the rank of major-general given to 
Steuben, because, as he was appointed to a distinct 
department, it could not interfere with their own 
claims to promotion. But they did not wish to 
have the number of superior officers in actual 
service increased, as it would diminish their own 
chance of rising by seniority. 



148 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

Perplexities of this kind were continually mul 
tiplying around the Commander-in-chief, and no 
thing but his great prudence enabled him to 
parry them, without any serious injury resulting to 
the service. When Steuben left the army to lay 
his desire before Congress, Washington wrote in 
the plainest terms to the President of that body. 
After bearing the most ample testimony to the 
merits of the Baron, he declared himself altogeth 
er averse to the claim, which could not be granted, 
without serious difficulties being the immediate 
result. 

But, as he opposed the Baron s wishes in this 
respect, so he coincided entirely with them in 
another. A doubt had arisen respecting the Baron s 
supremacy in his own department. His commis 
sion made him inspector-general to the whole army. 
But Monsieur Neuville had received a commission 
expressed in similar terms for the army then 
commanded by Gates, and under this he denied 
any subordination to Steuben. 

Congress accepted the advice of Washington in 
both respects. They confirmed the Baron s ab 
solute authority in the department of inspection, 
but passed silently over his request to be trans 
ferred to the line. After fairly making the at 
tempt, Steuben was discreet and disinterested 
enough to let the matter rest, and apply himself 
with new zeal to his old duties. Congress re- 



BARON STEUBEN. 149 

quested him to repair to Rhode Island, and give 
his advice and assistance to General Sullivan in 
the attack, which was then meditated on the Brit 
ish troops in that quarter. 

In accordance with this request, Steuben set off 
immediately, but arrived too late to have any share 
in Sullivan s active operations. The French fleet, 
under D Estaing, which was designed to cooper 
ate with the land forces, had been obliged to sail 
for Boston to repair the injury received in a vio 
lent storm, and the troops were so much disheart 
ened by this event, that they deserted in great 
numbers. Sullivan was compelled to break up 
his camp before Newport, and retire to the north 
ern part of the island, and thence, after an inde 
cisive engagement, to the main land. After re 
maining with Sullivan for some time, to assist him 
in getting the troops into order, and making the 
necessary arrangements to prevent the incursions 
of the British, Steuben returned to the main army. 

In the choice of aids and officers immediately 
connected with him in his department, the Baron 
was peculiarly fortunate. The little family that 
they formed for him, and the mutual affection and 
confidence that prevailed among its members, gave 
him, bachelor as he was, and residing in a strange 
land, all the comforts of domestic life. He was 
in the habit of breakfasting in his own apartment, 
but frequently paid the mess-room of his officers 



150 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

a visit while they were engaged at that meal, 
which was always composed of the best material? 
that could be obtained, at the Baron s sole cost. 
On such occasions, he did not suffer his affection 
for the men to interfere with his zeal for the ser 
vice. If either of the gentlemen had protracted 
his morning s sleep too long to appear at that time 
in trim to mount on horseback, he was immediate 
ly despatched on duty, without the slightest regard 
to the breakfast table. But the Baron was sel 
dom driven to this necessity. 

Walker and Du Ponceau have been already 
mentioned. Ternant had been sent to the south, 
to introduce the system of inspection and disci 
pline among the troops commanded by General 
Howe, and afterwards by General Lincoln. He 
was in the army of Howe at the time that officer 
was defeated in Georgia. This disaster, the un- 
healthiness of the climate, and the difficulty of 
introducing any system into an army, which was 
one day composed of half-disciplined troops, and 
the next of militia not disciplined at all, seem to 
have disgusted him with the situation. In his let 
ters to the Baron, written in a deep spirit of 
affection and respect, he betrays his earnest desire 
to return to the north, and serve again under the 
eye of his old commander. 

Captain William North was another of the aids, 
and between him and the Baron existed an attach- 



BARON STEUBEN. 151 

ment like that of father and son. This officer 
had served as a volunteer, in 1775, under General 
Arnold, in the expedition through the wilderness 
from Kennebec to Canada. He afterwards re 
ceived the command of a company in Colonel 
Jackson s regiment, and served in that capacity 
till he was appointed aid-de-camp to Baron Steu- 
ben. Deeply sensible of the kindness with which 
he had been treated in this relation, and of the 
many tokens of affection that he had received in 
other respects, he continued, during the long pe 
riod in which he survived Steuben, to cherish his 
memory with almost idolatrous regard. 

I have thought, that this little account of the 
members of the Baron s family would not be mis 
placed here, as it throws a strong light on his 
excellent character. No ordinary qualities of 
mind and heart are required to create such a deep- 
rooted affection to a superior officer and a foreign 
er, as was manifested by Ternant, Walker, and 
North towards Steuben. To behold such kindly 
feelings springing up in the harsh soil of a camp, 
and flourishing in despite of the cold air of jealous 
rivalry and a punctilious regard to forms, which 
usually prevail in such a quarter, is a pleasing 
but rare occurrence. 

During the autumn of 1778, the Baron was 
occupied in a work of much importance, for the 
completion and regular observance of the rules of 



152 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

discipline and inspection. Hitherto, the system 
had been extended to the troops acting in separate 
and remote sections of the country, by means of 
officers despatched for the purpose, who had pre 
viously learned and practised the rules, under tbe 
eye of Steuben himself. To this end, Ternant 
had been sent to the southern army, where he w r as 
soon afterwards joined by L Enfant. To intro 
duce more perfect uniformity, so that the troops 
when brought together might not be perplexed by 
little differences in their previous mode of training, 
it seemed advisable, that a manual should be pre 
pared and printed for distribution among the 
proper officers. It was especially requisite for the 
guidance of officers employed in raising recruits 
and sending them in small parties to the main 
army, that they might not arrive wholly unpractised 
in their new duties. 

Baron Steuben engaged in the work at the re 
quest of Washington and the Board of War. The 
difficulties in the way of executing the project 
were great. From his imperfect acquaintance 
with the English language, the work was original 
ly composed in French, and the manuscript then 
translated into English by his aids or persons con 
nected with the War Department, who were not 
well acquainted with military phrases and duties. 
No treatise on military science could be obtained, 
to serve as a basis for the work. Every thing 



BARON STEUBEN. 153 

had to be drawn from the Baron s recollections of 
the Prussian system, and then modified to suit the 
peculiar condition of the American troops. 

It is no small praise of a work executed under 
such disadvantages, that it was immediately ap 
proved by the Commander-in-chief, relied upon 
for direction during the remainder of the war, and 
that it continued to be in use as the only au 
thority for disciplining the militia of the several 
States down to a late period. For this purpose, 
the work was republished in many of the States. 

It was written with such conciseness, that, 
though it contained minute directions on a great 
variety of subjects, it was comprised in a small 
volume of about one hundred and fifty pages. 
The completed manuscript was submitted to the 
perusal of Washington on the 26th of February 
1779. Congress adopted it by a resolution dated on 
the 29th of March. But the publication was so 
much delayed, from the want of engravers com 
petent to execute the plates, that the Baron s 
patience was severely tried. Colonel Pickering, 
who superintended the passage of the work 
through the press, wrote to Steuben, announcing 
its publication, on the 19th of June. The follow 
ing is an extract from the letter. 

" I am obliged by your kind expressions of 
friendship and esteem, and shall ever account it 
an honor to be ranked among your friends. Should 



154 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

I again discover marks of extreme impatience and 
even asperity in the inspector-general, I will im 
pute them to his anxiety to introduce a perfect 
order and discipline in the army, and to his zeal 
for securing the safety and independence of 
America." 

The Baron was precise, and apt to be sufficient 
ly testy about delays and imperfections for which 
he could not account. But his general goodness 
of heart is attested, not only by the enthusiastic 
attachment which his officers bore to him, but by 
many little incidents, which, trifling as they are, 
form the most satisfactory proof of an amiable 
disposition. An anecdote, related more than half 
a century after the event happened, by Major 
Popham, who became a member of Steuben s 
family in 1781, will illustrate this point. 

The Baron brought with him from Europe a 
beautiful Italian grey-hound, named Azor, to 
which he was much attached. This dog was a 
genius in his way. He had been instructed in 
music, and often performed his part on the gamut, 
much more to his own and his master s delight, 
than to the satisfaction of the bystanders. "In 
the month of August, 1782," writes Major Pop- 
ham, " the Baron had occasion to review the 
invalid corps at Fishkill. He and I rode out 
in his carriage for this purpose, and returning in 
the afternoon, Azor in attendance, we were over 



BARON STEUBEN. 155 

taken by a violent storm, which made the roads 
exceedingly muddy. The day being warm, the 
leeward glass of the carriage was put down. 
While the coachman pressed his horses to their 
full speed, the rascally Italian, unwilling to bear 
any longer the pattering of the rain, made a 
flying spring through the window, and lighted 
directly on our new regimentals, which we had 
purchased but a short time before in Philadelphia. 
Of course, both of us were reduced to the most 
deplorable plight. My ire rose very fast, but the 
Baron s temper was unmoved. He laughed very 
heartily, and contented himself with telling Azor 
that he was a rascal, and making him crouch down 
at his feet." 

Our readers will pardon another anecdote of 
A.zor, though a little out of place. I quote from 
a manuscript communication of Mr. Du Ponceau, 
who, as w r e have seen, accompanied Steuben on his 
voyage from France. "This dog w r as fond of music; 
and, when on board the ship, he would listen with 
great attention and apparent pleasure to the sailors 
songs. While they or anybody else was singing, 
he stood all the time arrectis auribus, not losing 
a single note. Unfortunately, Captain Laridais 
was also fond of music, but had the most dismal, 
and at the same time, false voice, that nature ever 
bestowed on man for the torment of delicate ears. 
Nevertheless, the good captain took it into nig 



156 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

head to learn vocal music, and for want of a better, 
I was selected to be his teacher. We now began 
to go through the musical scale, do, re, mi, fa, 
&c. ; but poor Azor, dilettante as he was, could 
not bear the harsh sounds that issued from my 
pupil s voice. As soon as we began the gamut, 
he set up such lamentable yells that we were soon 
compelled to abandon our melodious exercise. 
The dog, nevertheless, continued to listen to other 
music, and did not lose his taste for that delightful 
art. But the gamut he never afterwards would 
bear ; the moment any one began with do, re, mi, 
fa, he commenced his terrible howl, and nothing 
would quiet him but some tune more to his taste. 
The captain pronounced, that the dog had no ear 
for music ; but he was greatly mortified, that the 
animal s taste did not coincide with his own. The 
passengers, however, were of a different opinion ; 
and Azor had my warm thanks for relieving me 
from the painful task to which our gallant com 
mander had subjected me." 

On the 15th of August, 1779, Steuben left the 
main army on a visit to Providence, in order to 
introduce among the troops under General Gates 
the rules, which had been adopted in the main 
oody. He remained at Providence but a short 
period, b?ing ordered to Boston to receive, and ac 
company to head-quarters, the Chevalier de la 
Luzerne, who had just landed as minister from 



BARON STEUBEN. 157 

France to Congress. The route assigned for the 
journey lay through New Haven and Fairfield, in 
Connecticut. But, on the 8th of September, we 
find Colonel Hamilton writing in some anxiety to 
Steuben, to induce him to change the route ; for, 
as the British had troops on Long Island, a body 
of men might easily be thrown across the Sound, 
and the whole party might have their dreams dis 
agreeably interrupted by a call to attend the levee 
of Sir Henry Clinton. The journey was made, 
however, without accident, and the Chevalier was 
received at the main army with the honors due to 
his station. 

On this and other occasions, the Baron had 
received more than the regular salary of his 
office, as established by Congress. The nature 
of his duties, which required him frequently to 
travel from one part of the army to another, 
occasioned extra expense, and, in the opinion of 
Washington, justified an extra allowance. But 
there were other causes which increased Steuben s 
pecuniary difficulties. 

His hand was ever open to the calls of distress, 
and on all occasions he found it difficult to resist 
his inclination to give, or to have any prudent 
regard to the extent of his means. As it does not 
appear that he received any remittance from Eu 
rope during the war, he was entirely dependent on 
his allowance from Congress for his own support 



158 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and the exercise of his liberal feelings. General 
Washington was sensible of his merit, and urged 
the authorities on all proper occasions in his behalf. 
In truth, considering the poverty of the country, 
he was treated with a commendable degree of lib 
erality. But hardly any sum was too great for his 
necessities. 

Never did a review pass, without rewards being 
given to soldiers, whose attention to the state of 
their arms and equipments was most conspicuous. 
Never was his table unfurnished with guests, if 
furnished with provisions. Officers of the higher 
ranks, men most prominent for their attention to 
duty, were principally his guests ; but the gen 
tlemen of his family were desired to complete the 
list with others of inferior rank. " Poor fellows," 
said he ; " they have field officers stomachs, with 
out their pay or rations." 

On one occasion at the South, he sold a part 
of his camp equipage, in order to give an enter 
tainment to the officers of the allied army. " We 
are constantly feasted by the French," said he, 
" without their receiving any invitation in return, 
except from head-quarters. I can stand it no 
longer. I will give one grand dinner to our 
allies, should I eat my soup with a wooden spoon 
for ever after." 

The month of February, 1780, was spent by 
Baron Steuben at Philadelphia, in concerting 



BARON STEUBEN. 159 

measures with the Board of War, to place the 
army on a proper footing for the campaign of the 
ensuing summer. From the peculiar manner in 
which he had been employed, he could furnish 
accurate information respecting the state and num 
ber of the troops, and suggest what steps were 
requisite to meet the coming exigencies of the 
war. As a large force was expected from France 
in the course of the summer, it was absolutely 
necessary, that the strength and effectiveness of 
the American forces should be increased, that the 
allies might not be discouraged at the first sight of 
the army with which they were to cooperate. 
Steuben was fortunate enough, in the measures 
he proposed, to obtain the approbation of Wash 
ington. 

The return of Lafayette to the United States 
in April, bringing intelligence that a naval and 
land armament might soon be expected from 
France, caused the preparations already com 
menced, to be carried on with renewed vigor. A 
circular letter was despatched to the governors of 
the several States, urging them to complete their 
quotas of troops, to provide magazines of provis 
ions and arms, and prepare for calling out the 
militia at any moment. 

In this way, though the proceedings of the 
States were dilatory to the last degree, much was 
accomplished. But unfortunately, from the arri- 



160 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

val of a reinforcement to the British fleet at New 
York, the French lost their superiority at sea, and 
all the extraordinary preparations availed nothing 
towards the attainment of any considerable object. 
The French under Count Rochambeau landed in 
Rhode Island, but were sufficiently occupied in 
preparations for their own defence. 

Baron Steuben continued at West Point, though 
not in actual command at that post, to give his 
advice and assistance to General Howe, when an 
attack from the British was apprehended. As 
many French officers, who were old acquaintances 
of the Baron, visited this post, he had much 
pride in showing them the discipline and military 
expertness, which the American troops had at 
tained under his instructions. Many parades were 
ordered, and the allied officers remarked with as 
tonishment the adroitness and silence, with which 
the manoeuvres were performed. This last partic 
ular excited the more surprise, as the French 
troops were noisy in their marches and evolutions. 
"Noise?" exclaimed the Baron to General Mont- 
morency, who was remarking upon this point, 
"I do not know where the noise should come 
from, when even my brigadiers dare not open their 
mouths, but to repeat my orders." 

On a subsequent occasion, when a violent storm 
had caused a grand exhibition to be postponed, 
Steuben was asked by one of the French generals 



BARON STEUBEN. 161 

who had retired with him to his maiquee, what 
manoauvres he had intended to perform. On being 
told, the officer mentioned an addition of some 
difficulty, which he had seen practised by the 
Prussians in Silesia. " But we do not expect 
you to equal the veteran army of the King of 
Prussia. All in good time." 

" The time shall be next week," said the 
Baron, after his guests had retired ; " I will save 
the gentlemen, who have not been in Silesia, the 
trouble of going any farther than Verplanck s 
Point for instruction." The order for the review 
was brought, and one of the aids wrote, as Steu- 
ben dictated. The appointed day came, and, 
amid a large concourse of officers, the proposed 
evolutions were performed with great precision. 

The Baron was with the main army in the 
months of September and October, 1780, a pe 
riod signalized by the treason of Arnold, and the 
capture of Andre. By a wise precaution, the 
court for the trial of this unfortunate captive was 
composed in part of foreign officers, Lafayette 
and Steuben being appointed members. Their 
decision sealed the fate of Andre, and crowned 
the infamy of the wretched being, who, as the 
cause of sacrificing a brother officer and a man of 
honor, must have been as much detested in thr 
British as in the Amencan camp. 

Steuben never failed to manifest the utmost ab- 

VIII. 11 



162 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

horrence of the name and character of the traitor 
An anecdote, told by one of his aids, displays the 
depth of his feelings on this point. As he was 
reviewing Colonel Sheldon s regiment of light 
horse, on the call of the muster-roll, the offensive 
appellation of Benedict Arnold met his ear. The 
person who bore the name, a private, was imme 
diately called to the front. He was a fine looking 
man, with his horse and equipments in perfect 
order. " Change your name, brother soldier, * 
said the Baron ; " you are too respectable to bear 
the name of a traitor." "What name shall I 
take, General?" "Take any other; mine is at 
your service." The offer was gladly accepted, 
the odious appellation erased from the roll, and 
that of Frederic William Steuben inserted in 
its place. As a christening present, the Baron 
immediately settled upon him a perpetual pension 
of five dollars a month, and, after some years, the 
gift of a considerable tract of land was added. 
After the close of the war, the soldier met Steu 
ben, and informed him that he was well settled, 
and had a wife and son. " I have called my son 
after you, Sir." " I thank you, my friend ; what 
name have you given the boy ? " "I called him 
Baron ; what else could I call him ? " 

The ardent desire of Steuben to engage in 
more active service, with a separate command, was 
now to be gratified. The defeat of Gates at 



BARON STEUBEN. 

Camden, on the 16th of August, had entirely ex 
posed the southern country to the operations of the 
army under Cornwallis. The most strenuous 
exertions were required to prevent its entire loss. 
In October, General Greene was appointed to the 
command at the South, and all the troops raised 
in the southern States were destined for his sup 
port. Baron Steuben was ordered to accompany 
Greene, to render aid in arranging and disciplining 
the raw troops, who were to form the bulk of the 
army. He was also appointed to preside at the 
court of inquiry into the conduct of Gates ; but 
this affair was delayed from day to day, and finally 
suffered to drop. 

General Greene arrived at Richmond about the 
middle of November. He immediately perceived,, 
that Virginia could be defended only in the Caro- 
linas ; that, if the British forces in those States 
were not kept in constant action, the whole coun 
try up to the Potomac must fall into their power. 
The eastern part of Virginia was extremely unfa 
vorable for operations against an enemy, who had 
the command at sea. Intersected by numerous 
rivers and creeks, difficult for troops to pass, the 
British could send a naval force far into the coun 
try, and effectually hem in their opponents. 

With these views, Greene resolved to leave 
Baron Steuben the command in Virginia, and ta 
go himself to the southward, to cope with Corn- 



164 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

wallis. The Baron was instructed to use the 
utmost exertions m enlisting troops in every part 
ol the State, to form and discipline them as 
much as possible, and then to send them, together 
with what stores and provisions he could collect, 
to the support of Greene. The British general 
Leslie still occupied Portsmouth, but with a force 
too small to act on the offensive. Steuben receiv 
ed discretionary powers to act against him, but was 
advised to remain chiefly on the defensive, with 
the view of forwarding every man, that could be 
spared, to the Carolinas. Definite instructions were 
also given him respecting the establishment of ar 
mories and the conduct of the ordnance department. 
An odious task was thus imposed upon Steuben 
at the beginning, and one which required no small 
judgment and prudence, as well as military skill, to 
perform with success. At the risk of creating 
dissatisfaction, he was obliged to disfurnish the 
State for the time being, in the hope of securing 
its permanent safety. Knowing their dangerous 
situation, the Virginians could not willingly behold 
the voluntary diminution of their resources. In a 
letter to Governor Jefferson, Greene explained his 
views respecting the conduct of the war, ard la 
bored to convince him of their propriety. He 
recommended the Baron in strong terms, and 
claimed for him the aid and cooperation of the 
State executive. 



BARON STEUBEN. 165 

The departure of General Leslie from the 
State, on the 24th of November, left at liberty for 
other operations, a body of troops amounting to 
about nine hundred. Steuben ordered them to 
Petersburg, that they might be equipped and sent 
immediately to the South. But they were found 
so destitute of necessaries, that with great labor 
only four hundred could be fitted out and de 
spatched under Colonel Green. The others were 
ordered to Chesterfield Court-House, and the 
Baron exerted himself to procure for them articles 
of equipment. 

The resources of the State had been greatly 
exhausted, and, with all the exertions of Governor 
Jefferson, recruits came in but slowly, and the 
proper stores were with difficulty collected. The 
Baron s zeal did not permit him on every occasion 
to act with proper mildness and caution. 

At one time, a man on horseback, with a well- 
mounted lad in attendance, rode up, and, intro 
ducing himself to the Baron as a colonel in the 
militia, said that he had brought a recruit. Steuben 
thanked him, at first, but his countenance changed, 
when he found, that the recruit was no other than 
the boy in attendance. A sergeant was ordered 
to measure him, and found, when his shoes were 
taken off, something by which his height had been 
increased. The Baron patted the child s head, 
with a hand trembling with rage, and asked him 



166 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

how old he was. He was very young, quite a 
child. " Sir," said Steuben to the militia colonel, 
" do you think me a rascal ? " " Oh no, Baron, 
I do not." " Then, Sir, I think you are one, an 
infamous scoundrel, thus to attempt to cheat your 
country." Then speaking to an officer at his 
side ; " Take off this colonel s spurs, place him 
in the ranks, and tell General Greene from me, that 
I have sent him a man able to serve, instead of an 
infant whom he would basely have made his sub 
stitute. Go, my boy ; carry the colonel s horse 
and spurs to his wife ; make my respects to her, 
and tell her, that her husband has gone to fight, as 
an honest citizen should, for the liberty of his 
country." 

This was rather a high-handed proceeding; and 
the officer commanding the detachment, fearing 
the consequences, suffered the man to escape. He 
immediately applied to the Governor for redress ; 
but the purity of Steuben s motives was known, 
and the matter was passed over in silence. 

The quota of troops fixed by Congress to com 
plete the Virginia line amounted nearly to six 
thousand. But the Assembly, after much debate, 
voted to raise only three thousand, and the draft 
was appointed for the 10th of February, 1781. 
Before any thing was done, however, the attention 
of Baron Steuben and the energies of the State 
were directed to another object by a new invasion 
of the enemy, commanded by the traitor Arnold 



BARON S T E U B E N . 167 

On the 30th of December, information was 
transmitted to Governor Jefferson, that a naval 
armament, amounting in all to twenty-seven sail, 
had entered the capes of the Chesapeake. Gen 
eral Nelson was immediately sent to the lower 
country to the north of James River, with orders 
to call out the militia there, and act as exigencies 
should require. 

Steuben was at Chesterfield, and did not re 
ceive certain news of the enemy s approach ti]J 
the 2d of January. From the distressed situation 
of the Continental troops, at that place, only ODP 
hundred and fifty men could be fitted out, who 
were sent to protect the public stores at Petersburg., 
then supposed to be the destination of Arnold, 
The Baron afterwards waited on the Governor and 
Council at Richmond, and it was determined b> 
them to issue a call for four thousand militia. 

The British passed up James River wuhoiu- 
opposition, till they arrived, on the 3d of January x 
at Hood s, where a small battery had been erected 
A few shot were fired at them here ; but the gj 
rison, amounting only to seventy men, were 
obliged to leave the post, when the enemy landed 
some troops and destroyed the guns. On the 
4th, they landed at Westover, twenty-five miles 
below Richmond, which now appeared to be the- 
object of attack. No force had as yet been col 
lected, as the call for the militia was Issued only 



168 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

two days before. But great exertions were made 
to remove the records, arms, and military stores to 
the south side of the river, which object was in a 
great degree accomplished. Most of the stores 
were sent to Westham, seven miles from Rich 
mond, where they were ferried across the river, 
and guarded by the small body of Continentals. 

Arnold had with him about sixteen hundred 
effective men. Of these, he landed nine hundred 
at Westover, and with them commenced his 
march, on the afternoon of the 4th, to Richmond, 
which place he reached at noon on the following 
day. Baron Steuben despatched one or two hun 
dred militia, all that could be collected, to harass 
the British on the march, but the service was ill 
performed, and they entered the capital without 
the loss of a man. Arnold with five hundred men 
remaining in the town, Colonel Simcoe with the 
remainder pushed forward to Westham, where 
he burned a valuable foundry, boring-mill, lab 
oratory, and some smaller buildings. Five brass 
four-pounders, which had been sunk in the river, 
were discovered, raised, and carried off, and six. 
tons of powder were thrown into the water. But, 
as they had no means of crossing the river, the 
major part of the stores were out of their reach, 
and Simcoe returned immediately to Richmond. 

Arnold sent a flag to Steuben, offering not to 
burn the town, if the ships should be allowed to 



BARON STEUBEN. 169 

pass up unmolested, and carry off the tobacco, 
which was there deposited. This proposition was 
rejected ; and the enemy, concluding to leave the 
tobacco, after burning the public buildings and 
plundering many private houses, commenced their 
retreat to Westover, where they arrived on the, 
7th. In about forty-eight hours, they had passed 
thirty miles into the country, occupied the capital 
of the State, destroyed much public property, and 
returned to their shipping without the loss of a man. 

Deeply sensible of the insult thus received, 
Steuben strained every nerve to collect troops, and 
harass the British on their passage down the river. 
He had drawn what force he could to Manchester, 
with a view to prevent them from passing to 
the south side of the river, where they might 
have committed serious damage. General Small- 
wood, with a small party of militia, had defeated 
an attempt made by a detachment of the enemy 
to pass up the Appomatox, a river emptying into 
James River, a little above Westover, and destroy 
some private shipping. 

Rightly judging, that Arnold s force would land 
again at Hood s, on their passage down, Steuben 
ordered Colonel Clarke to form an ambuscade with 
two hundred militia, at a short distance from the 
landing-place. On the 10th, the shipping an 
chored at the place, and a party of five hundred 
men landed, who drove in the American picket. 



170 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

When they came within forty paces of the ai ibus 
cade, the militia poured in a general fire, which 
killed seven men and wounded twenty-three oth 
ers. The British returned the fire without effect, 
and then pushed forward with fixed bayonets, 
when the militia immediately fled. The party 
reembarked, carrying with them the guns, which 
they had disabled at their former landing. 

Simcoe had been detached with a party of 
horse to Charles City Court-House, where he 
surprised a body of militia, killed one, and took 
several prisoners. In this way, Arnold s force fell 
sluwly down the river, occasionally landing parties 
to destroy public and private property, but afford 
ing no opportunity to Steuben to make an at 
tack with any prospect of success. At Cobham. 
they carried off some tobacco, and at Smithfreld 
and Mackay s Mills, they destroyed some stores. 
Parties of militia followed them to each place, but 
in too small numbers to hazard an attack. 

On the 20th the fleet reached Portsmouth 
which Arnold proceeded to fortify, in order to es 
tablish it as a permanent post. He had been 
reinforced by three transports, and the troops 
tinder his command now amounted to two thou 
sand. On the other hand, the four thousand 
militia were now collected ; but, as economy was a 
material object, one fourth of these were dismiss 
ed. With the remainder, Steuben made the 



BARON STEUBEN. 171 

proper arrangements to confine the enemy within 
the narrowest limits, and to give every practicable 
protection to the inhabitants. 

General Lawson, with nine hundred militia and 
a party of horse, occupied several strong passes in 
the vicinity of Suffolk, a town lying about fifteen 
miles west of Portsmouth. Muhlenburg was sta 
tioned at Cabin Point, with Armand s corps and 
eight hundred infantry, to support Lawson. Gen 
eral Nelson, with one thousand foot and a small 
number of horse, occupied Williamsburg, to pro 
tect the stores at that place. 

Baron Steuben s services during this predatory 
incursion of the enemy were fully appreciated by 
the State executive. The following is an extract 
from a letter of Governor Jefferson, dated the 
10th of January, to the President of Congress. 
" Baron Steuben has descended from the dignity 
of his proper command to direct our smallest 
movements. His vigilance has in a great measure 
supplied the want of force, in preventing the 
enemy from crossing the river, the consequences 
of which might have been very fatal. He has 
been assiduously employed in preparing equip 
ments for the militia, as they assembled, pointing 
them to a proper object, and in other offices of a 
good commander." 

Nothing displays more strongly the ardent at 
tacbmerit of the Americans to the cause in which 



172 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

they were engaged, than their detestation of the 
traitor Arnold, and the strong desire they mani 
fested to get possession of his person. His con 
duct after the act of treason inflamed these feel- 
ngs in no small degree. Hated by those whom 
he had betrayed, and an object of suspicion to the 
party he had joined, who never trusted him in 
command without placing him under the super 
vision of inferior officers, he embraced every op 
portunity, by acts of wanton cruelty and insult, to 
show the reckless nature of his feelings, and to 
sever the last tie, which bound him to his coun 
trymen. Even Washington seems to have shared 
the general desire to seize the traitor, in a greater 
degree than was warranted by the real importance 
of the measure to the interests of the country. 
We hardly need to allude to the gallant attempt 
of Sergeant Charnpe to carry off Arnold from the 
midst of the British troops in New York. A 
similar project was set on foot about this time in 
Virginia. 

It appears, that the plan was concerted between 
Jefferson and Baron Steuben. On the 31st of 
January, the former wrote to General Muhlenburg, 
urging the importance and feasibility of the plan, 
and requesting him to provide for its execution. 
" Having peculiar confidence in the men from the 
western side of the mountains," said he, " I 
rreant, as soon as they should come down, to get 



BARON STEUBEN. 173 

the enterprise proposed to a chosen number of 
them, such, whose courage and whose fidelity 
would be above all doubt. Your perfect knowledge 
of those men, personally, and my confidence in 
your discretion, induce me to ask you to pick from 
among them proper characters, in such numbers as 
you think best ; to reveal to them our desire; and 
to engage them to seize and bring off this greatest 
of all traitors. Whether this may be best effected 
by their going in as friends, and awaiting their op 
portunity, or otherwise, is left to themselves. The 
smaller the number the better, so that they may 
be sufficient to manage him. Every necessary 
precaution on their part must be used, to prevent a 
discovery of their design by the enemy. I will 
undertake, if they are successful in bringing him 
off alive, that they shall receive five thousand 
guineas among them." 

An order was enclosed from Baron Steuben, 
authorizing Muhlenburg to dispose what force he 
might think necessary, so as to cover the enter 
prise, and secure the retreat of the party. The 
bearer of the letter, who was privy to the plan, 
undertook to provide suitable men to act as guides. 

The project unfortunately failed, owing to the 
extraordinary precautions which Arnold took for his 
own security. He remained close in his quarters 
while at Portsmouth, and neve*- unguardedly ex 
posed his person. 



174 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

The invasion of the State caused a serious delay 
of the measures projected for furnishing General 
Greene with additional supplies. Much of the 
provision that had been collected was consurred, 
and many of the arms and stores were taken or 
destroyed. By a law of the State, no county was 
obliged to draft men for the Continental lines, 
while its militia were in actual service ; and, as 
most of the militia from the lower counties were 
now in action, the recruiting operations were 
necessarily postponed. It was resolved, to send 
every regular soldier immediately to the Carolinas, 
and to trust the protection of the State against 
Arnold s force, entirely to the militia. Five hun 
dred Continentals still remained at Chesterfield 
Court-House, but so destitute of clothing and 
other necessaries, that they could not act, even in 
their immediate vicinity. 

In the mean time, Greene was making continual 
and pressing calls for support, representing the 
safety of all the southern states as dependent on 
the reception of supplies from Virginia. In his 
exertions to satisfy these demands, the Baron was 
sometimes unfortunate. Full of zeal himself, he 
could not perceive all the difficulties in the way 
of compliance with his requisitions, or allow for 
the natural reluctance of the Virginians to diminish 
their resources, when a portion of the territory 
was actually occupied by the British. The as per- 



BARON STEUBEN. 175 

ity of some of his communications to the State 
authorities furnished many with a pretext for turn 
ing a deaf ear to claims, which they might other 
wise have felt obliged to grant. Jefferson seems 
to have entered into Steuben s character, and 
feeling a deep respect for the man, to have exert 
ed himself in lessening the difficulties of his situ 
ation. Greene and Washington both wrote in 
conciliatory terms to Steuben, to allay his irrita 
tion, and assure him of their confidence and sup 
port. 

The double office of attending to the collection 
of supplies for the south, and directing the opera 
tions of the militia against Arnold, demanded 
incessant activity and vigilance. An accidental 
event at the north required Steuben to provide 
for more active operations. 

Early in February a storm disabled the British 
fleet, which had hitherto blocked up the French 
vessels in Newport, and enabled M. Destouches 
to detach a sixty-four and two frigates, under M. 
de Tilly, to the Chesapeake, to act with the Vir 
ginia militia against Portsmouth. The capture of 
Arnold s naval force, it was hoped, would oblige 
his troops, cut off from all power of retreat, to 
surrender to Steuben. Unfortunately, Arnold re 
ceived notice of the plan, and was able to draw 
his vessels so high up the Elizabeth river, that the 
shallowness of ine water prevented the approach 



176 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

of the French ; and M. de Tilly, having captured 
a British frigate and two privateers, returned, on 
the 24th of February, to Newport 

The great importance of capturing Arnold, and 
dislodging the British from Virginia, induced 
Washington to press the French to a greater ef 
fort. Destouches finally determined to proceed 
with the whole squadron to the Chesapeake, with 
a body of eleven hundred French infantry on 
board. As Steuben had recently sent to General 
G *eene a second detachment of regular troops, 
ar lounting to four hundred men, none but militia 
re named in the State, and these were deemed in- 
su ricient to act effectually with the French. A 
de tachment of twelve hundred men from the main 
ar.ny, then stationed on the Hudson River, was 
therefore ordered to Virginia, under Lafayette, 
who was to command all the forces destined for 
tli ) attack of Portsmouth. 

The arrangements were made with great skill, 
an 1 every thing seemed to promise success. La- 
fa j ette received positive orders to grant no terms 
to Arnold, which should insure him against the 
pu lishment due to his treason. By rapid march 
es, Lafayette reached the Head of Elk on the 
3d of March, and there for a time awaited news 
frori the French fleet. He wrote to Governor Jef- 
fers )n and Steuben, urging the former to provide 
hep ry ordnance and scows to transpor* them 



BARON STEUBEN. 177 

across the rivers, and the latter to keep the British 
force constantly hemmed in by the militia. With 
the native delicacy of his character, he forbore to 
assume the command over Baron Steuben, until 
called to act immediately against the enemy. 

The latter was again exposed to deep mortifica 
tion from having relied too much on the promises 
of the State executive, and given to Lafayette 
too favorable an account of the supplies awaiting 
him in Virginia. In a letter to the Governor, 
dated the 9th of March, he wrote as follows. "In 
consequence of the assurances I received from 
government by Colonel Walker, I was weak 
enough to write to General Washington and the 
Marquis, that every thing was ready for the expe 
dition. My credulity, however, is punished at 
the expense of my honor, and my only excuse is 
the confidence I had in government." The Mar 
quis on his arrival was compelled to impress pro 
visions and cattle, as the only means of providing 
for the army. 

On the 20th of March, the hopes of all parties 
were excited to the highest pitch by the appear 
ance in the bay of a fleet, conjectured to be that 
of the French. On the 23d they were doomed 
to learn the failure of these hopes, and the second 
escape of the prey, that seemed almost within 
the ; r grasp. The vessels proved to be the Eng 
lish fleet under Arbuthnot. who had sailed from 

YIII. 12 



178 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

New York two days after the departure of the 
French from Newport. The two fleets met near 
the entrance of the Chesapeake, and an action 
ensued, which, though indecisive in the main, in 
duced Destouches to return, and the English ves 
sels came up to Portsmouth. The troop* under 
Lafayette gloomily retraced their steps to the 
northward, and Steuben returned to his old task, 
of watching the enemy, and forwarding supplies to 
General Greene. 

Late in March, a reinforcement of two thou 
sand English troops under General Phillips arrived 
at Portsmouth. As the magnitude of the British 
army now threatened the safety of the whole State, 
Lafayette received orders to take his force back, 
and assume the command in Virginia. His troops 
were wholly unprepared for a summer campaign 
at the south ; but, by great exertions, and borrow 
ing a large sum on his private credit from the 
merchants of Baltimore, they were put in tolera 
ble trim. 

Up to the middle of April, the enemy did 
nothing but send out small parties of Tories, under 
the direction of Arnold, who committed great ex 
cesses in the lower part of the State, plundering 
and burning the houses, and treating the inhabi 
tants with wanton cruelty. On the 18th, a greater 
effort was made. Twenty -five hundred men under 
General Phillips sailed up Janr3s River, with the 



BARON STEUBEN. 17> 

view of attacking Petersburg and Richmond. Sim- 
coe with a small party entered Williamsburg, and 
destroyed some stores. The main body, on the 
24th, landed at the junction of the Appomatox 
and James Rivers, and marched up the banks of 
the former towards Petersburg. 

Baron Steuben was there with one thousand 
militia, to defend the city against twenty-three 
hundred regular troops. But his measures were so 
well taken, that he was able to dispute the ground 
more than two hours, during which time the 
enemy gained but one mile. They were twice 
broken before their superiority of numbers com 
pelled Steuben to retreat, and assume a new po 
sition about twelve miles up the river. The loss 
was equal, amounting to about sixty killed and 
wounded on each side. 

General Lafayette by forced marches had ar 
rived at Richmond, and his presence prevented the 
enemy from making any attack upon that place. 
But they burned all the tobacco in the warehouses 
in Petersburg and the vicinity, and destroyed sev 
eral public armed vessels and much private prop 
erty at other points on the river. A small flotilla, 
originally collected to aid the operations designed 
against Portsmouth, was now stationed at War 
wick, a few miles below Richmond. Arnold con 
ducted a considerable detachment of the British 
force against it and sent a flag to the commanding 



ISO AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

officer, requiring him to surrender. A defiance 
was returned ; but, as the enemy were enabled to 
bring some heavy artillery to a point of the shore 
within cannon-shot, the Virginians were compelled, 
after scuttling the vessels and setting them on fire, 
tc escape to the opposite bank. 

By the 1st of May, Lafayette and Steuben 
had collected such a considerable force, that Phil 
lips dared not cross to the northern side of the 
river, but, collecting his detached parties, com 
menced his voyage down to Portsmouth. His 
expedition had caused great loss to the Americans, 
though by the destruction of private, more than 
of public property. On the 5th, when below 
Burwell s Ferry, he received despatches from 
Cora wall is, announcing the intention of that offi 
cer to enter Virginia, and requesting Phillips to 
assume a position at Petersburg, in order to form 
a junction. The fleet in consequence again sailed 
up the river. 

Lafayette had received the same news ; and, 
aware of the importance of preventing a union, 
took his measures with great celerity to occupy 
Petersburg. But he was anticipated by Phillips, 
who entered the town on the 9th, and made pris 
oners of two officers, who had been sent thither 
by the Marquis to provide boats for the passage 
of his army. Defeated in this object, Lafayette 
established his camp at Wilton, a few miles below 
Richmond, on the south side of the river. 



BARON STEUBEN. 131 

On the 13th the command of the enemy again 
devolved on Arnold, by the death of General 
Phillips. This last was an old and skilful officer, 
but he caused the inhabitants of the country, 
through which he passed, to experience to the 
full the miseries of war. His communications to 
the American commanders were couched in such 
insolent terms, that both Lafayette and Steuben 
informed him, that, if his letters continued to be in 
such a spirit, all intercourse must cease. 

The proposed union of the British forces took 
place on the 20th, at Petersburg. It enters not 
into the plan of this sketch, to give any connected 
account of the very successful manoeuvres by 
which Lafayette, with inferior numbers, avoided 
every effort of Cornwallis, during the summer, to 
bring him to an engagement, and yet remained 
constantly in the vicinity of the enemy, confining 
his operations, and protecting the country against 
his detached parties. In all his movements, he 
was actively supported by Steuben. 

The Baron was now so unpleasantly involved 
with the State authorities, that he ardently desired 
permission to leave this scene of action, and join 
Greene in the Carolinas. Leave was actually 
granted him for this purpose ; but the invasion by 
Cornwallis imperatively required his presence in 
Virginia, and he was obliged to remain. 

At the Point of Fork, a tongue of land formed 



182 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

by the junction of the Fluvanna and Rivanna 
rivers, the head branches of the James, a State 
arsenal had been established, and a quantity of 
military stores collected. The post was guarded 
by Baron Steuben, with six hundred newly levied 
troops. Cornwallis, learning his situation, de 
spatched Simcoe against him with five hundred 
regulars. Tarleton, with two hundred and fifty 
horse, was also ordered to proceed to Charlottes- 
ville, and thence to join Simcoe at the Point of 
Fork. 

This double movement rendered Steuben s situ 
ation very perilous. As the British commander 
secured every person he met on his route, and 
advanced with great haste, the Baron received 
only exaggerated accounts of the enemy s force, 
and was induced to think only of retreat. He 
transported the stores to the south side of the 
Fluvanna, and when Simcoe appeared, on the 3d 
of June, only thirty of the rear-guard remained 
exposed, who were captured. But as the river 
was deep and unfordable, and all the boats had 
been secured, the main object of the British was 
frustrated. 

In this state of things, Simcoe had recourse to 
stratagem. He occupied the heights opposite 
to Steuben s new station, and by displaying his 
troops to advantage, and kindling many fires dur- 
tng the night, induced the Americans to believe, 



BARON STEUBEN. 183 

that the main army, headed by Cornwallis, had 
arrived. Under this impression, the Baron broke 
up his camp in the night, and commenced a pre 
cipitate retreat, leaving behind him a considerable 
quantity of stores. These were destroyed by a 
small detachment, who crossed the river the next 
morning in a few canoes. 

The Pennsylvania line, consisting of eight hun 
dred men, under General Wayne, had been sent 
from the north, to assist in the defence of Vir 
ginia. Lafayette effected a junction with them on 
the 10th of June, and on the 16th he w r as joined 
by Steuben with his little band. The army now 
amounted to four thousand, of whom one half 
were regulars. Yet it was still far inferior in 
number to the British, and the Marquis could only 
hang on the rear of his opponent, who was now 
retreating to the low country. 

A partial action took place near Jamestown, on 
the 6th of July, in which the enemy did not make 
the most of their advantage. Cornwallis seemed to 
lose his spirit of enterprise, and to bend his atten 
tion only to establishing a strong post, which 
might serve as a convenient station for the English 
fleet. York and Gloucester, on opposite sides of 
York river, were selected for this purpose, and 
the troops were employed in fortifying them dur 
ing the month of August. Lafayette encamped 
in the neighbourhood, and made such disposition 



184 AMERICAN BIOGHAPHX. 

of his strength, as to confine the enemy mainly 
within their works. 

The autumn of this year was signalized by the 
march of the combined French and American 
army to Virginia, and the measures which led to 
the capitulation of Cornwallis, on the 18th of 
October. In the operations before York, Baron 
Steuben had a full and honorable share. Wash 
ington respected his indefatigable exertions, and 
soothed him under the disappointments he had 
suffered, by conferring upon him a command in 
the regular line. It was during the Baron s tour 
of duty in the trenches, that the negotiations for 
the surrender commenced. At the relieving hour 
the next morning, Lafayette approached with 
his division. The Baron refused to be relieved, 
assigning, as a reason, the etiquette in Europe, 
where the officer, who receives the overtures, re 
mains on his post till the capitulation is signed or 
broken. The Marquis applied to the Commander- 
in-chief; but Steuben with his troops remained in 
the trenches, till the British flag was struck. 
Steuben was honorably noticed with other officers 
in the orders issued the day after the capitulation. 

He returned with the main arm} to the north 
ward, and continued at head-quarters till the close 
of tne war, occupied in the discharge of his duties 
as inspector-general. Major North records, with 
much feeling, an incident, that occurred at this 



BARON STEUBEN. 185 

time, and which displays the benevolence and 
warmth of feeling, that ever marked the amiable 
character of Steuben. 

When the army left Virginia, North was ill of 
a fever, and could not be removed. On the eve 
of departure, the Baron visited him, to inform 
him, that he would be left behind, but in a country 
where he had found the door of every house open 
to the call of distress. "The instant you are 
able," said he, " quit this deleterious situation. 
There is my sulkey, and here," handing him a 
single piece of gold, " is half what I possess in the 
world. God bless you, I can say no more." We 
hardly know whether to admire more the feeling 
evinced in such an act, or the honest gratitude, 
which prompted the narrator of the anecdote to 
leave it on record. 

Another of his aids relates a fact, still more il 
lustrative of the Baron s generous character. On 
his passage to Virginia, he was annoyed by the 
wailing of a child in the fore part of the vessel. 
He sent to know the cause, and was told, that it 
proceeded from a little negro boy, who had been 
purchased in New York by a southern gentleman, 
and carried away from his parents. He instantly 
directed North to ascertain the amount of the pur 
chase money, and actually paid it out of his own 
slender funds, and carried the boy back to the 
city. One day after his return, the gentleman 



186 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

dined with him, and found him in great agitation 
With tears in his eyes, the Baron informed him, 
that the boy had been fishing on a rock jutting into 
the River, and had unhappily fallen m, and was 
swept away by the tide. " I have been the 
cause of his death ; if he had followed his own 
destiny, all would have been well." 

In March, 1782, Baron Steuben introduced to 
Washington one of his former acquaintances, the 
Count de Bieniewsky.* He w r as cousin-german 
to Pulaski, and had recently arrived from France, 
with the intent to imitate his relative, in offering 
his services to Congress. 

The wildest pages of romance hardly record 
stranger incidents, than those narrated of this cel 
ebrated adventurer. A Hungarian by birth, after 
becoming involved with the Emperor, and losing 
his estates in consequence, he entered the service 
of the Poles against the Russians. This was in 
the year 1768. After distinguishing himself in 
command by address and reckless bravery, in May 
of this year, he was dangerously wounded and 

* This name was variously written by the Count him- 
elf. In his autograph letters to Washington it is written 
as in the text ; but in other autograph letters, of a later 
period, it is spelled Benyowzky. In the published me 
moirs of his life we find it Benyowsky. A similar irreg 
ularity occurs in the name of Pulaski. The family name 
in Poland is Pulawsky ; but in America he wrote his 
name Pulaski. 



BARON STEUBEN. 1ST 

taKen prisoner. In company with eighty other 
captives, he was thrown into a subterraneous pris 
on, and the whole party were treated with such 
barbarity, that, in twenty days, thirty-five of their 
number perished. Remaining in prison more 
than a year, he was finally sent, with several oth 
ers, into exile in Kamschatka. 

On their arrival, Nilovv, the governor, set them 
at liberty, and, with a trifling allowance from gov 
ernment, they were left to build huts in the vicin 
ity of the town, and provide for themselves. The 
exiles formed themselves into a band, chose Bien- 
iewsky for their captain, and swore eternal fidelity 
to each other. As the Count spoke several lan 
guages, he was finally admitted into the governor s 
family, to superintend the education of his three 
daughters. The youngest of these, Aphanasia, 
a beautiful girl only sixteen years of age, became 
ardently attached to him, and the mother finally 
consented to their marriage. But Bieniewsky was 
not in love, and, intending to use her interest only 
in effecting his escape, contrived to suspend the 
nuptials. She accidentally discovered his plot, 
and, fearful only of losing her lover, came in tears 
to entreat him not to leave her. He contrived to 
pacify and engage her to silence, and even to send 
him information, should the scheme reach the 
governor s ears. In a few days the signal was 
sent, that Nilow had taken the alarm. The Count, 



188 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

with his sixty associates, immediately broke, in;o 
the town, dispersed the soldiers, and gained pos 
session of the fort and a corvette then lying in the 
harbour. The governor was killed in the struggle. 

As the Cossacs surrounded the town and 
threatened an attack, the associates hastily em 
barked in the corvette, Aphanasia accompanying 
them, dressed in boy s clothes. They sailed in 
May, 1771. After a variety of adventures in the 
East Indies, the Count arrived in France the fol 
lowing year. He induced the French ministry to 
attempt forming a commercial establishment on 
the Island of Madagascar, and to appoint him as 
the governor. He remained two years on the 
island, and acquired such influence with several 
tribes of the natives, that they elected him to be 
their king. Becoming weary of his situation, he 
returned to France in 1776, and in 1782, came 
over to this country. 

Such was the person, who now, through the 
medium of Steuben, laid his proposals before Con 
gress. He offered to enlist and bring from Ger 
many a legionary corps of four thousand men, to 
enter the service of the United States. A stipu 
lated sum was to be paid to the Count, to cover 
the expenses of enlistment and transportation, 
another sum to be assigned as their monthly pay y 
and a tract of land to be granted, on which the 
officers and soldiers might settle at the close of 
the war. 



BARON STEUBEN. 139 

The whole plan, drawn out with great minute 
ness, was delivered to Washington, who approved 
it, after suggesting some alterations, and it was 
then submitted to a committee of Congress, who 
reported in favor of its adoption. The total ex 
penses fell far short of what was requisite to raise 
and support an equal number of native soldiers. 
But the immediate prospect of the termination of 
the war rendered the expediency of so vast a 
project doubtful, and, on this ground, the govern 
ment finally rejected the proposals. The same 
scheme was then laid before the Virginia legisla 
ture, and rejected by that body for the same reason. 

Bieniewsky finally contracted with some mer 
chants of Baltimore to enter into trade with the 
natives of Madagascar. They furnished him with 
a ship, in which he returned to the island, and 
was soon afterwards slain by a party of French 
men, who destroyed his fort, and broke up the es 
tablishment. His wife accompanied him to Amer 
ica, and was in Baltimore at the time of his death. 

In March, 1783, intelligence was received that 
the preliminary articles of peace had been signed, 
and the cessation of hostilities w r as proclaimed to 
the army on the 19th of April. The attention of 
Congress of course was turned to the disbanding 
of the army, but their first measures for this pur 
pose caused alarm and discontent among the offi 
cers and men. Large arrearages of pav were due, 



190 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

and all contemplated with dismay the prospect of 
returning penniless to their homes, after they had 
wasted their fortunes and their strength in the 
public service. 

Baron Steuben sympathized fully with the dis 
tresses of others, when he had enough of private 
griefs to sustain. He had no home whither to 
retire ; he had sacrificed an independent income in 
Europe, and the poverty of the country, to which 
lie had devoted his services, left him no prospect 
of obtaining adequate remuneration, and but a 
slender chance, when he was no longer needed as 
an officer, of securing even the means of subsis 
tence. Yet his active benevolence constantly 
prompted him to share the little he possessed 
with others, whose necessities he deemed more 
pressing than his own. 

On the day that the officers separated, the 
Baron s attention was directed to a Colonel Coch- 
ran, whose countenance showed marks of deep 
distress. Steuben said what he could to comfort 
him, but with little effect. " For myself," said 
Cochran, " I care not ; I can stand it. But my 
wife and daughters are in the garret of that 
wretched tavern. I know not where to carry 
them, nor have I the means for their removal." 
" Come," was the answer, " I will pay my re 
spects to Mrs. Cochran and your daughters, if you 
please." Major North says, he followed the party 



BARON STEUBEN. 191 

to the loft, and that, when the Baron left the un 
happy family, he left hope with them, and all that 
he had to give. 

In deference to the Baron s feelings and active 
habits, Washington employed him to the last mo 
ment in the service. In July of this year, he was 
recommended to Congress as a fit person to pro 
ceed to Canada, and claim from General Haldi- 
mand, the commander of that province, the deliv 
ery of the posts on the frontier. The Baron was 
appointed to the office, and instructed to obtain, if 
possible, immediate possession of the fortresses ; 
and, if not, to procure assurances, that some time 
should be fixed for their delivery, and due notice 
given, that troops might be ready to occupy them 
on their evacuation by the English. He was fur 
ther ordered to visit the several posts as far as 
Quebec, and to form an opinion of such as he 
should deem most expedient for the United States 
to retain and occupy. 

In conformity with these instructions, Barori 
Steuben left the army, and arrived at Chamblee 
on the 2d of August. Thence he sent forward 
his aid-de-camp to Quebec, to announce the ob 
ject of his mission. Haldimand was about depart 
ing to the upper country, and met Steuben at 
Sorel on the 8th of August. He informed the 
Baron, that ne had no orders to evacuate the posts, 
and did not feel authorized to enter into any nego- 



192 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

tiations whatever. He even refused a request for 
passports to visit the posts, on the same ground of 
want of orders. Steuben was therefore obliged to 
return without attaining any of the objects of his 
mission. 

On the day that Washington resigned his com 
mission as Commander-in-chief, he wrote to Steu 
ben, making full acknowledgment of the valuable 
services rendered by him in the course of the war. 
As a proper testimonial of Steuben s merits in a 
military capacity, the letter is here inserted. 

Annapolis, 23 December, 178& 
" MY DEAR BARON, 

11 Although I have taken frequent opportunities, 
in public and private, of acknowledging your 
great zeal, attention, and abilities in performing 
the duties of your office ; yet I wish to make use 
of this last moment of my public life to signify, 
in the strongest terms, my entire approbation of 
your conduct, and to express my sense of the ob 
ligations the public is under to you for your faith 
ful and meritorious services. 

" I beg you will be convinced, my dear Sir, 
that I should rejoice if it could ever be in my 
power to serve you more essentially, than by ex 
pressions of regard and affection ; but, in the mean 
time, I am persuaded you will not be displeased 
with this farewell token of my sincere friendship 
and esteem for you. 



BARON STEUBEN. 193 

" Tliis is the last letter I shall write, while I 
continue in the service of my country. The hour 
of my resignation is fixed at twelve to-day ; after 
which, I shall become a private citizen on the 
oanks of the Potomac, where I shall be glad to 
embrace you, and testify the great esteem and con 
sideration with which 

"I am, my dear Baron, &z,c., 

GEORGE WASHINGTON." 

General Lincoln having resigned his place at 
the head of the war department, Baron Steuben 
and General Knox were the prominent candidates 
for the office of Secretary of War. The objec 
tion to the former, and it proved a decisive one, 
rested on the fact, that he was a foreigner ; and it 
was considered impolitic to trust such an important 
station to any other than a native citizen. 

Of the personal qualifications of Baron Steubeii 
for the desired office, there can be no reasonable 
doubt. In March, 1784, he submitted to Wash 
ington a plan for establishing a Continental legion, 
and training the militia in time of peace, which 
the latter returned with his entire approval. 

" It was no unpleasing and flattering circum 
stance to me," writes Washington in his reply, 
" to find such a coincidence of ideas as appears to 
run through your plan, and the one I had the 

vin. 13 



194 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

honor to lay before a committee of Congress in 
May last. Mine, however, was a hasty produc 
tion, the consequence of a sudden call, and little 
time for arrangement ; yours ? of maturer thought 
and better digestion. It therefore meets my ap 
probation, and has my best wishes for its success." 

For seven years after the close of the war, 
Baron Steuben was occupied in ineffectual at 
tempts to obtain from Congress the promised 
recompense for his services. Some provision was 
required for his support in the decline of life, and 
he had no other resource, than this claim on the 
justice as well as the gratitude of his adopted 
country. His demand was confined to a limit 
approved by Washington himself; " that if a for 
eigner gets nothing by the service, he ought not to 
lose by it." 

We have seen, that by the agreement with 
Congress in 1777, he was entitled to a repayment 
of the money he had advanced for the voyage, 
and to an equivalent for the income he had re 
signed in Europe. The accumulated value at 
simple interest, of an income of five hundred and 
eighty guineas a year, which he enjoyed in Ger 
many, and loans to the amount of two thousand 
guineas obtained from European friends to meet 
the expenses of his voyage hither, and the defi 
ciency of his pay during the war, all amounted to 



BARON STEUBEN. 195 

sum. The Baron stated it at *en thou- 
sand guineas, which was considerably below the 
calculated amount. This sum he asked of Con 
gress as his due, but refused to take any thing as 
a gift, " nor would he accept of any thing but with 
general approbation." 

Congress never expressly denied the justice of 
the claim, but their poverty at first induced delay, 
and in succeeding sessions the affair appeared 
stale, and was passed over with as little notice as 
possible. At one time they resolved to grant him 
seven thousand dollars in lieu of all demands 
The Baron resented this proposal, considering it a 
virtual denial of the existence of any contract, 
and an impeachment of his veracity in respect to 
the statements he had made of his situation in 
Europe. 

To put the former doubt at rest, he obtained 
the evidence of Dr. Witherspoon, the chairman 
of the committee with whom he conversed at 
Yorktown, who confirmed the statement of Baron 
Steuben in every particular. On the latter point, 
he collected a number of letters and papers, all 
tending to show, that he was not a needy adven 
turer, which some had insinuated, nor yet a pen 
sioner of France. He submitted his statement, 
and the accompanying proofs, to Mr. Jay, Mr. 
Livingston, Colonel Hamilton, and others, all of 

VOL. ix. 6 



196 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

whom declared the evidence to be satisfactory, and 
the demand to be fully supported. Yet Congress 
examined the papers and did nothing. 

Nor was it till after the settlement of the Fea 
eral constitution, that the urgent recommend atioc 
of the President, and the exertions of Hamilton, 
procured for Steuben tardy and imperfect justice. 
On the 4th of June, 1790, Congress passed an 
act, granting to the veteran a life annuity of twen 
ty-five hundred dollars. Individual States had 
already shown their sense of Baron Steuben s ill- 
requited services by complimentary resolutions 
and gifts of land. Virginia and New Jersey had 
each given a small tract of land, and the Assem 
bly of New York, by a vote dated May 5th, 1786, 
made over to him one quarter of a township, 
equal to sixteen thousand acres, out of the territo 
ry recently purchased from the Oneida Indians. 
The site selected was in the immediate vicinity of 
Utica. 

Upon this land Steuben caused a log house to 
be erected, which was designed as the home of 
his declining years. He had no kindred in the 
country, and his family consisted only of depend 
ents and friends, whom his various acts of kind 
ness had caused to cling to him with all the affec 
tion of children for an aged parent. He distribut 
ed nearly a tenth part of the tract to his aids and 



BARON STEUBEN. 197 

servants, and the rest of the land was let on easy 
terms to twenty or thirty tenants. About sixty 
acres were cleared in front of the house, and 
afforded him wheat and nourishment for a small 
stock of cattle. 

As the surrounding country was thinly settled, 
a desire for society led him to pass a portion of 
each winter in the city of New York. Here he 
met his former associates, lectured his old and new 
friends on military tactics and discipline, and told 
stories of the wars. Attached to the customs of 
his native land, he sometimes surprised his guests 
by dishes dressed in the true German style. At 
one time, a gentleman who dined with him re 
members, that there was served up a magnificent 
boar s head, boiled in wine, the Baron apologizing, 
that he had not the kind of wine appropriate to 
the dish. 

He was never perfectly a master of the English 
language, though he made few mistakes in speak 
ing, except as a matter of jest. Once, when dining 
with the Commander-in-chief, Mrs. Washington 
asked him what amusements he had, now that the 
business of his office was less pressing. " I read 
and play chess, jjiy lady," said the Baron ; " and 
yesterday I was invited to go a fishing, it was 
understood to be a very fine amusement. I sat in 
the boat two hours, though it was very warm, and 



198 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

caught two fish." " Of what kind, Baron/ 
asked the lady. " Indeed, I do not recollect per 
fectly, but one of them was a whale." " A whale, 
Baron! in the North River!" "Yes, on my 
word; a very fine whale, as that gentleman in 
formed me. Did you not tell me it was a whale, 
Major ? " " An eel, Baron." " I beg your par 
don, my lady ; but the gentleman certainly called 
it a whale. But it is of little consequence. I 
shall abandon the trade, notwithstanding the fine 
amusement it affords. " 

At his house near Utica, the Baron had little 
society, except from the passing visit of a stranger 
or friend. A young man, named Mulligan, whose 
literary powers and destitute situation, when a boy, 
had attracted his notice, resided with him, and 
read to him in his solitary hours. His favorite 
aids-de-camp, Walker and North, also spent much 
time at his house, and their affectionate attention 
continued to cheer him till the close of life. 

His farm and garden afforded him some amuse 
ment, but it was chiefly from a well-stored library 
that he derived relief from the weariness of a sit 
uation, that harmonized ill with the active duties 
of his former life. 

Nor was he deprived of the consolations of re 
ligion. A full belief in Christianity, and frequent 
perusal of the Scriptures, calmed his life-worn 



BARON STEUBEN. 199 

feelings, and prepared him to meet his end with 
composure and humble trust. 

Though the sedentary life he followed was un 
favorable to his health, no failure of mind or body 
was apparent till November, 1794. On the 25th 
of that month, he retired in the evening to his 
chamber in his usual health, but was shortly after 
struck with paralysis, and partly deprived of 
speech. The nearest physician was called, though 
the case was immediately seen to be hopeless. 
He died on the 28th. 

Agreeably to former directions, his body was 
wrapped in a military cloak, ornamented with 
the star which he had always worn, and interred 
in the neighboring forest. A few neighbors, his 
servants, and the young man, his late companion, 
followed his remains to the grave. 

Though the place of interment was in a thick 
wood, a public highway was laid out some years 
afterwards, which passed directly over the hal 
lowed spot. Walker caused the body to be 
taken up, and reinterred at a little distance, where 
a monument was erected and enclosed with an iron 
paling. He also gave an adjoining lot of land as 
a site for a church, on condition that the members 
and their successors should preserve the remains 
from any future violation. 

Colonel North caused a tablet, with the fol- 
bwing inscription, to be placed in the Luthera^ 



200 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

church in Nassau Street, New York, where th 
Baron used to worship, when residing in the city 

Sacred to the Memory of 

Frederic William Augustus, Baron Steuben, 

A German Knight of the Order of Fidelity, 

Aid-de-camp to Frederic the Great, King of Prussia, 

Major-General and Inspector-General 

In the Revolutionary war. 

Esteemed, respected, and supported by Washington, 
He gave military Skill and Discipline 

To the Citizen Soldiers, who, 

(Fulfilling the Decrees of Heaven,) 

Achieved the Independence of the United States. 

The highly polished Manners of the Baron were gracec 

By the most noble Feelings of the Heart ; 

His Hand, open as Day to melting Charity, 

Closed only in the Grasp of Death. 

This Memorial is inscribed by an American, 

Who had the Honor to be his Aid-de-camp, 

The Happiness to be his Friend. 

Ob. 1795.* 

Baron Steuben left an only brother, who resided 
at Treptow, on the Baltic, in Pomerania. He 
wrote to Washington in September, 1796, tc in 
quire respecting the distribution of his brother s 
fortune. In reply, he was informed, that, with the 
exception of the library and one thousand dollars, 

* A mistake. The true date has been given before. 



BARON STEUBEN. 201 

bequeathed to Mulligan, and certain small legacies, 
the Baron had divided his property between his 
two aids-de-camp. "If the fortune of Baron Steu- 
ben," added Washington, " had been as ample as 
his heart was benevolent, none of his friends would 
have been omitted in the disposition of his will." 

The character of Steuben is apparent in the 
simple record of his life. No great discernment 
is required to seize its prominent traits, nor any 
nice touches to describe its plain and manly fea 
tures. Educated in the school of war, the best in 
Europe before the time of Napoleon, approved 
and trusted by the great Frederic, his services to 
his adopted country were invaluable. By impart 
ing discipline, he gave confidence to the officers 
and men, and enabled the troops from different 
parts of the country to act together with unanim 
ity and effect. By introducing military habits of 
strict obedience, he suppressed tumult and dis 
order ; and, by his rigid system of inspection, great 
sums were saved at a time when the very exist 
ence of the nation depended on economy in the 
army. Circumstances unfitted him for a separate 
command. Though able, perhaps, to lead regular 
troops, he could not successfully direct the opera 
tions of militia. Bred under a monarch, whose 
slightest word was law, and accustomed to the 
complete subordination of the civil to the military 
rule, he was frequently brought into unpleasant 



202 AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY. 

collision with the people and the State authorities. 
Washington at once discerned his proper station, 
and, by placing him at the head of the department 
of inspection, secured to the army the utmost ben 
efit from his peculiar abilities. 

Warm-hearted, affectionate, generous to the ex 
treme, the soldiers loved him, and many officers 
regarded him with romantic attachment. Meanness 
he could not comprehend, and want of fidelity to 
engagements he abhorred. His warmth of temper 
sometimes involved him in difficulties; but, as he 
could not retain anger himself, others were unable 
to be permanently offended with him. He was 
prompt to acknowledge a mistake, and eager to 
make reparation wherever it was due. In his 
manners he was formal, and he had high notions 
of the respect due to military rank : but the 
friends, whom his active benevolence had secured, 
were never estranged even by apparent coldness 
of demeanor. His disinterested services, imper 
fectly requited in his lifetime, should be the 
longer remembered by the people, to the estab 
lishment of whose liberties they were devoted. 



THE END. 



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