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Rescue of Major Israel Putnam Near Glens Falls, 1758

Rescue of Major Israel Putnam Near Glens Falls, 1758


Putnam Saving Fort Edward
Israel Putnam with his characteristic indifference to danger and persistency of purpose, saved Fort Edward not long after it was built, from a fire which for an hour and a half desperately threatened its magazine. Placing himself in the most dangerous place, he rallied the garrison to his aid, and although considerably burned he rendered very great service as a fire-fighter in saving a fortification of great importance to the Colonies at that time.

The local "by-product," so to speak, of thrilling incident pertaining to the French War, with its many important events occurring in the vicinity of where Glens Falls now is, is very abundant. The one which was selected for the Glens Falls Insurance Company's 1906 issue of its series of historic Calendars is from the life of Major Israel Putnam, showing how nearly his afterward conspicuous and important services came to being lost to the Colonies.

Immediately following the humiliating failure of Abercrombie's expedition against Montcalm at Ticonderoga and Abercrombie's retreat to the head of Lake George, the alert Montcalm sent out parties to cut off the English supplies necessarily transported overland from the head of the Hudson River navigation at Fort Edward to Lake George, and to harass the English generally.

To oppose one of these marauding expeditions of some 500 French and Indians, a Fort Edward force of 600 or 700 went out under the noted partisan ranger, Rogers: Major Putnam went with them. Marching in single file by a narrow woods path, Putnam leading, they suddenly came under fire of the hidden enemy. A powerful Indian sprang upon Putnam, whose gun missed fire, and being overpowered and bound to a tree, he remained helpless between the hostile firing of an obstinate engagement, bullets striking the tree to which he was bound and even piercing his clothing. The French and Indians were compelled to retire, taking' Putnam with them, while Rogers remained on the field of battle to bury, the dead and remove t he wounded to Fort Edward.

Putnam, being the captive of the Indians, was subject to their malignant savagery. Stripped of most of his clothing, clubbed and even wantonly wounded on the cheek by a tomahawk, his bare feet bleeding, heavily laden and with swelling wrists from the tightness of cords, his torture was so severe that he begged the mercy of being killed. Finally a French officer untied his hands, took off part of his burden and provided a pair of moccasins.

Not being pursued, the party camped for the night and the Indians prepared for a savage entertainment. Putnam was bound to a tree, to be tortured to death by fire. A summer shower extinguished the first fire started. but being lighted again the Indians began shouting and dancing around their victim. The suggestive yells of the war-dance were heard by the French leader, Marin, or Molang, who hastened to and through the fiendish crowd, scattered the burning brushwood which was about Putnam, cut him loose and upbraided the sullen, disappointed savages for their cruelty.

This timely and dramatic rescue is illustrated above, from an oil painting by Mr. Ferris owned by the Glens Falls Insurance Company.


The Putnam Monument, Brooklyn CT
The monument faces the east and the field where Putnam "left his plow" when he heard and instantly responded to the cry from Lexington, and near the little tavern which he kept. His remains now rest beneath this monument.

The exhausted and suffering captive was then secured, Indian fashion, for the night by tying his hands and feet to separate saplings and laying long, slender poles across his body, on the ends of which Indians slept, to be awakened by his slightest stir. The next day he was taken to Ticonderoga and thence to Canada, enduring hardship and suffering with horrible outrages during captivity the scars from which he carried to his grave. He was finally released by the friendly influence of Colonel, afterwards General, Schuyler.

Previous to this incident, Major Putnam had been with Colonel Williams in the "Bloody Morning Scout," September, 1755, in the battle of Lake George which followed, and with Abercrombie's expedition, the dying Lord Howe falling into his arms at Ticonderoga. Afterward Putnam marched with Amherst in his capture of Fort Ticonderoga and on to Montreal; went with Bradstreet against Detroit in the Pontiac War, and when Spain entered the strife he served in the West Indies, and was of the "forlorn hope" which captured Moro Castle and Havana.

After some years of farming life he plunged into the Revolution and made history for himself and his country as Senior Major-General of the American Armies. However, the region which Putnam filled in with his peculiar and characteristic audacity was that round about where Glens Falls now is. With Ticonderoga and Crown Point on the side of France, and Forts William Henry and Edward on the side of England, standing as sentinels at the gateway of the Canadas and guarding Lakes George and Champlain and the head waters of the Hudson, this comparatively small wilderness area became the bloody field where the two rival nations of Europe engaged in hand-to-hand conflict for the mastery of America. For three years, winter and summer, day and night, these crimsoned acres were Putnam's trail and bivouac, with battles and skirmishes in plenty and with danger his constant companion. The ravines of this broken region were ho hiding places and its mountain tops his look out. Little of all this section escaped the feet or a reach of its waters left untouched by the oar of one who was officer, soldier, engineer, scout, spy and laborer, and who, though many times entrapped, was caught but the one time by an active, wily, and desperate foe.

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