The Life of Rufus Putnam



APRIL 10, 1758. Notwithstanding my late sufferings in my return home, I engaged for another campaign in the Provincial service—in Captain Whitcomb's company, Colonel Ruggles' regiment. The regiment rendezvoused at Northampton. Our company arrived there the twenty-seventh of May, and started for Albany June 3, and arrived at Greenbush, opposite Albany, June 8. From Northampton to this place was through a wilderness. There was but one house in the whole distance, except a little fort on the Housatonic river.

June 12. I was with the other carpenter's regiment (about eight hundred in number), detached and sent forward under the command of Lieutenant Pool. We arrived on Lake George the twenty-second, and were employed in various works there until the army was ready to embark.

This morning the army, consisting of about seventeen thousand men, embarked in batteaux. It was under the command of General Abercrombie, commander-in-chief; Lord Howe was second in command, General Gage the third, and Colonel Bradstreet quarter-master-general.

General Abercrombie was an old man and frequently called "grannie." Lord Howe was the idol of the army. In him they placed the utmost confidence. From the few days I had to observe his manner of conducting, it is not extravagant to suppose that every soldier in the army had a personal attachment to him. He frequently came among the carpenters, and his manner was so easy and familiar that you lost all that constraint or diffidence we feel when addressed by our superior, whose manners are forbidding.

General Gage was a man who never acquired a high reputation, and the furious Bradstreet was hated by all the army.

The army moved down the lake until evening, when the boats were put ashore at Sabbath day point, and after refreshing put off and rowed all night. 

July 6. The army landed at the lower end of Lake George, on both sides of the outlet; on our approach a detachment of French retired without making any opposition. However, as soon as a part of the army began to advance into the woods on the west side of the outlet, they were met by a party of the enemy, and a skirmish ensued, in which Lord Howe was killed. [33] His death struck a great damp on the army. For my own part, I was so panic struck that I was willing to remain with the boat guard, which in the morning I should have been very unwilling to be detailed for; however, I soon recovered, at least in a measure, so that I volunteered to join the regiment. 

July 8. I found the regiment posted on the west of the mills, with Colonel Lyman of Connecticut employed in erecting a breastwork. The action at the French breastwork began about twelve o'clock; and once there was a constant peal of cannon and musketry for several hours. Late in the afternoon there was a party called for to carry ammunition forward to the army then in action, and feeling a little concerned lest my reputation should suffer for having willingly stayed with the boat guard, I volunteered for this service. (I have heard that some men say that they liked to fight as well as they liked to eat. I never had any such feelings; so far as I am able to judge for myself, it was pride and a wish to excel, or at least to come behind none, that influenced me, at that period of life, to be among the foremost on all occasions.) When we came to the army, we found that they had been repulsed at the breastwork in an attempt to storm the enemy's lines, but I had not the least idea of a total defeat. Our regiment remained in their breastwork until about midnight and then marched back to the shore of Lake George, where we landed on the sixth.

July 9. As soon as light appeared we discovered that our regiment was the rear of the army, who had all retreated in the night, except the rangers and one regiment of Provincials left near the French lines. About nine o'clock the army was all embarked and returned to the south end of Lake George, and thus Abercrombie's expedition ended in disgrace and the loss of fifteen hundred men, killed and wounded. At that time I was uninformed of the situation of the works or of the mode of attack; and had I been informed of all this, considering my youth and inexperience, it would have been arrogance to have given an opinion. However, afterwards viewing the works and being informed of the mode of attack, I have judged it the most injudicious and wanton sacrifice of men that ever came within my knowledge or reading. Nothing more of consequence was attempted in this quarter this season except that the army commenced building a fort on the ground occupied by the Provincials in 1757, during the siege of Fort William Henry, which they called Fort George.

July 22. Colonel Ruggles and his regiment marched to Fort Edward, and were employed in repairing the roads from thence to Albany until October 29, when they were discharged.

November 9. I arrived at Sutton, my native town, where I made my home for some time. Thus was I carried through a second campaign, enjoying uninterrupted health, the friendship of my officers, and never charged with any crime. But alas! on my journal I cannot find any acknowledgment to my Divine Benefactor and Preserver, nor as I recollect that I had any serious reflection on the subject.[34]

April 2, 1859. I this day engaged in the Provincial service for the third campaign. I was finally attached to Captain William Pages' company of Hardwick and in the first battalion of Ruggles' regiment, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Ingersol. I did orderly sergeant's duty until July 26. I find nothing in my journal worth noting until July 21, when the army embarked from the south end of Lake George and moved down the lake. General Amherst was commander-in-chief, in whose orders for embarking appeared so much tenderness and humanity as could not but win the heart of every soldier who had any generous feeling.

July 22. The army landed at the outlet of the lake without any opposition. The next day the army took possession of the breastwork, where they were defeated last year, with very little opposition; and now, from viewing with my own eyes, I was convinced of the improper mode of attack made on it last year, and those men who were sacrificed fell through the want of judgment in the general or the rashness of Colonel Bradstreet.

July 24. Commenced opening our trenches against Fort Ticonderoga.

July 25. The platforms were laid in the evening, and our batteries the next morning were to open; the enemy had kept up a heavy cannonade since the twenty-third. On the morning of the twenty-seventh, at about three o'clock, having very silently embarked in boats, they blew up the fort and pushed down the lake to Crown Point, where they did not await our coming, but went almost immediately down Lake Champlain. Their conduct was accounted for on the supposition of their having heard that General Wolf was approaching, therefore they could not hope for any relief.

July 26. Captain Aaron Willard, a man who knew nothing of the business, undertook to build a saw-mill on the lower fall of the outlet of Lake George, where it falls into an arm or bay about two miles from the beginning of the outlet. I was at first invited to undertake as master-workman, under Willard, but I wholly declined. I wanted to go forward with the army. Indeed, no arguments prevailed with me until the brigadier sent an officer to tell me if I would not undertake or go to work I should go to the guard house. The brigadier knew me very well, and I had known him for many years; and I knew it was in vain to contend, nor did I like to offend an officer whom I so highly respected, and therefore submitted; however, I always esteemed it an arbitrary act, and by no means justifiable, to compel a soldier who is a mechanic to work at his trade against his will. When the mills were completed and going well (with two saws) I was in hopes of being permitted to join my regiment, and with that view I obtained a pass to go to Crown Point, where the regiment lay (with the army). While I was there I went to see one of the block houses that was building. I observed the carpenter was ignorant of the right method of dove-tailing the corners. I offered to show him, and while I was instructing the man it so happened that Major Kean, [35]overseer of the works, came up and, observing what I was about, asked me who I was; and upon my informing him, he proposed engaging me in the works carried on at Crown Point, and he obtained permission from General Amherst for that purpose. I was much pleased with my change of situation. If the army moved forward against Canada, I should doubtless go with my regiment; but this was not all, Major Kean had taken such personal notice of me, and given such assurances of my being rewarded according to my merit as a carpenter, that I felt confident of receiving wages according to the services I should render. How much, then, was I disappointed when in a few days the engineer at Ticonderoga came up and made such representations to General Amherst that I was ordered back to the mills; this was much against my feelings as well as interest. Major Kean told the engineer he ought to allow me a dollar a day, that he should allow me that if. I remained with him. While Captain Willard remained the overseer, from former experience I had very little reason to expect any more than the common hands; but Willard was now gone and no commissioned officer having any concern with the mills, and after what had taken place at Crown Point, above mentioned, I had good reason to expect an extra allowance. The Provincials this year were discharged some weeks before the term of their enlistments expired. At this time Colonel Robertson, the quartermaster-general, came to the mills with the engineer and I engaged with him to tarry an indefinite time at one dollar per day, and he directed the engineer to pay me accordingly; but I was not so prudent as the Indian, Captain Jewles, in another case, to request the general to put his promise on paper, wherefore when I applied to the engineer the last of November for a settlement he allowed me but for three days at a dollar per day, alleging that I had served but three days over my enlistment, although my regiment had been discharged some weeks before. Thus was I cheated not only out of an extra allowance, which I had good reason to expect after returning from Crown Point, but of the contract made by Colonel Robertson, and which the engineer was directed to discharge. I began to work the twenty-sixth of July; I had labored hard; I had built excellent mills; my merit as a workman was confessed by all who saw them, and the necessity of my remaining there to oversee the sawyers, and keep the mills in order, was proved by my being brought back from Crown Point. The engineer turned me off with the common allowance, viz., fifteen pennies per day, New York currency.

December 7I embarked with Colonel Miller, Captain Nutt and others, being eleven in number, in two batteaux, in order to cross Lake George. Colonel Miller had two horses and a curricle, and for greater safety we lashed the boats together. The weather being pleasant, and having the prospect of a quick passage, we took but little provision with us, expecting to reach Fort George early next day, having a small breeze of wind in our favor; but in the evening the wind died away and we came to under [36]a small island lying near the main land, about four miles north of Sabbath-day point. In the night the wind came ahead, blew hard, and the weather grew very cold.

December 2. In the morning, with some difficulty, we brought the boats to the main land and took the horses ashore. The wind blowing a gale all day, the waves running mountain high, there was no possibility of moving any way, and it was never colder since my remembrance.

December 3. Provisions all gone; the wind somewhat abated, but still so high as to render it impossible to turn the point; the cold continuing and hunger increasing. Our situation began to grow somewhat distressing, but Providence provided for us. In rambling over the point, one of the party accidentally came upon an old provision bag, in which we found about a dozen pounds of excellent salt pork; this, with some damaged flour, brought by Colonel Miller to feed his horses, made into dumplings and boiled with the pork, served us well for the day.

December 4. The morning was cold but very calm, and the surface of the lake smooth; but we had some difficulties yet to encounter. One of the batteaux, which belonged to some Dutch settlers, proved very leaky; there was at least six inches of solid ice in the bottom, which, in our situation, it was impossible to move. It was therefore concluded to take both Colonel Miller's horses, with his curricle, on board his own boat; the two men, with the three Dutchmen, on board their boat. But we had not proceeded many miles in this way before the Dutch boat fell astern and put ashore, and the two men left here, choosing rather to take the woods than row the lazy Dutchmen. The Dutchmen then called on us for help, and we lay to until they came up, and Colonel Miller's humanity was such that he took them on board his boat, with their chests and baggage. Hunger and cold was not now our greatest concern: we were loaded down within two or three inches of the top of the sides of the boat. We were just opening the northwest bay; we had yet twenty miles to Fort George, and a very little wind, only to have given a small agitation to the water. We must in all probability have perished, but Providence so ordained it that there was a perfect calm the whole day, and we arrived at Fort George a little after sunset, without any accident. I arrived home at Brookfield the sixteenth of December, having enjoyed a good state of health during the whole campaign, for which I find no acknowledgment in my journal—oh, shame!

After my return home, as above stated, I made up my mind not to engage any more in military service. I had several times been disappointed of the rewards promised for extra service. I got nothing for the ranging-service of 1757, nor for my services among the carpenters in several instances. I was much disgusted at being compelled to leave my regiment and go to work at the mills, at the moment when I was ambitious and supposed I had a fair prospect of distinguishing myself as a soldier. It is true the army did not proceed any further than Crown [37]Point, and no general action took place in that quarter; yet there was another point of view in which the forcing of me from my regiment gave me much uneasiness. I was not only pleased with the duty of orderly sergeant, as considered in itself, but as it is his duty every day to bring his men for guard on to parade, and attending there until the guard is formed and inspected by the officer of the day, it is a good school for improvement; and, besides, by the clean and soldierly appearance of the men in their clothes and arms, etc., will never fail to recommend the sergeant to the notice of his superior officer. Besides, I had rendered service to the government which, had I not been a soldier, the quartermaster-general acknowledged was worth a dollar per day only for attending to the sawyers, and I was turned off with only seventeen cents. On the whole, I came to a determination never to engage again as a soldier, nor did I suppose there was any prospect of being invited to engage in a higher capacity. Under these circumstances, and it being a season for the millwrights' business, I took boarding in the town of New Braintree, and went to work on some land which I had purchased in that town, where I spent the winter.

March 1760. Orders were issued for raising Provincial troops for another campaign. As before observed, I was residing in New Braintree, and, therefore, attended the first training called for raising recruits, and I enrolled myself in the militia company of that town. Captain Page of Hardwick, at whose request the company had been called together, soon appeared and presented me with recruiting orders, sent by Brigadier Ruggles, and proposed that I should join him in raising a company. As an appointment in the army had been unsolicited by me, the orders were wholly unexpected. I, at first, declined accepting them, for which I had several reasons. The disgust I felt for my treatment in the last campaign had not wholly worn off. I had formed my plans to stay at home; and, besides, I found there had been application made in behalf of some older settlers in town than I was, whom the brigadier refused, and some of these appeared very angry and complained that the town was insulted by my appointment, therefore I had very little reason to expect much success in recruiting among them. However, after Captain Page had beat round several times without any success, on the solicitation of a number of old soldiers of my acquaintance, I took the orders and eight or nine enlisted immediately. Thus I was once more setting out for the army. I was much more successful in recruiting than I expected, but I was guilty of a great mistake, for I suffered my men to be mustered for Captain Page's company, and as he had recruited but few men himself we fell short of the quota we expected, and thus by my own folly in mustering my men for his company I lost them, much to their disappointment and my own. Captain Page, of all his father's children, loved himself the best. He returned all the men for himself and I was left to go a begging. I then heartily repented of having undertaken to recruit, and I cannot tell whether I was [38]more angry or mortified. Brigadier Ruggles was at Boston; Colonel Willard was placed at Worcester to arrange the offices for the several companies. He was a total stranger to me, and I had no friend to introduce me, and I was too wilful or too bashful to introduce myself. All the consolation I had (if that was any) was the company of a number of others in like circumstances. However, after remaining in suspense about three weeks, Colonel Willard presented me with an ensign's commission in his own regiment. I had expected a lieutenancy. I had recruited enough to warrant it, had I not been duped by Captain Page in agreeing to muster my men for his company; but it was too late now to refuse an ensign, and I was really obliged to Colonel Willard for the appointment.

From the circumstances I have related, let all, but especially those in inexperienced youth, as I was, be cautioned how they trust the friendship of those whose interest it may be to dupe them.

Captain Thomas Beman, to whose company I was now appointed, had marched some days before my appointment, and I was ordered to continue in the recruiting service. But I had very little success, as might be expected after what had before taken place respecting the men that enlisted.

June 2. I set out for the army, having enlisted but three men, one of whom I was permitted to take as a waiter, the others were turned over to a different regiment.

June 10. I joined my company at Ticonderoga, where I found four companies stationed to guard this place, the saw mill and the landing at the outlet of Lake George.

June 22. Captain Beman's company marched to the landing above mentioned, where we were stationed until the end of the campaign, and thus were deprived of the honor of sharing the twelve days siege at the Isle de Hune, which opened the way for the junction of three British armies before Montreal, which surrendered without opposition September 8, and thus was the conquest of Canada complete. Soon after our company was stationed at the landing, I was invited by the engineer at Ticonderoga (not the one who abused me the last year as before related) to take the oversight of the mills and also of the erection of a block house where our company was stationed. I agreed with him at a stipulated price per day, which was honorably paid at the close of the campaign.

November 19 - The company marched to Ticonderoga and was discharged.

November 20. Crossed the lake and began our march through the wilderness, for No. 4, on the Connecticut river. We arrived at No. 4 on the twenty-fifth, about eighty miles, as we computed from Ticonderoga.

December 1. I arrived home at New Braintree, having enjoyed good health during my absence; my officers, especially the captain and the first lieutenant, were very agreeable companions and we lived in the greatest harmony.

Before I left camp, Major Skean very warmly solicited me to engage [39]in his service in erecting mills in Skeansborough (at the head of South bay), and as a further inducement for my undertaking it, Brigadier Ruggles assured me of a lieutenant's commission in the army. The proposals were such as I could not have declined with propriety, had I not been previously engaged in the pursuit of a different object.

This campaign ended for the time being Mr. Putnam's military career.

The war was now over, though some time elapsed before a treaty of peace was made and signed. Quebec was taken in 1759,

Montreal a little later the same year. The end had come of French dominion in North America. England came with complete possession. For some time there were troubles with the Indians in the south and west, and but for the fortunate interposition of a young Indian girl, Pontiac's conspiracy would have had more disastrous consequences. Between France and England there continued to be conflicts on the ocean for two or three years after they had ceased on land.

In February, 1763, a treaty of peace was made in Paris. All the territory claimed by France east of the Mississippi was ceded to Great Britain. At the same time Spain surrendered east and west Florida to the English crown. France ceded to Spain the important territory west of the Mississippi, known as the Province of Louisiana. The seven years' war cost Europe a million lives, one hundred and eighty thousand of whom were sacrificed by Frederic. The population of his kingdom was diminished one-tenth, and impoverished it to such an extent that it took four score years for anything like recovery.

The war doubled the debt of England, increasing it to seven hundred millions of dollars. But the greater part of the loans required were raised at home. The people became the creditors of the government, thus identifying their pecuniary interests with the stability of the government, which is, undoubtedly, one reason why, when other thrones were shaken and some toppled over, that of England remained firm, as on a sure foundation.

This conflict was one of the most important in modern times and followed by the most momentous results. England was from thenceforth mistress of the seas.

The question was then settled, whether the feudal and aristocratic principles of France, or the Saxon love of freedom and regard to the rights of the individual, should give tone and character to the people and the government in this new world—whether Catholicism or Protestantism, with "freedom to worship God" as conscience and inclination dictated, should dominate the nations to be planted in the western continent.