Dear Readers: Happy July 4th. I thought today might be a good day to introduce to you one of my ancestors: General Israel Putnam. I am related to him on my father’s side. Since I love history, and have been watching the History Channel’s review of the American Revolution, I thought I would brush up on some family history today.
In my quest for information, I came across General Putnam’s Website (click HERE). The website states that while some people believe Col. William Prescott said the immortal words of this post’s title, it is now thought that the most likely scenario was Putnam spoke the words first, then Prescott repeated them to his men.
Wikipedia offers a summary of Putnam’s contributions to the American Revolution!
On April 20, 1775, when Putnam received news of the Battle of Lexington that started the day before, he left his plow in the field and rode 100 miles in eight hours, reaching Cambridge the next day and offering his services to the Patriot cause. He joined the Continental Army and was appointed colonel of the 3rd Connecticut Regiment and subsequently, brigadier of the Connecticut militia. Shortly after the Battle of Lexington, Putnam led the Connecticut militia to Boston and was named major general, making him second in rank to his Chief in the Continental Army. He was one of the primary figures at the Battle of Bunker Hill, both in its planning and on the battlefield. During that battle Putnam may have ordered his troops “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” (It is debated whether Putnam or Colonel William Prescott uttered these words). This command has since become one of the American Revolution’s more memorable quotes. This order was important, because his troops were low on ammunition. He progressed to temporary command of the American forces in New York, while waiting for the arrival of the commander-in-chief, Lieutenant General George Washington, on April 13, 1776. The Battle of Bunker Hill must count as the greatest achievement in Putnam’s life, for thereafter, his fortunes took a downturn at the Battle of Long Island (1776), where he was forced to effect a hasty retreat. Washington did not blame Putnam for this failure as some in the Second Continental Congress did. However, Washington reassessed the abilities of his general and assigned him to recruiting activities. In 1777 Putnam received another, though lesser, military command in the Hudson Highlands. With future Vice-President Aaron Burr in his charge, Putnam abandoned Fort Montgomery and Fort Clinton to the British, and was brought before a court of inquiry for those actions. However, he was exonerated of any wrongdoing. During the winter of 1778-1779, Putnam and his troops were encamped at the present-day site of the Putnam Memorial State Park in Redding, Connecticut. In December 1779, Putnam suffered a paralyzing stroke, which ended his military service.
According to another website:
Putnam was a brave, intrepid and very industrious soldier rather than a great general, but his fame in the Indian wars, his personal courage, his bluff heartiness and his good-fellowship made him an idol of the rank and file; and he is one of the popular heroes in American history. He seems to have taken no part in the political manoeuvrings and cabals which busied many of the officers of the American army.
Another website details his character, and makes for a fascinating read:
The two earliest stories told of him show his honest pride and manliness. The one relates how. upon his first visit to Boston, he thrashed a lad bigger and older than himself for sneering at the rustic style of his homespun garments, and the other tells of the summary way in which he forced the proud son of a rich neighbor to retract the lying calumnies he had uttered to a lover against his sweet-heart, a fatherless, innocent girl. He always made common cause with the helpless and oppressed.
Perhaps that is why I have such a soft spot for the underdogs and rebels, such as Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who swim against the stream. It is perhaps why I am a Tea Party agitator (pictured below, from left to right, are the Sword, Pen and Voice of our local Tea Party Revolution):
Some of my blogging comrades are also celebrating the day via the new media:
Michelle Malkin: Independence Day: America turns 233. A snippet —
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Founding Bloggers: Today’s Chicago Tea Party.
BizzyBlog: What the Declaration’s Signers Endured (and What Happened to One Columnist Who Wrote About It) (An extreme worthwhile read). A snippet —
On July 4, the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson — heavily edited by Congress — was adopted without dissent. On July 8, the Declaration was publicly proclaimed in Philadelphia. On July 15, Congress learned that the New York Legislature had decided to endorse the Declaration. On Aug. 2, a parchment copy was presented to the Congress for signature. Most of the 56 men who put their name to the document did so that day.
We tend to forget that to sign the Declaration of Independence was to commit an act of treason — and the punishment for treason was death. To publicly accuse George III of “repeated injuries and usurpations,” to announce that Americans were therefore “Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown,” was a move fraught with danger — so much so that the names of the signers were kept secret for six months.
They were risking everything, and they knew it. That is the meaning of the Declaration’s soaring last sentence:
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
Most of the signers survived the war; several went on to illustrious careers.
Two of them became presidents of the United States, and among the others were future vice presidents, senators, and governors. But not all were so fortunate.
Nine of the 56 died during the Revolution, and never tasted American independence.
Five were captured by the British.
Eighteen had their homes — great estates, some of them – looted or burnt by the enemy.
Some lost everything they owned.
Hot Air’s Ed Morrisy says Happy July 4th and offers this item to whet the appetite of we history buffs: The Daily Mail has an interesting article about the discovery of an original print of the Declaration discovered in a British archive. No one really knows how it got there, but it’s fun to speculate.
Protein Wisdom also says “Happy Independence Day“, with observations about the current view on the concept of Liberty.
Little Miss Attila contributes the classic July 4th Fireworks!
Finally, Roger Simon offers this observation (please go and read the full post): I don’t think I’ve ever seen my country so divided and depressed on the Fourth of July in my lifetime and – no matter what Bob Dylan dreamed up – I’m not young, forever or otherwise. ……
We should junk the liberal and conservative orthodoxies that have divided – and blinded – us for so long and go back not to Eighteenth Century America, but Nineteenth, to the days of that most American of philosophies – pragmatism. “The pragmatists rejected all forms of absolutism and insisted that all principles be regarded as working hypotheses that must bear fruit in lived experience.” Now there’s a thought that might brighten even grumpy me on the Fourth of July.
Much to think about for today. I would like to conclude by offering a prayer for my distant grandfather and all the men and women currently serving in our military to protect the country and our Constitution.