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Israel Putnam and Prospect Hill.

There was no more interested reader of the account of the dedication of Prospect Hill Park and Memorial Tower, we venture to assert, than the venerable Dr. Putnam, of Salem, and at the request of the president of the Somerville Historical Society, he has prepared the following article for publication. It is a subject which has long interested him, and out of the fullness of his heart he writes as he has done. He here makes some limited use of his pamphlet discussion of the command at Bunker Hill, which was published several years ago, and was highly praised and approved by eminent historians, scholars, statesmen, lawyers, military men, and others. The edition having long since been exhausted, he hopes to issue another by and by, to which he will add a copious Appendix, with various letters and several more illustrations. The work bears the title of ‘Israel Putnam and Bunker Hill,’ as the following is entitled ‘Israel Putnam and Prospect Hill.’

John F. Ayer, Esq., President Somerville Historical Society:—

Dear Sir: I thank you very much for the copy you sent me of the Somerville Journal, containing a full account of the dedication, on the twenty-ninth of October, of Prospect Hill Park and Memorial Tower. The very appropriate and eloquent speeches, and all the proceedings of the occasion, as reported in that paper, are seen to have been most interesting and admirable, and you all are greatly to be congratulated on your signal success in such a commemoration of the important events of your local history that occurred at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. I only regret that I could not be present, then and there, it would have been such a real delight to me.

It gives me much pleasure to comply with your request for some facts about General Israel Putnam and his occupancy of Prospect Hill, additional to those which were briefly stated by the speakers on the day of celebration. Let me say at the outset that I have not the honor of being a descendant of the old hero, yet from such study as I have been able to make of his life and character, I have too much admiration for him and too deep a [86] sense of the incalculable value of his service to his country and ours, not to join with others in seeking to do ample justice to his memory, especially as regards the noblest work or deeds of his illustrious career. Mayor Glines, Governor Bates, and Lieutenant-Governor Guild made various fitting allusions to him in their addresses, but at a time when so much must have crowded upon their minds from the recorded annals that came to view, one can well understand how crisp and short must needs have been the mention of even the chiefest matters. I can only hope to fill out to some extent certain things that were so pertinently and effectively said; and the better to present what I would fain write, and to make the story as complete as I can or may under the circumstances and for the present purpose, let me quote here the allusions to which I have referred, and which I think may well be repeated in this connection.

Said Mayor Glines: ‘On the evening of June 16, 1775, this soil again resounded with the tramp of soldiers, as the gallant Colonel Prescott and a thousand men under his inspiring lead swept by on their way to Bunker Hill. It was here that on the night of June 16 General Putnam, the gallant “Old put” of ploughshare and wolf's-den fame, began throwing up the intrenchments which soon became the citadel of the works running from the Charles to the Mystic, and the very stronghold of the besieging American army.’ And he also said: ‘Prospect Hill is especially dear to us, not for the fact that its occupation by Putnam doubtless saved Cambridge, so vital to the enemy, and perhaps the very country; not that here it was, a month almost to a day after Bunker Hill was fought, that “an American flag was thrown to the breeze before an enemy,” the scarred ensign of the Third Connecticut Regiment, “Putnam's flag” ; not that here for many weary days were encamped the Massachusetts and Rhode Island troops of General Nathaniel Greene, nor because it was here that many of the troops of Burgoyne's surrendered army were quartered after Arnold's strategy got the better of them at Saratoga; not for records like these, but because here, on the first day of January, 1776, on which the new Continental Army was organized in the presence of our great and good [87] Washington, there was hoisted the flag that by its stripes of alternate hues proclaimed the cementing of the thirteen American colonies in a common bond against British oppression. This record,’ Mayor Glines declared, ‘belongs to the sublimest page in the history of the hill.’

I quote, also, from the speech of Governor Bates, who said: ‘So it came to pass that while redcoats filled the town of Boston, while British warships thundered in the harbor and on the river, while the red-coated soldiers flung their defiance from yonder Bunker Hill, upon this mount patriots plied the shovel, minutemen tramped the redoubt, and Lee, and Greene, and Sullivan, and Putnam’ (some reversal of the order of the names needed) ‘planned bulwarks of revolution, and Washington raised the thirteen stripes of Union, and all the time, sheltered behind the citadel of the hill, a liberty-loving, dependent people were becoming a liberty-demanding, independent nation.’

And Lieutenant-Governor Guild said: ‘The first flag to fly from the redoubt on Prospect Hill was not that of Massachusetts. Putnam had built the works, and Putnam, though a son of Massachusetts, hoisted on July 18, 1775, the flag, not of his native state, but of his adopted state, the flag of the state which, except Massachusetts, contributed most to the Revolution. It was Connecticut's flag, with its “Qui transtulit sustinet,” and the motto of all the Revolutionists, “An Appeal to Heaven.” ’ And Mr. Guild added: ‘Colonel Stephen Moylan, of Moylan's Dragoons, a witty Corkonian in the American army, gives a comic picture of “Old put,” the only thing, he says, that did not thaw during that sloppy winter. “With solemn mien,” says Moylan, “‘Old Put’ tramped amongst his men, answering every question with ‘Powder! Powder! Ye gods, give us powder!’” ’ Mr. Guild seems to connect this story with ‘these slopes’ of Prospect Hill as a ‘vivid picture of the scene,’ but Colonel S. A. Drake, in his ‘Old Landmarks of Middlesex,’ with somewhat more probability or truth transfers it to Lechmere Point in East Cambridge at a time in the dead of winter, 1775–‘76, when Putnam was there constructing works of defense, and when, owing to the ‘heavy fire’ of the British and to ‘the frozen condition of [88] the ground, which made the labor one of infinite difficulty, it was not until the last days of February that the redoubts were completed.’ The severity of the season must have lessened in January to permit the operations thus to go on to success, and to justify these words of the same month from an officer whom the colonel thus quotes: ‘The bay is open,—everything thaws except “Old put.” He is still as hard as ever crying out for “Powder! Powder! Ye gods, give us Powder!” ’ It may have been a frequent cry with the General, and no wonder; but we doubt very much whether he raised it on the ‘slopes’ of Prospect Hill in the ‘sloppy winter’ of June and July, 1775, when all accounts attest that only then was he ever there, and that the weather was extremely hot. An Essex county man once presented, with other charges, a bill to his neighbor for the use of a horse and sleigh for a June ride, whereupon the latter said that he would see if he had jotted down the circumstance, but he could hardly remember that he had ever taken a sleighride in June. We can better credit the statement, ‘Everything thaws here except “Old put.” ’

I copy thus fully these various allusions to General Putnam's service on Prospect Hill, all the more because they are a juster treatment of the patriot warrior than that which certain writers have meted out to him in their accounts of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Some facts with reference to that momentous event seem to me to be necessary here, as showing more clearly in what capacity and by whose authority he led his broken army, after the engagement, to Somerville, and what was the significance of his command and work on and around its famous height.

All know with what alacrity Putnam, as soon as he heard of the Battle of Lexington, left his plough in his field at Pomfret, his Connecticut home, and flew horseback to Cambridge and Concord, where, after an all night's ride of a hundred miles, he arrived the next morning, and immediately consulted with the patriot committees and authorities there. His military exploits for ten years in the French and Indian wars had given him great renown as a brave, energetic, and resolute soldier, full of resources and love of country. He had already shown that he was an [89] ardent and active friend of the cause of the colonies, and his rank was now that of lieutenant-colonel. His coming was hailed by all with greatest enthusiasm, and was worth, says Colonel Drake, the historian, an accession of ten thousand men to the movement on foot at that critical juncture. It was decided that a large New England or American army should be raised, and a stirring appeal was speedily sent broadcast to this end; and as the quota from Connecticut would be about six thousand men, Putnam hurried back to that state to put matters in train for their swift recruitment, organization, and march. As soon as he had done this, he hastened his return to Cambridge before them with a company of his own, and with a drove of sheep for the suffering patriots of Boston. He was stationed by General Ward, the commander-in-chief, at Cambridgeport, nearest Boston, and at a most exposed and important point in the siege of that city, and the hardy yeomanry of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island straightway came rushing in large numbers to headquarters, in response to the call. It was decided by the Committee of Safety, when they learned that the enemy was about to sally forth from Boston for an attack, that Bunker Hill should at once be fortified; and accordingly they ‘recommended to the Council of War that the above-mentioned Bunker's Hill be maintained by sufficient force being posted there.’ As Putnam was plainly the ruling spirit of the Council, he probably had much to do with designating Prescott and his thousand Massachusetts and Connecticut men for the service. He was anxious to bring the foe out of their pent-up quarters, and fight them at once on more ‘equal terms.’ He had just been made brigadier-general by his adopted state, and he was now made general superintendent of the detachment. Said Colonel Samuel Swett in his story of the Battle--of Bunker Hill, which was published in 1818, and was declared by Alden Bradford, the historian of Massachusetts, ‘The Christian Examiner,’ and other highest authorities, to be the most correct and perfect of all the earlier accounts of the engagement, whatever additional details have since been gathered: ‘General Putnam, having the general superintendence of the expedition, and the [90] engineer, Colonel Gridley, accompanied the troops.’ General Seth Pomeroy, it may be stated, also went with them, and this was on the evening of June 16. As they reached the base of Bunker Hill, there was a memorable halt, when an animated discussion took place as to which height they should fortify, that or Breed's Hill just beyond it; or, in case they should intrench on both, which of the two they should begin with first. Contrary to the expectations of the Committee of Safety, they finally concluded to go on and occupy Breed's, ‘nearer Boston,’ doubtless having been instructed to do so by the Council of War, with permission to act as they should think best, as they drew near the place and considered all the circumstances of the situation. There, as they reached the summit, Putnam, Gridley, and Prescott laid out the ground and formed the plan for the historic earthwork or redoubt which the men with vigorous toil erected during the night on the spot where now Bunker Hill Monument stands. As the enemy saw early the next morning what had been done during the darkness, they began a lively fire at the fort from their ships on the river and from the opposite shore, while later they landed troops from Boston at Moulton's Point Moreton's or Morton's), the northeastern end of the peninsula, with the evident intent to march along the Mystic, and so, flank Prescott and his garrison at the redoubt. To intercept them, the provincials of the several states who had come upon the ground hastily made a barricade of a rail fence that stretched between the Mystic and Breed's Hill by stuffing it with new-mown grass that lay plentifully in the field near at hand, and here between the two points were lined, also, regiments, or parts of regiments, as they continued to arrive and to be assigned their places by General Putnam; Stark and Reed, with their brave men from New Hampshire, as the left wing by the Mystic, with Prescott and most of his detachment at Breed's as the right wing, while along the middle way were stationed General Pomeroy and Captain Knowlton, with their respective Massachusetts and Connecticut forces. As the proud and formidable column of the foe came on, the serried array of the patriot yeomanry met it in fiercest combat, and hurled it back under the lead of Putnam, [91] who now had assumed the supreme command, by right of superior rank, and had taken his post near the eastern base or lower declivities of Bunker Hill, where he could best survey the scene and order the action of the day; riding, as he did, this way and that along the lines to encourage and strengthen his soldiers in the hour of conflict; or hastening to the rear in the lull of battle to hurry on the expected and needed, but tardy, reinforcements. Enraged at their first discomfiture, these fine old veterans of the British army, notwithstanding their heavy loss, dashed themselves once more against the Yankee farmers and craftsmen at the fence where the slaughter of the battle was most terrible, and whence they were driven back a second time with greater loss than before, ‘the dead lying on the ground as thick as sheep in a fold.’ Stung to madness by such successive defeats, the grenadiers and light infantry of the foe rallied for another assault, and, turning a little to the left with fresh accessions, made a desperate rush for the redoubt, and soon captured it, after a stout and heroic resistance by Prescott and his garrison, many of the latter being killed by the victors, while the rest of them, with the commanding colonel himself, made their escape and went their way to Cambridge.

Meanwhile the heroes at the fence, exhausted from fighting, suffering from heat, and decimated in numbers, seeing that the fort was in possession of the enemy, and that they themselves were in danger of being flanked and captured, began to retreat and to fall into disorder and confusion. Putnam was now at the height of his tremendous power and energy. With voice like thunder, and with almost superhuman action, he commanded and entreated his compatriots,—some say even with oaths,—to make one stand more for battle and victory; but all in vain. They were too much weakened and demoralized for the attempt, so that not their commander's prodigious exertion itself availed to bring order out of chaos and make them renew the strife; and then it was that he saw that the effort was hopeless, and, gathering what of the army was left, and joining certain fresh arrivals to it, he marched the whole over the Neck to Prospect Hill, there to intrench in full sight of the foe, and like a lion at bay to be [92] prepared for another encounter. It was one of the wisest and best deeds of his life. But for that, the British might in the hour of their triumph have pursued the frightened and flying host, and made Somerville, Cambridge, and other towns their prey; but with such an obstacle in their path, they did not choose to undertake the venture. Well said Mr. Guild, ‘Here, after the Pyrrhic victory of the English at Bunker Hill, came the men who invited the further attack that never came’; and said Governor Bates, ‘The red-coated soldiers flung their defiance from yonder Bunker Hill.’ It was all they could do. What might possibly have been the disastrous consequences, had not Putnam occupied Prospect Hill as he did, is intimated in words already quoted from Mayor Glines. At any rate, the service is seen to have been one of immense importance, and it was one entirely of the general's own choosing. It was at a moment of fearful excitement and disorder, when neither General Ward nor any other authority could be consulted, and when the destinies of an empire seemed to tremble in the balance. In that dread crisis Putnam acted solely on his own responsibility. Says Dr. Increase N. Tarbox in his remarkable Life of Israel Putnam (1876): ‘We have his own express statement on this point, made to the Committee of Safety not long after, at a time when he had the burdensome grievance on his mind. He says, “Pray, did I not take possession of Prospect Hill the very night after the fight on Bunker Hill, without having any orders from any person? And was not I the only general officer that tarried there?” ’ And this action by General Putnam was not less wise and of his own accord than it was courageous and full of his proverbial grit. He was not one to fly from the field in the hour of danger with the scared and discouraged officers and shattered regiments, and hasten to Cambridge to report with Prescott that the day was lost. He chose to take his post near the Neck, and dispute the passage of the victors and face the consequences. Who would have done it if he had not?

And it all goes to show that his was the supreme command at Bunker Hill, as it was on Prospect Hill. Bancroft, who was a warm friend and partisan of Prescott, admits that the General [93] ‘assumed’ it on the retreat, saying that, ‘acting on his own responsibility, he now for the first time during the day assumed the supreme direction. Without orders from any person, he rallied such of the fugitives as would obey him, joined them to a detachment which had not arrived in season to share in the combat, and took possession of Prospect Hill, and there encamped that very night.’ And with the historian this was the last of ‘Old Put.’ But where, in God's name, was Prescott? If he was the supreme commander in the battle, who but he at that awful crisis in the fortunes of the day should have taken the ‘supreme direction’ of affairs, ‘rallied’ the breaking and wasting forces that had fought like demigods all along that open and extended line, and twice vanquished the haughty and powerful foe, and then have led them off the field to a place of safety? What! when the fierce fight at the fence had saved him and his men from capture, fly from his fort as soon as chance permitted, and he to, headquarters in the distance, and leave an ‘interloper’ and ‘intermeddler,’ a ‘coward’ and a ‘traitor’ to assume the ‘supreme direction’ and take charge and care of the central and remaining body of the army, who were tired and torn with almost incredible service for their country! And was that the military conduct for one who had been chosen as the chief commander? Or did he or any one else ever cause the alleged rude and reckless usurper of his supreme command to be duly punished for his lawlessness and audacity? And why not? Why? Because he was chief at the retreat and at Prospect Hill, just as he was chief at the beginning of the battle and all through it. He ‘assumed’ nothing after the fight that he had not assumed before it and the fact that he was supreme after the conflict ended is incontestable proof that he was supreme from the first; and this lends an increased interest and attractiveness to the Somerville eminence and its surroundings. For, without him and his selection of the place for encampment, and his ‘supreme direction,’ what would have become of the recent celebration, and who would have ever heard the eloquent speeches of Mayor Glines, Governor Bates, Lieutenant-Governor Guild, and Mr. Ayer? Would the flag of the crosses and the stripes, to say nothing of the Connecticut [94] banner, have been unfurled on the hill as they were, and would Washington have visited the spot as he did, and would all the noted warriors and their soldiers who have been referred to have trod the soil, and would the beautiful park ever have been laid out, and the memorial tower ever have been built? Would Somerville have been what it justly claims to, be to-day?

My letter is already much too long, and yet there are certain other associations of the hill of which I fain would write. Putnam had with him while he was first stationed at Cambridgeport two sons, Israel and Daniel. Israel was in the battle, as well as his father. Daniel, who rose to be a prominent and highly esteemed citizen of Connecticut, wished also to accompany the expedition, thinking he might be of some use, though but a boy of fifteen. His father thought he could get on without him, and directed him to stay behind at the Inman House, his own headquarters. The son soon heard of the fight, and was anxious lest his father might have been hurt or killed, but was presently told that he was safe at Prospect Hill, and, accordingly, he went thither at once to find him. Long afterward he gave this account of the discovery: ‘There I found him about ten o'clock on the morning of June 18, dashing about among the workmen, throwing up intrenchments, and often placing a sod with his own hands. He wore the same clothes he had on when I left him thirty-eight hours before, and affirmed that he had never put them off or washed himself since, and we might well believe him, for the aspect of all bore evidence that he spoke the truth.’ Surely the scene must have somewhat resembled that of Lechmere Point, to which reference has been made, let go the weather and the thaw.

Putnam and his chief command on that hill were immediately and fully recognized by General Ward and the authorities at Cambridge, as if in that capacity he had brought out from the furnace of affliction the remnant that should be saved. Ward quickly reinforced him, sending him two, days after the battle not only ‘half of the Connecticut forces,’ but also ‘one-half by companies’ of the regiments of Colonels Nixon, Brewer, Scammans, Gerrish, Mansfield, Woodbridge, and Gardner. So tells us [95] the Orderly Book of Nathan Stow, from which we cull several particulars more. The General Orders for July 4 stated: That Hon. Artemus Ward, Charles Lee, Philip Schuyler, and Israel Putnam, Esq., are appointed major-generals of the American army by the Continental Congress, and due obedience is to be paid to them as such; and, That all the troops of the several colonies which have been raised, or may hereafter be raised, for the support and defense of the liberties of America are received into the pay and service of the Continental Congress, and are now the troops of the United Provinces of North America, and it is hoped that all distinctions of colonies will be laid aside. The General Orders for July 16 by Major-General Putnam commanded: That to-morrow morning precisely at six o'clock all officers and soldiers in the camp attend on Prospect Hill at the usual place of prayers, there to hear read by Mr. Leonard (chaplain) the manifesto of the Hon. Continental Congress, containing their reasons for taking up arms. Putnam was still in command on Prospect Hill July 18, when he instructed the officers to warn the soldiers to be on parade at four o'clock, and be ready for action at once, as by some movements on Boston Common it appears that they (the enemy) have some intention of coming out. Such proclamations on Prospect Hill, thus early giving expression to the advanced views of freedom and independence for America are a lasting honor to Somerville, and are full worthy to be remembered in connection with Washington's visit there, when January 1, 1776, the flag of ‘alternate hues’ was hoisted in token and publication of ‘the cementing of the thirteen American colonies in a common bond against British oppression.’ Nearly six months before, as we have seen, the spirit of liberty was there equally manifest and equally comprehensive in its sweep. Good for Somerville, we say again; and pleasant it is to remember that, while Putnam and Greene were there in command, they were associated together with the ‘Father of His Country’ in the same purposes, aspirations, and endeavors, and all were of one mind and heart.

Prospect Hill encampment presented a busy scene under Putnam's command, as afterward. Washington's first visit to [96] the encampment was on the seventh of July, five days after his arrival at Cambridge. In General Orders he here approved the sentence of the Court that had dismissed Captain John Callender from further service in the ranks as an officer for alleged cowardice in the battle, but subsequently, when the soldier had greatly distinguished himself for courage and fidelity as a volunteer, he caused the stain to be removed from all the army records. Three days before this visit was the ‘mournful occasion’ of the funeral obsequies of the brave Bunker Hill hero and martyr, Colonel Thomas Gardner, whose regiment belonged to Putnam's forces, and now joined in fitting honors to the memory of their late and lamented commander.

There was constant fear of some approach and attack on the part of the British. The encampment was not a little annoyed by discharges from their floating batteries on the river. While the work of intrenching still went on, there were daily drills or parades, with due inspection of arms and ammunition, and sentinels were ever on duty, so that at any moment all might be ready for action. Sergeants or others were sent forth from time to time to find out and report the state of things at Cambridge, or with the British forces at Bunker Hill; parties, also, for orders from headquarters and for supplies from the neighborhood. Grass was collected for the cattle, soon to be slaughtered as food for the soldiers. Officers were appointed to number and name such members of the regiments as were sick or wounded or dead, or were on furlough or had deserted, whether they had been in the battle or not. The kitchens were examined and kept neat and clean, and strict care was taken that the men should be properly provided for at their meals, while there was a close watch of the sale or use of intoxicating liquors, with a severe punishment of any who should tempt others to partake of them. Cursing and swearing were sternly forbidden, and moral and patriotic lessons were taught and enforced; yet Nathan Stow's Orderly Book abounds with many a record which tells of courts-martial for shameful offenses. Among the thousands there on the hill all was stir and vigilance, though there was no occasion for actual fighting; yet it is clear that General [97] Putnam knew well not only how to build fortifications, but also how to command, maintain law and order, care for all, make right the rule, and win admiring confidence and love.

In what I have written I have said much about Bunker Hill, as well as Prospect Hill, because they really go, together as making a single whole. They are so vitally connected with each other that in the best sense they cannot be considered apart. The one story runs into the other, and the latter derives its true significance from the former. It is quite curious or noteworthy how afraid Prescott writers are of the bond between the two, and how prone they are to stop with the battle and to make little or nothing of what took place just after the retreat. Frothingham says in a foot-note that Putnam ‘retreated with that part of the army that went to Prospect Hill and remained here through the night!’ Dr. George E. Ellis, warm friend and grandiloquent eulogist of Prescott, and mortal enemy and vehement abuser of Putnam, leaves the latter out of the account altogether, after having caricatured his matchless service at the rail fence, and simply says this: ‘The British lay on their arms all night at Bunker's Hill, discharging their pieces against the Americans, who were safely encamped upon Prospect Hill at the distance of a mile!’ H. B. Dawson, historian and Englishman, who could never forgive Putnam for rending the American colonies from the British empire as he thought he did, and calls him ‘traitor’ and whatever else of the kind, does not even mention him or Prospect Hill after his long account of the engagement! The reason for all these slights or all this belittling or obscuration is obvious. The ‘supreme direction’ which Bancroft allows Putnam in the retreat, and which he certainly exercised then and on Prospect Hill, and the recognition and reinforcements which he received from headquarters while he was there, are so strong an argument that he was chief before, that such men as Frothingham, Ellis, and Dawson do not like to follow him thither and face the inevitable conclusion that he was also supreme commander of the American forces in the Battle of Bunker Hill, as he himself repeatedly said he was whenever occasion required him to say it; and as innumerable soldiers who fought under [98] him then and there, and military officers, statesmen, governors, lawyers, jurists, poets, scholars, clergymen, journalists, and college presidents and professors have said it for him for a hundred and twenty-eight years.

The battle ended, he was the one hero of the day. Immensely popular before, he was more than ever a favorite now. The country resounded with his praises. Toasts were drunk to his honor on both sides of the Atlantic. He and Washington dined often together, and were most intimate friends, and he who was ‘first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen’ gave his veteran companion successively the highest commands he had at his disposal; as when, under his authority, Putnam, with his troops, entered and took possession of Boston as soon as the British had been compelled to leave the city, and as afterward he was chief in the New York campaign, at Philadelphia, and elsewhere. Nor do we find that after the battle Washington or the public took any particular notice of Prescott whatever. Yet Prescott was a brave and faithful soldier, though previous to his command of the redoubt on Breed's Hill he had seen but little military service. Later he served under Putnam in New York, and undoubtedly performed his duty there as nobly as he had done it at the fort. During the war he quit the army and returned to the quiet of his own home at Pepperell, where he lived and died, respected and honored to the last by his friends and fellow-citizens and by the people at large. But the contention that when he was colonel of one of the regiments at Cambridge, just before he went with his detachment to Breed's Hill, and when he was surrounded by as many as eight generals and thirty colonels, a large proportion of whom, Putnam included, had had much experience and had gained high merit and distinction in previous wars, Prescott, with his then limited service and fame, was selected out of them all, and jumped over the heads of all these noted and scarred defenders of their country, to be the supreme commander in the daring enterprise close at hand, and in whatever conflict it might involve, is one of the most preposterous claims that ever challenged the attention or assent of sane or intelligent minds. To [99] those who are inclined to credit the claim, it may kindly be hinted that colonels do not command their superiors in rank, to which it may be added that Colonel Prescott gave no order to General Putnam, from the beginning to the end, but Putnam ordered Prescott and forces all along the line, and was obeyed. And Putnam it was, who, while Prescott was safe in his fort, and never left it until it was taken by the British, braced the provincials in the open to the long and perilous contest by his indomitable spirit, taught doubting England and the world once for all that Americans could and would fight for their liberties, whatever the cost, and made a seeming defeat a real and inestimable victory. It made sure the final triumph, and Franklin, when he heard of it, wrote to his English friends, ‘England has lost her colonies forever,’ and she had.

What do all these incontrovertible facts mean? What is the one just and sure interpretation of them? Let us follow no false guides, however learned, eminent, or sincere they may be, but answer the question for ourselves. From time immemorial such men have been on the wrong side in almost every important controversy, historical, scientific, or what not. Time has proved how mistaken they were, whether the subject was slavery, witchcraft, the Ptolemaic theory, the story of Adam and the Fall, or any other. Majorities, however imposing and influential, are not always in the right. The history of Bunker Hill and Prospect Hill, in all its fullness, is a matter of greater moment than some seem to think. Each one must study it impartially as best he can, and decide for himself what is the truth it teaches, assured that the truth will finally prevail.

A. P. Putnam. Salem, December 30, 1903.

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