Toward the last of November , Washington completed arrangements for the disposition of the Continental Army for the winter. Most of the brigades were to be in the Highlands. Three brigades, composed of the New Hampshire and Connecticut troops and Hazen's regiment were to be posted in the vicinity of Danbury, Connecticut, "for protection of the country lying along the Sound, to cover our magazines lying on the Connecticut River, and to aid the Highlands on any serious movement of the enemy that way." Putnam was to command at Danbury, McDougall in the Highlands, and Washington's own headquarters were to be at Middlebrook in New Jersey.
A three-day's journey brought Putnam, about December 1st, to the winter camps in the sheltered valley, formed by the Saugatuck and its tributaries, which lie along the border line of what was then Danbury (now Bethel) and Redding. He established his headquarters in a farmhouse on Umpawaug Hill. Besides his sons Israel and Daniel, the General had in his "military family" the new aide-de-camp, appointed December 18, 1778. This was David Humphreys, who had been Brigade-Major in Parson's Brigade and who, after serving on Putnam's staff, became aide-de-camp successively to Greene and Washington, a military career which, when the war ended, this young officer (born 1753, in Derby, Connecticut) recited in verse, thus:
"With what high Chiefs I play'd my early part,
With Parsons first, whose eye, with piercing ken,
Reads through the hearts the characters of men;
Then how I aided, in the foll'wing scene,
Death-daring Putnam - then immortal Greene -
Then how great Washington my youth approv'd,
In rank preferred, and as a parent lov'd."
Another writer of patriotic and martial lines was a vistor at Putnam's headquarters - Joel Barlow, a native of Redding and graduate of Yale College, who, in his Columbiad, mentions among American heros,
"Putnam, scored with ancient scars,
The living records of his country's wars."
The comparitive leisure of camp life at Redding gave some of the soldiers abundant opportunities to brood over their privations, and they succeeded in spreading discontent until a large number were ready to revolt, claiming that they had been suffering from want of clothes and blankets, that their pay was nothing, and that all engagements with them should be made good.
On December 30th, the men of Huntington's brigade assembled under arms, determined to march to Hartford and demand of the Legislature redress of grievances. Putnam's tactful course in dealing with the mutinous men - how he addressed them kindly and firmly and caused them to disperse quietly to their tents - is related by Humphreys, who was on the scene:
"Word having been brought to General Putnam that the second brigade was under arms, he mounted his horse, galloped to the cantonment, and thus addressed them: 'My brave lads, whither are you going?
Do you intend to desert your officers, and to invite the enemy to follow you into the country? Whose cause have you been fighting and suffering so long in - is it not your own? Have you no property, no parents, wives, or children? You have behaved like men so far - all the world is full of your praises - and posterity will stand astonished at your deeds, but not if you spoil all at last. Don't you consider how much the country is distressed by the war, and that your officers have not been any better paid than youselves? But we all expect better times, and that the country will do us ample justice. Let us all stand by one another, then, and fight it out like brave soldiers. Think what a shame it would be for Connecticut men to run away from their officiers.'
"After the several regiments had received the General as he rode along the line, with drums beating and presented arms, the sergeants, who had then the command, brought the men to order, in which position they continued while he was speaking. When he had done, he directed the acting Major of Brigade to give the word to them to shoulder, march to their regimental parades, and lodge arms; all which they executed with promptitude and apparent good humour. One soldier only, who had been the most active, was confined in the quarterguard; from whence, at night, he attempted to make his escape. But the sentinel, who had also been in the mutiny, shot him dead on the spot, and thus the affair subsided."
When Washington heard of the mutiny, he wrote to Putnam, commending him for his success in quelling it.
Return to the General Putnam Home Page for more articles and photographs.