| American History Stories, Volume II|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Tales of Revolutionary times, including the causes of the American Revolution, the daring exploits of those defending liberty, the early battles, the struggles of the army, and the heroes who led the colonists to victory. Ages 8-12 |
 This brave general was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in
1718. He was only a farmer boy and so had very little
chance to learn the many things about the wide, wide
world that you boys and girls are learning every day.
He was a plucky little fellow though, and was the
leader among the boys of his town in all sorts of
things—mischief as well as other things I have no
At school he learned easily all there was to be taught
him; and if he knew nothing but the "three rís," that
was not his
 fault, for that was all little folks were taught in
Do you know what people mean when they speak of the
"three rís?" Perhaps I shall not tell you the story
just right, but this is something like the way it is
Once, in a country village, a school-board was holding
a meeting. One man, rather more educated than the
rest, arose and said, "I think, gentlemen, we might put
a few more studies into our schools. I should like to
see our boys and girls studying about the flowers and
the stars; I should like to have them know about the
different countries and the different people of this
world. I move that a committee be appointed to see
what can be done about making the course of study
bigger, and better, and broader for our children."
Then a hot discussion followed. One man said it was
all bosh; another said there was no need of knowing
about countries or people that were thousands of miles
away; another said he had no money to waste on such
foolishness; another said the stars and flowers
wouldnít help a boy to earn his bread and butter half
as much as potatoes and squashes would. At last one
man arose and said, "I donít care nothing about these
new fangled notions and whatís more I donít want to
know about 'em. You and me was brought up in the
deestrick school where we learned our readiní and
'ritiní and 'rithmetic. Mr. Chairman, move that we
stick to the old way. The three 'rís was good enough
 and itís good enough for my boys. Yes, sir! 'the three
rísí—by that I mean readiní and 'ritiní and
Well, what has all this to do with Israel Putnam? Not
much after all, perhaps. Only to give you an idea of
the kind of schools there used to be in those days. It
was to this sort of a school where they taught nothing
but the "three rís" that Israel Putnam was sent to get
his "larniní" as his old father used to call it.
But, as I said before, he was a plucky boy, and took
the lead in all sorts of sports. He could climb like a
squirrel, run like a hare, leap like a frog. He could,
in short, do all sorts of things that boys admire to
do. He was very generous and just; but he wouldnít
take an insult from any other boy if he could help
One time, while yet quite a little lad, his father took
him to Boston. As he stood admiring this new city,
which to the little country boy looked so very, very
big, another boy across the way called out, "Hello,
country, ainít it about time to milk the caows?"
Quick as a flash, the hot-headed lad fell upon the rude
city boy, and gave him a thrashing that lasted him for
many a day.
When Israel Putnam was a young man, living on a farm in
Connecticut, he was very much troubled by wolf
Morning after morning he would find the number of his
sheep and lambs lessened.
 His neighbors, too, often found their chickens and hens
gone, and only a few scattered feathers left to tell
One morning finding a lamb which was to the farmer the
pride of his flock among the missing, he started forth,
gun in hand.
"There is a time," said Israel to his neighbors, "when
even a wolf had better be taught that the way of
transgressors is hard. I propose that we leave our
farm work for to-day, and give this thief a good
Several of the farmers, ready, I suspect for a good
time as well as anxious to catch the wolf, joined in a
party; and with Israel, who was always full of dry,
"cute" sayings as we Yankees call it, at their head,
they started out.
They were soon upon the track, and at last, with the
aid of their keen-scented dogs, found the wolfís den.
It was a deep hollow in a rock, the opening of which
was so small that the farmers could only enter one by
one crawling on their hands and knees.
"Now weíve lost him," said one farmer.
"Letís smoke him out," said another. So they built a
fire of leaves and brush just inside the cave; but no
"Set the dogs upon him," said another farmer. But the
dogs came skulking out yelping with pain.
"Weíre not going to be beaten in this way," said
Putnam; "Iíll go in there myself." And so, tying a
rope round his
 legs, that the men might draw him out, he crawled
slowly in, his gun in one hand, and a torch in the
He soon saw the eyes of the wolf glaring at him from a
corner of the cave. Bang! went the gun, and
half-blinded by the smoke and half deafened by the
noise, Putnam was dragged out by the farmers.
Reloading his gun, back he went and fired
again—and again was he pulled out.
For the third time he entered, and finding the animal
was dead he hauled her out by the ears, while his
companions pulled him by the rope round his legs. His
clothes were all torn off his back, and his face black
with smoke and powder, but he had killed the wolf, and
kept her skin as a trophy.
During the whole time of the Revolution, Israel Putnam
was one of the foremost in every danger.
After one battle, he found that fourteen bullets had
passed through his clothing, not one of which had
injured him in the least. At another time when the
fort was on fire he would not give up; but worked away
at the burning timbers till his hands were burned
nearly to a crisp.
At another time, he was taken prisoner by the Indians
and bound to a tree. The bullets and the arrows flew
on every side of him; one officer shot at him for the
fun of it—but neither bullet or arrow struck him,
although many of them struck the tree to which he was
bound. It seemed indeed, as if he bore a "charmed
When the British began to land in New York, "Old Put"
 led one division of the colonial army out of the city
by way of the Hudson River road. He was to meet
Washington not far up the river, and then together they
intended to retreat.
Now it happened that at just the time Putnam was going
up the river road, a British division was
coming down. Mrs. Robert Murray, a good Quaker
woman, who, although she did not believe in war and
fighting, was nevertheless a staunch friend of the
colonists, learned of the danger and resolved to save
The British red-coats, marching nearer and nearer, came
until their advanced guard were at her very gate.
Going forth to meet them, she saluted the officers and
invited them to stop and lunch beneath her trees upon
the lawn. The officers, tired and dusty with marching
under the hot August sun, gladly accepted her seemingly
She brought forth fresh bread with sweet golden butter,
and gave them plenty of cold, foaming milk to drink,
cake and fruits, everything that her house or garden
could afford. She talked with them, showed them about
her mansion, and in every way attempted to keep them
pleasantly occupied until she was sure General Putnam
had passed in the road below.
When at length the British division resumed its march,
the sun had sunk nearer the west, the air was cooler,
 men were refreshed and rested—and, best of all,
General Putnam and his division had gone on far up the
road and out of sight.
At last, toward the end of the war, this daring general
was taken very ill. So strong was his will, that,
although helpless and often in great pain, he lived on
until the Revolution was over.
He was bold and daring, had no mercy on his enemy in
battle, and when fighting, fought, as his soldiers used
to say, like a very wild-cat.
Still, for all that, he was generous and had as kind a
heart as ever beat. He was not ashamed to be gentle
with his friends. Every one who knew him loved him;
and when at the good old age of seventy-two, he died,
he was mourned by all. Every honor was paid him by the
country he had so loved, and for which he had so
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