Rufus Putnam (April 9, 1738 – 1824) was a colonial military officer during the French and Indian War, and a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He was instrumental in the initial settling of the Ohio Country following the war.
Early life and career
Putnam was born in Sutton, Massachusetts. His grandfather was a half-brother to the father of Israel Putnam, the renowned general during the American Revolution. Rufus's father died when he was 6 or 7, and he temporarily lived with his grandfather. Putnam's mother remarried two years later to John Sadler. Rufus lived with his mother and stepfather in Sutton, where the family ran an inn.
After the war, Putnam relocated to New Braintree, Massachusetts. There, he worked as a millwright from 1761 to 1768. During this period he was married twice—first, in April 1761 to Elizabeth Ayers, the daughter of William Ayers, esquire of the Second Precinct of Brookfield (now North Brookfield), Massachusetts. Elizabeth died in 1762, and on January 10, 1765 he remarried to one Persis Rice, the daughter of Zebulon Rice of Westborough, Massachusetts. While Putnam worked as a millwright, he devoted his time to educating himself, learning vast quantities about geography, mathematics, and surveying.
In 1769, Putnam left his occupation as a millwright and became a farmer and surveyor. Rufus Putnam, along with Israel Putnam and two others, traveled in 1773 to near present-day Pensacola, Florida. There, Putnam surveyed and chartered lands along the Mississippi River that were to be granted to veterans of the French & Indian War.
After the shots at The battle of Lexington were fired, Putnam immediately enlisted the same day, on April 19, 1775, in one of Massachusett's first revolutionary regiments. Putnam later enlisted in the Continental Army as a Lieutenant Colonel, under the command of David Brewer. Brewer's regiment first engaged with the British Army in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Putnam, drawing from his knowledge and skill as a millwright, was essential in constructing the fortifications necessary for obtaining victory. His fortifications played as a key advantage for the Continental Army, securing victories at Sewall's Point, Providence, New Port, Dorchester Heights, Long Island, and West Point.
General Washington appointed Putnam to be the Chief of Engineers of the Works of New York. He was soon promoted to engineer with the rank of colonel; however when the Continental Congress rejected his proposition to establish a corp of engineers in December 1776, Putnam resigned.
He reenlisted in the Northern Army and served under Major General Horatio Gates. Under Gates, Putnam commanded two regiments in the battle of Saratoga. Putnam also constructed crucial fortifications, including Fort Putnam at West Point in 1778. In 1779 Putnam served under Major General Anthony Wayne after the capture of Stony Point. Putnam's remaining military career was rather uneventful. In January 1783 he was commissioned as brigadier general.
After the war was over, Putnam returned to Rutland, Massachusetts. He had bought a confiscated farm here in 1780, and returned to reside upon it. Putnam returned to working as a surveyor, inspecting lands in Maine (then part of Massachusetts). Putnam was a strong advocate of granting lands to veterans of the Revolution. He was one of the authors of the army's Newbergh Petition, which was submitted to Congress requesting land disbursements.
The Ohio Company
Putnam's advocacy for land grants led him to establish the Ohio Company of Associates for the purchase and settlement of Western lands. The Ohio Company was established in Boston on March 3, 1786 by Putnam, Benjamin Tupper, Samuel Holden Parsons, and Manasseh Cutler. Its primary purpose was to settle the North-West Territory, the land granted for colonization by the US from the Treaty of Paris (1783).
The Company bought 1,500,000 acres (6,100 km²)of land north of the Ohio River, between the present day sites of Marietta, Ohio, and Huntington, West Virginia. Cutler had attempted to purchase all of the land between the Ohio and Scioto Rivers, but the western half of this tract was purchased by the Scioto Company.
Putnam led a group of Revolutionary veterans to settle the land in 1788. These American Pioneers to the Northwest Territory arrived at the confluence of the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, on April 7, 1788, and established Marietta, Ohio as the first permanent American settlement in the Northwest Territory. Putnam went on to serve as a Supreme Court judge for the Northwest Territory.
He served in General Anthony Wayne's Ohio campaign against American Indian tribes, and in 1796, Putnam was appointed as the first Surveyor General of the United States, a position he held until 1803. Putnam died on May 4, 1824. He was buried at Mound Cemetery in Marietta, Ohio.
The town of Putnam, Ohio (now a part of Zanesville, Ohio) was named for Rufus Putnam. One of his grandsons, Catharinus Putnam Buckingham, was a brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
- ^ Hulbert, Archer Butler: The Records of the Original Proceedings of the Ohio Company, Volume I, Marietta Historical Commission, Marietta, Ohio (1917).
- ^ Hulbert, Archer Butler: The Records of the Original Proceedings of the Ohio Company, Volume II, Marietta Historical Commission, Marietta, Ohio (1917).
- Barker, Joseph: Recollections of the First Settlement of Ohio, Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio (1958); original manuscript written late in Joseph Barker's life, prior to his death in 1843.
- Hildreth, S. P.: Pioneer History: Being an Account of the First Examinations of the Ohio Valley, and the Early Settlement of the Northwest Territory, H. W. Derby and Co., Cincinnati, Ohio (1848). This historical book is available online via the Google Books Library Project at Early Settlement of the Northwest Territory.
- Hulbert, Archer Butler: The Records of the Original Proceedings of the Ohio Company, Volume I, Marietta Historical Commission, Marietta, Ohio (1917). This historical book is available online via the Google Books Library Project at Ohio Company, Volume I.
- Hulbert, Archer Butler: The Records of the Original Proceedings of the Ohio Company, Volume II, Marietta Historical Commission, Marietta, Ohio (1917). This historical book is available online via the Google Books Library Project at Ohio Company, Volume II.
- Summers, Thomas J.: History of Marietta, The Leader Publishing Co., Marietta, Ohio (1903). This historical book is available online via the Google Books Library Project at History of Marietta.