Putnam Memorial State Park is the oldest state park in Connecticut. It is named for Major General Israel Putnam, who chose this site as the winter encampment for his men during the winter of 1778-1779, during the American Revolutionary War. Over 3,000 men were sent into winter quarters spread throughout three camps in Redding. The camps were established to keep an eye on the storehouses in Danbury, Connecticut, and to protect Long Island Sound and the Hudson River Valley. The Putnam Memorial State Park was first established in 1887 under the leadership of Redding resident Charles Burr Todd as a testament to the brave soldiers that spent their winter at the camp.
By the winter of 1778-1779, the
Continental forces were deep into the American Revolution. They needed to
establish their winter camp and chose this site, now known as the Putnam
Memorial State Park. The park is named for one of the four major generals who
served under George Washington. Israel Putnam brought his group of men to
Redding, Connecticut for the winter. The 2nd Canadian Regiment or Congress'
Own, under the command of Moses Hazen and the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment under
the command of Enoch Poor were also stationed at this location. Many of these
men were the same who had suffered at Valley Forge the previous winter. Their
job was to guard the supply storehouses in nearby Danbury, which other forces
had already pilfered. In addition, they could use this site to protect Long
Island Sound and the Hudson River Valley.
Major General Israel Putnam was near
the end of a long, storied military career.
A prosperous farmer during peacetime, he rallied to lead the revolutionary
forces when he first heard about the battles commencing at Lexington and
Concord. The patriot had previously helped to defend New England against the
native people during the French and Indian War, about fifteen years earlier. He
fought in attacks at Fort Ticonderoga and Montreal in 1759. Postwar, he had
become an outspoken critic of British imposition and taxation, speaking out
against things like the Stamp Act. He
was heavily involved in the Sons of Liberty. In 1775, he was plowing his fields
when he heard about the shots fired in Lexington and Concord. He reportedly dropped
his tools and rushed off to fight for the patriot cause. He led forces in the
Battle of Bunker Hill and then in New York at Long Island and in the Hudson
Valley. Eventually, he was put in charge of guarding the storehouse in
A paralyzing stroke in December
1779 ended Putnam’s military career. He died in Brooklyn, Connecticut in 1790.
Almost a century later, the Putnam Memorial State Park was established in honor
of Putnam and his men who spent the winter in the camp. It was the first state
park established in the state of Connecticut (established prior to the creation
of the Park’s department). Local historian and Redding resident, Charles Burr
Todd, was instrumental in converting the land into a state park in 1887. In
addition to the recreations of the forts and encampments, there are several
monuments placed throughout the grounds. The monuments include several Civil
War cannons, and obelisk, and a statue of Major General Putnam riding a horse
down a staircase, in an apparent attempt to escape the British forces in
Greenwich. Sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington created the amazing piece for the
park in 1967. Today, there are many
activities available at the park for its visitors, including re-enactments, the
winter walk, school programs, a museum, and archaeological digs.