Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Our New Neighborhood: Putnam Park

Turns out there is a pretty cool park, it's very much like Bunker Hill or Gettysburg. The kids and I had no idea what we were getting into and were quite pleasantly surprised.

The first visit to the park was with the girls I watch on Monday and Wednesday. We stayed, due to the driveway being first, on the non-military side of the park. We just walked around, what appeared to be a normal park. We ended up finding the memorial, statue of General Putnam, and the bullfrog pond (as we call it) at the end of that long hike.

So, then, I was intrigued and brought all the kids back another time...but, again we didn't make it past the bullfrog pond and the memorial (which Elena calls the "Memorial Day").

The last time I took just my kids and we were finally able to really explore the park, read the signs and take it all in...turns out that Putnam Park was the winter encampment of 8000-10,000 revolutionary soldiers. It was called Putnam's Valley Forge. There is not much left...some mounds that were the chimney stacks of all the company housing, some clearings and some graves. The signs are helpful in explaining what archeological digs have uncovered since 1779.

It's funny that a lot of the reconstructed buildings, which were built in 1860, are completed wrong. They have since been proven to have served completely different purposes than originally thought. For example, there is a little cabin at the far end of the site that was labeled as "Officer's Quarters", but later proven to be the fort magazine!

Here's a quote from "Connecticut - Off the Beaten Path" by David and Deborah Ritchie,'s history lesson:

"When Washington's Northern Army went into winter quarters at the end of November 1778, it was disposed in an arc from New Jersey to Connecticut, so as to ring the British garrison in New York. Three of the army's brigades had their winter encampment at Redding, when they could move east to defend the Hudson Heights or west to defend the Connecticut coast from British raiders. Their commander was Major General Israel ("Old Put") Putnam.

That winter was relatively mild, but the harvest had been poor, and supplies were scarce. The men, many of whom had been through the hell of Valley Forge the previous year, began to mutter about a similar privation winter in Connecticut. Then in December the state experienced one of the worst winter storms in New England history. Two days after it ended, the men of one brigade mutinied and prepared to march on the State Assembly in Hartford to demand overdue supplies and wages. Putnam was able to break up the affair only with the greatest of difficulty. Thus the winter encampment at Redding that came to be known as "Connecticut's Valley Forge."

The original encampment in now the site of Putnam Memorial State Park at the junction of Routes 58 and 107 in West Redding. The twelve-man huts are now just piles of stone where their chimneys stood, and the old magazine is only a stone-lined pit; but the officers' barracks has been rebuilt, and there is a museum on site containing exhibits dealing with the Redding encampment. There's also a great statue by the front gate showing Old Put riding his horse down a flight of stairs to escape capture during a British raid in February of 1779."

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