Black Pond Brews
Israel Putnam Brown Ale
Although they may have lived extraordinary lives filled with many great accomplishments, America’s early patriots often end up being remembered for only one thing. In the case of Israel Putnam it is his famous phrase, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”. Putnam was a remarkable character who repeatedly exhibited incredible bravery and courage, and he certainly never shied away from danger.
Israel Putnam (1718-1790), was born into a prosperous family in Massachusetts and gained his first bit of recognition after, at the age of 22, killing a wolf in his town. The wolf had been killing livestock in the area so Putnam tracked it back to its den and then sent in dogs to try and kill the beast, but they all quickly turned around and ran away. No other man would dare enter the wolf’s den so Putnam grabbed his rifle, laid down on his stomach and crawled in until he came face-to-face with the wild animal, managing to shoot it dead. The town gave him an impromptu parade as well as the nicknames “Wolf Putnam” and “Old Wolf Put” which would later be shortened to a nickname he kept throughout his life, “Old Put”.
Putnam was one of the first Connecticuters to sign up for service in the French and Indian War. He quickly rose through the rankings and impressed many people with his military prowess, something that would be remembered at the start of the Revolutionary War. In 1757, Putnam was stationed at Roger’s Island in eastern New York when a fire suddenly broke out at the base. He responded by climbing atop a burning building that was filled with explosives and ammunition, and poured buckets of water on the fire until it was finally brought under control. Putnam sustained severe burns in the ordeal and took over a month to recover but the munitions were saved. Having made quite a name for himself, Putnam was later chosen to lead multiple regiments into a number of battles. He also survived a shipwreck during the British attack on Cuba and narrowly escaped being burned alive after he was captured by Mohawk Indians.
Around the same time that the British crown imposed the Stamp Act of 1765, Putnam was elected to the Connecticut General Assembly where he became an outspoken voice against oppressive British rule as well as a member of the Sons of Liberty. Allegedly, on April 20, 1775, he was plowing a field on his land when he got word that the American Revolution had begun and responded by instantly jumping off of his plow, mounting a horse and riding over 100 miles to Cambridge, MA to offer his services.
By this point, Israel Putnam’s many impressive feats had garnered him national fame, but his actions at the Battle of Bunker Hill made him an American legend. As a major general of the Army of Observation, a precursor to the Continental Army, Putnam was responsible for both planning attacks and carrying them out on the battlefield. It was his influence that caused American forces to take a nearby hill now called Breed’s Hill near the British-occupied city of Boston in June 1775. The move allowed rebel forces to attack Boston with cannons and force the British into the open ultimately causing over 1,000 casualties to British forces. It was also during this battle that Putnam may have yelled out “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” in an attempt to keep his men from wasting ammunition. A definitive attribution of the phrase is unclear and the line may have even been spoken by another officer but a thorough examination of sources could easily lend one to conclude that Putnam probably made the famous remark. It is also commonly attributed to Colonel William Prescott who also fought in the battle.
After the establishment of the Continental Army, Putnam was appointed major general by commander-in-chief George Washington. He helped American forces drive the British out of Boston, commanded thousands of soldiers along the East Coast and may have even saved George Washington’s life in the Battle of Long Island in 1776. Putnam also famously escaped British forces by riding down what is now called Putnam Hill in Greenwich, CT. A monument now found at the bottom of the hill describes the event well. It reads: “This marks the spot where on February 26, 1779, General Israel Putnam, cut off from his soldiers and pursued by British Cavalry, galloped down this rocky steep and escaped, daring to lead where not one of many hundred foes dared to follow.” The British may have been too afraid to chase Putnam down the hill but that didn’t stop them from shooting at him and one of those bullets went right through his hat. Putnam finished his escape by riding to Fort Nonsense and recruiting a group of soldiers who then ran off the British troops. Putnam’s hat can now be found at the Putnam Cottage in Greenwich.
Somehow, Israel Putnam made it into old age, passing away at the age of 72. He is memorialized throughout the country in the names of towns, counties, streets, parks, ponds and even has an apple named in his honor (Putnam Russet Apple), as well as the delicious Israel Putnam Brown Ale from Black Pond Brews.
From the Brewer: Our flagship brown ale brewed with barley, wheat and Cluster hops. ABV 5.3%
Cory Smith - Co-Founder and Head Brewer, Michael Teed - Co-Founder and Head of Revenue