[FORT TICONDEROGA]. PUTNAM, Israel (1718-1790), Major General, Continental Army. Letter signed ("Israel Putnam") to an unidentified correspondent, n.p. [Lake George area, New York], Sunday Evening, 16 November 1755. 1 page, folio, docketed on verso, in custom blue velvet mat with engraved map of Fort Ticonderoga and two engraved portraits of Putnam, in double-glazed giltwood frame (unexamined out of frame), minor spotting, otherwise fine.
A YOUNG ISRAEL PUTNAM SCOUTS THE NEW FRENCH FORT UNDER CONSTRUCTION AT TICONDEROGA.
A remarkable letter from the young Putnam, serving as Captain and a scout in Robert Rogers' famous unit of Rangers, reporting in detail on a scouting mission up Lake Champlain, during which Putnam may have been the first American to observe construction of Fort Ticonderoga, begun just a month before by the French under the Marquis de Lotbiniere. Putnam reports: "Taking my order from General [William] Johnson to go Down the Lake at about Seven a Clock we sett out and soon after we got through the first narrows saw a fire upon the Eastern Shore and soon after astern of us another fire w[h]ich [sic] we took to be kindled by the Enemy..." Then, "shearing off to the western shore," away from the enemy fires, Putnam continued stealthily down the lake, drew his batteaus "up the bank in among bushes," and, when daylight broke "trailed up a mountain and climed [sic] a tree where we saw South Bay and the Valy [sic] between the Enemies advanc'd Guard and South Bay where the Indians say they saw a French Encampment... stan[d]ing on to the Northward for some time we went onto a Mountain [Mount Defiance?] and saw the Encampment at Ticondrogo [sic]...going on farther we came to the Lake Champlain within about half a mile of their Encampment," and observed the French "very busy at work...building a Fort and some making a Breastwork. The enemy camp consisted of "one large House and three Small ones and a considerable number of tents and about 2000 men...200 Indians," with "two black flags a flying." The next morning, Putnam and his men cautiously make their way back to their boats and, after dark, row back down the lake "and saw nothing Remarkible [sic]." "On Wednesday morning [we] got into the Camp at Lake George..." On verso is a list of Colonels (Harris, Whiting, Browne, Dyers, Channery, etc.) and the number of men with each, totaling 500.
Putnam, a Connecticut farmer, was commissioned as a Captain in the fall of 1755, and proved extremely useful as a scout in missions like this one, as the British and American colonists tried to assess French military strength on the northern frontier.