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Putnam's Narrow Escape by Benson J. Lossing

 

"RUSHING DOWN THE HILL LIKE A MADMAN." "RUSHING DOWN THE HILL LIKE A MADMAN."

Many years ago I was riding in a light carriage between Greenwich and Stamford, in Connecticut. After descending from high ground by a road cut through a steep declivity, I observed some rude stone steps upon the abrupt slope, which were half concealed by shrubs and brambles. An old man was standing at a door-yard gate near by, and I inquired of him the meaning of those steps.

"Before the Revolutionary war," he said, "the people from this way, when going to the church on the hill yonder, had to go nearly a mile around. To give those who were on foot a nearer cut, those steps were placed there. They are the rocks," he continued, "that people believed 'Old Put' went down when he escaped from the British dragoons at Horseneck. He didn't go down the steps at all, but went zigzag from the top to the bottom of the hill, very near them. I stood just here listening to the firing above, when I saw the general rushing down the hill like a madman, as he seemed, for you see it is very steep. As he flew past me on his powerful bay horse, all bespattered with mud, I heard him cursing the British, who had pursued him to the brow of the precipice, but dared not follow him further."

My informant was General Ebenezer Mead.

The whole story may be briefly told. Putnam and a few foot-soldiers were attacked near the church by some British dragoons on a warm morning in March, 1779. So much greater was the number of the assailants than the Americans, that the latter fled for safety to the swamps near by. Their leader, who was mounted, turned his face toward Stamford. Finding himself in danger of being caught, he wheeled suddenly, his horse at full speed, and descended the declivity as described. The dragoons dared not follow him in his perilous ride, but sent pistol-balls after him. Putnam escaped unharmed to Stamford, where he quickly gathered the militia, and rallied some of his scattered followers. Then he pursued the invaders in turn as they retreated toward New York, and making nearly forty of them prisoners, he recovered much of the plunder which they were carrying away with them. Those famous steps, associated with one of the perilous feats of a bold American soldier, may be seen at this day, not far to the right of the highway, as you go from Greenwich to Stamford.