( Originally Published 1851 )
Few men have been more remarkable than General Putnam for the acts of successful rashness to which a bold and intrepid spirit frequently prompted him.
When he was pursued by General Tryon at the head of fifteen hundred men, his only method of escape was precipitating his horse down the steep declivity of the rock called Horseneck ; and as none of his pursuers dared to imitate his example, he escaped.
But an act of still more daring intrepidity was his venturing to clear in a boat, the tremendous waterfalls of Hudson's river. This was in the year 1756, when Putnam fought against the French and their allies, the Indians. He was accidentally with a boat and five men, on the eastern side of the river, contiguous to these falls. His men, who were on the opposite side, informed him by signal, that a considerable body of savages were advancing to surround him, and there was not a moment to lose Three modes of conduct were at his option —to remain, fight, and be sacrificed ; to attempt to pass to the other side exposed to the full shot of the enemy ; or to sail down the waterfalls, with almost a certainty of being overwhelmed. These were the only alternatives. Putnam did not hesitate, and jumped into the boat at the fortunate instant, for one of his companions, who was at a little distance, was a victim to the Indians. His enemies soon arrived, and dis-charged their muskets at the boat before he could get out of their reach. No sooner had he escaped this danger through the rapidity of the current, but death presented itself under a more terrific form. Rocks, whose points projected above the surface of the water ; large masses of timber that nearly closed the passage ; absorbing gulfs, and rapid descents, for the dis-tance of a quarter of a mile, left him no hope of escape but by a miracle. Putnam however placed himself at the helm, and directed it with the utmost tranquillity. His companions saw him with admiration, terror, and astonishment, avoid with the utmost address the rocks and threatening gulfs, which they every instant expected to devour him. He disappeared, rose again, and directing his course across the only passage which he could possibly make, he at length gained the even surface of the river that flowed at the bottom of this dreadful cascade. The Indians were no less surprised. This miracle astonished them almost as much as the sight of the first Europeans that approached the banks of this river. They considered Putnam as invulnerable ; and they thought that they should offend the Great Spirit, if they attempted the life of a man that was so visibly under his immediate protection.