Rufus Putnam

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Rufus Putnam

Early Life

Rufus Putnam (1738 - 1824) was born on April 9, 1738 in Sutton, Massachusetts. His grandfather was a half-brother to the father of Israel Putnam, the renowned general during the American Revolution. Rufus's father died when he was 6 or 7, and he temporarily lived with his grandfather. Putnam's mother remarried two years later to John Sadler. Rufus lived with his mother and stepfather in Sutton, where the family ran an inn.

War & Early Careers

The French & Indian War

Rufus served with a Connecticut regiment during the French and Indian War. He served from 1757 to 1760. During his career, Putnam saw action in the Great Lakes region, near Lake Champlain.


After the war was over, Putnam relocated to New Braintree, Massachusetts. There, he worked as a millwright from 1761 to 1768. During this period he was married twice. First, in April of 1761 to Elizabeth Ayers, the daughter of William Ayers, esquire of Brookfield, Connecticut. Elizabeth died in 1762, and on January 10, 1765 he remarried to one Persis Rice, the daughter of Zebulon Rice of Westborough, Massachusetts. While Putnam worked as a millwright, he devoted his time to educating himself, learning vast quantities about geography, mathematics, and surveying.

In 1769, Putnam left his occupation as a millwright and became a farmer and surveyor. Rufus Putnam, along with Israel Putnam and two others traveled in 1773 to near present-day Pensacola, Florida. Here, Putnam surveyed and chartered lands along the Mississippi River which were to be granted to veterans of the French & Indian War.

The Revolutionary War

After the shots at The battle of Lexington were fired, Putnam immediately enlisted the same day, on April 19, 1775 in one of Massachusett's first revolutionary regiments. Putnam enlisted in the Continental Army as a Lieutenant-Colonel, under the command of David Brewer. Brewer's regiment first engaged with the British Army in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Putnam, drawing from his knowledge and skill as a millwright, was essential in constructing the fortifications necessary for obtaining victory. His fortifications played as a key advantage for the Continental Army, securing victories at Sewall's Point, Providence, New Port, Dorchester Heights, Long Island, and West Point.

General Washington appointed Putnam to be the Chief of Engineers of the Works of New York. He was soon promoted to engineer with the rank of colonel; however when Congress rejected his proposition to establish a corp of engineers in December of 1776, Putnam resigned. He reenlisted in the Northern Army and served under Major General Horatio Gates. Under Gates, Putnam commanded two regiments in the battle of Saratoga. Putnam also constructed crucial fortifications, including Fort Putnam at West Point in 1778. In 1779 Putnam served under Major General Anthony Wayne after the capture of Stony Point. Putnam's remaining military career was rather uneventful. In January, 1783 he was commissioned as brigadier general.


After the war was over, Putnam returned to Rutland, Massachusetts. He had bought a confiscated farm here in 1780, and returned to reside upon it. Putnam returned to working as a surveyor, inspecting lands in Maine (then part of Massachusetts). Putnam was a strong advocate of granting lands to veterans of the Revolution. He was one of the authors of the army's Newbergh Petition, which was submitted to Congress requesting land disbursements.

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Rufus Putnam

The Ohio Company

Putnam's advocacy for land grants led him to establish the Ohio Company of Associates for the purchase and settlement of Western lands (known commonly as The Ohio Company). The Ohio Company was established in Boston on March 3, 1786 by Putnam, Benjamin Tupper, Samuel Holden Parsons, and Manasseh Cutler. Its primary purpose was to settle the North-West Territory, the land granted for colonization by the US from the Treaty of Paris (1783). The Company bought 1,500,000 acres (6,100 km²) between the site of present day Marietta and Huntington, West Virginia north of the Ohio River. Cutler had attempted to purchase all land between the Ohio and Scioto rivers, but the second half of this tract was purchased by the Scioto Company.

Later life

Putnam led a group of Revolutionary veterans to settle the land in 1788. They established the first white settlement in Ohio, Marietta. Putnam went on to serve as a Supreme Court judge for the Northwest Territory. He served in General Anthony Wayne's campaigns against indian tribes, and in 1796, Putnam was appointed as the first Surveyor General of the United States, a position he held until 1803. Putnam died on May 4, 1824.


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