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Historical Sketch of the Putnam Phalanx  

This sketch was written by Emory B. Giddings. It appeared in The Connecticut Magazine Vol VI, Number 5, July-August, 1900. I found a copy at the Hotchkiss Library in Sharon, Connecticut.

Much has been said and considerable written, concerning the doings of the Putnam Phalanx, but all of these records concern recent events and none record the early history of this famous organization. In fact so little is really known concerning the history of the company, that it has been exceedingly difficult to obtain facts regarding it. To-day the Putnam Phalanx stands at the head of all military bodies in the State of Connecticut, while its ranks are numbered the best known men in the commonwealth. Governors, Generals, State and Town Officials of note have carried and do carry muskets and march with the rank and file, when occasion demands. Although its headquarters are in the Capital City, its members are scattered all over the State. The first meeting of which any record can be obtained, was held in this city (Hartford), August 9, 1858. It was not intended at that time to make the organization a permanent one, the idea then being to form a military company for the time being, which according to the historian, "should welcome home, Col. Thomas H. Seymour, a distinguished fellow townsman, known as the "Hero of Chapultepec," a title acquired in the Mexican War. (Col. Seymour had also represented this country as Minister at the Russian Court, with marked ability). A copy of the call for enrollment issued by those interested in the formation of the company at the time reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, do hereby enroll ourselves, for the purpose of forming a military company, to take part in connection with the regularly organized military of this vicinity, on the occasion of the return of Col. Thomas H. Seymour, to his native city, and in giving him such a reception as his eminent civil and military services entitle him to from the hands of his fellow citizens."

Following this preamble were affixed the names of the signers, of which there were 153 representative citizens of Hartford and the vicinity. As soon as the desired number of members had been secured, a meeting was held at the Seymour Light Artillery Armory and committees were appointed to investigate the questions of uniforms, arms, constitution and by-laws, finance and a drill officer. On the 25th of August, another meeting was held at which these committees reported. By-laws were adopted and the committee on arms reported that muskets had been obtained through the courtesy of Col. Samuel Colt. Upon the election of officers which followed, Horace Goodwin was chosen Major; A.M. Gordon Captain of the first company and Allyn Stillman, captain of the second company. Up on the suggestion of Major N. Seymour Webb, who was subsequently chosen Adjutant, the organization was christened the "Putnam Phalanx."

The command made its first bow to the public as a military body on the 22nd of December 1858, when a street parade was given. At this time no uniform had as yet been selected and the members of the battalion appeared in the regimentals of the Amoskeag Veterans which were generously loaned them by the Manchester organization. These uniforms were of the Continental style and very similar to those worn by the company today. At the close of the parade the Battalion was presented with an appropriate standard by the descendants of Israel Putnam, whose name the command bore. June 2nd, 1859, the "Puts" made their second appearance, this time in their own uniforms. At this time the Legislature was in session and so pleasing was the appearance of the new company, that the representatives and senators passed the following resolution:

"Be it unanimously resolved, That the appearance of the Putnam Phalanx is most gratifying to us and reflects the highest credit not only upon its officers, but also upon the rank and file."

August 30, 1859, was the eventful and historical day, set aside for the reception of Col. and Ex-Governor Thomas H. Seymour. Organized for the especial purpose of taking part in this celebration the members of the Phalanx turned out in force, but three of the whole number being absent when the role was called. Their showy Continental uniforms appeared in striking contrast to the more sober ones of the Seymour Light Artillery, Light Guard, Colt Guard, Hartland Cavalry, Citizens' Guard of Rockville, and other military and civic bodies that participated in the parade. According to the historian, "The display was the most grand and imposing one ever before witnessed in the Charter Oak City and a striking proof of the high estimate in which Col. Seymour was held by his friends and acquaintances at home."

Putnam Phalanx visits Putnam Park

As has been stated the original idea of the Phalanx was to have a temporary organization, but its name, uniform and spirit so aroused associations of times historic, that it culminated in the organization of a command, the purpose of which was to commemorate and perpetuate the glorious past of Israel Putnam and other sons of the American Revolution.

Although nominally a military body, the Putnam Phalanx is more distinctly a social organization. Its pilgrimages have been many and in every city in which it has appeared it has won social distinction. The first of these pilgrimages was made in October 1859, when the command visited Bunker Hill, Boston and Providence, beside many other places of historical interest. At all of these place the Phalanx was greeted with the greatest enthusiasm and the memories which their appearance revived were eulogized by the greatest orators in the land, among whom was Edward Everett of Boston, Mass. A second trip was made in November, 1860. The objective point being the tomb of Washington at Mount Vernon. On this excursion the command also visited the cities of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. The ovations received upon this occasion are recorded as being among the greatest in Phalanx history and are recalled with no little pride.

Since organization the Putnam Phalanx has had sixteen Majors and of this number, ten have joined the silent army of the dead. Among those who have had the honor to command are men prominent in both business and political interests of city and state. The roll shows the names of Horace Goodwin*, James B. Shultas*, Timothy M. Allen*, C.C. Burt*, Seth E. March*, Henry Kennedy*, H.L. Welch, Henry Kennedy*, Freeman M. Brown, Alvin Squires*, Clayton H. Case, Joseph Warner*, O.H. Blanchard, Dr. Henry Bickford, James N. Shedd and Charles B. Andrus. Major Andrus is the present incumbent of the office.

Note: *=deceased.

When in 1879 the Phalanx celebrated its 21st birthday and became of age, Major Freeman M. Brown, then in command, called the attention of the members to several matters connected with the history of the organization, and made several wise suggestions which he regarded as fundamental to the furtherance of the objects of its founders. He suggested that as the records were then very incomplete, it would be well to gather such facts connected with its history as might be obtained without going into lengthy detail, which would prove interesting in days to come. Major Brown's recommendation was well received and at the present time a brief but comprehensive history, framed, adorns the parlor at the armory. The facts contained in this were obtained to a great extent by ex-Captain Lucius W. Bartlett. His work to this end was ceaseless and untiring and to him is due no little credit.

The Phalanx was a healthy youngster and from the date of its birth grew rapidly. From 1860 until 1878 inclusive, accessions to the roll each year are recorded as follows: 37, 5*, 7*, 12*, 1*, 31, 12, 11, 10, 26, 24, 19, 12, 8, 27, 14, 22, 39, 31.

Note: *=Civil War.

These additions brought the total number of members up to 525 actives. It will be noticed that the years showing the smallest enrollment, were during the Civil War, '61-'64. During those years interest flagged and there were but 100 members on the active roll. In January, 1871 the membership list reached its lowest ebb, when but 50 actives answered the roll call. Since that time, however, the reaction has been correspondingly great and today the organization can show a roll which in point of numbers is second to none in New England.

When President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 troops to put down the Rebellion, a meeting of the Phalanx was called for the 26th of April, but adjourned until the next day. At the adjourned meeting it was voted to put the Battalion on a war basis, by supplying the members with the most approved fire-arms, fatigue uniforms and such other articles as are required to make a Battalion efficient for active service. On the 20th of May, 1861, it was voted to tender escort to all organizations of volunteers leaving the city within 60 days. According to the historian, "This ended as far as appears from the records, the active service of the Phalanx as a military corps." It should be stated, however, in justice to the patriotism of the members, that many of them were enrolled in the ranks of the great army which went forth to battle for the nation's honor. Many fought their way to fame and everlasting glory while others sacrificed their lives that the Union might be preserved.

In June 1860, the Phalanx made a two days' pilgrimage to Brooklyn, Connecticut, paying an official tribute to the tomb of General Israel Putnam. They were accorded a hearty welcome by the townspeople and the celebration was one long to be remembered. Upon their return a meeting of the command was held and resolutions acknowledging the courtesies extended them were adopted. A committee of nine was appointed to solicit subscriptions in co-operation with other organizations interested, and adopt any means deemed necessary to further the erection of a monument to the memory of General Putnam at Brooklyn. This committee consisted of S.A. White, Thomas H. Seymour, Henry C. Deming, J.W. Stewart, Timothy M. Allyn, E.N. Kellogg, C.C. Waite, Oliver Ellsworth, and James Spencer. What conclusion this committee reached or what the result of their work is only a matter of conjecture, but it is presumed that their duties were interfered with by the opening of the Civil War. However this may be, it was not until a quarter of a century later, through the efforts of the Phalanx and the citizens of Brooklyn, that the matter was brought to the attention of the Legislature and the appropriation of a sufficient sum to erect a suitable and appropriate monument to the memory of Connecticut's heroic son, was obtained. The monument was dedicated with imposing ceremonies in which the Phalanx participated, June 14th, 1888. It is told with exceeding gusto by members of the Phalanx who took part in these ceremonies, that this occasion was the only on which the "Puts" did guard duty and called for water. It seems that the company of militia which was to have done guard duty at the time failed to materialize and in consequence the Phalanx were detailed to keep the crowd back. The day was exceedingly hot and sultry and with their heavy muskets and the Continental uniforms, the "Puts" suffered all the torments of the day. The colored porters who were detailed to carry water, were treacherously inclined to sell it for a small sum of 5 cents per glass, so that before the pails reached the sweltering guardsmen there was little water in their interior. The porter registered solemn oaths that the pails were leaky, but the jingling nickels and dimes in their pockets told a different story to the thirsty ones.

October 5th, 1861, the eloquent Judge Advocate of the Phalanx, Isaac W. Stuart, was enrolled among the silent Battalions. His loss was keenly felt by the corps who recognized and appreciated his worth. At a special meeting called for the purpose suitable resolutions were adopted and a fitting tribute to their deceased comrade was placed on the records of the command.

Governor Buckingham, the famous "War Governor" of Connecticut, was inaugurated at New Haven in May, 1862, and at the attending ceremonies the Phalanx was present. Before leaving for the Elm City, the command was presented with a beautiful banner by the "Ladies' Putnam Phalanx Association," composed of the wives and lady friends of the members.

May 14th, 1864, Major Horace Goodwin, first commandant of the Phalanx, passed away. The Phalanx attended the funeral in a body and at a special meeting drew up the usual resolutions, in memoriam. The years of '65 and '66 do not seem to have been prolific with much excitement for the command, for the only events recorded are an excursion to Worchester, Mass., as guest of the State Guard, and a target shoot at Waterbury.

October 15th, 1867, was a notable day in the history of the Phalanx, for on that day they entertained as their guests the members of the Amoskeag Veterans of Manchester, New Hampshire, and the Providence Light Infantry of Providence, Rhode Island. The arrangements made for the entertainment of these guests were very elaborate and included a banquet at which the Governor, Mayor and many prominent citizens were present and delivered addresses. The whole entertainment concluded with a promenade, concert and ball. This was the first of a series of visits exchanged between the three commands.

October 7th 1868, a visit was paid to Northhampton, Mass. while still a year from that date they extended the field of their journeys and traveled to Niagara Falls, accompanied by a large number of ladies and guests. On the evening of Wednesday, May 4th, 1870, the "Puts" took a hand in politics and joined in an election parade at New Haven, while on the 20th of September of the same year they added materially to their reputation as hosts by entertaining as their guests, the Worchester Mass. State Guard. In September 1871, a five days' pilgrimage was made to Montreal, Rutland, and Burlington. This was said to have been the first armed invasion of an armed military corps. from the United States to the Mother Country's Dominion, in its history. At Montreal the Battalion received a most cordial welcome from the Mayor, Military companies and citizens, although the Continental uniforms of the invaders was a constant reminder that their owners came from the land conquered by the rebels. At Rutland and Burlington also the Phalanx was cordially received and different organizations, both Military and Civic, vied with themselves in making the stay there a most pleasant one. In August 1872, the "Puts" paid a visit to Rocky Point at Providence, where all the delights of an old fashioned clam bake were enjoyed. In September of the same year another excursion was indulged in to Newburyport and Portland, Maine. In July 1873, with fond remembrances of the clam-bake at Rocky Point, still in their hearts, the Phalanx paid another visit to that place and again tasted the delights of the juicy but elusive bivalves.

One of the few dark pages in Phalanx history is recorded with evident regret by the historian, when he states that on October 13th, 1873, E.B. Strong, one of the earliest and most active members of the command, and for a long time an efficient Quartermaster, became somewhat involved in his financial accounts and failing to meet the executive committee in an effort looking toward the adjustment of the same , was expelled from the Battalion, "for ungentlemanly and unsoldierlike conduct."

On election day in 1874, the Battalion paid a second visit to New Haven, this time as a guest of the New Haven Blues, whom they escorted in the inaugural parade, being reviewed by the Governor and his staff.

May 17th 1874, the statue of Israel Putnam on Bushnell Park was dedicated and the Phalanx took an active part in the ceremonies. This statue was made possible by a bequest in the will of Joseph Pratt Allyn, a son of ex-Mayor Timothy M. Allyn. In the evening the ceremonies were brought to a fitting close with a banquet provided by the Ladies' Phalanx Association before mentioned.

In this year the Puts decided to make up for lost time in the line of excursions, for on the 14th of October they gave one to Willimantic, where a target shoot was the principal feature of the day. The company was met at the depot by Captain Cranston and his company, who escorted them to the grounds provided for their use. Before being allowed to use the grounds, the major of the Phalanx was obliged to give his solemn promise that the safety of the citizens of the Thread City would be looked after at the shoot and that all who were damaged by stray bullets would be looked after at the expense of the marksmen. After the shoot the visitors were entertained at the principal hotel in the city with a banquet, after which there was a parade through the principal streets.

The battle of Concord was celebrated on the 18th of April 1875 and the Phalanx among other organizations were invited to participate. Acting upon this invitation, they started for that place on the 16th, stopped for supper at Providence, and remaining over night at Mansfield, going to Concord on the following morning. After the celebration the command left for home after enjoying a dinner provided for them at Horticultural Hall. On the return trip they again stopped over at Providence as the guests of their old friends, the Veteran Light Infantry. This excursion proved fatal for one of the oldest and most respected members of the Battalion, Horace Ensworth, the Adjunct, who was taken ill upon returning home. He never recovered and on the 24th of the following May, was laid away with all the honors due to a faithful and zealous soldier.

The Phalanx seems to have always had a leaning toward Providence, for on the 16th of June, 1875, it started on another pilgrimage toward the Rhode Island city on the way to assist in the ceremonies accompanying the celebration of the Battle of Bunker Hill, which occurred on the 17th. In the parade which was the principal feature of the day, none of the military companies attracted more attention or received more applause, than did the Hartford company. On October 5th of the same year another target shoot was held, this time at New Britain, in pursuance of an order issued by Major Kennedy. So few of the members were present on this occasion that the Major himself refused to accompany his command, and as an aftermath of the event resigned October 27th with the request that his name be stricken from the list of members. December 1st, 1875, Freeman M. Brown was elected Major to fill the vacancy.

Early in the year of 1876, a third company of the Phalanx organized at New Britain, applied for admission as a company in the Battalion and was admitted as such March 1st, 1876. June 16th, 1876, the command started on a trip to the Centennial Exhibition then in progress at Philadelphia. Upon arrival at that place they were met by the State Fencibles and escorted from the railway station to their quarters on Market Street, between 12th and 13th streets, at the Bingham House. On the following day, which was Sunday, the Battalion attended services at the First Baptist Church, upon the invitation of the pastor, the Rev. G.D. Boardman. During their stay in the Quaker City the Phalanx were the recipients of the greatest courtesy and consideration, not only from the Fencibles whose guests they were, but also from State and City officials. Subsequently a fitting testimonial was procured and a committee was appointed to visit Philadelphia and present the same Fencibles as a slight recognition of their many acts of thoughtfulness. This committee consisted of Major Brown, Captain Dowd, Quartermaster Squires, Secretary Baldwin, Adjutant Dickinson and Surgeon Peltier.

On the 10th of January 1877, a committee which had been appointed at a previous meeting, reported a new constitution and by-laws and the same were accepted and adopted. Prior to this year the annual elections had been held in April, May or June but the new constitution changed the time to February. On April 4th of this year a charter granted by the State of Connecticut was accepted which gave the organization full and legal power to transact all business pertaining to that body as a corporation. The new constitution provided that the 17th of June should be set aside as a holiday to be observed by the command as Phalanx Day, in a way to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill. As the 17th of June following the adoption fell on a Sunday, the day was observed one day later, when the Battalion paraded. In the evening there was a banquet at the armory at which the officers of the First Regiment, City Guard, Horse Guards, and several members of Governor Hubbard's Staff were present.

July 11th, 1877, an invitation was accepted by the command to attend the Centennial celebration of the Battle of Bennington, but at a meeting held August 1st in the absence of the Major and on a motion of W.F. Whittlesey, it was voted to rescind the former action and so notify the Centennial committee. As soon as Major Brown learned of this action, he called a special meeting and it was once more voted that the Phalanx should go to Bennington, VT.. August 16th and orders were issued to the Battalion to this effect. It will be seen by this little incident that while Major Brown was in command of the Phalanx he occupied that office himself and evidently didn't propose to let any of his junior officers run it for him. Notwithstanding this, Major Brown was a popular commander and the interests of the Phalanx were always first to him, personal ones taking the second place.

The Phalanx attended the Bennington celebration on the 16th with full ranks. This celebration was also attended by President Hayes and his cabinet, Governors of New England and many others of prominence. Dinner was served to the distinguished visitors during the day and the Phalanx was the only military organization invited to the Pavilions.

After the dinner the Phalanx escorted the President and his party to the depot and still later participated in a reception tendered by the Governor of New Hampshire. On the following day the command returned home and while on the way passed through Camp Stark where they were loudly cheered by the soldiers and given a salute of 38 guns for Fuller's Battery.

The famous Ancient and Honorable Artillery of Boston selected Hartford as the place for the annual field day, October 1st, 1877, that day being the 241st anniversary of that venerable company. Hearing this the Phalanx tendered the visitors an escort and other courtesies for the occasion, which were gladly accepted. Invitations were also sent to all other military organizations in the city to participate. The "Ancients" arrived in this city about 3 o'clock in the afternoon of October 1st and were agreeably surprised by the reception which they received. The parade was reviewed Governor Hubbard, Generals Hawley and Franklin and others. In the evening a grand complimentary ball was tendered the visitors at Allyn Hall. On the following day at noon the commands again assembled and proceeded to Allyn Hall where a banquet was served. Among the guests on this occasion were ex-Governor Banks of Massachusetts, Mark Twain, Governor Hubbard, General Hawley and the Hon. Henry C. Robinson. The entertaining of the Ancients and Honorables was the last noteworthy incident of the Putnam Phalanx during the year of 1877.

Since that time the members of the command had been on many pilgrimages and have continued to noise abroad their reputation as hosts. As these trips and events have been of a comparatively recent date and full accounts of them have been published in both newspapers and magazines, I will not endeavor to record them. As I have before stated it is almost impossible to procure the early statistics of the Phalanx and were it not for the assistance of the present Historian, Sidney E. Clarke, Dr. Henry Bickford, Ex-Mayor Brown and others, this sketch would never have been written.

Download this History in Word Document Format (Word)

Photo Tour of Putnam Park (PDF)

Photos of Putnam Park- that relate to My Brother Sam is Dead

Friends and Neighbors (FANs) of Putnam Park Web Site

Connecticut Revolutionary War Re-enactment Regiments


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