Israel Putnam Memorial State Park is located at the Intersection of Rte 58 and Rte 107 in Redding, Connecticut.
1. VISITOR CENTER – this building was originally built in 1893 as the park pavilion. It was used as a shelter during inclement weather, for dances and picnics, and for town events. The upstairs was used as the original park museum. The building was dismantled board by board in 2005, and reconstructed into a 4-season climate controlled visitor center where visitors can get a park orientation prior to entering the historic encampment.
2. ” CAMP GUARDHOUSE”- A log hut which was reconstructed about 1890 on the remains of a hut from 1778. The actual purpose of the original structure is in question, although local lore said it was the Guard House. The construction and size of the hut gives the visitor an approximation of one of the 116 enlisted men’s soldiers huts. Each hut contained 12 soldiers.
3. “PUTNAM’S ESCAPE AT HORSENECK “- BRONZE STATUE – is on the front lawn of the Visitor Center. It was sculpted by renowned local artist Anna Hyatt Huntington at her estate just a few miles from the park. Ms. Huntington was 94 when she completed the statue for its 1969 dedication at the park. The bronze depicts General Israel Putnam’s legendary ride down the stone steps in Greenwich, then called” Horseneck”, where he narrowly escaped from the British dragoons.
4. MAIN ENTRANCE AREA – Civil War cannons and miniature blockhouses flank the road. Blockhouses were used in frontier areas during the French and Indian War where Israel Putnam achieved fame for his courageous exploits. There are several other Civil War cannon inside the park. These weapons were surplus arms from the Civil War which ended only a few years prior to the park’s commissioning. The gateway view focuses on the Monument.
5. MEMORIAL MONUMENT – Constructed in 1888, one year after the commissioning of the memorial park, this monument honors the men of the three different camps in Redding during that winter of 1778-79. The monument was the very first structure erected at the park. The visitor can read the names of the different brigade generals who commanded the camps under Major General Israel Putnam’s command.
6. COLLAPSED CHIMNEY REMAINS (FIREBACKS) AND COMPANY STREET – The enlisted men’s encampment consisted of 116 log huts set in a double row for almost a quarter mile down the company street. The only above ground remains of those huts today are the piles of collapsed stone chimneys. Each stone pile, or fireback, marks the location of a 1778 hut. The men camped in this location belonged to Brig. Gen. Enoch Poor’s New Hampshire Brigade and the 2nd Canadian Regiment under Col. Moses Hazen. The fireplaces and chimneys were made of local fieldstone. The huts had dimensions of 16 x 12 feet . Each hut held the 12 soldiers who built their own hut. The troops lived in tents until their huts were completed in late December. Ongoing archaeological field work has told us much about the huts and their occupants.
7. MUSEUM – This building contains exhibits and historical materials including artifacts unearthed at the campsite during archaeological excavations. The museum was built in 1921 by long time Redding Town Historian Margaret Wixted’s father. This building replaced the original museum housed on the second floor of the old 1893 Pavilion. Park Guides are present to tell visitors about the park and answer questions. Hours are posted at the park gates or at the Visitor Center.
8. OFFICERS QUARTERS – The chimney remains mark the site of a company officer’s hut. The hut was an 1890 replica built on the original site. The hut was destroyed by fire years ago. The company-level officer’s huts were located behind the enlisted hut line. There are several other firebacks of these junior officer hut remains in the woods behind the enlisted hut line.
9. PHILIPS CAVE – Local legend says a shallow cave in this rock outcrop was used by one Mr. Philips. Philips was a soldier who returned after the war to live in this cave. He led the life of a hermit, including liberating an occasional chicken or produce from local farmers. He was evicted by the community. Another version said he was “permanently removed”.
10. OFFICERS QUARTERS/MAGAZINE – this structure was reconstructed on the original foundations that are cut into the hillside. Long thought to be an officer’s barracks, recent information is now leading archaeologists to believe it was actually the camp magazine which held the kegs of gunpowder. The location far away from troop quarters and being semi-enclosed in the earthen bank support this theory. More research will be done on this site.
11. BARLOW CIRCLE – A resident of Redding, Joel Barlow graduated from Yale in 1778. An accomplished poet and writer, Barlow was thought to have visited the Redding army camps during the winter 78/79 encampments. He was a chaplain for three years in the Continental Army. He was one of the writers group called the Connecticut (or Hartford) Wits. He was sent to Algiers to secure U.S. prisoners and negotiate treaties with Tripoli. He became a French citizen and was involved in Napoleon’s retreat from Russia. He died in Poland in 1812.
12. BAKE OVEN AND STRUCTURES ON THE CAMP’S UPPER LEVEL –The identity and location of buildings on the upper level is not certain at this time. We know that the Bake Oven was located in this ravine. It needed the water in the stream flowing next to it. Other buildings were known to exist on this upper level: The Soap Boiler, the Commissary, the Quartermaster, Carpenters, Tailors, Quarter Guards, and Sutlers, in addition to the Field, Staff and Commissioned Officers.
13. CEMETERY/COMMAND OFFICER’S QUARTERS – Another bit of hand-me-down lore at the time the park was created in the 1880’s was that the two mounds of stones, inside the square formed by the granite posts, were thought to be the camp cemetery. Accordingly, a memorial monument was erected to mark the site in 1890? Archaeology work from the 2002-04 seasons has proven the site actually to be a double-ended (two chimneys) Field Officers quarters. Further research has pointed to the distinct probability that the hut belonged to Lt. Col. Henry Dearborn who was the ranking officer living at the camp (Some senior officers were quartered at area homes).
14. LAKE McDOUGALL – The stone damn which creates this pond was installed at the time of the park’s creation. But the stream was very much in in existence during the 1778-79 army encampment. It is one of two main streams, one at each end of the camp, which provided water for the troops. Gen. Alexander McDougall’s name is listed on the memorial monument as one of the commanders at the Reading camps. Actually, McDougall had been the commander of Putnam’s Division prior to going into winter quarters. Gen. Washington placed the division under Israel Putnam and kept Gen. McDougall in command of the Hudson Highlands which included the all important fortress West Point.
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