Connecticut’s Valley Forge: The Redding Encampment and Putnam Memorial State Park
Colorized postcard depicting a statue at Putnam Memorial State Park

Putnam Memorial State Park Postcard

By CT Humanities Staff

As the 1778-79 winter quarters for a division of the Continental army during the Revolutionary War, Putnam Memorial State Park is sometimes referred to as “Connecticut’s Valley Forge.” There soldiers from New Hampshire, Canada, and Connecticut encamped under the command of General Israel Putnam. A Massachusetts native who moved to Brooklyn, Connecticut, Putnam famously gave the order, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes,” at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Continental troops encamped in Redding in the winter of 1778 because it was believed to be an advantageous position from which to lend support to the defense of West Point, the Long Island coastline, and the town of Danbury (which had been burned by the British the year before). Three camps were laid out in the area, with the main camp eventually becoming Putnam Memorial State Park.

A mountain brook furnished the troops with fresh water, and 116 huts were built along a ¼-mile-long avenue (Look for the row of collapsed chimneys/firebacks that mark the location.) There was also a blacksmith shop, storage facilities, and officers’ quarters.

Just like at Valley Forge the winter before, the conditions in Redding were terrible, and the soldiers sent a petition to Governor Jonathan Trumbull complaining about their poor pay and lack of blankets and clothing. On December 30, 1778, a group of soldiers prepared to march to Hartford to protest to the legislature, but Putnam quelled the rebellion after giving a rousing speech and having the plan’s ringleader shot.

In 1887, Aaron Treadwell donated 12.4 acres of land to the state to create a memorial and preserve the encampment site. Other tracts of land were either donated or purchased to complete the state park and its 42-foot granite obelisk was built in 1888.

This article was adapted from CT Humanities’ ConnTours Project.

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“Putnam Memorial State Park,” n.d. Link.
“Redding Historical Society,” n.d. Link.

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