Israel Putnam, Heroism and Political Correctness

James Daugherty was an American artist and noted illustrator of children’s books.  In 1935 he received a commission from the Works Public Administration to paint a mural celebrating the life and times of General Israel Putnam.  He did so, and the mural was duly hung in the Greenwich Town Hall from 1935-40 and then transferred to the Hamilton Avenue Elementary School in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The mural is immense at nine feet by 22 feet and depicts three events in the life of Putnam:  his near legendary slaying of a wolf in its den circa 1743, his rescue in 1758 when, as a major in Roger’s Rangers, he was about to be burned at the stake by hostile Caughnawaga Indians and his escape from the advancing British at the Battle of Long Island in 1776.  Although he was probably promoted beyond his capacity during the American Revolution when he attained the rank of major general, Putnam was a very brave man who led a daring life, and a firm patriot, someone who Americans of earlier generations, especially in New England, greatly admired.

Over time, the mural became dirty and worn.  The painting was removed in 1998 to be restored.  The restoration was a success and the painting was restored at the school, in all its original brilliant vibrancy.  Then modern idiocy reared its head:

But scrubbed of dirt, the painting became a richly colored scene of snarling animals, tomahawk-wielding American Indians and a half-naked General Putnam strapped to a burning stake.

“We run a very tight ship in terms of behavior,” said Damaris Rau, the principal of the Hamilton Avenue school. “How can I then have a mural that depicts guns and knives, when I don’t accept that from my own children?”

Ms. Rau also said the school, which has the highest minority population in a predominantly white district, could not endorse a painting that cast Indians in a negative light.

Some parents, allegedly, thought that their kids would be scared because the scenes depicted were too violent:

But PTA President Laura DiBella, who also attended the school, said former students do not remember the painting as disturbing because it was dirty and hung too high to be seen clearly.

“I thought it was phenomenal growing up, but it was a different time,” she said. “There was no Columbine or anything like that, and the schools have really done a lot of work on anti-violence. We are now promoting tolerance, accepting differences and all of that, and it doesn’t belong in an elementary school.”

She said the painting frightened her sons, ages 3 and 4, when they saw it at the library. She also said a depiction of Native Americans with tomahawks may not be appropriate.

The mural now hangs in the reference room of the Greenwich Public Library where kids, most of whom doubtless have taken a peek or two at slasher flicks, will be safe from its “violent imagery”.    A people who teach their children to forget their nation’s heroes, should not be surprised if the nation in the future has no heroes to forget.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. He was one of the officers at Bunker Hill. “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes.” Prescott.

    I did not know Gen’l. Putnam was with Rogers (who served the crown during the Revolution). Thanks!

    PC brainwashing, teaching what to think not how to think: Spin the truth. Facts and history are nothing except to advance the agenda.

    Indians in a “negative light”: the history of Massachusetts (Pittsfield, I think) and that area is rife with Indian attacks, rapes, and massacres. That is the truth. It’s what they did.

    In fact, the Crown used four of the five Iroquois tribes as mass terrorists in attempts to deny the Continental Army its bread baskets in PA and NY.

    If memory serves the Mohawks sided with the forces of God: the first and only revolution that is based on the idea that the people will govern themselves.

  2. Yep T.Shaw “Old Put” was a hero at Bunker Hill, along with my ancestor Major Andrew McClary New Hampshire militia, also a veteran of Roger’s Rangers:

    “Thus fell Major McClary, the highest American officer killed at the battler, the handsomest man in the army, and the favorite of the New Hampshire troops. His dust still slumbers where it was lain by his sorrowing companions in Medford, un-honored by any adequate memorial to tell where lies one of the heroes who ushered in the Revolution with such auspicious omens. His death spreads a gloom not only over the hearts of his men, but all through the Suncook Valley. His sun went down at noon on the day that ushered in our Nation’s birth.”

    The New Hampshire Gazette in its issue of July 1775, contains the following:
    “The Major evinced great intrepidity and presence of mind in the action. His noble soul glowed with ardor and love of his country, and like the Roman Cincinnatus who left his plow, commanded the army, and conquered his opponents, so the Major, upon the first intelligence of hostilities, left his farm and went, as a volunteer to assist his suffering brethren where he was soon called to a command which he executed to his eternal honor, and has thereby acquired the reputation of a brave and distinguished patriot. May his name be held in respect by all lovers of liberty to the end of time, while the names of the sons of tyranny are despised and disgraced, and nothing left of them but the badges of their perfidy and infamy. May the widow be respected for his sake, and may his children inherit his spirit, but not meet with his fall.”

    The History of the Battle of Bunker Hill, published in 1826, contains the following:

    “The hardy yeomanry of New Hampshire beneath whose strokes the lofty forests and their savage inhabitants had been leveled with the dust, who had been used to little control but what God of nature imposed, were moved with much indignation at approaching tyranny. They flocked as volunteers to the neighborhood and chose Col. Stark, Maj. McClary and Lieut. Wyman their leaders. Their colonel was worthy to command this formidable band; he had been a distinguished Captiain of Provincial Rangers, received into the service of the Crown – was at Quebec under General Wolf, and enjoyed half pay as a British officer -an offering he made, with other sacrifices, for the good of his country. Their major was also a favorite officer, nearly 6 1/2 feet in height, with a Herculean form, in perfect proportions, a voice like Stentor and strength of Ajax; ever unequalled in athletic exercises and unsubdued in single combat, whole bodies of men had been overcome by him, and he seemed totally unconscious that he was not equally unconquerable at the cannon’s mouth. His mind and character were of the same grand and energetic cast with his person; and though deficient in the advantages of finished education, he had been a member of the state legislature, and his mercantile concerns were extensive ….. During the tremendous fire of musketry and the roar of cannon, McClary’s gigantic voice was distinctly heard animating and encouraging the men as though he would inspire every ball that sped with his own fire and energy…… McClary, as attentive to the wants of his men as desperate in fighting them, galloped to Medford and returned with dressings for the wounded. He ordered Captain Dearborn to advance towards the Neck with his company, while he crossed over to reconnoitre the enemy. He was returning with Lieut. Col. Robinson and others, and observed that the shot commissioned to kill him was not yet cast, when a cannon ball from the Glasglow tore him in pieces. No smaller weapon seemed worthy to destroy the gigantic hero.”

  3. Mac,

    The blood of heroes courses in your veins!

    I’ll get home tonight and again read Emerson’s, “Concord Hymn” and say a little prayer in thanksgiving for brave and dedicated men, like Major McClary and thousands more, who with their blood, and God’s grace, gave to us our country.

  4. Oy.

    Heaven forbid kids see a still painting that has weapons and danger in it– that’s what movies are for! (I’m still horrified at how many 13 year olds have seen the Saw movies, and are fans.)

  5. The New Hampshire Gazette in its issue of July 1775
    ‘ May his name be held in respect by all lovers of liberty to the end of time, while the names of the sons of tyranny are despised and disgraced, and nothing left of them but the badges of their perfidy and infamy. May the widow be respected for his sake, and may his children inherit his spirit, but not meet with his fall.” ‘

    Maybe, that’s part of how the tradition of character and history became TAC? It’s great to read wonderful journalism from olden time. Good – amidst bad and ugly – (even Sgt. Rock is good in these days.)

  6. “Maybe, that’s part of how the tradition of character and history became TAC?”

    No doubt PM. Remembrance of the good and great, the brave and the wise, is one reason why I have ever loved History.

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