Escape by Benson
"RUSHING DOWN THE HILL LIKE A MADMAN."
Many years ago I was riding in a light carriage between Greenwich and
Stamford, in Connecticut. After descending from high ground by a road
cut through a steep declivity, I observed some rude stone steps upon the
abrupt slope, which were half concealed by shrubs and brambles. An old
man was standing at a door-yard gate near by, and I inquired of him the
meaning of those steps.
"Before the Revolutionary war," he said, "the people from this way, when
going to the church on the hill yonder, had to go nearly a mile around.
To give those who were on foot a nearer cut, those steps were placed
there. They are the rocks," he continued, "that people believed 'Old
Put' went down when he escaped from the British dragoons at Horseneck.
He didn't go down the steps at all, but went zigzag from the top to the
bottom of the hill, very near them. I stood just here listening to the
firing above, when I saw the general rushing down the hill like a
madman, as he seemed, for you see it is very steep. As he flew past me
on his powerful bay horse, all bespattered with mud, I heard him cursing
the British, who had pursued him to the brow of the precipice, but dared
not follow him further."
My informant was General Ebenezer Mead.
The whole story may be briefly told. Putnam and a few foot-soldiers were
attacked near the church by some British dragoons on a warm morning in
March, 1779. So much greater was the number of the assailants than the
Americans, that the latter fled for safety to the swamps near by. Their
leader, who was mounted, turned his face toward Stamford. Finding
himself in danger of being caught, he wheeled suddenly, his horse at
full speed, and descended the declivity as described. The dragoons dared
not follow him in his perilous ride, but sent pistol-balls after him.
Putnam escaped unharmed to Stamford, where he quickly gathered the
militia, and rallied some of his scattered followers. Then he pursued
the invaders in turn as they retreated toward New York, and making
nearly forty of them prisoners, he recovered much of the plunder which
they were carrying away with them. Those famous steps, associated with
one of the perilous feats of a bold American soldier, may be seen at
this day, not far to the right of the highway, as you go from Greenwich