|Colonel Haldim Sumner Putnam
7th New Hampshire Volunteers
(October 15, 1835 - July 18, 1863)
|Haldim Sumner Putnam
He was born in Cornish, Sullivan County New Hampshire on October 15, 1835. He was the son
of John L. Putnam, who was a Judge of Probate for Sullivan County and a farmer. Col. Putnam
received a public education. He was an Episcopalian.
Putnam enrolled in West Point at the age of sixteen and graduated in July 1857 with top honors.
After graduation he was brevetted a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers.
(A number of former officers of the Topographical Engineers attained prominence during the Civil
War. Meade and Fremont became major generals in the United States Army, while Abbot,
Michler, and Raynolds became brigadier generals. In the volunteer service, generalships were
held by Emory, Franklin, Humphreys, Parke, Poe, Pope, W. F. Smith, Thom, Warren, Wilson,
and Wood. Haldemand S. Putnam, J. L. Kirby Smith, O. G. Wagner, and A. W. Whipple lost
their lives during the struggle.)He was assigned to different points in the Western frontier.He was
commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Engineer Corps and promoted to First Lieutenant.
While on one march from the west coast to Utah in the winter his troops suffered from cold and
hunger. They consumed their last ration the day before they reached the vicinity of Salt Lake.
Early Civil War
In 1861 Lieut Putnam was summoned to Washington where he was given messages to convey to
Fort Pickens. He traveled by railroad and delivered the messages and was arrested in
Montgomery, Alabama by the Confederate military and kept in prison for several days. He
resumed his journey and reported to the Secretary of War.
In May 1861 he traveled to Annapolis to give the oath of allegiance with even officers who had
previously taken the oath before April 1 taking it again.
He was assigned to General Irvin McDowell's staff where he remained until he resigned to accept
the Colonelcy of the Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers. He fought in the first battle
of Bull Run and received a brevet of major for gallantry.
GENERAL ORDERS, ~ HDQHS.
DEPT. OF NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,
No. 2. 5 Arlington,
May 31, 1861. The following officers are announced as the chiefs of their respective departments
in this command, to wit: Adjutant-generals department, Capt. James B. Fry, assistant adjutant-
general; inspector- generals department, Capt. W. II. Wood, Third Infantry; quarter- masters
department, Capt. 0. II. Tillinghast, assistant quartermaster; subsistence department, Capt. H. C.
Symonds, acting commissary of subsistence; medical department, Asst. Surg. D. L. Magruder;
topographical engineers, First Lient. H. S. Putnam.
* * * * * * * By order of Brigadier-General McDowell: JAMES B. FIIY, [2.] Assistant
His classmate â€“ Fitzhugh Lee
Among the most intimate of Colonel Putnam's classmates was Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of Gen
Robert E. Lee and afterwards a noted general of the rebel army. That intimacy was never broken
until the commencement of the war. At the time of General Fitzhugh Lee's marriage, Colonel
Putnam was in the West yet he procured a leave of absence and repaired to Virginia where he
witnessed the imposing nuptials. Just before the war commenced the colonel received his
last letter from young Lee in which the writer stated that he was discouraged and disheartened
and hardly knew what course to take. "I want to stand by my country," he said "yet I believe the
South has been wronged." Colonel Putnam, in answering the communication, implored his long
cherished friend and classmate to oppose the principles of secession, and stand up for his country
and her flag. This was the last of their correspondence.
7th New Hampshire
Col Putnam was appointed by Governor Berry to command the 7th New Hampshire. The New-
Hampshire Patriot October 9, 1861 reports his appointment: "Lieut. H. S. Putnam, of the regular
army, has been appointed Colonel of the Seventh Regiment, and Daniel Smith of Dover, Major.
Lieut. Putnam is the son of Hon. John L. Putnam of Cornish, and a young officer of excellent
personal and professional character. He graduated at West Point in 1857, and has since been
constantly in active service. He has frequently been employed on "special duty," requiring ability
and discretion, and has always acquitted himself creditably and to the satisfaction of the
Government. He was selected last winter to convey despatches to Fort Pickens after the rebels
had stopped communication with that post, and was arrested at Montgomery on his way there;
but he succeeded in procuring his release, and visited the Fort. He was also sent to Texas with
orders to our officers there in the time of Gen. Twiggs' treason. His employment in those duties
shows the confidence reposed in him by the Government. Since the organization of the "grand
army" at Washington he has been attached to Gen. McDowell's staff, on which he served at Bull
Run. He is about twnety-five years of age, and we predict that he will prove one of the very best
Colonels in the army. Major Smith is reputed a proper man for the position assigned him, but we
have no personal knowledge of him."
He was commissioned on October 15, 1861 and joined Lieut Colonel Joseph C. Abbott in
Manchester where the regiment was raised. The regiment was mustered in on December 13,
1861. On January 14, 1862 the regiment moved to New York City for four weeks. The regiment
was then ordered to Tortugas Island and Fort Jefferson situated on one of the Florida Keys. Fort
Jefferson served as the depot for the Department of the South.
The unsanitary camp conditions at New York City were carried aboard the ship Tycoon which
carried half the regiment (the Mallory carried the rest). Smallpox was a problem at Fort Jefferson.
Fifteen men were lost to small pox: Sergeant Otis, Co.A; Corporals Davis and Hillman, Co. G;
Privates Page, Heath, Sprague, Co. C; Tatro, Colbath, Campbell, Tilton, Sperling, Sprague,
Rineo, Larabee, Edgerly, Co. G. After three and ½ months they were ordered to Beaufort, South
While in South Carolina the health of the regiment worsened. It's possible that yellow fever was
contracted in Key West where the regiment stopped on its turn north. Some cases of yellow
fever broke out on the ship Ben Deford.
The military thought that St. Augustine was the healthiest post in the south and the Seventh was
unfit for duty. Since leaving Manchester the regiment had lost over 200 men to death and
discharge. (See St. Augustine and the Civil War for more information about Col Putnam in St.
Augustine.) In March 1863 Colonel Putnam was commissioned a Captain the United States
In April, 1863 the regiment was ordered to Fernandina. On June 5, 1863 the regiment was
moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina on board the steamer Boston.
Colonel H. S. Putnam, of the Seventh New Hampshire regiment was President at a general court
martial for two mutineers of the First South Carolina regiment. Private Samuel Washington was
found guilty of mutiny and Private Richard Green was found guilty. Washington was sentenced to
hard labor and Green was sentenced to be shot to death.
The regiment was ordered to Folly Island. He took part in the Stono inlet expedition. In July the
regiment took the Confederate forces on Morris Island by surprise and within hours 2/3s of the
island was captured. The regiment participated in both the first battle (July 17) of Fort Wagner
and the second battle on July 18. In the second assault the Seventh lost over 216 men including
On the night of the charge on Wagner, General Gillmore--- who was at that time in command of
the forces on Morris Island, and who had been watching the effect upon Fort Wagner of the shot
and shell by the navy and land batteries, since noon of that day. He called up his division and
brigade commanders for consultation. When Colonel Putnam's returned to his brigade it was
learned that an assault had been determined upon contrary to his advice as he said "I told the
general" said he "I did not think we could take the fort so but Seymour overruled me. Seymour is
a devil of a fellow for dash" As a topographical engineer he detected the utter impossibility of
rushing through a mile and a fourth of the heaviest shot and shell and upon an earthwork strong
enough to hold twelve hundred men a whole day under the concentrated fire of fleet and land
batteries as safely as though they had been miles away. In a letter, 20 July 1863, penned by
William L. McArthur from the office of the Provost Marshall, Hilton Head (Beaufort County, S.
C.) details casualties sustained in the Morris Island fight. "You will hear all about it in the papers,"
McArthur writes, and "that our loss was a thousand. The men fought splendidly. The mistake was
in a night attack. In the confusion our regiment fought each other at the Fort (I have heard) but
this you will not speak of."
Colonel Putnam was delayed by his horse being shot from under him. He was on the Fort and
ordered an attempt to charge and silence one of the guns. Colonel Putnam then went on the
bomb proof near the southeast angle and tried to get a charge. He then got his men into a
crowded corner of the fort. He tried to hold out until reinforcements arrived. The Confederates
made a charge on them but were driven back. Colonel Putnam announced to Captain Rollins that
he was determined to hold out to the last when a ball went through his head. (Another quote has
him saying: "Hold on for a minute, brave men. Our reinforcements are coming!" He was made a
brevet colonel, United States army. For four months before his death he was acting brigadier-
(from 44th New York Regimental History)
What were Colonel s Putnam s feelings in the mean time perhaps will never be known, but may
with much certainty be conjectured. He was a gallant young officer, and could not stand idly by at
the head of a fine brigade and see the command of his classmates and intimate friends cut to
pieces. After a disastrous delay and without orders, says General Seymour, he led his brigade
forward and pressed on to the assault of the southeast angle through a destructive fire.
Another West Point Classmate - Confederate Colonel Robert H. Anderson
All accounts found have listed his body as not found (even his tombstone is over an empty grave),
but one: Sunday July 19, 1863 -- Confederate Col. Robert H. Anderson a West Point classmate
saw the body of Putnam, here is his account: "I was not stationed on Morris Island during the late
war, but I visited it on the morning after the assault on Battery Wagner, during a temporary
cessation of hostilities, for the purpose of burying the dead. Upon arriving in Wagner, an officer,
showing me a pair of colonel's shoulder straps, told me he had cut them off the coat of an officer
who had been identified by a Federal prisoner as Co. Putnam, of the Seventh New Hampshire
Volunteers. He informed me that this officer had been killed, and asked if I had ever known him
in the old army before the war. I replied, "Yes, he was my old classmate and friend," and begged
him to go with me and point out his body. After some search in the midst of the dead, which
almost filled the ditch in front of the parapet, he pointed out a body as the one from which he had
taken the shoulder straps. I cannot say that I recognized my friend in the corpse pointed out, as I
had not seen him since we both graduated in 1857, at which time he wore no beard, and the
corpse being stripped of all other clothing, there was nothing to identify the body as Col.
Putnam's save the officer's recollection that this was the one from whom he had taken the
shoulder straps after having been identified by a Federal prisoner as Col. Putnam. The size, hair,
and complexion of the body pointed out to me agreed with my recollection of my friend, and
believing the body to be his, I , after some difficulty in obtaining a detail, had it interred near the
sea front of Battery Wagner, some yard from any other body, placing at the head of the grave a
shingle on which I fastened a piece of paper, on which I wrote, "Col. H.S. Putnam, U.S.A.
Buried by his classmate, R.H. Anderson, C.S.A A few minutes after performing this sad duty, I
left Morris Island, and have never since revisited it." -- pg. 68-69 in the book Battery Wagner,
The Siege, The Men Who Fought, and The Casualties (Bradshaw 1993)
|Colonel Haldim Sumner Putnam
|General Irvin McDowell
|General Fitzhugh Lee
|Colonel H. S. Putnam
|A grave without a body;
a body without a grave.
|Like us on Facebook