Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Putnam Stump

On the second day of the battle the 14th Wisconsin got its baptism of fire. At some point in the day they captured a Confederate gun (the battery the gun came from and its location are still mysteries and I'm sure I'll do a post on that down the road too). During the fighting for the cannon J.D. Putnam of Company F was killed.

James Newton said that Dennis Murphy “shot down the rebel who murdered Putnam before he could take his gun from his face.” His comrades buried him where he fell, at the foot of a young oak tree. His name was cut into the tree low enough that if the tree was chopped down later the name might survive. Later when the National Cemetery was created Putnam’s body was taken there and is one of the few gravestones to have full name and regimental information on it.

When the Wisconsin monument commissioners toured Shiloh in 1901 to select a spot for their state monument they came across the stump of the tree and Putnam's name was still visible. The commissioners decided right then to replace the stump with a granite replica. They did this to preserve the story, plus it offered indisputable proof that the 14th Wisconsin fought in this location. The same day that the state monument was dedicated they also dedicated the Putnam stump. The original oak stump was taken back to Wisconsin and displayed in the capitol. The capitol had a bad run of luck with fires and the stump eventually was destroyed in one of them. One of these fires also contributed to death of Old Abe the war eagle, and another fire turned Old Abe's remains into ashes.

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