During the French and Indian War Putnam was challenged to a duel by a British major whom he had insulted. Realizing that he would stand little chance in a duel with pistols, Putnam invited the major to his tent and suggested an alternative trial of honor. The two men were sitting on small powder kegs, into each of which Putnam had inserted a slow-burning fuse. The first to squirm or move from his seat would be the loser. As the fuses burned, the major showed increasing signs of anxiety, while Putnam continued to smoke his pipe with a casual air. Seeing the spectators gradually disappear from the tent to escape the impending explosion, the major finally leaped from his keg, acknowledging Putnam as the victor. Only then did Putnam reveal that the kegs contained onions, not gunpowder.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Pipe lore: Israel Putnam and the powder keg duel
Israel Putnam was an American army general during the U.S. Revolution, and previously served at a lower rank during the French and Indian Wars.