“Nobody ever lived in the past. Jefferson, Adams, George Washington – they didn’t walk around saying,“Isn’t this fascinating living in the past? Aren’t we picturesque in our funny clothes?”
They were living in the present, just as we do. The great difference is that it was their present, not ours. And just as we don’t know how things are going to turn out, neither did they.”
None of them had any prior experience in revolutions. They were winging it. They were improvising
Henry Knox was born on July 25, 1750.
When war broke out during the siege of Boston, Henry abandoned his bookshop and joined the continental army in 1775.
George Washington held his first full cabinet meeting on February 25, 1793, with Secretary of War Henry Knox, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Attorney General Edmund Randolph.
Henry Knox died on October 25, 1806.
When war broke out, Henry Knox abandoned his book shop to looters and snuck out of Boston to join the militia, his new bride riding beside him with his sword sewn inside her cape. He was just 25.
Many of the leading characters in the birth of American democracy were young. Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Rush, leader of the antislavery movement at the time, was 30 when he signed it.
Before they became revolutionaries, they were shopkeepers, lawyers, writers and clerks, exploring the power of their intelligence, passions and individual potentials.
We want great men who, when fortune frowns, will not be discouraged
For starters, going to Ticonderoga was a plan of Henry’s design. Two thirds of his journey was as a volunteer and on his own dime, without the full financial support of Congress, nor a military conscription. Despite the hazards of winter and the difficulty of the journey, Henry’s noble cannons along with thousands of patriot forces brilliantly routed the British, hereby ending an 11-month hostile siege of Boston, without firing a single shot.
Upon seeing the cannons on Nook’s Hill, the British immediately evacuated. This, in turn, granted Washington his first victory of the war. It was also a huge morale boost for the Thirteen Colonies, as the city where the rebellion began was the first to be liberated.
Henry Knox was reborn.
Henry Knox was born into poverty in Boston, raised by a single mother, and with only a fifth-grade education under his belt, managed to carve out quite a name for himself in the brave new world of America. Books were his entrée. He devoured everything he could get his hands on. He was a big man with big ambitions and appetites and an even bigger heart.
He was bright. He was loyal. He married, well above his station, a wife he adored and who adored him back, giving up everything for her beloved “Harry.” He earned the respect and life-long friendship of George Washington, was his right-hand man throughout the war, stood beside him crossing the Delaware, served in his cabinet. Their wives became close friends, too. Henry may not have signed the Declaration of Independence, but he certainly risked his neck to make it possible.
He was there….at Bunker Hill, at Trenton, Yorktown, Brandywine, at Valley Forge. Henry Knox was there. He was Chief of Artillery. He was the one who rolled out the cannons. He was the one who yelled, “Fire!” He was right in the thick of it, our Henry.
Henry Knox was somebody, still is somebody, you should know.
The rebels have done more in one night than my whole army would have done in a month.
Our hero’s life begins on July 25, 1750, in Boston, Massachusetts, where Henry Knox was born.
Growing up, the odds were stacked against him: six of his siblings didn’t survive to adulthood; his father was unable to provide for his family and departed for the West Indies, which forced Henry to drop out of school to make ends meet for his family.
Despite these setbacks, Henry still managed to give himself an education by working at a Boston bookbindery, and eventually he was even able to save up enough money to open his own bookstore, The London Book Shop.
His passion for military tactics pushed him to read extensively on artillery and ordinance; he even taught himself to speak and read French to read books that hadn’t been translated on these subjects.
Henry’s love for the military eventually led him to join the local militia, which gave him valuable experience before The Revolution.
Henry Knox was born in 1750 in Boston to William Knox and Mary Campbell Knox, pioneers from North Ireland. Henry was the seventh of ten children
Seventeen year-old Lucy Flucker caught a glimpse of strapping Henry Knox engaged in maneuvers on Boston Common one afternoon, and soon was frequenting the young patriot’s bookshop on a regular basis.
Possibly the most educated and aristocratic young lady to be found in the American colonies, Miss Lucy Flucker of Boston and Philadelphia was quite the catch, and no lightweight when it came to getting her way. Once Lucy set her sights on Henry, her loyalist parents’ protests and warnings of impending poverty and political ruin fell on deaf ears.
Henry, too, was smitten. “With a physical stature well-suited to his own, and her brilliant black eyes and blooming complexion,” Miss Lucy stole his heart. The Fluckers eventually consented to a very small wedding ceremony and the couple married in June of 1774.
Despite their vastly different backgrounds, theirs was a happy marriage. And, it lasted, marred only by the fact that ten of
their thirteen children died young.
Born into wealth and privilege as the daughter of the Provincial Governor of Massachusetts, Lucy Flucker Knox would have had her choice of a number of acceptable suitors. She fell in love, however, with perhaps the single most inappropriate man in Colonial Boston
On the heels of the battles at Lexington and Concord that formally ignited the colonists’ rebellion against the crown in 1775, twenty-something Henry Knox abandoned his thriving Boston book shop to looters, and rode off with his new bride to join the “rabble in arms,” spontaneously mobilizing just across the Charles River in Cambridge.
At the same time, in Philadelphia, Continental Congress delegates were selecting Virginia representative George Washington to lead the newly forming forces. From the ranks of the 14,000 yahoos gathered in Cambridge that summer, Washington picked out the best two he could find to help him lead the new army: a Quaker with a limp named Nathanael Greene, and a “big, fat, garrulous, keenly intelligent man,” our own Henry Knox.
They were an amateur pick-up team; a rude, crude, un-uniformed, undisciplined, untrained American army of farm boys – some of whom had been given a musket and told to march off only a few weeks before
first as Chief Artillery Officer in the Continental Army; then as General in the United States Army; and finally, as the first Secretary of War in President Washington’s cabinet in the newly minted United States of America. He was one of two officers – Greene was the other – who stuck by Washington’s side from day one to the bitter end of the fight for America’s freedom, eight and a half long, bloody years later. Washington turned out to be a great judge of character, and Knox, a loyal friend.
No artillery could be served as great as ours.
Fifty-nine of Fort Ticonderoga’s cannons equaling over 119,900 pounds of brass and iron were incredibly and swiftly mobilized by 25-year-old Colonel Henry Knox, and moved over 300 miles from New York across Vermont and New Hampshire to a hill overlooking Boston Harbor, forcing British ships to evacuate without firing a single round. Following the siege of Boston, Knox brilliantly commanded artillery at Trenton, Monmouth, and Yorktown.
Three days ago it was very uncertain whether we could have gotten them until next spring, but now please God they must go
In a depiction of events just prior to the pivotal Christmas night river crossing to surprise the Hessian troops, General Henry Knox can be seen pointing his sword giving the order to load the cannons into boats on the shore of the Delaware River on December 16, 1776. In this amazing painting from 1812, we find Washington that fateful winter evening in the very moments before he descends from his horse to cross the icy river into New Jersey.
Henry Knox commanded the entire river crossing operation, end to end. Under the overall command of Col. Through his efforts, the Continentals brought 18 cannon over the river – 3-Pounders, 4-Pounders, some 6-Pounders, horses to pull the carriages, and enough ammunition for the coming battle. The 6-Pounders, weighing as much as 1,750 pounds, were the most difficult to transport to the far side of the river.
But in the end, all the trouble of moving this large artillery train to Trenton proved its worth. Knox would place the bulk of his artillery at the top of the town where its fire commanded the center of Trenton.
…As I was certain there was no making a retreat without being discovered, and harassed on re-passing the River, I determined to push on at all Events
General Knox worried, as the war ended and the Continental Army prepared to disband, that the only real institution binding the fragile new nation together was about to be lost. The men with whom he had served had sacrificed everything for the cause and were tremendously proud of their accomplishments. Together with their French allies, they had defeated one of the great world powers of the century and allowed their compatriots in Philadelphia to establish the first great republic since the fall of the Roman republic nearly two thousand years earlier.
But would America remember…
What the Continental Army had contributed?
How liberty had been won by these men who stood up and bore arms in her defense?
Knox proposed a fraternal organization that would continue to unite the several thousand commissioned officers from Georgia to Vermont who had served in the Continental Army. He named it the Society of the Cincinnati after the Roman warrior, Cincinnatus, who, after serving his country nobly in battle, returned to his farm to live out his years as a private citizen. Today’s Society, the oldest patriotic organization in the nation, has over 3900 members and is headquartered in Washington, DC.
On January 2, 1794, by a narrow margin of 46–44, the House of Representatives voted to authorize building a navy and formed a committee to determine the size, cost, and type of ships to be built. Secretary of War Henry Knox submitted proposals to the committee outlining the design and cost of warships.
Knox advised President Washington that the cost of new construction would likely exceed the appropriations of the Naval Act. Despite this, Washington accepted and approved the plans the same day they were submitted, April 15, 1794.
Unless this is done, we shall be liable to be ruled by an arbitrary and capricious armed tyranny, whose word and will must be law.
After his military service, Knox retired to the District of Maine, where he built Montpelier on land Lucy had inherited from her family, the 576,000-acre Waldo Patent, and dabbled in many of the emerging businesses in the District. He shipped timber, quarried lime, made bricks, experimented with agriculture, built canals on the Georges River, and speculated in land. Most in Thomaston welcomed him, although few held Mrs. Knox in high regard. She didn’t mix well and became increasingly withdrawn as the family’s fortunes dwindled, preferring her card games to local company.
Henry kept up appearances, welcoming over 500 townspeople to an open house at Montpelier, helping to establish a local church, starting local militia groups, and employing many townspeople. All too soon though, and before any of his business ventures really took hold, this military hero finally fell. According to traditional accounts, Henry Knox died three days after swallowing a chicken bone at a picnic at the Ebenezer Alden property in Union.
Knox loved to see everyone happy, and could sympathize with people of every class and condition, rejoice in their prosperity, and aid them in adversity
“His funeral was conducted with many honors. An imposing procession was formed, preceded by a company of militia marching with arms reversed; then a company of artillery, followed by a company of cavalry, these preceding the coffin, on which lay the General’s hat and sword. Behind was the hero’s favorite horse, with boots of the late rider reversed in the stirrups. Then followed relatives, domestics, citizens and strangers. This long procession marched to the music of a solemn dirge, accompanied by muffled drums, tolling of bells, and minute guns fired from the height.”
Thus General Knox was conducted to his resting place at the old cemetery in Thomaston, Maine