Henry Knox was born on July 25, 1750 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the seventh of ten children to William Knox and Mary Knox. In 1759 William Knox a migrant captain died at the age of fifty after suffering financial difficulties. Three years after the death of his father and at the age of twelve, Henry Knox was forced to leave the “Boston Latin Grammar school” and went to work to support his family. He was hired as a apprentice to a bookseller were he mastered the trade and opened his own shop, “The London Book Store” at the age of 21.
Henry was an enthusiastic reader and spend his time reading about military topics focusing on artillery. In 1770 Knox was involved in the Sons of Liberty, supported the American Colonial rights and was present at the Boston massacre. Two years after, his military reading came in handy when he joined the Boston Grenadier corps. On June 16, 1774 , Knox married Lucy Flocker, the daughter of the royal secretary of the province of Massachusetts. Knox was not well received by the family and after the city fell to the American forces in 1776 they left the city.
In 1775” Knox volunteered to serve with Colonial Forces and participated in the battle of Bunker Hill. ” American Revolution He remained in the military, and served with Massachusetts forces in the Army of Observation during the beginning of the Siege of Boston. While there he caught the eyes of the new army commander General George Washington when he inspected fortification that was Rodriguez 2 designed by Knox and they developed a friendly relationship. In 1775, because the army desperately needed artillery Washington asked Knox for advice in November 1775.
Knox advised Washington to transport the canons captured at fort Ticonderoga to the siege lines around Boston. Washington commissioned Knox as a Colonel in the Continental army and was sent north as the winter approached. When he arrived at Ticonderoga, he moved fifty-nine guns and mortars down Lake George and the Hudson River to Albany. The guns and mortars were then transferred by ox- drawn sleds across Massachusetts. This process took them fifty-six days to complete this journey in the bitter winter weather.
When they arrived in Boston, Washington place the guns on top of Dorchester Heights which commanded the city and harbor. Rather than face bombardment, the British evacuated the city on March 17, 1776 . After the victory at Boston, Knox was sent to Rhode Island and Connecticut to supervise the construction of fortifications. After the return of the Continental army, Knox became Washington’s chief of artillery. That fall Knox was present during the American defeat around New York , Knox retreated across New Jersey in December with what was left of the army.
Knox was made overseer of the army’s crossing of the Delaware river during the attack on Trenton. With the assistance of Colonel John Glover, Knox successfully completed the crossing on time. After his success Knox was promoted to Brigadier General. During the winter break, Knox returned to Massachusetts with a plan to improve weapons production. He traveled to Springfield armory and became a key producer of American weapons for almost two centuries.
In the winter at Valley Forge, Knox helped in securing supplies and assisted Baron von Steuben in drilling the troops. For the next two years, Knox was sent north to secure supplies for army and in 1780 served on the court- martial of British spy Major John Andre. Knox’s guns played a very important role in the attacks on General Lord Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, VA. After the victory he was promoted to major General and was assigned to command American forces at West Point. During this assignment he led the formation of the society of Cincinnati.
When the war ended in 1783 Knox led his troops in to New York City and took possession from the withdrawing British. Later Life On December 23, 1783 after Washington’s resignation, Knox became the Senior Officer of the Continental Army. He remained in this position until he retired in 1784. Not long after his retirement he was appointed Secretary of War by the Continental Congress on March 8, 1785. He supported the new Constitution and remained in this position until he became Secretary of war in George Washington’s first cabinet in 1789.
In this position he oversaw the creation of a permanent navy, a national militia and the construction of coastal fortifications. On January 2, 1795 Knox resigned as Secretary of War to take care of his family and other business interests. He retired at his mansion “Montpelia” at Thomaston, Maine. While in retirement he engaged in various businesses and later represented the town in the Massachusetts General Assembly. “Knox died on October 25, 1806, of peritonitis three days after accidentally swallowing a chicken bone. ”