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William Federer / Mar. 8, 2021

Henry Knox

Henry Knox moved cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Dorchester Heights in “one of the most stupendous feats of logistics.”

Henry Knox witnessed the Boston Massacre in 1770.

During the Boston Tea Party, 1773, Henry Knox served on guard duty to make sure no tea was unloaded from the ship Dartmouth until the night Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty arrived.

Henry Knox experienced the city’s deprivation when British ships commenced a blockade of Boston’s harbor, June 1, 1774.

Thomas Jefferson drafted a day of fasting for sister colony of Virginia to be observe the same day the blockade began.

British General Thomas Gage arrived in the city of Boston with 4,000 British troop s and proceeded with a military occupation, confiscating over 2,000 muskets from the citizens.

Henry Knox had been a bookseller in Boston, supporting his family in that trade since he was 12 years old, when his father died on business in the West Indies.

His father, William Knox, had emigrated from Scotland to Ireland to the West Indies then to Boston where he helped establish the Church of the Presbyterian Strangers in Boston.

A young woman who frequented Henry’s book shop was Lucy Flucker, whose father, Thomas Flucker, was the Royal Secretary of the Province of Massachusetts.

To her father disapproval, Henry and Lucy fell in love and were married, June 16, 1774.

Her parents disowned her for marrying someone in a lower class, who was also a patriot rebel.

British General Gage had made Boston a prison. No one was permitted to leave.

The British looted Henry’s bookshop and used his home to lodge soldiers.

On night in the spring of 1775, 25-year-old Henry, and his 19 -year-old wife, fled on horseback out of Boston. Lucy had sewn his sword inside her cape.

British Commander William Howe filled Boston with 4,500 more troops, and the Battle of Bunker Hill soon followed on June 17, 1775.

Henry Knox volunteered to serve in the American military.

General George Washington, age 43, made Henry Knox a colonel.

On December 1, 1775, General Washington sent Colonel Henry Knox to Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York near Canada to bring 59 cannons to Boston to drive out the British.

Knox and his men arrived at Fort Ticonderoga, put the cannons on big flat-bottomed boats, and rowed them through freezing weather to the southern end of Lake George.

Knox dragged the cannons across the snow, as he reported to Washington, December 17, 1775:

“I have had made 42 exceedingly strong sleds and have provided 80 yoke of oxen to drag them as far as Springfield where I shall get fresh cattle to carry them …

I hope in 16 or 17 days to be able to present your Excellency a noble train of artillery.”

They arrived at the Hudson River, but the ice was not thick enough to support the sleds and one sank.

On January 8, 1776, Knox wrote in his diary of help provided by local farmers and pastors:

“Went on the ice about 8 o'clock in the morning and proceeded so carefully that before night we got over 23 sleds and were so lucky as to get the cannon out of the River, owing to the assistance the good people of the city of Albany gave.”

The 3 month endeavor of dragging the cannons over 300 miles from Ft. Ticonderoga to Boston was called by historian Victor Brooks “one of the most stupendous feats of logistics.”

Knox arrived at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

On the night of March 4th, a diversionary attack was made to distract the British, while Washington’s men wrapped wagon wheels with straw to muffle the noise and frantically moved the cannons up to a strategic point on Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston Harbor.

To make it appear even more impressive, they painted some logs to look like cannons.

The next morning an astonished British General William Howe looked up at Dorchester Heights and remarked:

“The rebels did more in one night than my whole army would have done in one month.”

On March 6, 1776, from his Cambridge Headquarters, General Washington ordered:

“Thursday, the 7th … being set apart by this Province (Massachusetts) as a Day of Fasting, Prayer and Humiliation,

‘to implore the Lord and Giver of all victory to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness, and that it would please Him to bless the Continental army with His divine favor and protection,’

all officers and soldiers are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverence and attention on that day to the sacred duties to the Lord of hosts for His mercies already received, and for those blessings which our holiness and uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through His mercy obtain.”

Coincidentally, on that Day of Fasting, March 7, 1776, General Howe was assembling 3,000 troops to land and charge up Dorchester Heights, but a violent snowstorm arose causing the sea to be too turbulent for the attack.

General Washington wrote his younger brother, John Augustine Washington, March 31, 1776:

“Upon their discovery of the works (cannons on Dorchester Heights) next morning, great preparations were made for attacking them; but not being ready before the afternoon, and the weather getting very tempestuous, much blood was saved and a very important blow … prevented.

That this most remarkable Interposition of Providence is for some wise purpose, I have not a doubt.”

Rev. Alexander MacWhorter, who was a chaplain with Henry Knox’s brigade, wrote December 12, 1799:

“General Washington … attended divine services with his brigades …

He … considered the distinction of the great denominations of Christianity rather as shades of differences, than anything substantial or essential to salvation.”

On March 8, General Howe sent word to Washington that if the British were allowed to leave Boston unmolested, they would not burn the city on their way out.

Eights days passed, and on March 16, 1776, the Continental Congress approved without dissent a Day of Fasting resolution by General William Livingston:

“Congress … desirous … to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God’s superintending providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely … on his aid and direction … do earnestly recommend … a Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer;

that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease God’s righteous displeasure,

and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain this pardon and forgiveness.”

The next day, March 17, 1776, British General Howe finally gave the order to his troops to board their ships and evacuate Boston.

Sailing away with them were nearly a thousand British loyalists.

Among them were Henry Knox’s in-laws, the parents of his wife, Lucy Flucker Knox.

Being newlyweds when the war started, Henry was separated from his wife, Lucy, for months at a time. He wrote to her:

“I maledict … this war only because it separates me from my Love …”

“No man on earth separated from all that he holds Dear on earth has ever suffer’d more than I have suffer’d in being absent from (my Love) whom I hold dearer than every other object …”

“I think of rarely any thing else. Indeed, my dear Girl, I love you too well to be separated from you at all.”

Henry wrote to Lucy, August 25, 1777:

“I shall reserve myself … until I have the ineffable pleasure of seeing you,

When that will be I can’t say, but please God at all events before Christmas …

May God soon bring us together again and I sincerely beg Him to bless you … your affectionate husband … H Knox.”

Henry Knox went on to fight in the New York, where Washington told his army after receiving a copy of the Declaration of Independence, July 1776:

“This important event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer, and soldier, to act with fidelity and courage, as knowing that now, the peace and safety of his country depends, under God, on the success of our arms.”

Knox fought in the New Jersey campaign.

He arranged Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River with John Glover’s seamen from Marblehead, Massachusetts, rowing the boats.

It was Knox’s artillery that helped defeat the Hessian mercenaries at the Battle of Trenton.

Knox as promoted to Brigadier General, and fought at Princeton, in the Philadelphia campaign, Germantown, Monmouth, and Yorktown.

George Washington wrote to Henry Knox, March 2, 1797:

“It is not for man to scan the wisdom of Providence.

The best he can do, is to submit to its decrees. - Reason, Religion & Philosophy teaches us to do this, but ‘tis time alone that can ameliorate the pangs of humanity, & soften its woes.”

In 1782, Knox was promoted to be the army’s youngest major general.

In 1785, he was chosen as the nation’s second Secretary of War.

Named for him are:

— Knoxville, Tennessee, Knox County
— Knoxville, Illinois, Knox County
— Knoxville, Maryland
— Knoxville, Iowa
— Knox, Maine
— Knox, Indiana
— Knox Place, Bronx, New York
— Knox County, Indiana
— Knox County, Kentucky
— Knox County, Maine
— Knox County, Missouri
— Knox County, Nebraska
— Knox County, Ohio
— Knox County, Texas

In 1985, the U.S. Post Office issued a stamp honoring Henry Knox.

For nearly 20 years, Henry and Lucy did not have a home of their own, living in military encampments and army bases.

In the midst of the Revolution, Knox wrote to his wife, Lucy:

“We want great men, who when fortune frowns will not be discouraged. God will I trust in time give us these men.”

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