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Henry Knox

Henry Knox

Henry Knox (1750-1806) was a Revolutionary War general, famed as the father of American army artillery.

Henry Knox was born in Boston, Mass., on July 25, 1750. He had to leave school at an early age to support his mother, who had been deserted by his father. In 1772 Knox joined the Boston Grenadier Corps, a crack regiment, as second in command. Two years later he married Lucy Flucker, whose loyalist father opposed the marriage.

When the Revolution broke out in 1775, Knox volunteered his services to Gen. George Washington. Knox knew something about artillery, so he was appointed colonel in command of the Continental Regiment of Artillery. There was, however, no artillery in the army assembled at Cambridge, Mass.; it was in enemy hands 300 miles away at Ticonderoga, N.Y. In late December 1775 Knox went to fetch the 59 big guns and in a daring operation hauled them to Boston through snow and ice. He arrived just in time to help Washington fortify Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston. This caused the British general to evacuate the city. Thereafter, Knox and his artillery figured prominently in almost every major engagement of the war.

Knox took part in the Battle of Long Island in August 1776. He joined Washington in the retreat into New Jersey and in the stunning surprise attack and victory against the Hessian garrison at Trenton in December. It was Knox who directed the famous crossing of the Delaware by Washington's army on Christmas night, 1776, and it was his artillery that cut down the Hessians as they emerged sleepily from their quarters. Meanwhile, Congress had promoted him to brigadier general. In the next key encounter with the British (at Princeton, N.J., in January 1777) Knox's part in the victory was equally important.

In the campaigns of 1777 and 1778, Knox was, as always, at Washington's side—in the failures at Brandywine and Germantown, Pa., and in the success at Monmouth, N.J. In the Monmouth battle he performed so skillfully that Washington could say, "No artillery could have been better served than ours." But it was the final battle of the war, at Yorktown, Va., in October 1781, that showed Knox's genius. The murderous accuracy of his guns devastated the British forces penned up on the narrow Yorktown peninsula, and 8 days after Knox opened fire, the British general, Charles Cornwallis, surrendered. Knox's reward was the second star, making him, at 31, the youngest major general in the army.

With the fighting over, Knox was put in command of the military reservation at West Point, N.Y. After Washington retired in December 1783, Knox was appointed to replace him as commander in chief until the army was disbanded 6 months later. In March 1785 he was made secretary of war in the Confederation government, and he retained that post in Washington's first presidential cabinet. In 1794 he retired to a lavish life on the large estate his wife inherited in Maine. He died there on Oct. 6, 1806.

Further Reading

The best biography is North Callahan, Henry Knox: General Washington's General (1958). A briefer account by Callahan is in George A. Billias, ed., George Washington's Generals (1964). Useful chiefly for Knox's letters are Francis S. Drake, Life and Correspondence of Henry Knox (1873), and Noah Brooks, Henry Knox: A Soldier of the Revolution (1900).

Additional Sources

Brooks, Noah, Henry Knox, a soldier of the Revolution, New York, Da Capo Press, 1974.

Griffiths, Thomas Morgan, Major General Henry Knox and the last heirs to Montpelier, Monmouth, Me.: Monmouth Press, 1991. □

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Knox, Henry

Knox, Henry (1750–1806), Revolutionary War general, secretary of war.As a twenty‐five‐year‐old Boston bookseller, Knox became a colonel and head of the Continental army's artillery regiment in November 1775. In the prewar period he had served in a local militia unit, observed British regulars, and read extensively in military works. Thirteen months later, Congress made him a brigadier general and the chief of a growing artillery corps.

Knox's corps distinguished itself in sieges, most notably at Boston and Yorktown, and also in open field engagements, like those at Trenton and Monmouth, where he made mobile and effective use of his cannon.

In the postwar period, Knox headed the War Department (1874–94). During his tenure as secretary of war, he oversaw an extensive coast artillery construction program. He also faced the difficult task of reconciling the country's security needs with an anti–standing army bias, financial limitations, and embryonic political structure. A strong nationalist, Knox proposed a small regular army, an academy to train officers, and a nationalized militia of adult male citizens. Though not fully accepted before his retirement in 1794, Knox's ideas helped lay the foundations of American military policy for the next century.
[See also Coast Guard, U.S.; Citizen‐Soldier; Fortifications; Monmouth, Battle of; Yorktown, Battle of.]

Bibliography

North Callahan , Henry Knox: General Washington's General, 1958.
Richard H. Kohn , Eagle and Sword: The Federalists and the Creation of the Military Establishment in America, 1783–1802, 1975.

J. Mark Thompson

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"Knox, Henry." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Knox, Henry." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/knox-henry

Knox, Henry

Henry Knox, 1750–1806, American Revolutionary officer, b. Boston. He volunteered for service and went, in 1775, to Ticonderoga to retrieve the captured cannon and mortar there for use in the siege of Boston. The fortification of Dorchester Heights with this artillery compelled the evacuation of Boston by the British. From that time he was a trusted companion of George Washington. The artillery, under his charge, took a conspicuous part in the battles of Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, and Yorktown. He commanded at West Point (1782–84) and was a founder (1783) of the Society of the Cincinnati. Knox was Secretary of War both under the Articles of Confederation and under the Constitution (1785–94). A conservative, he attempted to raise a force to oppose Shays's Rebellion, and he favored a strong federal government.

See biography by N. Callahan (1958).

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"Knox, Henry." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Knox, Henry." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/knox-henry