Henry Knox

Henry Knox
Henry Knox by Peale.jpg
1st United States Secretary of War
In office
September 12, 1789 – December 31, 1794
PresidentGeorge Washington
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byTimothy Pickering
Continental States Secretary at War
In office
March 8, 1785 – September 12, 1789
Preceded byBenjamin Lincoln
Succeeded byPosition abolished
1st Senior Officer of the U.S. Army
In office
December 23, 1783 – June 20, 1784
Preceded byGeorge Washington
Succeeded byJohn Doughty
Personal details
Born(1750-07-25)July 25, 1750
Boston, Massachusetts Bay, British America
DiedOctober 25, 1806(1806-10-25) (aged 56)
near Thomaston, Massachusetts (now Maine), U.S.
Political partyFederalist
Spouse(s)Lucy Flucker
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch Continental Army
 United States Army
Years of service1772–1784
RankUS-O8 insignia.svg Major General
CommandsChief of Artillery
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War
 • Battle of Bunker Hill
 • Siege of Boston
 • Knox Expedition
 • Fortification of Dorchester Heights
 • Battle of Long Island
 • Battle of Trenton
 • Battle of the Assunpink Creek
 • Battle of Princeton
 • Battle of Brandywine
 • Battle of Germantown
 • Battle of Monmouth
 • Siege of Yorktown

Henry Knox (July 25, 1750 – October 25, 1806) was a military officer of the Continental Army and later the United States Army, who also served as the first United States Secretary of War from 1789 to 1794.

Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, he owned and operated a bookstore there, cultivating an interest in military history and joining a local artillery company. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, he befriended General George Washington, and quickly rose to become the chief artillery officer of the Continental Army. In this role he accompanied Washington on most of his campaigns, and had some involvement in many major actions of the war. He established training centers for artillerymen and manufacturing facilities for weaponry that were valuable assets to the fledgling nation.

Following the adoption of the United States Constitution, he became President Washington's Secretary of War. In this role he oversaw the development of coastal fortifications, worked to improve the preparedness of local militia, and oversaw the nation's military activity in the Northwest Indian War. He was formally responsible for the nation's relationship with the Indian population in the territories it claimed, articulating a policy that established federal government supremacy over the states in relating to Indian nations, and called for treating Indian nations as sovereign. Knox's idealistic views on the subject were frustrated by ongoing illegal settlements and fraudulent land transfers involving Indian lands.

He retired to what is now Thomaston, Maine, in 1795, where he oversaw the rise of a business empire built on borrowed money. He died in 1806 from an infection he contracted after swallowing a chicken bone, leaving an estate that was bankrupt.

Early life and marriage

Henry Knox's parents, William and Mary (née Campbell), were of Scotch-Irish origin.[1] His father was a ship builder who, due to financial reverses, he left the family for St Eustatius in the West Indies where he died in 1762 of unknown causes.[2]

Henry was admitted to the Boston Latin School, where he studied Greek, Latin, arithmetic, and European history.[3] Since he was the oldest son still at home when his father died, he left school at the age of 12 and became a clerk in a bookstore to support his mother. The shop's owner, Nicholas Bowes, became a surrogate father figure for the boy, allowing him to browse the shelves of the store and take home any volume that he wanted to read.[4] The inquisitive future war hero, when he was not running errands, taught himself French, learned some philosophy and advanced mathematics, and devoured tales of ancient warriors and famous battles.[5] He immersed himself in literature from a tender age. However, Knox was also involved in Boston's street gangs, becoming one of the toughest fighters in his neighborhood.[3] Impressed by a military demonstration, at 18 he joined a local artillery company called The Train.[6]

1771 advertisement for Knox's shop

On March 5, 1770 Knox was a witness to the Boston massacre. According to his affidavit, he attempted to defuse the situation, trying to convince the British soldiers to return to their quarters.[7] He also testified at the trials of the soldiers, in which all but two were acquitted.[8] In 1771 he opened his own bookshop, the London Book Store, in Boston "opposite William's Court in Cornhill."[9][10] The store was, in the words of a contemporary, a "great resort for the British officers and Tory ladies, who were the ton at that period."[11] Boasting an impressive selection of excellent English products and managed by a friendly proprietor, it quickly became a popular destination for the aristocrats of Boston. As a bookseller, Knox built strong business ties with British suppliers (like Thomas Longman) and developed relationships with his customers, but he retained his childhood aspirations.[12] Largely self-educated, he stocked books on military science, and also questioned soldiers who frequented his shop in military matters. The genial giant initially enjoyed reasonable pecuniary success, but his profits slumped after the Boston Port Bill and subsequent citywide boycott of British goods.[13] In 1772 he cofounded the Boston Grenadier Corps as an offshoot of The Train, and served as its second in command. Shortly before his 23rd birthday Knox accidentally discharged a gun, shooting two fingers off his left hand. He managed to bind the wound up and reach a doctor, who sewed the wound up.[14]

Knox supported the Sons of Liberty, an organization of agitators against what they considered repressive British colonial policies. It is unknown if he participated in the 1773 Boston Tea Party, but he did serve on guard duty before the incident to make sure no tea was unloaded from the Dartmouth, one of the ships involved.[15] The next year he refused a consignment of tea sent to him by James Rivington, a Loyalist in New York.[16]

Henry married Lucy Flucker (1756–1824), the daughter of Boston Loyalists, on June 16, 1774, despite opposition from her father that was due to their differing political views.[17] Lucy's brother served in the British Army, and her family attempted to lure Knox to service there.[18] Despite long separations due to his military service, the couple were devoted to one another for the rest of his life, and carried on an extensive correspondence. After the couple fled Boston in 1775, she remained essentially homeless until the British evacuated the city in March 1776. Even afterward, she often traveled to visit Knox in the field. Her parents left, never to return, with the British during their withdrawal from Boston after the Continental Army fortified Dorchester Heights, a success that hinged upon Knox's Ticonderoga expedition.[19]

Other Languages
العربية: هنري نوكس
беларуская: Генры Нокс
čeština: Henry Knox
Deutsch: Henry Knox
español: Henry Knox
Esperanto: Henry Knox
فارسی: هنری ناکس
français: Henry Knox
한국어: 헨리 녹스
italiano: Henry Knox
עברית: הנרי נוקס
ქართული: ჰენრი ნოქსი
Nederlands: Henry Knox
polski: Henry Knox
português: Henry Knox
русский: Нокс, Генри
Simple English: Henry Knox
slovenščina: Henry Knox
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Henry Knox
suomi: Henry Knox
svenska: Henry Knox
українська: Генрі Нокс