Category Archives: History Nibbles

{History Nibbles} Henry Knox

Henry Knox, better known as General Knox, was born July 25, 1750 in Boston. He was the 7th of 10 children, but 6 of his siblings did not survive to adulthood.  His father couldn’t make a living, so he left his family to work in the West Indies, forcing Henry to end his education at about a 5th grade level.  He worked at the Boston bookbindery to help support his family, and found a way to save money to eventually open his own bookshop called The London Book Shop.

While at the bookbindery, he became an avid reader, educating himself.  He taught himself French so that he could read books written only in French, and read extensively on artillery and ordinance.  He joined the local militia, and met his wife, Lucy Flicker, at his book store.  She set her sights on him, although she was educated and aristocratic and her family–Loyalists–weren’t happy about the courtship.

They married in June of 1774, and not long after the incident at Lexington and Concord led him to believe he needed to get involved.  He spent his own money travelling to join the “rabble in arms.” He and Nathaniel Greene were recruited by George Washington to lead, and stayed by his side for the eight-and-a-half years that would follow.

Henry Knox  (at age 25) successfully moved 59  cannons, equaling 119,900 pounds, from Ft. Ticonderoga, over 300 miles to a hill overlooking Boston Harbor, forcing British ships to evacuate without firing a single round.

He also commanded artillery at Trenton, Monmouth and Yorktown and was in charge of the entire artillery operation at the Delaware Crossing.

He was the first Secretary of War under George Washington.

Born into a poor family, forced to leave his education to support his family, he forged his own education, opened a bookstore (which he abandoned to looters when he joined the Revolution), stayed with the cause for 8 1/2 years, became Secretary of the War, and formed the Society of Cincinnati (still active today).

He retired to Montpelier, Maine with his wife, started businesses and employed townspeople, established a church, and died three days after a chicken bone lodged in his throat at age 56.  He and his wife had 13 children, 10 of which did not survive.

In 1794, the House of Reps voted 46-44 to authorize building a Navy.  Knox, Secretary of War, submitted proposals to the committee outlining the design and cost.  He advised it would likely cost more than the appropriation of the Naval Act, but Washington accepted the plans.    “Until this is done, we shall be liable to be ruled by an arbitrary and capricious armed tyranny, whose word and will must be law.”  --Henry Knox

~Dawn, home educating mom of 5