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Henry Knox


KNOX, HENRY (1750-1806), American general, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, of Scottish-Irish parentage, on the 25th of July 1750. He was prominent in the colonial militia and tried to keep the Boston crowd and the British soldiers from the clash known as the Boston massacre (1770). In 1771 he opened the “ London Book-Store ” in Boston. He had read much of tactics and strategy, joined the American army at the outbreak of the War of Independence, and fought at Bunker Hill, planned the defences of the camps of the army before Boston, and brought from Lake George and border forts much-needed artillery. At Trenton he crossed the river before the main body, and in the attack rendered such good service that he was made brigadier general and chief of artillery in the Continental army on the following day.

He was present at Princeton; was chiefly responsible for the mistake in attacking the “ Chew House ” at Germantown; urged New York as the objective of the campaign of 1778; served with efficiency at Monmouth and at Yorktown; and at/ter the surrender of Cornwallis was promoted major—general, and served as a commissioner on the exchange of prisoners. His services throughout the war were of great value to the American cause; he was one of General Washington's most trusted advisers, and he brought the artillery to a high degree of efficiency. From December 1783 until June 1784 he was the senior officer of the United States army.

In April 1783 he had drafted a scheme of a society to be formed by the American officers and the French officers who had served in America during the war, and to be called the “ Cincinnati ”; of this society he was the first secretary general (1783-1799) and in 1805 became vice-president-general. In 178 5-1794 Knox was secretary of war, being the first man to hold this position after the organization of the Federal government in 1789. He urged ineffectually a national militia system, to enroll all citizens over 18 and under 60 in the “advanced corps, ” the “ main corps ” or the “ reserve, ” and for this and his close friendship with Washington was bitterly assailed by the Republicans. In 1793 he had begun to build his house, Montpelier, at Thomaston, Maine, where he speculated unsuccessfully in the holdings of the Eastern Land Association; and he lived there until his death on the 2 5th of October 1806.


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 15

See F. S. Drake, Memoir of General Henry Knox (Boston, 1873); and Noah Brooks, Henry Knox (New York, 1900) in the “ American Men of Energy ” series.