Henry Knox moved cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Dorchester Heights in "one of the most stupendous feats of logistics" - American Minute with Bill Federer

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

William Knox had emigrated from Scotland to Ireland; then to the West Indies; then to Boston in 1728.He helped establish the Church of the Presbyterian Strangers. William Knox died in 1762 while on business in the West Indies.
His 12-year-old son, Henry Knox, began supporting the family by working as a bookbinder at Wharton and Bowe’s Book Store.
In 1771, at the age of 21, Knox opened his own bookstore in Boston.
At age 23, while hunting birds on Noddle Island, his fowling piece misfired, taking off two fingers of his left hand. From then on, when in public, he covered that hand with a handkerchief.
A young woman who frequented Henry's book shop was Lucy Flucker, whose father was Thomas Flucker, the Royal Secretary of the Province of Massachusetts.
To her father disapproval, Henry and Lucy fell in love.
Her parents considered Henry in a lower class, and were put off by him associating with patriotic rebels.
They tried to entice Henry to take a commission serving the King in the British Artillery, but he refused.
When Henry and Lucy were married, June 16, 1774, her parents disowned her.
Henry Knox witnessed the Boston Massacre in 1770.
During the Boston Tea Party in 1773, Henry, who was six feet tall and over 250 pounds, 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.
On May 13, 1774, British General Thomas Gage arrived as Military Governor of Massachusetts.
On June 1, 1774, Gage commenced a blockade of Boston's Harbor by British ships.
Thomas Jefferson drafted a day of fasting for sister colony of Virginia to be observed the same day the blockade began.
Knox experienced the city's deprivation.
With 4,000 British troops, Gage imposed a military occupation, confiscating over 2,000 muskets from the citizens.
He prohibited town hall meetings, complaining that "democracy is too prevalent in America."
Gage had Knox's name put on a list of the most dangerous persons.
Gage 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.
In March of 1775, Parliament replaced Thomas Gage with British Commander William Howe.
Howe filled Boston with 4,500 more troops,
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 that local pastors organized farmers to help:
"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 the British forces were nearly a thousand British loyalists.
Among them were Lucy Knox's parents, the Fluckers.
She never saw them again.
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, following Benjamin Lincoln.
In addition to Fort Knox, located in Kentucky, places named for him include:
  • 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."
American Minute is a registered trademark of William J. Federer. Permission granted to forward, reprint, or duplicate.
Image Credits: Public Domain; Description: Siege of Boston.jpg; "A plan of the town and harbour of Boston and the country adjacent with the road from Boston to Concord, shewing the place of the late engagement between the King's troops & the provincials, together with the several encampments of both armies in & about Boston. Taken from an actual survey. Humbly inscribed to Richd. Whitworth by J. De Costa; C. Hall, sc"; hand colored map 37 X 49 cm; Date: July 29, 1775; Source: Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C. 20540-4650 USA G3764.B6S3 1775 .D4 Vault g3764b ar090000 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3764b.ar090000 Author: DeCosta; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boston_1775.jpg

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  • Linda on

    Very interesting article on Henry Knox. My great nephew’s middle name is Knox, he is named after his great grandfather Knox Goodwin who I believe is from Tennessee.

  • David R. Lee on

    Great story. I had not heard of Henry Know, until now. He was a great patriot and American hero.

  • Scott D Young on

    Nice to see true historical content again! 👍🏻 🇺🇸

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