BLTC Press Titles

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The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

Henry Knox, a soldier of the Revolution

by Noah Brooks


JIT is not easy to understand why a figure so commanding and a character so exalted as the figure and character of General Henry Knox should have been so inconspicuous in the written history of the Republic. Even a cursory examination of the record of the times in which Knox lived and wrought will disclose his energetic personality, his pre-eminent abilities, his lofty patriotism, and his winning manners. Above all, one who won and held the affection and esteem of Washington, as Knox did, could have been no common man.

As Washington's grand character was perfected, if not evolved, by the wonderful events of the first great crisis in the affairs of the American people, so, in the storm and stress that accompanied the birth of the Republic, the person of Henry Knox, noble and majestic, was gradually detached from the less distinguished of his fellow-men, and he became, by the force of his nature, one of the foremost of that glorious company of military heroes whose genius and prowess guided the American people from a condition of colonial dependence to one of national sovereignty. The hour struck, and the man emerged from obscurity to eminence. The young tradesman, devoting his abundant energies to the service of his country, and sacrificing ease, comfort, and the prospects of affluence, was transformed into a soldier well versed in the art of war, familiar with camps, a master of strategy. His merits in these pursuits, so unexpectedly opened before him, were very great. As a slight reward, he gradually rose to the highest military rank then known in the American army establishment. He began his public career as a modest militiaman; he ended as a majorgeneral and as the chief officer of the departments of the Army and the Navy of the United States.

At this distance of time, the career of such a man, so filled with activity, so closely connected with the history of his country, and so brilliant in the rapid and picturesque development of a famous and lovable personality, may well furnish a fascinating subject for the pen of the biographer and the study of any who admire manly generosity and singleness of purpose in a good cause. The life of Henry Knox may be commended to future generations of American citizens as one not only worthy of imitation but also endued with a certain atmosphere of romance which allures and gratifies the student.

The name of Knox * has been made forever famous by th'e stern reformer who bore it in the stormy times of Henry VIII., Elizabeth, and Mary Queen of Scots. John Knox, the reformer, was a native of the district of East Lothian, Scotland, and the family of Henry Knox originated, so far as the family records have been traced, in the adjacent Lowlands. During the early part of the eighteenth century, the migration of many Scotch Presbyterians to the north of Ireland resulted in the establishment of a colony whose descendants are known in England and America as the Scotch-Irish. Later in the century, considerable numbers of these crossed the seas and settled in various portions of the New England States. During the revolutionary struggle these people were identified with the cause of human liberty, into which they threw themselves with devotion; and their descendants have unto this day proved the sturdy worthiness of the stock from which they sprang.

* One of the Knox family, residing on the family estate, County Tyrone, north of Ireland, was raised to the peerage by George II., first as Baron, Lord Wells, and subsequently as Lord Viscount Nothland. This personage, after the American Revolution was over and the independence of United States acknowledged, courteously offered to General Henry Knox the family coat-of-arms, his lordship thinking that the distinguished American had ample right to armorial bearings. Knox declined the offer, saying that he was "not certain that he was entitled to be regarded a cadet of a distinguished house." He preferred to bear no cognisance but his own. His daughter, Mrs. Thatcher, says: "It was his pride to prefer the position which he acquired in his own proper sphere and become, so far as Providence should please, the head of his own house."

A party of these desirable emigrants, under the spiritual leadership of the Rev. John Morehead, landed at Boston in 1729. They founded a religious society in Bury Street, and it is a curious historical fact that the first two names on the baptismal records of the parish are the characteristic ones of Knox and Campbell. £ These two families were destined to be united; for William Knox was married at Boston, in February, 1735 (old style), to Mary, daughter of Robert Campbell. ) William Knox was a shipmaster, and, for a time at least, was in comfortable circumstances, owning as he did some wharf property and the house in which his children were born, a two-story wooden building with a gambrel roof, situated on Sea Street, near the foot of Summer Street and opposite the head of Drake's Wharf. Henry was the seventh of ten sons, and was born July 25, 1750. Only four of these ten boys arrived at the years of maturity; of these the two elder, John and Benjamin, went to sea, but never returned home, and their ultimate fate is unknown. William, the youngest of the family, was born in 1756, and was subsequently associated with his more distinguished brother in various ways until his death, which took place in 1797. The father of the family was overtaken by financial misfortune about the time of the birth of his youngest son; he was obliged to sell his house on Sea Street, and he soon after went to St. Eustatius, in the West Indies, where he died in 1762, aged fifty years. His widow survived him nine years,dying in Boston, December 14, 1771, aged fifty-three years.

Henry Knox appears to have been a stalwart youngster, fond of manly sports, devoted to his mother's welfare, active in affairs that engaged the attention of the neighbourhood in which he lived, j^ .1 and yet withal addicted to the study of books as well as of men and business. Left fatherless just as he was about to be graduated from the Boston grammar-school, young Knox found himself, with his brother William, then only six years old, the sole support and stay of his mother. Leaving school, he took a place in the book-store of Messrs. Wharton & Bowes, in Cornhill, doubtless considering himself very fortunate in being able to secure any kind of employment in those troublous times; --V ~ for discontent and dissatisfaction with the Imperial ^ Government was beginning to seethe in the colonies, and signs of political disturbance were multiplying in the land.

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