Monday, January 24, 2011

Henry Knox, the 'Bookseller" Hero

click to enlarge map

I have always been fascinated by the story of patriot Henry Knox. Knox was a bookseller in Boston with a vast knowledge of artillery. He acquired this knowledge more through reading than actual experience.

In 1775 British troops held Boston in a stranglehold and George Washington's Continental Army was helpless to break the unpopular occupation. Knox approached Washington with what many considered to be an outlandish idea. The "bookseller" proposed that he and a group of men travel 300 miles to the recently captured Fort Ticonderoga in New York and transport its artillery to Boston. The artillery would give Washington the firepower he needed to drive the British out of the city. Washington surprisingly agreed to the risky plan.

Knox set out for Ticonderoga on December 1, 1775. Four days later the group completed the journey and disassembled 59 pieces of artillery. Knox's men loaded the artillery on carts drawn by oxen. Later they transferred the cannons to sleds to cross the iced-over Hudson River as they continued to Boston.

Along the way Knox passed through the towns of Spencer, Worcester, Shrewsbury, Marlborough, Waylands and Watertown to mentioned just a few.

Finally, 235 years ago today, January 24, 1776 Henry Knox completed the impossible journey and delivered the cannons to George Washington at his headquarters in Cambridge.

The guns remained at the headquarters until March 4 when the Continental Army positioned them on Dorchester Heights overlooking the British Army. When General Howe saw Knox's artillery aimed at down at his forces, he knew retreat was his only option.

Two weeks latter, on March 17, 1776 Howe withdrew his troops, ending the British occupation of Boston... thanks in large part to a "bookseller".


kad barma said...

Second only to the heroism of Isaac Davis and the events of April 19th, 1775, Henry Knox and his engineering feat is my single most favorite Revolutionary War story. Thanks for sharing more about it today!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. A great bit of history. I knew about bringing the guns from Fort Ticonderoga but not about Henry Knox before.