top of page

Guns of Ticonderoga and Crown Point

One of the conspicuous results of the American Revolution was the emergence of new political and military leaders whose names do not appear in the colonial records.  The career of Henry Knox is an illustration of that significant transition.  His Scotch-Irish ancestor from north Ireland in 1729 landed at Boston, where Henry was born July 25, 1750, the seventh of ten sons.

Receiving a good education in the schools of Boston, he was apprenticed to a bookseller.  A student by nature, his position enabled him to read widely in the books of the day and to make a wide circle of acquaintances. At 18 he was an officer in a local military company of grenadiers and two years later he witnessed the Boston Massacre.  In 1771 he opened his own establishment, “the London Book-Store,” which was soon patronized by the fashionable set.  On June 16, 1774, he married Miss Lucy Flucher of a prominent Loyalist family in Boston.

Knox birth home

In the controversy with the mother country he became an ardent champion of the cause of the colonies.  After Lexington and Concord, he joined the patriot army and took part in the Battle of Bunker Hill.  His knowledge of gunnery and engineering made him a valuable addition to the Revolutionary forces.

Upon the arrival at Cambridge of Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental army, his attention was drawn to young Knox, who befriended by John Adams on November 17, 1775, was appointed colonel of artillery by the Continental Congress.  The need of siege guns to drive the British out of Boston, was clearly seen by Washington and widely discussed among the officers.

Taking to heart the embarrassment caused by the lack of artillery, the resourceful mind of Colonel Knox conceived the project of bringing to Boston from Fort Ticonderoga the cannon and stores which had been captured in New York six months previously and were not then in use.  The plan was submitted to Washington, who after giving it careful study and discussing it with his officers, some of whom opposed it as to hazardous in the dead of winter, personally interviewed the enthusiastic young colonel and gave his approval.

Washington gave him the following instructions

“You are immediately to examine into the state of the Artillery of this Army, and take an account of the Cannon, Mortars, Shells, Lead, and Ammunition, that are wanting.  When you have done that, you are to proceed in the most Expeditious manner to New York; there to apply to the President of the Provincial Congress, and learn of him whether Colonel Reed did any thing or left any orders respecting these articles, and get him to procure such of them as possibly can be had there.  The President, if he can, will have them immediately sent hither; if he cannot, you must put them in a proper channel for being transported to this camp with dispatch, before you leave New York.  After you have procured as many of these necessaries as you can there, you must go to Major-General Schuyler, and get the remainder from Ticonderoga, Crown Point, or St. John’s.  If it should be necessary, from Quebec , if in our hands.  The want of them is so great, that no trouble or expense must be spared to obtain them.  I have wrote to General Schyler; he will give every necessary assistance, that they may be had and forwarded to this place, with the utmost dispatch. I have given you a warrant to the Paymaster-General of the Continental Army, for a thousand dollars, to defray the expense attending your journey and procuring these articles; an account of which you are to keep, and render upon your return.

Given under my hand, at Head-Quarters, Cambridge, the 16th day of November, AD 1775 ~~ George Washington”

P.S. Endeavor to procure what flints you can.”

To his wife Colonel Knox wrote on November 16, 1775

“after the most tender inquiries concerning my dear Girls Health Inform her that My horse tired before I got Marlbro where I got Mr Gilb Speakmar’s who was so polite as to offer Him with the utmost freedom I lodg’d at Barkers and arriv’d here Yesterday in the most violent N. East Storm that I almost ever knew — keep up our Spirits my dear Girl I shall be with you to Morrow night & don’t be alarm’d when I tell you that the General has order’d me to go the West Ward as far as Ticonderoga about a three Weeks Journey, don’t be afraid there is no fighting in the Case I am going upon business onl