Knox 101

Boston 1775
Henry Knox was born in his family’s Boston home July 25, 1750. Descended from Scottish nobility by way of Ireland, Henry was the seventh of ten sons born to William and Mary Knox (nee Campbell), four of whom survived to adulthood. William Knox boarded a ship bound for the West Indies 1759 when his business interests collapsed. Henry’s older brothers John and Benjamin had already left Boston as merchent seamen never to return. This left Henry as sole breadwinner for his mother and younger brother William. His mother withdrew him from the prestigious Lain Grammar School, the essential preparatory school for those aspiring to Harvard, and secured him a position with Boston booksellers Wharton & Bowes. Notice arrived three years later of the elder Knox’s death of unknown causes in the West Indies.

Knox learned the business of book selling along with the trades of binding and repairing. He grew up in the bookstore reading classics in Greek and Latin, history, literature and later books on military science. He spent his off time drilling with the artillery regiment of the local militia. In 1770 he was witness to the Boston Massacre and later gave testimony in the trial of Capt. Thomas Preston. Preston, represented in the matter by John Adams, was acquitted.

London Bookstore
At the age of 21 Henry opened his own bookstore in Boston; it soon became a success. That December his mother would died before Christmas. Henry put his brother William to work in the Bookstore. The following year he would co-found the Boston Grenediar Corps. He drilled the members in the movement and firing of cannon while continuing to study military text and quiz British troops who frequented his store. That summer he lost the pinky and ring fingers of his left hand to a hunting accident.

In June of 1774 Henry Knox married Lucy Flucker, daughter of royal secretary and member of the Governor's CouncilThomas Flucker. The marriage was contrary to the wishes of Thomas Flucker given Henry’s limited social standing and the fact that his Boston Grenediar Corps. had assisted in blocking the off-loading of British cargo that would later be dumped into Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party. Three days before the wedding the Massachusetts General Assembly chose Samuel Adams, John Adams, Thomas Cushing and Robert Treat Paine as delegate to the first Continental Congress.

Washington at Cambridge
In April 1774, Henry witnessed the comings and goings of British troops involved in the conflicts at Lexington and Concord. Leaving William to mind the store and under the penalty of treason, Henry and Lucy snuck out of Boston shortly after. Lucy was taken in by friends in Worcester and Henry went to Cambridge where he offered his services to the militia commander Artemus Ward building fortifications. The camp received word word of the May 10th capture of Fort Ticonderoga by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen. On June 16th Knox and his fortification where witness to the leveling of Charlestown by British artillery and clash of forces on the slope of Breed Hill that would later be remembered as the Battle of Bunker Hill. Newly appointed Commander of the Continental Army, Gen. George Washington, arrived in Cambridge on July 3rd. Washington was impressed with Knox and his abilities in the engineering of fortifications and entrenchments.