Henry Knox

Henry Knox (July 25, 1750 – October 25, 1806), a Founding Father of the United States,[1] was a senior general of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, serving as chief of artillery in most of Washington's campaigns. Following the revolution, he oversaw the War Department under the Articles of Confederation, 1785—1789. Washington, at the start of his first administration, appointed Knox the nation's first Secretary of War, a position he held from 1789—1794. He is perhaps best remembered today as the namesake of Fort Knox in Kentucky, the repository of a large portion of the nation's gold reserves.

Henry Knox
1st Senior Officer of the U.S. Army
In office
December 23, 1783  June 20, 1784
Appointed byConfederation Congress
Preceded byGeorge Washington (Commander-in-Chief)
Succeeded byJohn Doughty
2nd United States Secretary at War
In office
March 8, 1785  September 12, 1789
Appointed byConfederation Congress
Preceded byBenjamin Lincoln
Succeeded byOffice abolished
1st United States Secretary of War
In office
September 12, 1789  December 31, 1794
PresidentGeorge Washington
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byTimothy Pickering
Personal details
Born(1750-07-25)July 25, 1750
Boston, Massachusetts Bay, British America
DiedOctober 25, 1806(1806-10-25) (aged 56)
Thomaston, District of Maine, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyFederalist
Spouse
(m. 1774)
Children3
RelativesHenry Thatcher (grandson)
Signature
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceContinental Army
United States Army
Years of service1772–1785
Rank Major General
CommandsChief of Artillery
Battles/wars

Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Knox owned and operated a bookstore there, cultivating an interest in military history and joining a local artillery company. Knox was also on the scene of the 1770 Boston Massacre. Though barely 25 when the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, he engineered the transport of captured artillery from New York's Fort Ticonderoga, which proved decisive in driving the British out of Boston in early 1776. Knox quickly rose to become the chief artillery officer of the Continental Army. In this role he accompanied Washington on most of his campaigns and was engaged in many major actions of the war. He established training centers for artillerymen and manufacturing facilities for weaponry that were valuable assets in winning the war for independence. Knox saw himself as the embodiment of revolutionary republican ideals. In early 1783, as the war drew to a close, he initiated the concept of The Society of the Cincinnati,[2] authoring its founding document and establishing the organization as a fraternal, hereditary society of veteran officers that survives to this day.[3]

In 1785, the Congress of the Confederation appointed Knox as Secretary of War, where he dealt primarily with Indian affairs. Following the adoption of the United States Constitution in 1789, he became President Washington's Secretary of War. In this role he oversaw the development of coastal fortifications, worked to improve the preparedness of local militia, and directed the nation’s military operations in the Northwest Indian War. He was formally responsible for the nation's relationship with the Indian population in the territories it claimed, articulating a policy that established federal government supremacy over the states in relation to Indian nations and called for treating Indian nations as sovereign. Knox's idealistic views on the subject were frustrated by ongoing illegal settlements and fraudulent land transfers of Indian lands.[4] He retired to Thomaston, District of Maine in 1795, where he oversaw the rise of a business empire built on borrowed money. He died in 1806, leaving an estate that was bankrupt.


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