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Henry Knox

Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, c. 1784
Personal data
Date of birthJuly 25, 1750
Place of birthBoston, Province of Massachusetts Bay
Date of deathOctober 25, 1806(age 56)
Place of deathnear Thomaston, District of Maine, Massachusetts, U.S.
NationalityBritish (at birth)
American (at death)
SpouseLucy Flucker
ProfessionBookseller, Soldier
Military service
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchContinental Army
United States Army
Years of service1772 84
RankColonel 1775 76
Brigadier General 1776 81
Major General 1781 84
CommandsChief of Artillery
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War
Battle of Bunker Hill
Siege of Boston
Battle of Long Island
Battle of Trenton
Battle of the Assunpink Creek
Battle of Princeton
Battle of Brandywine
Battle of Germantown
Battle of Monmouth
Siege of Yorktown
1st United States Secretary of War
In officeMarch 8, 1785 - December 31, 1794
PresidentGeorge Washington
Succeeded byTimothy Pickering

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Henry Knox (July 25, 1750 October 25, 1806) was a military officer of the Continental Army and later the United States Army, and also served as the first United States Secretary of War.

Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, he owned and operated a bookstore there, cultivating an interest in military history and joining a local artillery company. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, he befriended General George Washington, and quickly rose to become the chief artillery officer of the Continental Army. In this role he accompanied Washington on most of his campaigns, and had some involvement in many major actions of the war. He established training centers for artillerymen and manufacturing facilities for weaponry that were valuable assets to the fledgling nation.

Following the adoption of the United States Constitution, 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 oversaw the nation's military activity 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 relating 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 involving Indian lands.

He retired to what is now Thomaston, Maine in 1795, where he oversaw the rise of a business empire built on borrowed money. He died in 1806 from an infection received after swallowing a chicken bone, leaving an estate that was virtually bankrupt.


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