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See also: "Shays' Rebellion and "Northwest Indian War

Congress finally appointed Knox the nation's second Secretary at War on March 8, 1785, after considering a number of other candidates. At the time, Knox is reported to have been of "immense girth", weighing nearly 300 pounds and 6 feet 3 inches.[72] The army was by then a fraction of its former size, and the new nation's westward expansion was exacerbating frontier conflicts with Indian tribes.[73] The War Department Knox took over had two civilian employees and "a single small regiment.[74][75] Congress in 1785 authorized the establishment of a 700-man army. Knox was only able to recruit six of the authorized ten companies, which were stationed on the western frontier.[76]

Some members of the Confederation Congress opposed the establishment of a peacetime army, and also opposed the establishment of a military academy (one of Knox's key proposals) on the basis that it would establish an egalitarian military class capable of dominating society.[74] Knox first proposed an army mainly composed of state militia, specifically seeking to change attitudes in Congress about a democratically managed military.[77] Although the plan was initially rejected, many of its details were eventually adopted in the formation and administration of the United States Army.[78] The need for an enhanced military role took on some urgency in 1786 when "Shays' Rebellion broke out in Massachusetts, threatening the Springfield Armory. Knox personally went to Springfield to see to its defense. Although Benjamin Lincoln raised a militia force and put down the rebellion, it highlighted the weakness of both the military and defects in the "Articles of Confederation that hampered Congressional ability to act on the matter.[79] In the rebellion's aftermath Congress called what became known as the "Constitutional Convention, in which the current "United States Constitution was drafted. Knox in early 1787 sent George Washington a draft proposal for a government that bears significant resemblance to what was eventually adopted. When Washington asked Knox if he should attend the convention, Knox urged him to do so: "It would be circumstance highly honorable to your fame, in the judgment of the present and future ages, and double entitle you to the glorious epithet — Father of Your Country." This is possibly the earliest documented application of the phrase ""Father of His Country" to Washington.[80] Knox actively promoted the adoption of the new constitution,[81] engaging correspondents in many colonies on the subject, but especially concentrating on achieving its adoption by Massachusetts, where its support was seen as weak.[82] After its adoption he was considered by some to be a viable candidate for "vice president, but he preferred to remain the war office, and the office went to "John Adams.[83] With the adoption of the new constitution and the establishment of the "War Department, Knox's title changed to Secretary of War.[84]

As part of his duties as Secretary of War, Knox was responsible for implementation of the "Militia Act of 1792. This included his evaluation of the arms and readiness of the "militia finding that only 20% of the 450,000 members of the militia were capable of arming themselves at their own expense for militia service as required by the act. To resolve this arms shortage, Knox recommended to Congress that the federal government increase the purchase of imported weapons, ban the export of domestically produced weapons and establish facilities for the domestic production and stockpiling of weapons. These facilities included the existing Springfield Armory and another at "Harpers Ferry, Virginia.[85] In 1792 Congress, acting on a detailed proposal from Knox, created the short-lived "Legion of the United States.[86]

When the "French Revolutionary Wars broke out in 1793, American merchant shipping began to be affected after Washington formally "declared neutrality in the conflict. Both France and Britain began interfering with American shipping. Most of the Continental Navy's few ships were sold off at the end of the revolutionary war, leaving the nation's merchant fleet without any defenses against piracy or seizure on the high seas.[87] Knox urged and presided over the creation of a regular "United States Navy and the establishment of a series of coastal fortifications.[88]

Native American diplomacy and war[edit]

Knox was responsible for managing the nation's relations with the Native Americans resident in lands it claimed, following a 1789 act of U.S. Congress.[89] Knox, in several documents drafted for Washington and Congress, articulated the nation's early Native American policy. He stated that Indian nations were sovereign and possessed the land they occupied, and that the federal government (and not the states) should therefore be responsible for dealings with them. These policies were implemented in part by the passage of the "Indian Trade and Intercourse Act of 1790, which forbade the sale of Native American lands except in connection with a treaty with the federal government. Knox wrote, "The Indians, being the prior occupants, possess the right to the soil. It cannot be taken from them except by their consent, or by rights of conquest in case of a just war. To dispossess them on any other principle would be a great violation of the fundamental laws of nature."[90] Historian Robert Miller claims that statements like these seem to support indigenous rights to land, but were ignored in the practice of the "Doctrine of Discovery, which came to govern the taking of Native lands.[91]

"American Indian wars, including the "Cherokee–American wars and the "Northwest Indian War, would occupy much of his tenure. During the years of the Confederation, there had been insufficient Congressional support for any significant action against the Nations on the western frontier. The British supported the northwestern tribes from frontier bases that they continued to occupy after the Revolutionary War ended (in violation of the Treaty of Paris), and the "Cherokee and "Creek continued to contest illegal encroachment of colonial settlers on their lands.[92] In October 1790 Knox organized "a campaign led by General "Josiah Harmar into the "Northwest Territory in retaliation for Native American raids against colonial settlers in that territory and that of present-day "Kentucky. That campaign failed. A second campaign was organized by Knox, financed by "William Duer, and to be led by territorial Governor "Arthur St. Clair. Knox and Duer failed to provide enough supplies for the Army,[93] which led to "the American Army's greatest defeat in history. These campaigns failed to pacify the Native Americans, and Knox was widely blamed for the failure to protect the frontier.

Seeking to close the issue before he left office, he organized an expedition led by "Anthony Wayne that brought the conflict to a meaningful end with the 1794 "Battle of Fallen Timbers.[94][95] Wayne's "troops had burned 'immense fields of corn' for a stretch of about fifty miles along the river", in a move that affected civilian non-combatants. The result of American military action in the Northwest led to the "Treaty of Greenville, which forced the defeated Native Americans to cede lands in the Ohio area. The bloody campaigns that Secretary Knox oversaw in some cases involved armies many times larger than later battles in the 1870s.[96][97]

The Native American nations refused to be removed from their lands without a fight, and they opposed the Americans' attempts to forcefully remove them in warfare, by trickery or by treaties, since they had owned and lived on the lands for thousands of years.["citation needed] One group of Americans wanted direct "Indian Removal" and the mass extermination of any tribe on land it wanted; Washington and Secretary Knox also wanted the lands. They generally (though not always) felt the use of force would be too costly to Americans, and sought other means to take Native American lands.[98] Instead, Knox at first recommended a continuation of British policies, furnishing the Native nations with livestock, farming implements, and missionaries, in order to pacify them.[99] After failing to appease the Cherokee and Creek with a large cache of gifts in 1789, Knox eventually signed the "Treaty of New York on behalf of the nation in 1790, ending conflict with some, but not all, Cherokee tribal units.[100] Of the genocide of the native populations in the nation's most heavily populated areas, Knox wrote, "A future historian may mark the causes of this destruction of the human race in sable colors."[101] "Noam Chomsky claims that the nation's leaders "knew what they were doing", and often used language saying they were the natives' "benefactors", "philanthropists and humanitarians", when in reality they were engaged in the "genocidal practices" of extermination and "Indian Removal".[102] In fact, Knox said what the Europeans and Americans were doing to the native nations was so harmful that "our modes...have been more destructive to the Indian natives than the conduct of the conquerors of Mexico and Peru". He went on to cite the fact that where there was white civilization, there was "the utter extirpation" of natives, or almost none left.[103] Regardless of whether the Americans wanted to obtain Native American lands by purchase, conquest or other means, "there would be no lasting peace while land remained the object of American Indian policy", which continued after Knox left office.[104] Washington's policies, as carried out by Secretary Knox, set the stage for the rise of "Tecumseh. Many thousands of Native Americans refused to accept treaties, claiming that they had not approved them and that their only purpose was to remove them from their lands. They specifically cited the "Treaty of Greenville, and reoccupied ancestral lands, "beginning renewed resistance in the Northwest that was finally crushed in the "War of 1812.

On January 2, 1795, Knox left the government and returned to his home at "Thomaston (now in "Maine, but then still a part of Massachusetts), to devote himself to caring for his growing family. He was succeeded in the post of Secretary of War by "Timothy Pickering.

Business ventures and land speculation[edit]

Knox settled in Thomaston, and built a magnificent three story mansion surrounded by outbuildings called Montpelier, the whole of "a beauty, symmetry and magnificence" said to be unequaled in the Commonwealth.[105] He spent the rest of his life engaged in cattle farming, ship building, brick making and real estate speculation. Connections formed during the war years served Knox well, as he invested widely in frontier real estate, from the Ohio valley to Maine (although his largest holdings by far were those in Maine). Although he claimed to treat settlers on his Maine lands fairly, he used intermediaries to evict those who did not pay their rents or squatted on the land. These tactics upset those settlers to the point where they once threatened to burn Montpelier down.[69] One of the people Knox took land from was "Joseph Plumb Martin, a soldier who settled in Maine and wrote a memoir of his war experiences. Knox briefly represented Thomaston in the "Massachusetts General Court, but he eventually became so unpopular that he lost the seat to a local blacksmith.

Many incidents in Knox's career attest to his character, both good and bad. As one example, when he and Lucy were forced to leave Boston in 1775, his home was used to house British officers who looted his bookstore. In spite of personal financial hardships, he managed to make the last payment of £1,000 to "Longman Printers in London to cover the price of a shipment of books that he never received. In Maine, however, he would be remembered as a grasping tyrant and was forever immortalized in "Nathanial Hawthorne's "The House of the Seven Gables, for which he served as the model for Col. Pyncheon.[106]

Knox was elected a Fellow of the "American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1805.[107]

Newspaper advertisement for Knox's bookshop, Boston, 1771

As well as building a landed estate, Knox attempted to enlarge his fortune through industrial craft enterprises. He had interests in lumbering, ship building, stock raising and brick manufacturing. Unfortunately for him, these businesses failed (due in part to a lack of focused investment), and Knox built up significant debts. Knox was forced to sell large tracts of land in Maine to satisfy some of his creditors. The purchaser of his Maine lands was a Pennsylvania banker named "William Bingham, leading those tracts to become known locally as the "Bingham Purchase.[55][69]


In 1806 while visiting a close friend, Knox swallowed a chicken bone, which lodged in his throat and became infected.[108] He died at home three days later, on October 25, 1806, and was buried on his estate in Thomaston with full military honors.[109]

Lucy died in 1824, having sold off more portions of the family properties to pay the creditors of Knox's insolvent estate.[110][111] The couple had 13 children although only one son, Henry Jackson Knox, survived to adulthood, and he was known for his drinking and scandalous behavior.[112] Repenting and "impressed with a deep sense of his own unworthiness,' upon his death in 1832 the wastrel son Henry requested that his remains not be interred with his honored relatives but deposited in a common burial ground "with no stone to tell where."[113]

Montpelier remained in the family until it was demolished in 1871[110] to make way for the "Brunswick-Rockland railroad line. The only surviving structure is an outbuilding that currently houses the Thomaston Historical Society.[114] The current Montpelier Museum is a 20th-century reconstruction not far from the original's site.[115]


Towns and cities in "Maine, "Indiana, "Iowa, "Illinois, and "Tennessee[116] are named Knox or Knoxville in his honor. There are "counties named for Knox in "Illinois, "Indiana, "Kentucky, "Maine, "Missouri, "Nebraska, "Ohio, "Tennessee, and "Texas.[116] The house he used as a headquarters in "New Windsor, New York, during the Revolution has been preserved as "Knox's Headquarters State Historic Site; it is a listed "National Historic Landmark.[117][118] "Knox Township, Illinois, is named after Knox, as is Knox Place in "the Bronx, New York.

Knox has been honored by the "U.S. Postal Service with an 8¢ "Great Americans series "postage stamp.

Two forts, "one in Kentucky and "another in Maine were named after him.[119] Knox Hall at "Fort Sill, "Oklahoma,[120] home of the "U.S. Army Field Artillery School,[121] is named in his honor, as is an annual award recognizing the performance of U.S. "artillery batteries.[122] The Major General Nathanael Greene–class large coastal "tug "USAV Major General Henry Knox (LT-802) is named in honor of Knox.[123] His papers have been preserved at the "Massachusetts Historical Society,[124] and his personal library resides in the "Boston Athenaeum in proximity to that of his friend, "George Washington.


  1. ^ Stark's antique views of the town of Boston. 1901.
  2. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 1–4
  3. ^ a b Puls (2008), p. 3
  4. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 1, 3
  5. ^ Puls, Mark (2008). Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 9. 
  6. ^ Callahan (1958), p. 19
  7. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 8–10
  8. ^ Puls (2008), p. 12
  9. ^ Boston News Letter, August 15, 1771
  10. ^ Puls (2008), p. 13
  11. ^ Drake, Francis (1873). Life and Correspondence of Henry Knox. Boston. p. 11. 
  12. ^ Puls, Mark (2008). Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 19. 
  13. ^ Puls, Mark (2008). Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 25. 
  14. ^ Puls (2008), p. 14
  15. ^ Puls (2008), p. 16
  16. ^ N. Brooks, p. 15
  17. ^ Puls (2008), p. 18
  18. ^ N. Brooks, p. 25
  19. ^ Puls (2008), p. 45
  20. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 25–27
  21. ^ N. Brooks, p. 18
  22. ^ Puls (2008), p. 28
  23. ^ Puls (2008), p. 29
  24. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 30–31
  25. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 31–32,35
  26. ^ N. Brooks, p. 38, and Martin, p. 106. Knox tends to be the person most often given credit for the idea.
  27. ^ N. Brooks (1900), pp. 34, 38–39
  28. ^ Ware (2000), pp. 19–24
  29. ^ N. Brooks (1900), p. 38
  30. ^ Ware (2000), p. 24
  31. ^ Callahan (1958), pp. 46–50
  32. ^ Drake (1873), p. 23
  33. ^ V. Brooks (1999), p. 210
  34. ^ "Knox Trail official New York site". New York State Museum. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  35. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 43–45
  36. ^ N. Brooks, p. 50
  37. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 49, 245
  38. ^ Callahan (1958), p. 161
  39. ^ Mattern, pp. 74, 88, 110
  40. ^ N. Brooks, pp. 54–67
  41. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 72–79
  42. ^ N. Brooks, p. 83
  43. ^ N. Brooks, p. 87
  44. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 84–87
  45. ^ N. Brooks, pp. 91–93
  46. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 103–108
  47. ^ Puls (2008), p. 109
  48. ^ Puls (2008), p. 110
  49. ^ N. Brooks, pp. 121–124
  50. ^ N. Brooks, pp. 125–127
  51. ^ N. Brooks, p. 130
  52. ^ N. Brooks, p. 134
  53. ^ N. Brooks, pp. 136–137
  54. ^ Callahan (1958), pp. 39, 164
  55. ^ a b c Bell, William Gardner; COMMANDING GENERALS AND CHIEFS OF STAFF: 1775–2005; Portraits & Biographical Sketches of the United States Army's Senior Officer: 1983, CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY; UNITED STATES ARMY; WASHINGTON, D.C.:p. 54. "ISBN 0-16-072376-0
  56. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 151–152, 164–165
  57. ^ a b Puls (2008), p. 167
  58. ^ Puls (2008), p. 168
  59. ^ Puls (2008), p. 169
  60. ^ Callahan (1958), pp. 191–192
  61. ^ Puls (2008), p. 172
  62. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 173–175
  63. ^ Puls (2008), p. 176
  64. ^ Puls (2008), p. 180
  65. ^ Puls (2008), p. 177
  66. ^ a b Puls (2008), p. 184
  67. ^ Callahan (1958), p. 203
  68. ^ Ward, p. 4
  69. ^ a b c Taylor, pp. 37–59
  70. ^ Callahan (1958), p. 228
  71. ^ Callahan (1958), p. 229
  72. ^ McCullough, David (2001). John Adams. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 415. "ISBN "0-684-81363-7. 
  73. ^ Ward, pp. 49–50
  74. ^ a b Puls (2008), p. 190
  75. ^ Ward, p. 47
  76. ^ Callahan (1958), pp. 236–237
  77. ^ Puls (2008), p. 191
  78. ^ Callahan (1958), p. 240
  79. ^ Callahan (1958), pp. 242–252
  80. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 197–198
  81. ^ Puls (2008), p. 200
  82. ^ Callahan (1958), p. 267
  83. ^ Puls (2008), p. 204
  84. ^ Puls (2008), p. 205
  85. ^ DeConde, Alexander (2003). Gun Violence in America: The Struggle for Control. Northeastern. p. 40. "ISBN "1-55553-592-5. 
  86. ^ Kochan, James (2001). United States Army 1783–1811 (Men-at-Arms Series). Osprey Military. pp. 13–15. "ISBN "1-84176-087-0. 
  87. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 211–213
  88. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 214–216
  89. ^ Ellis, Joseph J. "The Treaty." American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. New York: Knopf, 2007, pp. 136–137.
  90. ^ McNickle, p. 52
  91. ^ Native America, discovered and conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destiny Robert Miller, 2006, Praeger, pp. 42, 46
  92. ^ Callahan (1958), pp. 314–316, 328
  93. ^ President Washington's Indian War Wiley Sword, 1985, University of Oklahoma Press, pp. 148-150
  94. ^ Callahan (1958), pp. 317–327
  95. ^ Puls (2008), p. 209
  96. ^ The Archaeology of Home. 
  97. ^ Cengage Advantage Books: The American Past. 
  98. ^ A Republic, If You Can Keep it. 
  99. ^ Callahan (1958), p. 329
  100. ^ Callahan (1958), pp. 330–334
  101. ^ Callahan (1958), p. 337
  102. ^ Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture Noam Chomsky, 1993, South End Press p 5
  103. ^ Spain, Europe and the Wider World, 1500-1800. 
  104. ^ The American Indian. 
  105. ^ Eaton, pg. 209. Maine was at the time still part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  106. ^ Griffiths, Thomas, Maine Sources in The House of the Seven Gables (Waterville, Maine, 1945). (Hawthorne visited Thomaston prior to writing the book.)
  107. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter K" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  108. ^ Callahan (1958), p. 380
  109. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 246–247
  110. ^ a b Puls (2008), pp. 248–249
  111. ^ Taylor, p. 213
  112. ^ Taylor, p. 47
  113. ^ Eaton, p. 355
  114. ^ "History of the Society's Building". Thomaston Historical Society. Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  115. ^ "History of Montpelier". The General Knox Museum. Archived from the original on September 24, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  116. ^ a b Puls (2008), p. 250
  117. ^ "NHL listing for Knox Headquarters". National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2011-07-28. 
  118. ^ "Knox's Headquarters State Historic Site". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2011-07-28. 
  119. ^ Puls (2008), pp. 249–250
  120. ^ "Fort Sill Memorial Database". United States Army. Archived from the original on March 9, 2016. Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  121. ^ "Fort Sill: Who We Are". United States Army. Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  122. ^ De Leon, Sgt. Jaime D. (April 16, 2010). "3rd BCT artillerymen earn Knox Award". United States Army. Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  123. ^ "Registry of Army Vessel Names" (PDF). United States Army. Retrieved 2011-07-28. 
  124. ^ "Henry Knox Papers". Massachusetts Historical Society. Retrieved July 19, 2011. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
"George Washington
"Senior Officer of the United States Army
Succeeded by
"John Doughty
Political offices
Preceded by
"Benjamin Lincoln
"Continental States Secretary of War
Position abolished
New office "United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by
"Timothy Pickering
) )