Henry Knox (July 25, 1750 – October 25, 1806), a Founding Father of the United States, was a senior general of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and was appointed the first Secretary of War under the U.S. Constitution by president George Washington, serving from 1789 to 1794. During the war, he directed the artillery in most of Washington's campaigns, who appointed him first Secretary of War from 1789—1794. He initially oversaw the War Department as secretary under the Articles of Confederation, 1785—1789. He is perhaps best known today as the namesake of Fort Knox in Kentucky, the repository of a large portion of the nation's gold reserves.
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. He was on the scene of the 1770 Boston massacre. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, he helped General George Washington on artillery matters which proved decisive in driving the British out of Boston in 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 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 army that won the war for independence. He saw himself as the embodiment of revolutionary republican ideals. Knox initiated the concept of The Society of the Cincinnati, formally organizing the society and authoring its founding document as the war ended in 1783. It was an elite organization of veteran officers. The Continental Congress appointed him Secretary of War, where he dealt mostly 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 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 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.