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 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.

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
(m. 1774)
RelativesHenry Thatcher (grandson)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceContinental Army
United States Army
Years of service1772–1785
Rank Major General
CommandsChief of Artillery
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War
  Battle of Bunker Hill
  Siege of Boston
  Knox Expedition
  Fortification of Dorchester Heights
  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

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,[2] formally organizing the society and authoring its founding document as the war ended in 1783.[3] 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.[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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