The Noble Train of Artillery
In less than two months, Colonel Henry Knox and his dedicated band of Patriots moved 60 tons of artillery across lakes and rivers, through ice and snow to Boston, Massachusetts. In the early days of the American Revolution, Knox proved himself to be exactly the kind of soldier that General George Washington and the Continental Army needed.
After taking command of American forces in July 1775, General Washington was quickly impressed by the twenty-five-year-old Henry Knox. The young man was clever, determined, and had a knowledge of artillery. As winter approached, Washington’s troops had Boston under siege, but they needed big guns to drive the British out. Earlier that May, Crown forces surrendered Fort Ticonderoga in New York State. The fort contained the artillery that Washington needed and Knox proposed traveling 300 miles to bring the heavy weapons back to Boston.
Charles Willson Peale's portrait of Henry Knox, 1784. (Photo: en.wikipedia.org)
Knox’s plan was daunting and filled with logistical challenges. The 59 pieces of artillery at Fort Ticonderoga needed to be dismantled, loaded onto barges, transported down Lake George before it froze, and then hauled the rest of the way by sledge and oxen over difficult terrain. Many of Washington’s advisors considered the endeavor hopeless, but Knox was persuasive. On December 1, 1775, General Washington agreed to the idea. Four days later, Knox arrived at Fort Ticonderoga.
Upon his arrival, Knox and his men immediately got to work. After recovering the invaluable lot of guns, mortars, and cannons, the colonel set out on the difficult journey back to General Washington. The operation involved a large corps of men, assembling a flotilla of flat-bottomed boats to navigate Lake George, building 40 special sleds, and gathering 80 yoke of oxen to pull the 5400-pound sleds. On January 24, 1776, Knox and his “noble train of artillery” arrived at the headquarters of the Continental Army in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now in possession of the big guns that they needed, Washington’s men fortified the Dorchester Heights and on March 17, British troops and Tory sympathizers began to evacuate Boston.
"The Noble Train of Artillery" by Tom Lovell. (Photo: derekbeck.com)
Through his daring initiative and relentless determination, Knox helped secure an important victory for the young American army. General Washington immediately named him chief of the Continental Army artillery. In the long years ahead, Knox remained steadfast in his dedication to the American cause.