Community Commentary Life, Liberty and Leadership

Thanking heroes past and present for our freedom

This Veterans Day I am reminded of one of my favorite Revolutionary War heroes and his leadership. 

The American cause for liberty could not have been a success without the contributions of many willing to give all so we might be free.

Meet Henry Knox who was all of 25 when he joined Washington’s army outside of Boston, Mass. in 1775.

Knox was born in Boston where he lost his father as a young boy.

A self-educated man he opened a bookstore offering the latest books that was frequented by British soldiers. There he fell in love with the daughter of a prominent Tory named Lucy Flucker.

Lucy’s father attempted to give Knox added respectability with a commission in the British army but Knox declined.

In the tense days after Lexington and Concord Lucy and Knox slipped out of town with what they could carry and Lucy never saw her mother or father again.

Knox suffered a hunting accident when his “fowling” piece exploded, destroying a few fingers; he would soon after meet General George Washington, who was inspecting the defenses of his rag-tag army at Roxbury.

At that time General Washington and General Howe of the British army had battled to a standstill.

Howe and the British controlled Boston and the harbor and Washington lacked the weaponry to dislodge them.

It was Knox who suggested a solution.

Earlier Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys from Vermont had defeated the British at Fort Ticonderoga and the captured artillery had been abandoned. Knox suggested to Washington that he could get the cannons and drag them overland back to Boston where they could be used to defeat the British.

Washington agreed and put Knox who stood 6-feet, weighed 250 pounds and was missing a few fingers, in charge of the expedition.

Knox and his expedition left Boston on Nov. 16 traveling up the Hudson Valley at times making 45 miles a day. On Dec. 5 he arrived at Ticonderoga at the southern end of Lake Champlain.

There he selected 58 cannons including three that weighed more than a ton, and the 24-pound cannon that weighed 5,000 pounds. The whole lot was reported to weigh more than 120,000 pounds.

Knox moved the guns by boat down Lake George and when one of the boats sank they fished the cannons out of the nearly frozen lake.

The route took them overland to Albany where they had four crossings of the Hudson River again losing, and then retrieving, more cannons that sank.

On Christmas Day, 3 feet of snow fell and Knox nearly froze to death struggling through the snow until they found fresh horses.

The party moved on to Albany turning east to the Berkshires and on Jan. 9 the guns and Knox arrived 20 miles west of Boston at Framingham.

The trip was 300 miles and not a gun had been lost.

Knox had proven a remarkable leader who worked with urgency.

Washington promptly put him in command of the artillery.

The status in Boston was about to make a dramatic change and the cause for American independence was to take a huge step forward.

Rising above Boston was Dorchester Heights.

From these heights the British lines at Boston were 1 1/2 half miles away, well within range of the Fort Ticonderoga cannons; the British ships in Boston harbor were within range, too.

The plan was to occupy the heights in one night before Howe knew what was happening.

More than 3,000 men took part in the preparations.

On March 4, Washington, Knox and the men sprung into action and on the morning of March 5 General Howe awoke to find that more than 20 cannons were pointed at them from above.

They had been out-foxed.

On the morning of March 6 Howe gave the order for the British to evacuate Boston.

The most powerful army in the world had been defeated due to ingenuity, perseverance and leadership.

Knox and others moved 120,000 pounds of cannons over 300 miles over frozen lakes and rivers and defeated the British at Boston.

For all of the veterans of yesterday and today, thank you for my freedom.