Henry Knox was born in 1750 in Boston to a ships captain and his wife. His father died when he was 9. At 12, left school and went to work at a bookstore. He would go on to start his own book store. A voracious reader, Knox supplemented his education with the books around him, and taught himself artillery tactics.
In 1774, he married Lucy Flucker, the daughter of Boston Loyalists.
The American Revolution
At the outbreak of war, Knox, as part of the Massachusetts militia, fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. After George Washington became commander of the Continental Army, Knox and he became friends. One of the problems that the Continental Army had during the siege of Boston was that they lacked artillery. The nearest American artillery was at Fort Ticonderoga. Knox led an expedition to retrieve them from the fort, and completed the 300 mile trip, in the middle of winter, in only 56 days. With the help of the cannon, the Continental Army was able to drive the British army out of Boston.
Secretary of War
When George Washington became President, he named Knox Secretary of War. As Secretary of War, he was responsible for implementing the Militia Act, increasing federal armament of the militia, and setting up the first federal armories, at Harper's Ferry and Springfield. As Secretary of War, he advocated for better treatment of the American Indians.
In 1795, Knox stepped down as Secretary of War and retired to his estate in Thomason, Maine. He died in 1806 after swallowing a chicken bone which cut and infected his intestine.