1 Aug 2018

Kindred Spirits and Military Powerhouses: Henry Knox and Nathanael Greene

Kindred Spirits and Military Powerhouses: Henry Knox and Nathanael Greene

With last Wednesday (July 25) marking the birthday of Henry Knox and next Tuesday (Aug. 7) marking that of Nathanael Greene, today we’re reflecting on the extraordinary contributions of these close friends and kindred spirits. Both Knox and Greene lived with physical disabilities. Both had gregarious temperaments and a passion for military history. And both proved unlikely heroes, indispensable to the American victory in the Revolutionary War.

Henry Knox was fascinated by artillery even before the war began. Upon joining George Washington’s inner circle, he immediately went to work trying to figure how best to remove the British from Boston. Knox believed that the British could be forced to evacuate the city if the Continental Army could fortify the various hills surrounding it. The question was where to get the guns. The chance arrived in May 1775, when Fort Ticonderoga fell into patriot hands.

The 25-year-old Knox and a contingent of hearty men journeyed to the fort to retrieve captured artillery for Washington’s army. During the nearly 300-mile trek lugging their treasure back to Boston, Knox and his men endured severe winter-weather conditions, but they invented ways to haul tons of field pieces over freezing-cold lakes and rivers. The expedition arrived in Boston by mid-January 1776, completely intact, not a gun lost. With this formidable battery at his disposal, Washington was able to implement Knox’s plan of siege. By March, the British evacuated the city. Knox had achieved the nearly impossible and Washington, in gratitude, appointed him chief of artillery.

Greene began his military career as a private with the Kentish Guards militia in his native Rhode Island. Within a year, he received a promotion to brigadier general. Greene continued to rise through the ranks of the Continental Army, eventually being appointed by Washington to command the Southern Theater. Soon after Greene took command, the tide of war began to turn in favor of the patriots. Greene executed a strategy of cat and mouse to gradually deplete the British force. The staggering losses suffered by the British put in motion the withdrawal of Gen. Lord Cornwallis to the Virginia coast and his subsequent defeat at Yorktown.

During the War for Independence, both Knox and Greene would share with Washington and his soldiers the privations of war and the shame associated with stinging defeats, and would contend with the sometimes bitter infighting that took place within Washington’s command structure. Together, they served for the eight-year duration of the war, being among the few who rose through the ranks to stand with their commander-in-chief.

At Yorktown - where Nathanael Greene’s military tactics help win America’s freedom and end the Revolutionary War - 50 acres of battlefield have been zoned and platted for a subdivision of 100 houses. We’re halfway to raising the $74,000 we need to save this land, but we still need to raise the other half

The Revolutionary War Animated Map

See how Knox and Greene’s contributions fit into the larger context of the Revolutionary War. Our animated map tracks the full course of the war from 1775 to 1783, from Lexington to Yorktown and beyond.

Revolutionary War In4: Bunker Hill

Historian James Percoco discusses the famous conflict that preceded Knox and Greene’s arrival in Boston. Find out why this British victory made reconciliation between the British and the American patriots “no longer possible.”

Battle of Brandywine: Proving the Patriots’ Mettle
Nathanael Greene’s performance in the Battle of Brandywine helped earn him his promotion to quartermaster general - but Greene wasn’t the only one who fought valiantly that day. Learn more about one of the biggest battles of the Revolution.


American Battlefield Trust

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