Henry Knox diary, 20 November 1775 - 13 January 1776

Henry Knox diary, 20 November 1775 - 13 January 1776


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    [ This description is from the project: Coming of the American Revolution ]

    One of the most notable generals in George Washington's army was Henry Knox of Massachusetts. In a remarkable feat, he recovered cannon and mortars from Fort Ticonderoga, in northern New York, and transported them to Cambridge. His diary documents the difficulties of this midwinter journey, which was plagued with obstacles.

    "Snow too deep for the Cannon"

    From the common ranks of the Continental Army, Washington has elevated Henry Knox, formerly a Boston bookseller fascinated by engineering, to the rank of General in charge of an artillery regiment. Knox is aware of the painful lack of ammunition and artillery along the colonial lines of defense, and has now been sent to recover cannon and mortars captured from Fort Ticonderoga in northern New York, and transport them back to Cambridge. His midwinter journey through dense woodland, along rivers, and across colonial borders is plagued with obstacles which require all Knox's ingenuity and diplomacy to solve.

    Questions to Consider

    1. What appears to have been the initial purpose of Henry Knox's diary? Why are all these careful records important to him? When does his record-keeping change? Why?

    2. Look at the entry for December 16 (page 4). What does Knox seem to be planning to do with the cannon he has captured?

    3. What difficulties does Knox face (page 16-19)? What is his response to General Schuyler when the cannon breaks through the ice?

    4. Look at pages 19-22. What kind of language is Knox using here? What is his response to Cohoos Falls? Would you expect to see this kind of description in the diary of a military man? What in his background makes Knox an unusual person to be a General?

    5. Knox relies heavily on local assistance to make his plans to move the cannon successful. Pick one of the incidents he describes and write a narrative from the point of view of one of the locals. How does Knox convince you to help? Do you have any doubts? What problems might come of helping the revolutionaries?