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Getting the Cannons to Boston: Henry Knox

Getting the Cannons to Boston: Henry Knox

 

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You’re reading an excerpt from Serial Box and the Associated Press’s new series, 1776: A World Turned Upside down

Learn more about this project here.

Between chatting up customers, Knox was also reading all he could lay his hands on about artillery. The “Boston Grenadier Corps” whose members had to be at least five feet ten inches tall to best show off their splendid uniforms, gave Knox, six feet or more, the post of second in command. Knox, a genial sponge, absorbed all he could of the military arts.

In addition to artillery power, he was captivated by the political confrontations and strife around Boston. He had been present at the Boston Massacre and had tried to prevent the British troopers from firing into the crowd. He had fallen in love with Lucy Flucker, daughter of the Loyalist Secretary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Thomas Flucker, the father, offered his influence to get Knox a commission in the British Army, but Knox refused. The family’s opposition to the marriage caused one Boston wit to rhyme:

But whoever heard                                                                                                                                                                Of a marriage deterred,                                                                                                                                    Or even deferred                                                                                                                                           By any contrivance so absurd                                                                                                             As holding the boy and caging his bird?

Stout Knox and the equally stout Lucy were wed notwithstanding, and she never saw her parents again. Meanwhile, Knox was spending more time with Nathanael Greene studying military science. When Revere stopped by to talk politics, the two would feign an argument to avert suspicion anytime a Loyalist entered the shop. After Lexington and Concord, Knox bundled himself and his sword beneath a cloak and by dark of night slipped over Roxbury Neck. Knox promptly offered to help design fortifications around Boston for the defending American rabble, and when Washington and Charles Lee, his third in command, inspected the work, “they expressed the greatest pleasure and surprise.” Washington had found a lifelong friend and his chief of artillery. Knox was only too happy, but where were the cannon? Then Knox remembered: Ticonderoga. Even before Congress, more militant now, approved the mission, Knox had set off with his younger brother, William, for New York. “No trouble or expense [should] be spared to obtain them,” Washington said in parting.

One story has it that Knox spent the night at Fort George on the way north where he met British Major John Andre, who had been captured by General Richard Montgomery. True or not, Knox five years later sat on the court martial that condemned Andre to death for his role in Benedict Arnold’s treason.

At Ticonderoga, Knox decided most of the captured guns were too worn for much use, and sorted out 59 cannons ranging from 4- to 24-pounders (the weight of the ball they fired). One was a fat mortar they nicknamed The Old Sow, which “hove bombs to an amazing distance.” By December 9, Knox had the guns aboard a selection of lake boats and set out down Lake George against the ice and snow. High waves sank William Knox’s boat “luckily near shore … [so that] we were able to bail her out.” Henry Knox, up ahead, had reached the southern end of the lake and “went ashore and warmed ourselves by an exceeding good fire in a hut made by some civil Indians who were with their ladies abed. They gave us some venison, roasted after their manner, which was very relishing.” Knox, the gourmand, even in the wild.

Bookish, Bold, and Jolly: Henry Knox

Bookish, Bold, and Jolly: Henry Knox

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You’re reading an excerpt from Serial Box and the Associated Press’s new series, 1776: A World Turned Upside down

Learn more about this project here.

Paine provided the intellectual and emotional flint to spark colonists’ feelings into flames, Knox provided the physical means for the revolutionary army to start fighting. Henry Knox was a bookworm and also a poor, fatherless boy. To support his mother and his younger brother, by the age of 9 he was apprenticed to Boston booksellers. He was encouraged to read by Mr. Wharton and Mr. Bowes, his employers, but fiction was not his game. The glory of war and particularly the noisiest aspect of war, artillery, fascinated the boy, and he read every book on war, military training, and particularly weaponry stocked in the bookstore. Henry could hold his own in the rough and tumble of Boston alleys, but at the bookshop, he impressed patrons, including Sam and his cousin John Adams, with his intelligence and pleasant manner.

In his free time, he added to his book knowledge of war by observing militia drills and military parades. Eventually, Henry, 16 years old, joined ranks under the command of Loyalist Lieutenant Adino Paddock, where he learned about loading, firing and maintaining artillery pieces. From treatises such as Sharpe’s Military Guide, he absorbed information about designing effective fortifications, transporting heavy cannons, and discerning topographic features that could win or lose a battle. At 21 in 1771, Henry Knox opened his own bookshop with stock purchased and sent from London, as well as stationery, ledgers, and journals. But the trials of the British occupation of Boston inspired him to leave the comfort of a pleasant bookstore proprietorship to embark on a wintry visit to Fort Ticonderoga, which required all his youthful energy, savvy problem-solving, and fending off a few competitors as well.

The Founding Failure

The Founding Failure

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Thomas Paine

You’re reading an excerpt from Serial Box and the Associated Press’s new series, 1776: A World Turned Upside down

Learn more about this project here.

The Founding Corset-Maker

 Tom Paine had been a dabbler at many things, a failure at all. Some of it he blamed on King George. It rankled even after he left England, so one day he took his quill and decided to put it all down on paper.

On January 9, 1776, in Philadelphia, a pamphlet titled Common Sense was published. It said in public what even most of the red-hot hawks had dared think only to themselves:

that the King was a tyrant and the only path for the colonies was independence. It uttered – screamed aloud – the unutterable. Probably more than any one event, more than any one person, Common Sense made it respectable for the general citizenry of the 13 colonies to conceive that their Revolution would be revolutionary; indeed to think of a communal future in independence.

The anonymously published pamphlet and the mystery of the author stoked interest. King George III thought Ben Franklin wrote it; others assumed it was John Adams. No, Thomas Paine had, even though he signed it merely, “an Englishman.” Thomas Jefferson once said Paine was “the only writer in America, who can write better” than Jefferson himself. That was a signal compliment coming from a college-trained lawyer who was about to do some significant writing of his own. It is even more surprising considering that Paine was a dropout from school, who failed twice as a corset-maker, twice as a tax collector, had two failed marriages, and was now on his second country, having been in the colonies less than two years. He had not yet dropped out of writing because he had scarcely ever done any. But, he scored a hit almost the first time out.

Tom Paine was 37 when he arrived in Philadelphia in November 1774, bearing a recommendation from Benjamin Franklin, a first-class boat ticket and strong opinions about George III. He had been born in Thetford, north of London, where he may have imbibed some views of democracy in Georgian England. Thetford had 2,000 inhabitants and two members in Parliament although only 31 citizens were eligible to vote for them. For Paine’s father, religion and profession were equally straight-laced: Quakerism and corset making. By scrimping, the father managed to send the son to school for seven years, but Tom was weak in Latin, the requisite passport into the professions. He had, however, developed an interest in the natural history of Virginia and ran off to sea, leaving his apprenticeship behind. His father caught him before the boat could sail, but Tom got away again, this time successfully. He next appeared as a journeyman corset-maker in London, age 20, and eventually drifted to Sandwich, setting himself up in the girdle business with a £10 loan, which he never repaid. “Disgusted with the toil and little gain,” Paine, now a widower, bade farewell to corsets for good and became an excise tax collector.

What Happens When Robots Gain Human Rights?

What Happens When Robots Gain Human Rights?

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I recently read Annalee Newitz’s debut sci-fi novel, Autonomous. The page-turning book follows the story of Jack, an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, and the human/robot team hot on her trail after one of her latest drug hacks goes terribly wrong. Newitz’s novel, which takes place in the year 2144, is packed full of evolved technologies that are only in their infancy now. For instance, people use biohacking to increase their productivity and make fashion statements (like growing flowers out their hands); and autonomous robots work alongside professionals in the military and hospitals. She also delves into potential future social issues like ownership and human rights for robots.

In this exciting interview we discuss biohacking, robot/human relationships, and the future of warfare. She also gives some great book and podcast recommendations for further development!

Joe: One of the central ideas your book revolves around is biohacking. Where is the science on this now and where do you think we will be with biohacking in the coming decades?

Annalee: Right now we’re in the very early stages of biohacking, though of course we have been breeding animals and plants for millennia (sometimes I call farming “slow biohacking”). Scientists are now able to engineer very simple organs, like bladders. Tissue engineering has allowed us to grow skin, muscles, and bones–and even to create hamburgers from a petri dish, which apparently taste OK.

The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence

The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence

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I recently picked up a copy of Amir Husain’s The Sentient Machine: The Coming Age of Artificial Intelligence. The book reminds me of Bill Gates’ The Road Ahead, published in 1997 when VHS was king, everyone went to Blockbuster, and the Sony Discman finally had skip protection. Gates’ described a future of Netflixesque streaming, Google-like searches, and Apple Pay-like transactions; all things that are common place today. Amir takes a similar approach and the future he paints has artificial intelligence taking center stage. I recently caught up with Amir and asked him about his book, the future of warfare, and for some further reading on the topic.

Joe: Can you tell readers a little bit about your book?

Amir: The Sentient Machine is a book that explores the answers to existential questions in the age of Artificial Intelligence. It asks whether, faced with an unknown future, we should still forge ahead with the development of artificial intelligence. The book is written for a general audience but also presents a personal account and contains vignettes from decades of my thinking on the nature of reality, the intrinsic value of humans in an age where machines out-work and out-think us, and the value of computational science as a way to think about the universe and the processes we see unfolding around us. To make the philosophy a bit more concrete, the book contains several chapters that explore the applications of AI we see now and those we can expect to see in the near future. I explore AI on the battlefield – what Gen. Allen and I refer to as Hyperwar – as well as the use of Artificial Intelligence to build cities of the future, advance healthcare, hack (or protect) an election and much more.

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Our Year of War: An Interview with Lieutenant General (RET.) Daniel Bolger

Our Year of War: An Interview with Lieutenant General (RET.) Daniel Bolger

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Last month I had the privilege of reading LTG (RET.) Bolger’s latest book Our Year of War: Two Brothers, Vietnam, and a Nation Divided and it quickly became a page turner. The book not only tells the story of Chuck and Tom Hagel and their experiences in Vietnam, but of the country they defended, and the leaders who led the war effort. I recently caught up with him to discuss his book, military service, and the importance of writing for the Profession.

Introducing Legacy Magazine

Introducing Legacy Magazine

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While the content of From the Green Notebook is focused on the professional growth of service members, I love supporting those connected to the military who venture out to launch noteworthy initiatives. In this case, a group of spouses came together two years ago after seeing a need for a high-end publication focused on the lifestyle of military families. And from there, Legacy was born. The inaugural issue will be available in November, and after seeing this preview from military spouse, Stephanie Howell, I think it’s going to be a successful magazine and a great resource for families.

When War Comes Home: An Interview

When War Comes Home: An Interview

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I heard about American War back in December, and finally got my hands on a copy a few days after it was available for purchase. After reading the first couple of pages, I was hooked. It wasn’t only the subject matter that pulled me in, but the way in which Omar El Akkad writes brings his story into vivid color.  I recently caught up with the author and we discussed American War. 

Joe: Omar, the title of your debut novel is the first thing that caught my eye several months ago. Can you tell us what American War: A Novel is about?

Omar: American War tells the story of a second American civil war that takes place about 60 years from now. The war begins after the federal government decides to impose a prohibition on the use of fossil fuels. Even though most of the world has moved on to other sources of fuel by then, and climate change has destroyed much of the U.S. coastline and drowned Florida entirely, a number of southern states still decide to secede rather than go along with prohibition. The novel follows the Chestnuts, a family living in southernmost Louisiana, as they are displaced from their home by war and forced into a southern refugee camp.

The Truth in Fiction: An Interview

The Truth in Fiction: An Interview

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I recently had the opportunity to sit down with author Mike Bond and discuss his latest book Assassins as well as the importance of fiction to military professionals. If the interview piques your interest, I encourage you to check out his book here

Q: Mike, what do you think is the most important aspect of Assassins and could you tell us why you decided to write it?

A: I wrote Assassins to share what I’ve learned in the last thirty years of conflict between the West and Islam. From my teenage years I’ve been acquainted with Middle East wars, and have seen much unnecessary tragedy and many mistakes, ways in which we could have protected ourselves better, both diplomatically and militarily.

The preface to Assassins is from the famous quote of Sun Tzu: “One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements. One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes be victorious, sometimes meet with defeat. One who knows neither the enemy nor himself will invariably be defeated.”

What Happens When War Leaves Its Box?

What Happens When War Leaves Its Box?

This post originally appeared on the Strategy Bridge on August 17, 2016

How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon. Rosa Brooks. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

In June 1945, 850 delegates representing 50 nations gathered in San Francisco to start the process of drafting what would eventually become the Charter of the United Nations. This wasn’t some exercise in bureaucratic protocol; this was a desperate attempt by humans to bring about stability to a world ripped apart by war, to draw distinct lines between war and peace, and to keep war inside its box. For the ashes were still smoldering on the continent of Europe, and the war in the Pacific wasn’t yet over.  Sixty million of the planet’s sons and daughters perished during World War II with another twenty five million wounded. The work of these delegates and their staffs took two months to complete, and by October 24, 1945 the U.N. officially came into existence. For the last 71 years, the Charter, this international body, and the norms they have established for warfare, have contributed to the prevention of the level of destruction experienced in the early 20th century.