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From the March 21, 1942, Eagle

Eagle Archives, March 21, 1942: Gen. Knox overcame problems that seemed prohibitive on historic trip in 1775-1776

Late in the fall of 1775, Gen. Washington’s army stood in a tight little circle around Boston, eager to get about the pleasant business of taking that hub of New England back from the English.

The pocket-size Colonial Navy had been doing a thriving business in raiding British supply ships aiming for Boston, the troops were in good shape and the English, after months of virtual blockade, were not as strong as they had been.

But Gen. Washington had no cannons. The loot from British shipping “and all Washignton’s exertions,” Hart’s “History of Massachusetts” records, “did not give him the necessary strength in ordnance to press the siege.”

But in Gen. Washington’s army there was a 25-year-old colonel by the name of Henry Knox who had a number of reasons for wanting to get back to Boston, among them a little bookshop.

Some time in November, Col. Knox started out on an expedition which was to prove of vital importance to the ultimate recapture of Boston. Supplied with pounds sterling to the amount of $1740 from Washington’s own pocket, he made his way to Fort Ticonderoga which Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys had taken over with Vermont brusqueness some six months before. Waiting there for anybody who had the gumption to try moving them, were half-a-hundred cannons, mortars and howitzers. They weighed anywhere from 100 pounds to 2 tons and 400 miles of mountains, rivers and winter lay between them and Boston. But Col. Knox had gumption. He scoured the countryside for transportation and came up with 42 sleighs, 124 teams of horses and an unrecorded number of oxen.

On Dec. 5 his caravan started out by water, moving south on Lake George to Fort George at the southernmost end of the lake then overland to Glens Falls thence to the Hudson. At Waterford, on the junction of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, the ice was not strong enough to bear the heavy load, so the caravan detoured a few miles west to cross the Mohawk near Cohoes Falls. They then pointed straight for Albany, where the cannons were taken across the river, and down through Kinderhook, Valatie, Claverack and Hillsdale. They crossed the Massachusetts line at North Egremont. The Berkshire part of the trip, through Great Barrington, Monterey and the Otises, prompted Col. Knox upon his final arrival in Blandford to say, feelingly, he had reached thus far “after having climbed mountains from which we might almost have seen all the Kingdoms of Earth.”

After an apparently uneventful trip the rest of the way through Westfield, Springfield and on eastward, the cavalcade reached the outskirts of Boston Jan. 25, 1776. The rest is history.

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.

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