Called the definitive biography, the first Secretary of War is restored to American consciousness as if being led to a few gold bars from his memorialized Fort Knox.
Mark Puls effectively narrates the contributions of Revolutionary War General and Presidents George Washington’s first US Secretary of War in this very interesting read of the life of Henry Knox. Puls outline’s Knox’s presence at many of the deciding events of American History including the Boston Massacre and every major battle that Washington directed. He is also shown as a trusted and beloved confidante of the Father of the Country. Knox even earned the praise of the vaunted French military leaders for his organization of the Continental Army’s artillery.
Without Knox’s determination and gregarious attitude, Puls shows that the birth of America could have indeed been endangered. His Herculean efforts to bring cannon and powder overland in the dead of winter from Fort Ticonderoga in the mountains of New York to Boston may have indeed provided the impetus that encouraged Americans to support the idea of declaring independence. His organizational skills were also very evident in two miraculous troop movements that saved the revolution. First, the escape from Brooklyn and secondly that great crossing of the Delaware on Christmas 1776. His artillery was also a huge factor in the General Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown.
Puls also makes a strong case for the inclusion of Henry Knox in the American Pantheon of founding fathers. He points out the aforementioned military prerequisites along with several forward looking ideas that Knox espoused. As early as the period of the Revolutionary War, Knox proposed and even began military education plans that prefigured and inspired the formation of the West Point Military Academy. He even suggested its location to the Confederation Government.
As the Secretary of War he was also instrumental in planning and developing Americas fledgling Navy. He even put together the initial plans for the first six frigates produced that included that famous War of 1812 mainstay, The U.S.S. Constitution. Those boldly designed frigates were also responsible in large part for keeping young America out of a devastating war with France. The repository of America’s gold, is securely kept at Fort Knox, named for this American Revolutionary General. This in an apt demonstration of the value of his contribution to the founding of America.
As with any literary work, shortcomings may be found. Puls does seem to go out of his way to insert Knox in situations as a central figure in a way that seems a bit contrived. Although the facts support his presence, the generalized way it is stated tends to unnecessarily detract from credibility. There are also some places where a bit of dramatic literary license seems to have been used but these instances were never in direct conflict with the biographical evidence as related to the subject. In all, Mark Puls does a very remarkable job in giving one of the heroes of America’s founding back to the public that he served so magnificently.
- Henry Knox Visionary General of the American Revolution by Marc Puls, 2008, Palgrave Macmillan