Boston Campaign > Knox Expedition

Knox Expedition


The Knox Expedition, also known as the Noble Train of Artillery, was a remarkable logistical feat during the American Revolutionary War. It involved transporting heavy artillery from Fort Ticonderoga in New York to the Continental Army's positions outside Boston, Massachusetts, during the winter of 1775-1776. The expedition, led by Colonel Henry Knox, played a crucial role in the eventual American victory in the Siege of Boston.


  1. Strategic Context:

    • In 1775, the Continental Army, under General George Washington, was besieging British forces in Boston. The American forces needed artillery to strengthen their positions and break the British siege.
    • Fort Ticonderoga, captured by the Americans in May 1775, held a significant store of heavy artillery, including cannons, howitzers, and mortars.
  2. Henry Knox:

    • Henry Knox, a former bookseller with a keen interest in military matters, proposed transporting the artillery from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. Despite having no formal military training, Knox's enthusiasm and organizational skills impressed Washington.
    • Washington appointed Knox as a colonel and tasked him with the mission, recognizing the critical need for artillery in the American siege efforts.

The Expedition:

  1. Planning and Preparation:

    • Knox began planning the expedition in November 1775. He traveled to Fort Ticonderoga to assess the artillery and devise a transportation plan.
    • The plan involved moving 60 tons of artillery, including 59 cannons, 14 mortars, and two howitzers, over a distance of approximately 300 miles. The route would traverse rugged terrain, frozen rivers, and snow-covered landscapes.
  2. Execution:

    • The expedition commenced in December 1775. Knox organized a team of men, including soldiers, teamsters, and local volunteers, to assist in the transportation.
    • The artillery was loaded onto ox-drawn sleds and began the arduous journey south. The team faced numerous challenges, including harsh winter weather, difficult terrain, and the need to cross frozen rivers and lakes.
  3. Overcoming Obstacles:

    • One of the most significant challenges was crossing the Hudson River. Knox and his team ingeniously used sleds to transport the artillery across the frozen river.
    • The expedition also involved navigating the Berkshires, a mountain range in western Massachusetts, where deep snow and steep inclines tested the team's endurance and ingenuity.
  4. Arrival in Boston:

    • After nearly six weeks of grueling effort, the Knox Expedition reached the outskirts of Boston in late January 1776. The artillery was positioned on Dorchester Heights, overlooking the city and the British fortifications.
    • The presence of the heavy artillery gave the Continental Army a significant strategic advantage, enabling them to threaten the British positions and harbor.

Aftermath and Impact:

  1. Siege of Boston:

    • The arrival of the artillery from the Knox Expedition allowed Washington to fortify Dorchester Heights, a key strategic point overlooking Boston.
    • The threat posed by the American artillery forced the British, commanded by General William Howe, to reconsider their position. Realizing their untenable situation, the British decided to evacuate Boston.
  2. British Evacuation:

    • On March 17, 1776, the British forces evacuated Boston, ending the siege and marking a significant early victory for the Continental Army.
    • The evacuation was a major morale booster for the American cause and demonstrated the effectiveness of coordinated military logistics and strategy.
  3. Legacy of Henry Knox:

    • Henry Knox's successful leadership of the expedition earned him widespread acclaim and established his reputation as a capable and resourceful officer.
    • Knox would go on to serve as the Chief of Artillery for the Continental Army and later as the first Secretary of War for the United States.


The Knox Expedition remains a remarkable and inspirational episode in American Revolutionary War history, illustrating the critical importance of logistics and leadership in achieving military success.

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