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KNOX-CORINTHIAN ANNIVERSARY

(the following article was presented by Bro. David Harris at Knox-Corinthian Lodge's 100th Anniversary Dinner,  April 23rd, 2002)

 

M W Grand Master, R W & W Grand Lodge Officers Past & Present, W M, Wardens, Distinguished Guest, Ladies, Gentlemen & My Brethren.

When our Worshipful Master asked me to prepare some information on the history of our lodge for this occasion, I was very honored and pleased to do so. So I went to the proceedings of the Grand Lodge, and began to review the references to this lodge, The Past Masters, Who had attended Grand Lodge, special ceremonies and occasions, etc.

The things that usually comprise a lodge’s history.

But, then I began to think of how unique our lodge is and how unique it has always been. That uniqueness comes not only from its members and the character of the lodge, but principally from its name! Often when I proudly tell someone that I am a Member of Knox-Corinthian, they question me about the origins and meaning of the name. I always explain how the word Corinthian, stands for something that has nobly fulfilled it’s primary purpose and then is put to use again, for another purpose, usually in a very elegant and graceful setting. Always imbibed with the wisdom and experience of before, yet adaptable to it’s new function. However, no one ever asks me about the other part of our name, which is just as unique and interesting.

I wish they would, because I feel I am very qualified to speak on the subject; for you see Knox Lodge #851, like Knox County, is named for a fat guy who loved books. And I am obviously a fat guy who loves books!

The Texas Legislature, in their wisdom, have named the counties of our beloved state in three basic categories. First, naturally, they were named for the Spanish and Indian names, the various regions had been known by for hundreds of years. Secondly they were named for heroes of The Alamo and The Texas Revolution, and thirdly they were named for the Heroes of the War of Northern aggression. In some cases they even named them for themselves.

Knox County however, was named for one of the greatest, yet least known, heroes of the American Revolution, Henry Knox. Who was by the way an active Mason.

Henry Knox was a hardheaded Irishman, who was forced to give up school at an early age, to support his mother and family due to the death of his father

He went to work as a clerk in a bookstore, and became an avid reader. He became self educated and eventually bought a bookstore of his own. This was to stand him in good stead in life, for at that time books were still fairly uncommon and a luxury, so his trade put him in contact with the wealthiest and most intellectual men of the time. He soon became known not only for his intellect, but also for his steadfast virtue.

He was a member of Old Boston Lodge, and like many of the leading citizens in the Boston Area, was becoming increasingly discontent with the tyranny of the Crown.

He joined the local militia in 1772, which lead to his participation, one fateful day in June 1776, in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Brother Knox was with Grand Master Warren, when Warren suffered his fatal blow and died on that battlefield.

Shortly after the battle, newly commissioned General, George Washington, arrived to take charge of the disorganized, rag tag, Continental Army. Which had taken up positions surrounding a portion of the largest, best-trained and best-equipped army in the world, who was then occupying Boston.

The Colonials had no Cannon or artillerymen, with which to lay siege to the British. They did have one piece of luck though. A young firebrand and mason, named Benedict Arnold had captured a fort, in an exposed British position about 300 miles to the NW, called Fort Ticonderoga. There were fifty captured British cannon at the fort, however it was assumed to be an impossible task to move the heavy cannon to Boston.  And besides Washington had no one who knew how to use them.

Just at that instant, as we say, Henry Knox stepped forward, and asked General Washington if he could give it a try. Because, if he could get them there, he felt he could put them into proper placement and use them effectively. When Washington inquired as to how he could possibly have such knowledge, the portly bookseller responded, he had read how in a book.

Miraculously, the stubborn Knox succeeded, in moving the cannon across frozen ground on ox sleds, and placing them in position on the recently captured, Dorchester Heights. Howe, the British commander, realizing the danger of the impending bombardment, evacuated the city and moved his troops to Halifax, Nova Scotia. On March 17th. The Americans entered the city, giving them their first major victory in the long road to Independence. Washington promoted Knox to Colonel.

Knox busily worked at fortifying the remaining colonies and gathering the cannon abandoned by the British, until his cannon numbered 120, by the time Washington moved the army to the Defense of New York. There the army was badly outnumbered and forced into a retreat. Ending with the crossing of the Icy, Delaware River, in December, to save the army. Knox not only directed the crossing of the entire army with all their cannon and baggage (Washington himself was the last to cross) He was able to comfort the somewhat depressed Washington, who feared the British would follow by saying “ I see no reason for despondency…. For I have captured and have in my possession every boat for fifty miles” And it was because Knox had possession of those boats, that Washington was able to recross the Delaware on Christmas Night, surprising the Hessians at Trenton, capturing a thousand men, and criticaly needed supplies. Giving the Americans a much-needed boost to their moral, and assuring the survival of the army, as they went into winter quarters. Washington promoted Knox to Brigadier.

Knox, continued to command the artillery, and gave exemplary service at Morristown, Germantown, and Brandywine, among other engagements. At Valley Forge, he was given the critical task of protecting the army while in winter encampment; here he drilled the troops into a professional force, with the direction of Von Stueban. When hostilities again commenced the following spring, he stopped a rout, of the American troops, at Monmouth, by advance his artillery and firing canister. A risky tactic, which until then had not been attempted. As a matter of fact, it became almost a matter of routine, that when the British army would try to advance on or flank the Americans, almost miraculously there was Knox and the artillery to check them. The contacts he had made selling books, proved invaluable to The Americans, in acquiring supplies, and loans to pay the troops, often using his own good name and credit.

When the French entered the War, The Americans were extremely grateful for the influx of modern weapons and professionally trained officers. The French sent a man named Ducandry, who was considered to be one of the leading artillery tacticians of the age. It was evident that he should now take command of the American artillery. Yet the wily Washington, preempted such action, when he wrote to Congress how pleased he was that Ducandry, was joining the army and what an excellent assistant he would make for General Knox.

After the betrayal of Benedict Arnold, it was Knox, whom General Washington, placed in command of West Point, The spot considered the key to the continent. At Yorktown, it was Knox who blew a hole in the British lines, to permit Hamilton and Lafayette to breech the British defenses, and Knox’s guns, that brought to an end the final siege by continuous bombardment. Washington promoted Knox to Major General. A well-earned honor!

At the end of the war, when Washington called together his officers for his famous farewell address, it was Henry Knox, whom he asked to come and stand beside him.

Later, when Washington took the first oath of office, as President, Knox held the Masonic Bible he took it on. And at Washington’s request, Congress elected Henry Knox, the first Secretary of War. During his presidency it was Knox to whom Washington looked, for calm reassurance and good old-fashioned horse sense, during the fiery debates, that raged among that first acrimonious cabinet. It was Knox, who as Secretary of War first established a military academy at his old command of West Point, which still affects the affairs of our world today!

Probably, the most emotional moment for these two men, and one that was remembered by all those who were there for the rest of their lives, and by those of us who would follow. Was on November 25th 1783, 14 months after Yorktown, after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, when on a cold and windy day, General Washington, mounted his horse and solemnly rode south from the Harlem Heights, down a lane that was then known as, The Broad Way. His auburn hair had gone gray; his face was withered and wrinkled, from years of worry, sadness, and strife. When suddenly he broke into a broad smile, the first in eight and a half years of war. Eight and a half years of being away from the home he loved, eight and a half years of living in the saddle. And he smiled for one reason! He smiled because he heard the booming of cannon, and he knew that that was the prearranged signal, that the last British soldier had left American soil , and that the only man, who had been with him the whole time, the only man who had never betrayed him, never abandoned him, Henry Knox, was signaling that he had control of the battery guns on lower Manhattan, just blocks from the place we now know ,as Ground Zero.

Henry Knox was signaling, That America Was Free!

And that my brethren is who our lodge is named for!

                                                                                            -  David Harris   

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