Loyalist Lucy Flucker Meets Patriot Henry Knox at a Boston Parade
Loyalist Lucy Flucker watched the dashing patriot officer Henry Knox lead a parade on Boston Common and decided to overlook their political differences.Lucy Flucker Knox was a “Revolutionary Woman” in the truest sense. She chose to marry Patriot Henry Knox against the wishes of her Loyalist family and she suffered the lifelong consequences of that decision.
Miss Lucy Flucker, daughter of Thomas Flucker, Secretary of the Province of Massachusetts, approached a crossroads in her young life when she watched a parade in Boston in 1772. Major Henry Knox had just been elected to the Grenadier Company of Patriot soldiers and he led a parade on the Boston Common to celebrate.
Lucy Flucker Meets The Handsome Patriot officer
When she vowed to make the acquaintance of the handsome Patriot officer, Lucy defied her father and jeopardized her heritage and her standing in her family. Her father Thomas Flucker, was the grandson of a founder of Charlestown, across the Charles River, and the British Crown had appointed him Secretary of the Province of Massachusetts.
The wife and daughters of Thomas Flucker, including Lucy, were fashionable ladies and enjoyed the opulence of royal society. His only son served as an officer in the British Army. Thomas Flucker enjoyed the distinction of owning one of the first carriages imported to Boston from England. He had twice married profitably, his first marriage to a Bowdoin and his second marriage to Hannah Waldo, Lucy’s mother. Hannah was the daughter of Brigadier General Samuel Waldo who accumulated a fortune in Boston and owned a large estate in the Province of Maine.
The Boston Belle and the Boston Bookseller
Henry Knox did not share Lucy’s background of fortune, property, and illustrious ancestors. He was nine years old when his father, an Irish immigrant who had failed as a wharf owner in Boston’s South End, had departed for the West Indies, leaving Henry, his younger brother Billy, and their mother to survive on their own. Henry left school to work at the bookselling and binding company of Mr. Walton and Mr. Bowes. Nicholas Bowes helped him control his temper, terminate his position as ringleader of the South End gang, and loaned him books to educate himself.
At the age of 21, Henry Knox opened his own bookstore, the Knox Bookstore on Cornhill in Boston, and soon young gentlemen of privilege and polished manners congregated there. Henry learned as much and perhaps more from them as they did from the books they bought at his bookstore, and soon he fit comfortably into their world.
Lucy Flucker appreciated books for their own sake, and she appreciated them even more when she discovered that the book seller in the Knox Bookstore and the young Patriot officer parading on Boston Common were the same person. Soon the belle and the bookseller were stealing away from congenial groups for private talks between the bookshelves. They eventually decided that they wanted their conversations to extend over a lifetime together.
The Fluckers Disapprove of Lucy's Suitor
Lucy’s parents did not share her happiness for several reasons. They did not want to acquire a son-in-law “in trade,” and aside from being in trade, Henry Knox posed more serious problems. He sympathized with the rebellious American colonists who noisily demonstrated about taxes and had tossed tea into Boston Harbor that very winter!
Defying her parents with resolute will and turbulent tantrums, Lucy set about to win their permission to wed her “Harry.” Boston society watched the drama with varying degrees of amusement and trepidation. In a sense the tug of war between Lucy and her parents paralleled the tug of war between Great Britain and her rebellious colonies. Finally, the Fluckers capitulated and Lucy Flucker and Henry Knox were married on June 16, 1774, when Lucy was almost eighteen and Henry twenty five.
Lucy and Henry Knox Flee to Cambridge and Fight For the Patriots
The Fluckers tried to mold their unwelcome son-in-law like a Loyalist bullet. Henry did have promising qualities, being a well trained militia officer and a self taught student of military history and tactics. Thomas Flucker offered Henry a commission in the British Army. He politely refused, and Lucy supported his decision. Her parents pointed out that Lucy and her rebellious bookseller were marching down the path of “eating the bread of poverty and dependence.”
In April 1775, the battles of Lexington and Concord finalized the split between Great Britain and her colonies and forced Henry and Lucy to make a choice. Henry Knox chose the Patriot Cause and Lucy chose Henry Knox and his cause. Lucy and Henry fled to Cambridge together, an act that finalized the break with her family.
Lucy shared the hardships and dangers of the Revolutionary War with Henry Knox, including following him into several battles. His knowledge of military engineering and the use of artillery proved to be invaluable to the Patriots, and eventually General George Washington appointed Henry Knox commander of the Artillery.
Henry led an expedition to Fort Ticonderoga to retrieve equipment that Ethan Allen had captured from the British and he returned with 59 pieces of artillery that had been hauled through snow and ice. He and his men dragged the same guns up to Dorchester Heights above Boston and trained them upon the city. Ironically, these guns precipitated the general evacuation of the British and their Tory sympathizers, including Lucy’s parents who fled to England and never returned.
Lucy and Henry Knox Move to Montpelier in Thomaston, Maine
Throughout the Revolutionary War, Lucy followed her husband and aided and abetted his career. When the Revolutionary War ended, the new American government confirmed the land in Maine on the Penobscot River and Bay which Lucy had inherited from her grandfather Waldo, the proprietor of the Waldo Patent in Maine. Lucy and Henry moved into the mansion called Montpelier in Thomaston, Maine, and they established a permanent home for their family.
In 1789, President George Washington appointed Henry Knox Secretary of War in his new cabinet. Part of his duties included dealing with the growing unrest on the western frontier of the newly created America. When the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War was finally negotiated, Secretary Knox proved to be instrumental in promoting law and order.
Tragedy wove itself into the lives of Lucy and Henry Knox. Only three of their ten children survived into adulthood and Henry died eighteen years before Lucy from an infection caused by a chicken bone lodged in his intestines. Lucy spent the last years of her life living as a recluse at Montpelier until she died in 1824.
Lucy Flucker Knox is somewhat of an enigma in the historical record. Some historical sources describe her as temperamental and overbearing, and others credit her with rare powers of conversation, charm, a superb memory, and an extensive knowledge of the world. She possessed all of these qualities as well as providing lifelong love and loyalty to her husband, Henry Knox.
Brooks, Noah. Henry Knox: A Soldier of the Revolution, Major-General of the Continental Army and Washington’s Chief of Artillery. Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2010.
Callahan, North. Henry Knox: General Washington's General. New York and Toronto: Rinehart, 1958.
Puls, Mark. Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution. Palgrave, Macmillan, 2010.
Silvey, Anita and Minor, Wendell. Henry Knox: Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot. Clarion Books, 2010.