Articles

The first secretary of war may have been America's greatest blue falcon

Secretary of War Henry Knox was a hero of the American Revolution, the father of the American artillery corps and the namesake of a major U.S. base.


Too bad he was a huge blue falcon, otherwise known as a "buddy f-cker."

Henry Knox, painted here without his distinctive blue wings. (Portrait: Public Domain)

Veterans of the Revolutionary War were promised large land bounties in exchange for their service, but crazy rules were placed on the land bounties that limited soldiers' abilities to actually settle on it or farm. Most vets were forced to sell the land cheap to speculators.

Since they couldn't move to or farm their actual lands granted by bounty, many vets began going to plots that they believed to be unowned or free. They build farms and improved this land with the belief that they could buy it or use their land bounty to claim it down the road. Land speculators, including Henry Knox, found out about the improved lands and bought them out from under the veterans.

Then the speculators evicted the settlers or charged exorbitant rents. In Henry Knox's case, this meant that he was buying up land in Maine and throwing out men who had previously served under him.

Joseph Plumb Martin moved to Maine on rumors of free land. But Knox bought the deed to his land and started charging huge rents. Knox fought Plumb and other veterans in court and sent surveyors to assert his claims.

Henry Knox shows his true colors. (Portrait: Public Domain. Graphics: WATM Logan Nye)

Martin and others who'd been blue falconed by Knox went bankrupt. Martin later testified that he had, "no real nor personal estate, nor any income whatever, my necessary bedding and wearing apparel excepted, except two cows, six sheep, one pig."

In Henry Knox's defense, some of the lands the veterans were living on belonged to his wife's family before the war. Knox's father-in-law was a land speculator and loyalist who wanted America to stay a part of Britain. When the Revolution turned against him, he and his family — but not Knox and his wife — fled the colonies. Knox's wife then inherited much of the land and Knox enforced her claims.

But, other land was purchased out from under veterans and Knox didn't hesitate to kick his former soldiers out.

And this wasn't the only time Knox had "b f-ed" his troops.

While most soldiers at Valley Forge were fighting starvation and cold, Knox was partying at Washington's table, eating lavish meals and watching entertainment.

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