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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Tender Romance of Henry and Lucy Knox


It was a typical morning at breakfast that June 29, 1776. Lucy was relaxing with her husband, American General Henry Knox, in a beautiful mansion overlooking New York Harbor. The palatial building served as the Continental Army’s base of operations.
What should have been an ordinary morning meal shared between the couple, however, took a drastic turn.
Terror seized Lucy as she looked down through the second-story window and saw the British fleet filling up the harbor. The Colonial city was under attack and gunfire from the American forces to alert the residents erupted everywhere.
In David McCullough’s 1776, he quotes a letter written by Henry Knox to his brother William about that frightening morning:

“You can scarcely conceive of the distress and anxiety which (Lucy) then had. The city in an uproar, the alarm guns firing, the troops repairing to their posts, and everything in the height of bustle. I not at liberty to attend her, as my country cries loudest.”


According to McCullough, Henry Knox had been trying to get Lucy to leave the city with their infant daughter for several weeks. Henry sensed the impending danger and now, seeing the reality of thousands of enemy troops in New York, the general despaired that she had not done so before.

“My God, may I never experience the like feelings again! They were too much, but I found a way to disguise them, for I scolded like a fury at her for not having gone before.”

Lucy and their baby did successfully escape, along with Martha Washington and Caty Greene (wife of General Nathanael Greene) and her infant. Once he knew his wife was safely in Connecticut, Henry Knox wrote to her expressing his relief, as well as declaring his great love for her. Henry also shared his concerns for their future.

“We are fighting for our country, for posterity perhaps. On the success of this campaign the happiness or misery of millions may depend.”

Two days after the British landed on Staten Island, New York, the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. It was the fourth of July, 1776.

On July 8, 1776, Henry wrote to Lucy that 10,000 Redcoats occupied the island across the harbor. That number would increase to 32,000 British troops by the middle of August. They were poised to attack the 7,000 American troops under General Washington in New York City.

Henry knew after the arrival of the enemy troops that the situation was not going to get any safer for his wife, Lucy, to rejoin him. He told her, despite the actions of other officers’ wives, that she should stay where it was safe: 

“The greatest happiness for me (is) to be with you, but to be under a continual uneasiness on account of your safety is what you would not wish.”

He informed her of how close in distance the enemy was and, were she to come, she would not have time to gather herself and her carriage to escape if the Redcoats approached. He imagined the terror for his wife and young daughter at such a risky venture. “The reality would kill me,” he wrote.

He ends his missive to Lucy with the most tender of words: 

“Write me, my love, as often as lays in your power and believe me to have no other earthly love but you. Kiss and bless your babe for me.”

These words from her husband are heartrending as the young wife must be separated from Henry for extended periods of time. After the victory at Trenton in December of 1776, Henry writes again to his wife:

“It grieves me exceedingly that I still date my letters from this place and that I am so far distant from the dearest object of my affections. This War with all its variety is not able to banish your much lov’d Idea from my heart. Whatever I am employ’d about still you are with me…as soon as the sacred calls of his Country will permit, (I) will return with the permission of heaven and enjoy all the blessings of conjugal affection.”

These touching love letters are even more soul-stirring when one realizes that Lucy Flucker Knox had separated herself from her own family for the cause of Liberty. Her parents were Loyalists and when the Tories abandoned Boston, her parents fled without so much as a goodbye.

Nancy Rubin Stuart, author of Defiant Brides, tenderly describes Lucy Knox as a woman who longed for family and hoped to fill the Knox home with numerous children. In their marriage of 32 years, Lucy gave birth to a total of thirteen children, yet only three survived to adulthood.

With their less-than-trim figures, Lucy and Henry would likely not be the couple chosen for the cover of a historical romance. But their ardor for each other would fill the pages of any novel with a depth of commitment forged through love and war—a romance of the most passionate kind.

 Visit this site for more letters of Henry and Lucy Knox

11 comments:

  1. What a lovely post, Elaine. And what a powerful love story. It's heartbreaking that so many families were experiencing broken relationships.
    It truly was america's first civil war.

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  2. I wholeheartedly agree, Janet. The more I study the American Revolution, the more that becomes obvious that it was "brother against brother." So heartbreaking. Yet through it all, love stories like Henry and Lucy's shed a glimpse of light in a time of great darkness. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Very touching, Elaine. I can only imagine how terrified he must have been for his wife and daughter, especially after having read what happened to other young women. Thanks for the post.

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  4. You're so welcome, Carrie. It's the true stories of the War "behind the scenes" that deeply touches my heart. I grew to love Lucy and Henry through their letters. So romantic. *SIGH* Thanks for commenting.

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  5. How romantic. And what lovely letters. It's a shame that no one writes letters anymore. With people's reliance on emails and texts, what will historical romance writers rely on 100 years from now?

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  6. Good question, Susan. It makes one pause for thought. :)

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  7. How romantically lovely! Romance today just isn't the same. What a treasure those two were to each other. Thank you for a wonderful post!

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  8. I think we all long for the expressed romance of years gone by. Perhaps we have smothered the ability to be verbally expressive in a gentle, heartfelt manner with our casual attitude towards commitment, loyalty, and tender love. Many just view male/female relationships as biological. But when you leave the heart and soul out, then the romance is lost. And yes, Henry and Lucy were a treasure to each other! Thanks for stopping by.

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  9. We tend to think of people from other time periods in a detached way. Yet, they were individuals just like us with hopes, dreams, challenges, and fears.

    Thanks for a glimpse into the lives of Henry and Lucy. We live in freedom because of people like them.

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    1. That's why I love to write about historical figures, Susan, because it brings them to life for our readers. Our ancestors were like us in so many ways—just living in a different culture. And we can be so grateful for our freedom thanks to the sacrifices of so many who have gone before us. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  10. I love these kind of posts and finding journals that take us into the minds of our forefathers. I think part of it is the beautiful way people wrote -such language and heart!

    thanks so much for sharing this. I'm sorry to be so late.
    I really think I need to get the McCullough book too. I'm definitely a sucker for biographies with lots of journal entries.
    So much yet unread!

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