Monday, September 17, 2012

Henry Knox's Tenacious Bride

Lucy Flucker Knox

One woman, barely noted in Soldiers Don't Cry but deserves to have her story told, is the plucky Lucy Flucker Knox. She was born in 1756 (died in 1824). As you will read in Soldiers Don't Cry (soon to be released) Lucy was from a loyalist family (her father was the Royal Secretary of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and her brother served in the British army). She was the kind of woman that melodramas were based upon.  She went against her parent's wishes when she married Henry Knox, a bookseller and Whig. They disapproved of the match because he was not of her social class, nor could he as book seller provide for her the life which which she was accustomed. To make matters worse, his political leanings as a patriot went against everything for which her family stood. When the British forces abandoned Boston in March 1776, the Fluckers fled, turning estrangement from Lucy into permanent separation. This may explain why Lucy cleaved all the more strongly to Henry. She had no other close family besides him and his brother. Lucy Knox attempted to help her brother-in-law run the bookseller business for a while during the war, but the business failed. She also stayed with friends or in rented lodgings at times during the war, but she always preferred to be with her husband. As a result of both need and determination, she managed numerous, lengthy visits to camp, where she started to raise her family and served as a prominent social hostess. During the summer of 1777, Lucy helped her brother-in-law Billy run the book store in Boston.
When the Continental Army encamped at Valley Forge for the bitter winter of 1777-78, Lucy joined her husband. She lived in contentment in a big stone house beside Henry's artillery park, and became a pleasing hostess to cold and threadbare officers. Somehow the Knoxes always managed to provide extra food and wine, and at night there was often dancing and singing. At this time the relationship between the Washingtons and the Knoxes flourished.

Henry Knox was already close to the Commander in Chief, but as you will see in the third book (currently in barely more than an outline) in The Locket Saga--A Coward's Solace-- the relationship between "Lady Washington and Lucy Knox at while they were living at Valley Forge. Despite the 25 years age difference, the two women were close. Both came from a privileged background. Martha was a country lady; Lucy was more urban. They devoted their time to sewing, mending, and attending the sick at the encampment. Lucy grew in self-importance as she informed the older woman on matters of protocol. The Knoxes were of special value to the Washingtons in this time of open criticism of the General.

The glorious news that France recognized the new American republic and was sending aid came in the spring of 1778. Camp broke, the men prepared for battle, and the women scattered to their homes. Time and again throughout the war Lucy would come to her husband's side. At the cantonment at Pluckemin they would bury their second born Julie who was only a weeks months old.

Lucy Knox continued as a society hostess after the war, when her husband served as Secretary at War in the Confederation government and then as Secretary of War under Washington. He accepted those positions both out of a sense of public service and out of the need to support his family. The Knoxes continued to live beyond their means and without a permanent home through those years. Knox resigned in December 1794 and the following spring settled his family in Maine. After Henry died in 1806, Lucy sold her property to pay off debts and support herself.

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