Our simple actions can affect thousands. Our service can literally save lives. When we are bold we can change the destinies of mankind. Such was the case of a man named Henry Knox and the contingent of men he brought with him to pick up cannon and mortar from the newly captured Fort Ticonderoga.
It was the middle of winter 1775, Henry Knox led his men 300 miles through blustering snowstorms and freezing weather to arrive at Fort Ticonderoga only to find much of the cannon in disrepair. Through great searching, Knox found 60 good cannon weighing over 2,000 pounds each, 120,000 pounds total, and loaded them onto scows to cross the Hudson River. It was cold and miserable and when one of the scow struck a rock several of the largest cannon fell into the river. Undaunted Knox had the cannon pulled up through the icy water and placed again on the repaired scow. With frozen hands, the men obeyed. Why? Because they too believed in the cause of freedom. These were no ordinary men. They were brave and obedient. That’s what makes them extraordinary.
After crossing the Hudson River four times the men then built sleds for the cannon to ride on for the next part of the journey. Through freezing weather these good men worked. They sacrificed and because of that we are blessed. After 40 days of grueling, freezing weather they arrived at Cambridge, Massachusetts. George Washington was ecstatic and quickly set up a plan to attack British occupied Boston, Massachusetts. Washington wrote, “We are preparing to take possession of a post…which will, it is generally thought, bring on a rumpus between us and the enemy.[i]”
This rumpus was to begin March 2, 1776. In the black of night, 3000 Americans set up a fortification on the icy top of Dorchester Heights. They hauled up bundles of sticks and wood frames to make stout ramparts and they brought up the largest of Knox’s cannon. In the early dawn the British awoke to an astounding sight of cannon staring straight down at them. One British officer even credited the Americans night work to “the genie belonging to Aladdin’s wonderful lamp.[ii]”
The British quickly prepared to attack Dorchester Heights while Washington planned a surprise attack on the city itself. However, before either side could give orders to their troops to attack a terrible storm blew in. Both sides held their places and the storm blew harmlessly away. The moment of surprise and anticipation was gone now and looking again at the realities of the situation neither side chose to attack. The British troops went back into Boston and over the next few days the menacing cannon caused the British such anxiety that they loaded up their ships and sailed away, dumping many of their own cannon into the bay. Not a single drop of blood was shed in this the first major victory of the Revolutionary War.
Do you think that those men who went with Henry Knox had any idea that their sacrifice and obedience would be the catalyst that would save thousands of lives? Between the storm that blew in that ruined the surprise attack and staring up at the cannon on Dorchester Heights for the next few days the British decided to evacuate. The cannon brought by Henry Knox and his men scared the greatest military power on the earth at that time. Forty grueling days of bringing cannon through snowstorms and ice turned into 40 blessed days because lives were spared.
Interesting enough when the Americans went into Boston after the British fled, Washington noted that the city was “almost impregnable, every avenue fortified.[iii]” It would have been a devastating battle for the Americans if it had occurred. What a blessing for us that it did not. And what about you? What actions in your day-to-day life could affect those around you, even thousands, even nations yet unborn?
[i]George Washington to Burwell Bassett (28 Feb. 1776), Fitzpatrick 4:243.
[ii]Quoted in Peter Force, ed., American Archives…A Documentary History of the Origin and Progress of the North American Colonies, 9 vols. (Washington: M. St. Clair Clarke and Peter Force, 1837-53), 5:425.
[iii]George Washington to Joseph Reed (19 Mar. 1776), Fitzpatrick 4:406