They rolled the 59 guns onto the Commons in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the headquarters of General George Washington and his Continental Army. It was 240 years ago on January 27, 1776. It was Henry Knox, a 25 year old Boston bookshop owner, member of the Sons of Liberty and participant in the Boston Tea Party of 1773 who had suggested transporting the cannon captured in May 1775 by Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold and the Green Mountain Boys when they seized the British forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point in New York, northeast of Albany.
(1771 ad for Knox's bookshop, from Wikipedia)
Knox, a self-taught engineer, met George Washington when he'd arrived in Cambridge in July 1775 and the two immediately hit it off. While some thought Knox's plan to transport heavy cannon on oxen-pulled sledges for 300 miles across rough roads and paths and over the Berkshire Mountains in the middle of winter a harebrained scheme, Washington recognized the importance of having heavy artillery in forcing the British army to evacuate Boston and approved Knox's proposal.
Knox and his men arrived at Ticonderoga on December 5, 1775 and immediately began moving what Henry referred to as "the noble train of artillery". Six weeks later, after crossing mountains and rivers and battling snowdrifts the cannon reached Cambridge. Today, you can follow Knox's epic journey through the plaques along the Henry Knox Trail, installed in 1926 on the 150th anniversary.
The cannon did bring an end the British occupation. In March, Washington ordered the cannon secretly installed on Dorchester Heights within gun range of the harbor and town. The British commander quickly realized his position was untenable and, on March 17, 1776, evacuated Boston, giving Suffolk County (containing the City of Boston) the excuse in 1938 to declare St Patrick's Day (oops . . . meant to write Evacuation Day), an official holiday.
Henry Knox went on to a distinguished career, becoming a Brigadier General, commanding the Continental Army's artillery and serving alongside Washington until the end of the war. Knox commanded the troops who entered New York City when the British evacuated it as the last act of the war on November 21, 1783. Knox served from 1789 to 1795 as the first Secretary of War under the new government established by the Constitution and died in 1806.