A bookseller from Boston, Henry Knox (born Boston 1750 - died Thomaston, Maine 1806) proved to be one of George Washington's most trusted and resourceful generals. In late 1775, Knox successfully transported captured British field guns from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston for the use against the British forces, and it earned him the title "father of the American Army artillery". Knox marched with Washington at Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown, Mommouth, Yorktown, Valley Forge, and Morristown. He was commissioned Brigadier-General for his services at Trenton, and Major-General in 1781 after the surrender at Yorktown. He succeeded George Washington as Commander and Chief upon Washington's retirement in 1783, and following the peace with Britain, he became Secretary of War under the Articles of Confederation. It was Knox who initiated the formation of the Society of the Cincinnati.
This last distinction is evident in Peale's 1784 portrait of Knox (Independence National Historic Park) and in other later copies, as Knox is depicted wearing the insignia of the Society on his lapel. The portrait offered here predates the Society and the badge, which was designed in 1783, but the two stars on his epaulette indicate it was painted after his promotion to Major-General in 1781. It was likely painted in 1782, around the time of the portrait of General Moultrie. A copy of the 1784 portrait of Knox by Charles Peale Polk is in the collections of the National Gallery. This earlier, original portrait has remained unlocated since the nineteenth century. The rediscovery of this important portrait offers a rare opportunity to acquire one of Peale's "Portraits of Eminent Americans."