A family torn apart by war, 1777

Lucy Knox to Hannah Urquhart, April 1777. (Gilder Lehrman Institute)The Revolutionary War divided families. In 1774, eighteen-year-old Lucy Flucker married twenty-four-year-old Henry Knox. Lucy’s parents were powerful, wealthy Tories, and they were not happy with the match. Henry Knox was the son of an Irish immigrant. At the age of nine, he quit school to go to work when his father abandoned the family. Henry was also rumored to be a patriot.

Lucy and Henry left Boston in 1775. Henry joined Washington’s army, and Lucy was left on her own for the first time in her life. When the British evacuated Boston after the siege in 1776, many loyalists left with them including Lucy Knox’s family. After returning to Boston, Lucy felt her family’s absence. In this letter, Lucy attempts to reconnect with her sister, Hannah Urquhart, whose husband, James, was a captain in the British 14th Regiment. The heavy editing visible in the image shows how hard it was for Lucy to be caught between her husband and her family:

oh my Sister, how horrid is this war, Brother against Brother – and the parent against the child – who were the first promoters of it I know not but god knows – and I fear they will feel the weight of his vengence – tis pity the little time we have to spend in this world – we cannot injoy ourselves and our friends – but must be devising means to destroy each other – the art of killing has become a perfect science

A full transcript is available.