KNOX, JOHN, army officer and author; third son of John Knox, a merchant of Sligo (Republic of Ireland); d. 8 Feb. 1778 at Berwick-upon-Tweed, England.
John Knox is reported to have served as a volunteer in the British army during the War of the Austrian Succession. He distinguished himself in the action at Laffeldt (Belgium) on 2 July 1747 and in consequence was appointed to an ensigncy in the 43rd Foot in 1749. Five years later he purchased a lieutenancy in the 43rd. In 1757 Knox went with his regiment from Ireland to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to participate in Lord Loudoun’s intended expedition against Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). The attack was postponed, and the 43rd spent the winter in posts on the Bay of Fundy, Knox being stationed at Annapolis Royal. The regiment was not employed in Jeffery Amherst’s successful operation against Louisbourg in 1758 and suffered what Knox called “inglorious exile” in the Fundy region until the spring of 1759, when it was incorporated into James Wolfe*’s force for the expedition against Quebec. Knox was present with his regiment in the battle on the Plains of Abraham, served throughout the winter 1759–60 under James Murray at Quebec, and fought in the battle of Sainte-Foy on 28 April 1760. He was with Murray’s force which advanced up the St Lawrence, and he was present at the capitulation of Montreal in 1760.
In the winter of 1760–61 Knox, now probably in England, was appointed captain of one of a number of newly formed independent companies, many of which were soon amalgamated to constitute new infantry regiments. Knox’s company became part of the 99th Foot but this unit was short-lived, being disbanded in 1763 after the peace. Knox was placed on half pay. He evidently used this enforced leisure to write his two-volume work An historical journal of the campaigns in North-America for the years 1757, 1758, 1759 and 1760 . . . (London, 1769). Knox, then living in Gloucester, dedicated the book by permission to Amherst. Attempts to obtain military preferment failing, he remained on half pay until February 1775, when he was appointed to command one of three independent companies of invalids stationed at Berwick-upon-Tweed. He still held this position when he died.
Knox’s Historical journal, as the name implies, is a combination of history and personal record. Parts of it are apparently portions of his own diary. Episodes in which he did not participate, although often written in diary form, are largely described by including contemporary documents. The operation orders and other papers which Knox reproduces are one of the valuable features of the work. Though notably uncritical, it is an important source for the history of the Seven Years’ War in North America. A reviewer in the Monthly Review; or, Literary Journal remarked, sensibly enough, that Knox’s method of compilation resulted in many trivia being recorded along with the important events. He added, however, “Mr. Knox appears to be a man of sense, with more literature than usually falls to the share of officers in the army.” Knox’s will mentioned that he had compiled an index containing many “additional anecdotes” to Tobias George Smollett’s The present state of all nations . . . (8v., London, 1768–69) and had prepared a revised version of his own Journal, “very different in many respects” from the first edition. It appears that these works were never published. When the will was made in April 1777, part of the first edition of the Journal remained unsold, and it is evident Knox made little money by it.
In 1751 Knox had married Jane Carre, a lady of Cork whose considerable fortune appears to have been dissipated by a trustee. She survived her husband, poorly provided for. They had at least one child, a son who had died by the time Knox made his will.
[The best account of Knox is that by Arthur George Doughty* in the editor’s preface to his Champlain Society edition of the Historical journal (3v., Toronto, 1914–16; repr. New York, 1968). Some additional information has been gleaned from Knox’s will in PRO, Prob. 11/1040, dated 12 April 1777, and also from the Monthly Review: or, Literary Journal (London), XLI (1769), pt.2, 395–96, various G.B., WO, Army lists, and J. W. Fortescue, A history of the British army (13v., London, 1899–1930), II. c.p.s.]