Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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KNOWLTON, Thomas, soldier, born in West Boxford, Massachusetts, 30 November, 1740; killed at the battle of Harlem Plains, New York, 16 September, 1776. He served during six campaigns in the French war, and took part in the capture of Havana in 1762. Returning after the war to Ashford, Connecticut, where his father had settled in early life, he followed farming until the beginning of the Revolutionary war. He was unanimously elected captain of a company of militia that was raised in Ashford after the battle of Lexington, and with 200 Connecticut men that were spared front General Artemas Ward's command he was ordered to Charlestown with Colonel William Prescott. His force, consisting of farmers, without uniforms, and armed for the most part, with shotguns, was sent by Colonel Prescott to oppose the advancing British grenadiers, and took its post on the side of Breed's hill, where the British were landing, behind a rail fence, which was converted into a very effective breastwork by throwing up a parallel fence and filling the space between with new-mown grass. There they held their ground gallantly until the retreat. Knowlton was soon afterward promoted major, and on 8 January, 1776, made a daring and successful incursion into Charlestown. He commanded a regiment of light infantry that formed the advance-guard of the army at New York in 1776, and was afterward commissioned lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of rangers selected from the Connecticut troops. While reconnoitring the enemy's position near Bloomingdale on the morning of the battle of Harlem Heights, he was attacked by Highlanders and Hessians. General Washington sent Major Leitch to his aid, with orders to fall on the enemy's rear, while a feint in front engaged their attention. Knowlton's rangers and the Virginians attacked the British on the flank instead of in the rear, and both officers were killed in front of their men. Knowlton's loss was lamented by Washington, who mentioned him in his general orders as a soldier who "would have been an honor to any country."
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