1976 American Bicentennial
Issue Date: May 29, 1976
City: Philadelphia, PA
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed
On May 29, 1976, the Postal Service issued four souvenir sheets to commemorate INTERPHIL ‘76 (Seventh International Philatelic Exhibition) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Each sheet contained five individually perforated stamps, which were valid for postage. Since the U.S. was celebrating its 200th anniversary of Independence, four famous Revolutionary War paintings were appropriately chosen as design subjects for the sheets.
The first sheet, which contained five 13-cent stamps, featured a reproduction of John Trumbull’s painting “The Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.” Picturing the moment that “ended the war,” the scene shows American and French officers, including Washington, lined up to receive the British surrender.
A general in the British army, Cornwallis successfully led many troops into battle against the patriots. These victories made him a natural candidate to direct Britain’s campaign to capture the South in1780. Since Georgia and South Carolina had already been captured, Cornwallis began to move northward into North Carolina. After several losses, the British were forced to retreat to South Carolina, where they were crushed by patriot forces on January 17, 1781.
Eager to avenge the defeat, Cornwallis pursued the Continental Army to the southern border of Virginia. Against British commander-in-chief General Clinton’s wishes, he continued his march into Virginia and established his base at Yorktown. There, Washington surrounded him and began a siege operation which lasted for three weeks. Without supplies and with no hope for escape, Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781, an action which ensured the American triumph.
Acting for Cornwallis, Brigadier General Charles O’Hara gave his sword to Major General Benjamin Lincoln. News of the surrender spread rapidly throughout the colonies. Reinforcements aboard a British fleet sailing to rescue Cornwallis turned back upon hearing the news. When word of the crushing defeat reached Prime Minister Lord North, he resigned his position, and the new British cabinet began peace negotiations with the United States. Occasional fighting, however, still continued in the South for more than a year. On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war.
The Bicentennial Series
The U.S. Bicentennial was a series of celebrations during the mid-1970s that commemorated the historic events leading to America’s independence from Great Britain. The official events began on April 1, 1975, when the American Freedom Train departed Delaware to begin a 21-month, 25,338-mile tour of the 48 contiguous states. For more than a year, a wave of patriotism swept the nation as elaborate firework displays lit up skies across the U.S., an international fleet of tall-mast sailing ships gathered in New York City and Boston, and Queen Elizabeth made a state visit. The celebration culminated on July 4, 1976, with the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
The U.S.P.S. issued 113 commemorative stamps over a six-year period in honor of the U.S. bicentennial, beginning with the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission Emblem stamp (U.S. #1432). As a group, the Bicentennial Series chronicles one of our nation’s most important chapters, and remembers the events and patriots who made the U.S. a world model for liberty.
Birth Of Henry Knox
Henry Knox was born on July 25, 1750, in Boston, Massachusetts.
After his father abandoned the family, Henry, the family’s oldest son, left school and took a job as a clerk in a bookstore. The shop’s owner, Nicholas Bowes, became a father figure to Knox. But Knox was also caught up in Boston’s street gangs, becoming one of his neighborhood’s best fighters. Then, one day he witnessed an impressive military demonstration and decided to join his local artillery company at age 18.
In 1770, Knox witnessed the Boston Massacre, though he had tried to end it peacefully. The following year, he opened his own bookshop, the London Book Store. Having had little education as a child, Knox used his store to teach himself a number of things. He soon developed a deep interest in military history, reading everything he could find about military subjects.
In 1772, he cofounded the Boston Grenadier Corps, which he served as second in command. During this time, Knox supported the actions of the Sons of Liberty. While it’s unknown if he participated in the Boston Tea Party, he did serve as a guard for one of the ships, ensuring the tea wasn’t unloaded before the uprising.
Knox married Lucy Flucker in 1774, the daughter of Boston Loyalists who attempted to get Knox on their side. When the Battles of Lexington and Concord broke out the following year, Knox and his wife snuck out of Boston. Knox then joined the local militia in besieging the city. His bookshop was looted and all the stock was either destroyed or stolen. Working under General Artemas Ward, Knox developed fortifications for the city and then oversaw the artillery fire at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
General George Washington arrived in July 1775 to assume command of the army and was impressed by Knox’s work. The two men became good friends and worked together to develop the Continental Army. Knox hadn’t received an official military commission, but John Adams convinced the Second Continental Congress to appoint him a colonel in the army’s artillery regiment.
While Boston was still under siege, Knox had an idea. If they could get the cannons from recently captured Forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point to Boston, they could turn the tide of the battle. Washington supported his idea and sent him on the mission, which became known as Knox’s “noble train of artillery.” Knox and a team of engineers transported 60 tons of artillery from Northern New York to Boston in the middle of winter. One historian called the move, “one of the most stupendous feats of logistics” of the war. With those cannons in place, Washington forced the British to surrender the city.
As Washington’s right-hand man, Knox joined the commander-in-chief on most of his campaigns and was involved in most of the war’s major battles. He was nearly captured after the British invaded Manhattan. In December 1776, Knox directed the Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River that preceded the Battle of Trenton. He then oversaw the return of those men and hundreds of prisoners. For his efforts, Knox was promoted to brigadier general and given command of five artillery regiments.
That winter, Knox went back to Massachusetts to improve the manufacture of artillery and raise another battalion. He went on to participate in the battles at Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth before forming the army’s first artillery and officer training school which is often considered the precursor to West Point. He then joined in the Siege of Yorktown, where he directed artillery. In 1782, Knox became the army’s youngest major general and was tasked with negotiating prisoner exchanges with the British, which ultimately failed. When Washington stepped down in 1783, Knox took over as the senior commander of the Army. He formed the Society of the Cincinnati, a fraternity of Revolutionary War officers, and developed plans for a peacetime army.
Knox was considered for the post of secretary at War, but when Congress tried to create a standing militia as a peacetime army, he resigned. Knox returned to Massachusetts and settled in present-day Maine. In 1785, Knox was appointed secretary at War. The War Department was small but Knox was authorized to raise a 700-man army. When Shays’ Rebellion broke out in 1786, it made the weaknesses of the military and the Articles of Confederation obvious, leading to the Constitutional Convention. Knox sent George Washington a proposal for a new government, similar to what was eventually adopted. He also encouraged Washington to attend the convention, calling him the “Father of Your Country,” possibly one of the first instances of this phrase being applied to Washington.
Knox promoted the new constitution and under it was made the first secretary of War of the new War Department. In this role, Knox was responsible for maintaining and managing the Army and the Navy, until the Navy Department was established in 1798. He also saw that new coastal fortifications were established, demanded better training of the local militias, and settled disputes in the western part of the infant nation.
Knox retired from government work in January 1795 to spend more time with his family. In his final years, he embarked on a number of business ventures including real estate, cattle farming, shipbuilding, and brick making. In 1806, Knox swallowed a chicken bone which caught in his throat and became infected. Three days later, on October 25, 1806, he died and was later buried with full military honors.
Numerous sites have been named after Knox, including the city of Knoxville, Tennessee. Counties in nine states have been named in his honor, and two military forts were also named for him.