Robust Henry Knox had a lifelong interest in the military. Born in Boston, Knox enlisted in a local military company at the age of eighteen; eventually promoted to major general in the Continental Army, he took part in most of the major battles of the Revolutionary War, and became a close friend and advisor to George Washington. After the war, on March 8, 1785, the Congress made Knox Secretary of War, to be paid a salary of $2,450 a year. President George Washington asked his friend Knox to remain in this position throughout his presidency.
Knox was a generous, amiable man, who enjoyed life's luxuries. He weighed more than 300 pounds, as did his somewhat intimidating wife; in New York they were commonly known as the "largest couple in the city."