Book Trailer The Noble Train

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pulling a 5000 Pound Cannon Across the Frozen Hudson River in 1775

They began slowly, hearing long groans punctuated by cracks in the ice. John Becker Sr. didn’t want to lose the oxen and kept his eyes on the thick corded rope that he would slash with the axe. He would have only seconds to separate the yoke of oxen from the heavy weight of a sinking cannon. The worst scenario was that the cannon would plunge through, cracks rippling outward, sending men, sleds, and animals under. The best case should the ice break was that they would lose only the cannon. Extra ropes had been tied around the neck of the cannon with an eye toward retrieval.

The wind blasted across the desolate river with the far pines frosted white. The oxen made their way, hooves clicking on the ice. Becker pulled back, calling out whoa! to the oxen, slowing them further. Knox had dismounted and guided his horse, staring ahead and then behind. The other men stood by their sleds on the near side of the river, watching to see if disaster would strike and their expedition would fall into the icy water below. Along with the Indians, the Tories, and the British, the ice was another foe that could obliterate the entire train.

Silent now in the middle of the frozen river. The creak of the ropes, the slide of shoes on thin snow. The grunt of heavy animals. Knox felt his heartbeat with every step. The far side of the Hudson drew closer and Knox turned, staring at the light grooves the sled left in the ice. Seven inches of ice must be beneath the oxen and the rails of the sled; other than a groan and an occasional heart-stopping rifle crack of shifting ice, the river seemed to be holding their weight. Knox felt the stiff wind pick at his scarf. His eyes watered. He led his horse off the ice and watched the oxen find their footing in the snow with the teamster following. Knox breathed out in relief. The worst had not happened.

Henry Knox's Noble Train

Books by William Hazelgrove