Did you ever notice the stone and brass plaque at the intersection of Main and Washington streets in West Boxford? It is dedicated to an early American hero, Thomas Knowlton, born in West Boxford on Nov 22, 1740.
At age 8 his family moved to Ashford, CT. At age 15 he joined his older brother to fight in the French & Indian War in several battles including the taking of Fort Ticonderoga, and later in Cuba. He returned home to Ashford, married, and with his wife Anna, raised 9 children. In 1775, as a captain, he led 200 Connecticut Minutemen to the battle of Bunker Hill where he fought under the command of William Prescott until ammunition ran out. The retreat of the Connecticut troops was made possible by the defense formed by the Essex battalion which included many Boxford men under the command of Captain William Perley.
Knowlton was promoted to Lt Colonel by George Washington and formed a reconnaissance group that became known as Knowlton’s Rangers, and remembered as America’s first spies. In September 1776 during the New York campaign, leading his men at the Battle of Harlem Heights Thomas Knowlton was killed in action, at age 36, a grave loss for Washington’s army and his family. Even today, the ‘1776″ on the US Army’s intelligence service refers to the creation of Knowlton’s Rangers.