Thomas Knowlton was born into a military family November 22, 1740 in West Boxford, MA. And at age 8 moved with his family to a 400 acre farm in Ashford, CT. He served in the French and Indian War with his older brother Daniel and joined the Connecticut Regiment in 1758 and among other skirmishes fought in the Battle of Havana in 1762 for the British. (As part of Israel Putnam's company)
He married in 1759 and raised a family of nine children.
The night prior to the Battle of Bunker Hill, Captain Knowlton was in command of a 200 Connecticut men constructing defenses. During the battle itself, Knowlton and his Yankees protected the rear of the Patriot redoubt on Breed's Hill. When the Americans began their retreat, Knowlton’s command covered their retreat. Only three men from Knowlton’s company died in the battle.
During the Siege of Boston in 1776, Washington sent Knowlton to burn the remaining buildings at the base of Bunker Hill, burn houses used by British officers and to capture the British guard. And that’s what he did, without firing shot.
Several months later, on August 12, 1776 Knowlton was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and a month after that was ordered to organize an elite troop of hand -picked for intelligence operations. The unit, called the "Rangers", or "Knowlton's Rangers." would report directly to General Washington.
One of the first men Knowlton picked for the job was Captain Nathan Hale, (below) who was later hung as a spy. The date "1776" on the modern U.S. Army's intelligence service seal refers to the formation of Knowlton's Rangers.
On September 16, 1776 Knowlton and his Rangers were riding in advance of the main army at Harlem Heights, New York when they came across a unit from the equally elite British regiment, Black Watch. A firefight erupted and Knowlton was mortally wounded his last words were said to be "You see my son, I am mortally wounded; you can do me no good; go fight for your Country"
He was buried in an unmarked grave at what is today 143rd St. and St. Nicholas Ave. in Manhattan. (It’s a parking lot today)