1882 "Planning the Attack" Original Oil Painting by Frederick James

Titled Planning the Attack, this original oil-on-canvas was painted in 1882 by Philadelphia-based artist Frederick James. The scene depicts a seated General Knox and his aide-de-camp planning an strategic attack on the floor, during the American Revolutionary War. Knox is depicting wearing his blue regimentals.

Knox’s efforts to build a robust American militia were paramount to the colonies’ victory against Britain, as well as the development of the early Republic’s armed forces. A self-taught pupil of military history, Knox possessed a keen understanding of martial strategy, which hurtled him to the roles of Chief Artillery Officer, General, and ultimately Secretary of War.

In December of 1775, Knox oversaw the seizing and transportation of 120,000-pound lot of guns, mortars, and cannons from Fort Ticonderoga, Lake Champlain through hazardous, almost impassible routes to Boston. Once at Boston, the newly equipped Continental Army secured one of its earliest victories at Dorchester Heights on March 17, 1776. Knox later proposed the establishment of military academies where “the theory and practice of fortifications and gunnery” could be taught. As he worked to construct a robust, reliable militia as a newly promoted brigadier general, Knox augmented the army’s artillery arsenal to unrivaled heights, helping to secure pivotal victories at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton in winter 1776, and the most decisive victory at the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781. 

Frederick James (1845-1907) was an American artist. He was celebrated for his depictions of 18th-century American life as well as his portraits. James trained first at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and later under the famed French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme. Portraits by James of Benjamin Franklin, Stephen Girard, and the Marquis de Lafayette hang in the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia.


Oil on canvas, framed. Signed, dated and inscribed, "Fred. James Phila. 1882" (lower right), the stretcher verso with pencil inscription and partial label. Measures 22 1/4 in. x 27 in. (sight). Framed dimensions: 39" H x 34" W x 4" D.

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