Joseph Warren (June 11, 1741 – June 17, 1775) was
an American doctor and soldier, remembered for playing a leading
role in American
Patriot organizations in Boston and for his death as a volunteer private soldier while also serving as chief
executive of the revolutionary Massachusetts government.
Life and career
Warren was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, to Joseph Warren and Mary (Stevens) Warren.
His father was a respected farmer who was killed in October 1755
when he fell off a ladder while gathering fruit in his orchard.
attending the Roxbury Latin
School, Joseph went to Harvard University, graduating in 1759 and then teaching for about a
year at Roxbury Latin.
He studied medicine and married
18-year-old heiress Elizabeth Hooten on September 6, 1764. She died
in 1772, leaving him with four children: Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary,
and Richard. One of his descendants was Josiah Warren
practicing medicine and surgery in Boston, he joined the Freemasons and eventually was appointed as a
He also became involved in politics,
associating with John Hancock
, Samuel Adams
, and other radical leaders of the
broad movement labeled Sons of
. Warren conducted an autopsy on the body of young
1770, and was a member of the Boston committee that assembled a
report on the following month's Boston
. Royal officials tried to put him on trial for an
incendiary newspaper essay, but no local jury would indict
As Boston's conflict with the royal government came to a head in
1773-75, Warren was appointed to the Boston Committee of Correspondence
twice delivered orations in commemoration of the Massacre, the
second time in March 1775 while the town was occupied by army
troops. Warren drafted the Suffolk
, which were endorsed by the Continental Congress
, to advocate
resistance to Parliament's Coercive
. He was appointed President of the Massachusetts Provincial
, the highest position in the revolutionary
In mid-April 1775, Warren and Dr. Benjamin Church
were the two top members of
the Committee of Correspondence left in Boston. After receiving
intelligence about British troop movements on April 18, Warren sent
and Paul Revere
on their famous "Midnight Rides" to
warn Hancock and Adams in Lexington about the approaching troops.
Some historians believe that one of Warren's sources for this
information was none other than Margaret
, the wife of General Thomas
slipped out of Boston early on April 19, and during that day's
Lexington and Concord, he coordinated and led militia into the fight
alongside William Heath as the British
Army returned to Boston.
During this fighting Warren was
nearly killed, a musket ball striking part of his wig. He then turned to
recruiting and organizing soldiers for the Siege of Boston, promulgating the Patriots' version of events, and
negotiating with Gen.
Gage in his role as head of the
Warren was appointed a Major General
by the Provincial Congress on June 14, 1775. His commission had not
yet taken effect three days later when the Battle of Bunker
Hill was fought.
He served as a volunteer
against the wishes of General
and Colonel William Prescott
, who requested that he
serve as their commander. Taunting the British, Warren reportedly
declared: "These fellows say we won't fight! By Heaven, I hope I
shall die up to my knees in British blood!" He fought in the
redoubt, remaining until the British made their third and final
assault on the hill. Post-war claims that Warren made a "dying
speech" are nonsense—he was killed instantly by a musket ball in
the head by a British officer (possibly Lieutenant
) who recognized him.
British Captain Walter Laurie, who had been defeated at Old North
, later said he "stuffed the scoundrel with another rebel
into one hole, and there he and his seditious principles may
remain." His body was exhumed ten months after his death by his
brothers and Paul Revere
, who identified
the remains by the artificial tooth he had placed in the jaw. This
may be the first recorded instance of post-mortem identification by
was placed in Granary Burying Ground and later (in 1825) in St. Paul's
Cathedral before finally being moved in 1855 to his family's
vault in Forest Hills
two statues in Boston—one in the exhibit lodge adjacent to the
Monument, and the other on the grounds of the Roxbury Latin
Warren's statue in front of the
Roxbury Latin School
At the time of Warren's death, his children were staying with his
fiancee, Mercy Scollay. She continued to look after them, gathering
support for their education from Mercy
, Benedict Arnold
and even the Continental
General Gage is thought to have called Warren's death of equal
value to the death of 500 men, but his death strengthened the
radicals' political position because it was viewed by many
Americans at the time as an act of nationalist martyrdom
. Fourteen states
have a Warren County
named after him.
Michigan, Warren, New Jersey, Warrensburg, New York, Warrenton, Virginia, Warren, Massachusetts, and 29 Warren
Townships are also named in his honor.
Boston's Fort Warren
, started in 1833,
was named in his honor. Five ships in the Continental Navy
and United States Navy
were named Warren
in his honor.
Joseph's younger brother, served as a surgeon during the Battle of
Bunker Hill and the rest of the war and then later founded
- The book's description of "the grammar school in Roxbury"
appears to indicate Roxbury Latin School.
- Boston 1775: Sumner letter Retrieved
- Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by
James Grant Wilson, John Fiske. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889
- "Joseph Warren."Dictionary of American Biography Base Set.
American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936. Reproduced in
History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group