Joseph Warren - Bunker Hill


Joseph Warren was born on June 11, 1741, in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He received his education at Harvard University and briefly taught at a Latin school in Massachusetts before deciding to pursue a career in medicine.

Warren’s involvement in the Revolution began when the Townshend Acts were passed in 1767. Under the pseudonym “A True Patriot,” he wrote a series of articles that angered the Royal Governor. Despite attempts to charge him with slander, the grand jury refused to do so. Warren had close connections with other patriots, including Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and James Otis.

After the Boston Massacre in 1770, Warren became the chairman of the Committee of Safety. He delivered two famous orations on the event’s anniversary. In 1774, he spent most of the year in Philadelphia with the Continental Congress, where he became involved with the militia. On April 18, 1775, Warren and Paul Revere learned that King George III had put a price on the heads of John Hancock and John Adams. Revere’s famous ride warned them, saving them from arrest1.

When the battles of Lexington and Concord erupted, Warren left his patients with an assistant and rode to help prepare soldiers for battle. His dedication led to his promotion to second general in command of the Massachusetts forces on June 14, 1775. Tragically, during the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, Warren was shot in the head and died instantly. His bravery and sacrifice remain etched in history12.

Warren was commissioned into the Continental Army at the rank of major general by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1775. Three days later, he arrived at Charlestown just before the battle of Bunker Hill began and made his way to where Patriot militiamen were forming. Upon meeting General Israel Putnam, Warren asked where he thought the heaviest fighting would be; Putnam responded by pointing to Breed's Hill. Warren subsequently volunteered to join the militia at the rank of private against the wishes of both Putnam and Colonel William Prescott, both of whom unsuccessfully requested that he serve as their commander instead. Warren declined their request due the fact that Putnam and Prescott held more military experience.

During the early stages of the battle, Warren repeatedly stated that "These fellows say we won't fight! By Heaven, I hope I shall die up to my knees in blood!"[16] Defending the Patriot redoubt against two failed attacks by British troops, he kept firing his gun until running out of ammunition and was killed in action during the third and final assault by British gunfire. The man who killed him was possibly Lieutenant Lord Rawdon, who personally recognized him, or by a British officer's servant, an account supported by a forensic analysis conducted in 2011.[17]

After the battle, Warren's body was stripped of his clothing, repeatedly bayoneted and then buried in a shallow ditch by British forces.[18] Captain Walter Laurie, who participated in the battles of Lexington and Concord, later wrote that he "stuffed the scoundrel with another rebel into one hole, and there he and his seditious principles may remain."[19] American soldier Benjamin Hichborn subsequently wrote a letter to John Adams on December 10, 1775, claiming that Lieutenant James Drew, a Royal Navy officer stationed onboard the sloop HMS Scorpion, went to Breed's Hill "a day or two" after the battle and exhumed Warren's body, "spit in his face, jumped on his stomach, and at last cut off his head and committed every act of violence upon his body... In justice to the officers in general I must add, that they despised Drew for his Conduct."[18] 

Dr. Joseph Warren’s life exemplified courage, leadership, and unwavering commitment to the cause of American independence. His legacy lives on as a hero of the Revolution.

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