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Dr. Joseph Warren was a physician in the British American colonies who played a large role in the patriot organizations in Boston during the beginnings of the Revolutionary War. He served as Grand Master of Masons for the Continent of America and as President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Joseph Warren sent William Dawes and Paul Revere on their infamous midnight ride to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock in Concord of the impending British attack. He also served and died during the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Early Life, Education, and Family

Joseph Warren was born on June 11, 1741, in Roxbury, Province of Massachusetts Bay. His father, Joseph Warren, was a local farmer who died unexpectedly in October 1755 after falling from a ladder while picking apples in the farm’s orchard. His mother, Mary (Stevens) Warren, raised him alone after that. Joe Warren first attended Roxbury Latin School and then enrolled at Harvard College. He graduated from Harvard in 1759 and returned to Roxbury Latin to teach for a year. Following in his maternal father’s footsteps, Warren entered into medical school to become a physician. Dr. Joseph Warren met Elizabeth Hooten and the pair married on September 6, 1764. Hooten brought with her a significant dowry as an 18-year-old heiress to a large fortune. The couple produced four children named Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, and Richard. Elizabeth Hooten died in 1772, leaving Dr. Warren to raise his children by himself, just like his mother did. [1]

Free Masons

Joseph Warren joined the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew in Boston on September 10, 1761, after moving there to practice medicine. On September 2, 1761, he received the Second Degree, and on November 28, 1765, he was made a Master Mason. The Earl of Dalhousie, the Scottish Grand Master, appointed Joe Warren to the Provincial Grand Master of Masons in Boston and the surround areas on May 13, 1969. On March 7, 1772, he became the “Grand Master of Masons for the Continent of America.” He performed his Masonic duties while running his large medical practice and caring for his children. [2]

Political Beginnings

Dr. Joseph Warren took interest in local politics in Boston. He associated with leaders of the budding movement called Sons of Liberty, including Samuel Adams and John Hancock. In February 1770, Dr. Warren conducted the autopsy of 11-year-old Christopher Seider, known as the first American victim in the rising political tensions that led to the Revolutionary War. He also helped prepare a report on the Boston Massacre, which occurred the next month.[3]

Although Dr. Joseph Warren earned support in the political world with his revolutionary writings and outspoken advocacy.

Joe Warren fully immersed himself in the radical cause after the passing of the Townsend Acts in 1767. He wrote a series of articles in response and published them in the Boston Gazette, signed “A True Patriot” in 1768. This so enraged the royal governor that he brought libel charges against Dr. Warren and the paper’s publishers, but the grand jury refused to indict them. After this event, Joseph Warren’s popularity grew within radical circles and his friendship with Samuel Adams, his brother-in-law James Otis, and his Masonic ties to Paul Revere placed him in the middle of the separatist movement. He became chairman of the Committee of Safety after the 1770 Boston Massacre. [4]

Revolution and Leadership

As the Revolutionary War drew nearer and the conflict between the colonies and the royal government worsened between 1773 and 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren joined the Boston Committee of Correspondence. [5] The committee worked as one of many hidden, opposition governments within the colonies prior to the First Continental Congress.[6] Joe Warren delivered two speeches commemorating the Boston Massacre, including in 1775 during an army occupation. He drafted the Suffolk Resolves in resistance of Parliament’s Coercive Acts, or the Intolerable Acts. The Massachusetts Provincial Congress also appointed him to the highest position in the opposition government, President.

Dr. Joseph Warren, Paul Revere, and the Revolutionary War

On April 18, 1775, the British troops began mobilizing for a raid on Concord, Massachusetts and before nightfall word spread throughout Boston of their movement. The revolutionaries already knew in the weeks prior that General Thomas Gage intended to destroy colonial munition holds in Concord by going through Lexington. When Dr. Joseph Warren learned the troops planned to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams as well, he sent Paul Revere and William Dawes on their historical midnight ride to warn Adams and Hancock in Lexington. The well-known colonial United States historian, David Hackett Fischer, presents a strong case that the informant who tipped off Dr. Warren was the wife of General Gage, Margaret Gage.[7] Dr. Warren left Boston on April 19 to join the Revolutionary War militia in Lexington and Concord and spent the next six weeks preparing the troops for the battles ahead. [8]


Death and Legacy

On June 14, 1775, the Provincial congress elected him the second general to command the Massachusetts battalion.

Dr. Joseph Warren fought and died alongside men from all stations in life, including white men, Native Americans, and both enslaved and free black man, even though he was a slave owner himself.

Only three days later, the battle of Bunker Hill, or Breed’s Hill, occurred and Joseph Warren went to join the ranks made up of farmers, laborers, merchants, freed black men, Native Americans, and slaves. He refused to take command and joined the shooting as a volunteer. The British and the revolutionaries fought three times and on the third Dr. Warren was struck in the head by a musket ball and died instantly. The British army placed his body in an unmarked mass grave. Paul Revere identified his friend, Dr. Joseph Warren by his false teeth.

Dr. Warren instantly became a hero. John Trumbull immortalized his death in the painting, “The Death of General Warren.” The King Solomon’s Masonic Lodge erected the first Bunker Hill monument in his memory and every state in New England named a city after him. His four orphaned children struggled until 1778 when General Benedict Arnold, who new Dr. Warren from Cambridge, donated $500 to the children’s education and petitioned Congress to grant them half of General Warren’s pay until the youngest became an adult. [9]

References

Bibliography

Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center. Doctor Joseph Warren. National Park Service. 
Forman, S. A. (2011). Dr. Joseph Warren: The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty. United States: Pelican Publishing Company.

Frothingham, R. (2009). Life and Times of Joseph Warren. New York, NY, United States: Applewood Books.


Footnotes

  1. Frothingham, 2009
  2. Pushee III, G. D. (1997). Joseph Warren: Martyr of Bunker Hill. C.B. VANCE COUNCIL #85, ALLIED MASONIC DEGREES, CHESAPEAKE, VIRGINIA on APRIL 7, 1994.
  3. Forman, 2011
  4. Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center, n.d.
  5. Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center, n.d.
  6. Smith, P. (1976). A New Age Now Begins: A People’s History of the American Revolution. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies.
  7. Fischer, D. H. (1995). Paul Revere’s Ride. New York: Oxford University Press.
  8. Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center, n.d.
  9. Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center, n.d.