Martha Washington An American Life by Patricia Brady
This is a refreshing and endearing portrait of Martha Washington as few people see her. She was a strong, beautiful, passionate, family-oriented woman, who had a deep loving relationship with both her husbands, Daniel Parke Custis and George Washington. Her graciousness shined and despite her longing to live a quiet private life, she stood by George’s side throughout their marriage. She met the challenges as wife of the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, and the first president of the United States.
Martha was born Martha Dandridge on June 2, 1731 on her parent’s plantation, Chestnut Grove, in New Kent County, Virginia. The author, Patricia Brady, describes the places, events, and expectations of the times with a level of detail that gives the reader a clear picture of the things Martha would have done and experienced—domestic, social, political, and religious expectations for a woman who came from a fairly well-to-do family.
Martha Dandridge Custis, 1757
John Parke Custis, 1757
Martha married Daniel Parke Custis in 1750, a man twenty years her senior whose father was abusive and controlling. This seemed to be a pattern. George Washington’s mother, Mary, was abusive and controlling, as well. As a reader, this suggests to me that Martha’s capacity for kindness and emotional support may have been one of the things that attracted both Daniel and George.
She and Daniel had four children. The two eldest died as toddlers. Daniel’s sudden death in 1757 left her, at the age of 26, the wealthiest widow in Virginia, with a 17,500 acre estate to manage and two very young children to raise alone: a three-year-old son, Jacky, and a one-year-old daughter, Patsy. This set a precedence. There was no male trustee to control her property. She was independent and free to make her own decisions, and she did so with confidence.
George Washington, whom she married on January 6, 1759, recognized this strength and rarely questioned her decisions while he was away.
In 1773, Patsy died of a seizure at age seventeen. It was terrible blow to Martha, as well as, George, who was a loving stepfather to Patsy and Jacky (Martha and George had no children of their own). Seven years later during the Siege of Yorktown, she would lose Jacky (who was married with children) to “camp fever”. Martha surrounded herself with family. Many young nieces, nephews, and grandchildren lived at Mount Vernon which was a great comfort to her.
John Parke Custis “Jacky”, 1772
Martha Parke Custis “Patsy”, 1772
Of course, the American Revolution greatly affected every facet of her life. The author describes the events of the war accurately and succinctly. George was away from the Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, in Virginia, the entire eight years. Martha spent every winter with her husband at the Continental Army camp, often accompanied by nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.
Patricia Brady expertly guides the reader through the eight years George was president and Martha’s outlook and influence on those years when the Washington’s longed for a private life that was not to be. After George’s death in 1799 and forty-one years of devoted partnership, Martha never truly recovered from the pain. She remembered her husband’s admirers and those who had hurt him, like Thomas Jefferson. When Jefferson was elected president in 1800, “she commented freely and acidly on his presidency.”
In the first week of May, 1802, Martha became ill with one of her frequent stomach upsets. She died at Mount Vernon on May 22.
I highly recommend this historical and spiritual book that contains elements of a great romance.
I’m thrilled to share that my historical fantasy novel Angels and Patriots Book One has won it’s seventh and eighth award! New York City Big Book Awards honored my novel as winner of the Military Fiction category and distinguished favorite in the Historical Fiction category. This wonderful announcement came just after I released the second book in the series, Angels and Patriots Book Two, to my developmental editor.
Military Fiction Historical Fiction
I couldn’t have achieved this accomplishment without the editing skills, graphic design, and guidance from the ladies at Author’s Assistant. Thank you.
Nor could I have accomplished this without the incredible patience of my husband, John. He spent countless days and weeks alone while I conducted extensive research on the events that ignited and occurred during the first days of the Revolutionary War, patriots, loyalists, politics, colonial life, Founding Fathers and Mothers, the British army, and religious references to the fallen angels who created the forbidden Nephilim, not to mention the hundreds of hours it took to write the novel.
John patiently allowed me to take him to Boston and Roxbury for a seven day pilgrimage honoring the life of patriot, Son of Liberty, and Founding Father, Dr. Joseph Warren; who is an important character. Without Joseph’s courage, fortitude, and popularity, the Revolutionary War may never have begun. Among Joseph’s many accomplishments, he is the young physician who sent Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride to warn the Massachusetts countryside that the British were on the move from Boston.
Lastly, I would like to thank Dr. Samuel Forman, author of the biography Dr. Joseph Warren: The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty, for sharing his expertise and offering his support for my historical research on Warren while I wrote this book.
Thank you for allowing me to share this humbling and exciting announcement!
On October 19, 1776, after being delayed by a clash with Massachusetts Colonel John Glover and his men at Pelham Bay, British General William Howe and his army camped at New Rochelle, New York. Howe was waiting for supplies and 8,000 Hessian reinforcements under the command of General Wilhelm von Knyphausen. The British intended to launch a maneuver that would encircle and defeat General George Washington’s army at Harlem Heights.
Washington was aware of the British advance. He sent General Charles Lee on a scouting mission north. Lee returned with the advice that the army move to White Plains because it was more defensible and contained a supply depot.
Colonel Rufus Putnam (General Israel Putnam’s cousin) was sent on a reconnaissance mission to discover the British position and determine how soon they might reach White Plains.
Putnam returned with disturbing intelligence of Howe’s proximity to White Plains. In response, Washington hasten the American army’s lugubrious retreat north along the west bank of the Bronx River. He dispatched Putnam with orders to Lord Alexander Stirling, whose troops were furthest north, to immediately march to White Plains.
The Continental Army arrived at White Plains ahead of Howe’s army. It provided time for Washington’s men to construct their defenses. Washington established his headquarters at the Elijah Miller House on October 23, and chose a defensive position that he fortified with two lines of entrenchments. The trenches were situated on raised terrain, protected on the right by the swampy ground near the Bronx River, with steeper hills further back as a place of retreat. The American defenses were 3 miles long. Beyond that, across the Bronx River on the right, was Chatterton’s Hill, which commanded the plain over which the British would have to advance.
Washington sent the Maryland and Delaware forces, as well as some Connecticut regimentals and some militia to Chatterton’s Hill to join an isolated outpost held by Colonel Alexander McDougall. There approximately 2,000 men began constructing fortifications.
During this time, General Howe’s army proceeded north to Mamaroneck where they paused for another four days to reconnoiter the roads and terrain around White Plains. On the morning of October 28, Howe ordered his entire force, 13,000 strong, forward to White Plains to attack the American lines. Howe took General Henry Clinton’s advice (which was a rare occurrence) and proceeded in several columns, with Clinton leading the one farthest right whose task would be to outflank the Americans while they fought the British on the left.
When Washington heard the British were advancing he said to his officers, “Gentlemen, you will repair to your respective posts and do the best you can.” His officers holding the lines included generals William Heath, John Sullivan, and Charles Lee. Then, Washington called for a detachment of 1,500 men under General Joseph Spencer to confront the British vanguard. Joseph Plumb Martin and Benjamin Tallmadge were among them.
The detachment crossed the Bronx River and waited behind stone walls for the enemy. They became engaged with the Hessians pouring a destructive fire into the Hessian ranks until they found that they were about to be flanked. The Americans retreated across the river and ascended the hill.
The British advanced and began firing field pieces across the river at the American lines. the Americans returned fire. Smoke from artillery and shot filled the air.
Howe detached several thousand of his men and twelve pieces of artillery to attack Chatterton’s Hill. The British attack was organized with Hessian regiments leading the assault. Colonel Johann Rall was to charge the American right, while a Hessian battalion under Colonel Carl von Donop was to attack the center. When they reached the river, British grenadiers charged across and pressed on up the steep and heavily wooded hill. They became targets of their own artillery which had ignited the dry autumn leaves and branches. The Hessians followed charging through the burning fields. They held their cartridge boxes above their heads to keep them from exploding.
The Americans fired canister and grape into the oncoming enemy. The Royal Artillery responded with solid shot. The Americans repelled the first wave of attack as they poured musket fire into the approaching enemy. Rall’s Hessians rallied and taking heavy casualties, fought up the southern side of the hill. Rall’s charge scattered the militia and they “fled in confusion,” Colonel John Haslet of the Delaware troops reported. This exposed the American right flank.
The British pelted the Marylanders and the Delaware Regiment with a “very heavy fire of their artillery and musquetry for about half an hour.” Reinforcements arrived, but the Marylanders and Delaware men were forced to withdraw. “The Americans overpowered by their numbers, were compelled to save themselves, as best they could,” recalled Marylander Captain Samuel Smith.
Washington ordered a fighting withdrawal with the 1st Delaware Regiment guarding the rear. The Continental Army continued their retreat to North Castle, New York. Both sides suffered significant casualties. The high price (in casualties) the British army paid for the hill was enough to discourage further aggression on General Howe’s part.
O’Donnell, Patrick K. Washington’s Immortals New York: Grove Press, 2016. Print.
Schecter, Barnet. The Battle For New York New York: Walker & Company, 2002. Print.
McCullough, David. 1776 New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Print.
Heath, William. Edited by William Abbatt. Memoirs of Major General William Heath New York: William Abbatt, 1901. Print.
My award-winning historical fantasy novel Angels & Patriots Book One is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook. Angels & Patriots Book One
On the morning of August 22, 1776, the British frigates Phoenix, Rose, and Greyhound with their sails spread open in the hot sun weighed anchor off Staten Island in New York harbor and fell down The Narrows accompanied by two bomb ketches, the Carcass and the Thunder. British Generals Henry Clinton and Charles Cornwallis with an advance corps of 4,000 of the King’s elite troops pushed off in flatboats and proceeded across the three miles of water to the long beach at Gravesend Bay on the southwest tip of Long Island.
The warships pointed their cannon at the beach. By eight in the morning, the whole coast swarmed with boats. Then, a signal gun fired from British Admiral Richard Howe’s flagship, Phoenix.
The English and Scottish artillerists disembarked first. A battalion of Hessian grenadiers with muskets in hand disembarked in order of battle ranks. The Scottish dressed in kilts and wielding muskets, pistols, bayonets, and broadswords arrived. More troops followed, including women and children whose husbands and fathers were with the army. By noon, a fully equipped army of 15,000 men and forty pieces of artillery had landed and assembled in formation.
At Kennedy House in Manhattan, General George Washington initially received erroneous information about the number of the enemy force. He was told there were 6,000. In response, on August 25, he sent General Israel Putnam across the East River with six brigades to the American fortifications on Brooklyn Heights. Putnam was to assume command from General John Sullivan and reassign him to the center at Flatbush Road with 1,000 troops. General Alexander Stirling was responsible for the Gowanus Road on the right with the elite First Maryland Regiment, a Pennsylvania battalion, and Delaware regiments. Colonel Samuel Miles was to provide protection for the left flank of the Continental Army at Bedford Road with 800 men.
Lord Alexander Stirling
They had failed to cover a fourth pass known as the Jamaica Pass, that lay three miles north of the American left flank on the Bedford Road. It was a blind spot in the American defenses patrolled by only five young militiamen.
The Continental Army had no cavalry and no spies, and the troops were unfamiliar of the lay of the land on Long Island. A force of fewer than 3,000 inexperienced American soldiers was expected to hold a ridge four miles long, while the rest, another 6,000 remained within the Brooklyn Heights forts: Greene, Putnam, Box, and Cobble Hill.
The white tents of the British army, spread across the Flatlands, could be seen from the heights near Gowanus Road. The sight was alarming enough to cause some of the Americans to desert.
From his headquarters in the British encampment, General William Howe laid out plans to distract the rebels and keep them stationary while the main body of the British forces executed a sweeping flanking maneuver through Jamaica Pass. Howe assigned General James Grant two brigades which would cause a diversion close to The Narrows on the enemy’s right on the coast of the Upper Bay. Hessian General Leopold von Heister’s 4,000 Hessians would occupy the Americans’ center. General Charles Cornwallis was to back up Grant on the enemy’s right with grenadiers and the Scottish. General Henry Clinton was to command the advanced guard while Howe followed with the rest of the main force of 10,000 men.
Leopold Phillip von Heister
On August 26 at 9:00 p.m, the British generals moved out to their assigned positions. No one except the commanders knew of the plan.
General James Grant led 5,000 redcoats toward the Red Lyon Inn on the coast of the Upper Bay near Gowanus Road where Pennsylvania riflemen were patrolling. The riflemen were relieved around two o’clock in the morning by green militiamen. Grant sent 300 men to attack the terrified men, who fled.
General Israel Putnam was alerted to this British movement. Alarm guns sounded and drums rolled as the men in the forts fell out in response to the alarm. Putnam believed it was the frontal assault and rushed to alert General Alexander Stirling whose troops were at Gowanus Road.
The men under Stirling’s overall command marched toward the enemy. A little before day light, they saw Grant’s regiments advancing along Gowanus Road with colors flying and field artillery out front. Before they could form lines, Grant’s artillery fired on Stirling’s vanguard in a thunderous profusion of smoke and shot.
Stirling shouted for his men to deploy. “Stretch out and form a V so we may have a chance to face these rascals in their own formations!”
The rebels volleyed and then fired on the British with two cannons. Grant pulled his troops back and switched to a steady artillery barrage.
Major Mordecai Gist, who was in command of the Marylanders, moved them to the right flank on top of a hill. The Marylanders successfully withstood the British cannonade which was what Grant hoped. His diversion was working.
The Marylanders, believing that they were engaged with the enemy’s main assault, valiantly stood their ground without realizing that Grant sent a detachment eastward to link up with the Hessians and General von Heister in the center to surround them.
Colonel John Chester, of Connecticut, was entrenched with the Continentals at Bedford Pass with his adjutant Lieutenant Benjamin Tallmadge. Chester’s men could not maintain their ground at the pass and were forced to retreat to Brooklyn Heights.
William Howe and Henry Clinton’s flanking maneuver was unfolding as planned. They moved their 10,000 troops from the camp at Flatbush and advanced toward Jamaica Pass along the Jamaica Road. At 9:00 a.m., Howe fired two cannons, announcing his arrival in the village of Bedford north of Jamaica Pass.
General von Heister and three Hessian brigades, that formed a line nearly a mile long, approached the center of the American lines where General John Sullivan’s troops were positioned. Sullivan’s troops panicked when they saw the Hessians with colors flying and drums beating. Without firing a shot, the Hessians pressed forward until they could employ their bayonets. They broke through Sullivan’s line on the right and ruthlessly butchered the rebels.
Sullivan struggled to keep his men from panicking. He called for a retreat and led them from the center at Flatbush Pass in the direction of the Brooklyn Heights fortifications. The Hessians kept up their bayonet assault. Hundreds of rebel troops raced through the woods and fields to reach the forts. A detachment of British General Charles Cornwallis’ grenadiers chased them right up to the walls. Sullivan and some of his troops were taken prisoner.
Less than a mile west of Sullivan’s position and with the enemy converging on all sides, Gist and five companies of Marylanders pushed through their original bivouac area. Flanking fire pelted them from both sides until they came to a marsh and a stone farmhouse where Cornwallis’ forces were positioned at the Vechte farm.
To buy time for his troops to escape, Stirling took the Marylanders on a suicidal preemptive strike against Cornwallis’ position in and around the farmhouse and the orchards.
Cornwallis’ men aimed their muskets and light cannon on the advancing Marylanders. The fusillade dropped many of the men in their tracks, severing limbs and heads, killing several instantly. The Marylanders formed into lines and charged into the hail of fire coming from the British soldiers in the Vechte house.
Then, the Hessians attacked the Marylanders. They linked up with Cornwallis’s Scottish Highlanders and assaulted the Marylanders from the rear, while Grant’s forces pushed in the front.
Major Mordecai Gist noticed a fateful pause. The Marylanders realized to their horror that they were flanked. They heard fire on their left, and in a short time discovered part of the enemy in their rear. Surrounded on all sides by at least 10,000 men, the Americans were driven with precipitation and confusion. Maryland’s finest lay dead and dying all around.
General Alexander Stirling found himself surrounded with no hope for escape. He surrendered his sword to the Hessian general von Heister.
The Hessians and Highlanders gave no quarter and dispatched the rebels with their bayonets, pinning some to trees, after they had surrounded them. The Maryland officers were the first to be killed or captured. Sixty men were taken prisoner. The rebels were cut off from the retreat by Cornwallis, and Gowanus Creek remained the only avenue of escape for any not crushed between the British and Hessian forces.
The waters of the bay were at high tide, making Gowanus Creek and the adjoining marshes nearly impassable. The men had to wade and swim through waist-and often neck-deep water, while trying to evade the British fire. Many suffocated in the mud or drown.
The Delaware regiment scattered. They were unable to defend themselves against the ruthless men pursing them. They fled through the woods carrying their torn regimental colors.
General Samuel Parsons’ men, who had been holding the hill on Stirling’s left flank before he retreated, turned to see that the line they were defending was gone. With Grant pressing them, they too tried to escape but found Cornwallis blocking the road. Unable to get to the creek, Parsons’ men dispersed into the woods under pursuit and most were killed.
All night, after the guns grew silent, the Americans inside the Brooklyn defenses, expecting the British to attack, waited tensely hour after hour as nothing happened. Stragglers who had escaped capture kept coming into the lines, bedraggled single soldiers, many badly wounded. The morning after, Mordecai Gist and nine others Marylanders returned to the fortifications. They were the only ones of the valiant Marylanders to have made it back.
General William Howe’s army had crushed Washington’s forward defense, but Howe ordered his men to halt instead of storming the American fortifications on Brooklyn Heights.
George Washington and his staff left Kennedy House in Manhattan for Brooklyn Heights after receiving a message that General John Sullivan and General Alexander Stirling were taken prisoner. General Thomas Mifflin’s brigade of Pennsylvanians, and two regiments of mariners from Marblehead, Salem, and Danvers, Massachusetts under the command of Colonels John Glover and Israel Hutchinson arrived.
Then, a storm blew in from the northeast, preventing the British ships from sailing into the East River from the harbor.
On the evening of August 28, General Howe’s engineers began digging a system of trenches called approach by advances that would shield the army as it approached and besieged the American position. They worked all night with picks and shovels, and by the morning of August 29, the British had dug a 300-yard trench parallel to the American lines and a mere 600 yards away. At the rate they were digging, the British would have been within musket shot of the rebels in less than twenty-four hours, and it would have been nearly impossible to dislodge them from their advancing trench.
Joseph Reed and Thomas Mifflin convinced Washington to make a full scale retreat from Long Island. Mifflin requisitioned every boat fit for transporting troops. With the mariners manning the boats and under cover of fog, the Americans evacuated 9,500 soldiers in a single night with all of their baggage, tents, equipment, and horses.
O’Donnell, Patrick K. Washington’s Immortals New York: Grove Press, 2016. Print.
Schecter, Barnet. The Battle For New York New York: Walker & Company, 2002. Print.
McCullough, David. 1776 New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Print.
My award-winning historical fantasy novel Angels & Patriots Book One is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook. Angels & Patriots Book One
“Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of. Our enemies are numerous and powerful; but we have many friends, determining to be free, and heaven and earth will aid the resolution. On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important question, on which rest the happiness and liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.”
~~ Dr. Joseph Warren (from his 1775 Boston Massacre Oration)
President Ronald Reagan quoted these words in his 1981 presidential inaugural address. Like the patriots of colonial America, Reagan was inspired by Dr. Joseph Warren’s determination, fortitude, and passion. Without Joseph’s influence and actions, this nation may not have been born.
Joseph Warren was a Boston physician who cared for rich and poor, American and English, free and slave. He was deeply involved with his fellow patriots, Sons of Liberty, and masonic lodge brothers: John Adams, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere—to name a few.
In April 1775, Joseph was elected president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and the Committee of Safety, to replace the absent John Hancock. With little money or resources, he was faced with the challenges of a rapidly evolving revolutionary political and military climate. He was a tireless devoted leader who responded to each new challenge with intelligence and courage.
He held the American rebellion together during the critical months (April – June 1775) that spanned the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and the Battle of Bunker Hill. Those collective months were his swan song.
If he had lived, he may have outshined all the Founding Fathers. Loyalist Peter Oliver surmised in 1782 that if Warren had lived, George Washington would have been “an obscurity.” But, the imminent grief of Joseph’s death eased, and his dazzling light dimmed.
Joseph Warren was born on June 11, 1741. The eldest of four boys–Samuel, Ebenezer, and John–Joseph grew up outside of Boston on the Warren family farm in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The Warren farm produced a distinctive kind of apple called Warren or Roxbury Russet. The senior Joseph Warren turning his eye upon his eldest son Joseph said, “I would rather a son of mine were dead, than a coward.” It would prove to be a prophetic statement.
By age fourteen, Joseph was attending Harvard. In October 1755, while working in the orchard, his father died after a fall from a ladder. Suddenly, Joseph was the head of the household, and it was a responsibility he took to heart.
Due to the generosity of the community, he was able to continue his studies at Harvard, where he became interested in medicine. Joseph learned the prevailing humeral approach to disease. Ancient Greek and Roman medicine ascribed diseases to imbalances in the humors; the four distinctive attributes of living organisms: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. As a physician, Joseph would have prescribed and prepared herbal medications to return the bodily humors to balance, and thus, cure the patient’s affliction.
Upon graduation, as repayment for the community’s sponsorship at Harvard, Joseph taught public grammar school at the Roxbury Latin school. After that year long stint, he was free to pursue his profession as a doctor.
During a time when a layman could practice medicine, Joseph was a passionate proponent of disciplined medical education. When a colleague, Dr. Thomas Young, prescribed a treatment for tuberculosis that resulted in the patient’s death, Joseph’s quill flew. With sardonic humor and under the pen name, Philo Physic, he carried on a ruthless debate with Dr. Young in the newspapers.
In early 1764, a smallpox epidemic swept Boston and the surrounding areas. Joseph went to work for the physicians’ initiative for community wide inoculation at Castle William, a fort and smallpox hospital just south of Boston. The doctors administered inoculations, and worked on case reporting and quarantine measures. It is here where Joseph met John Adams who had come to be inoculated.
The following year, Joseph wrote articles calling for the establishment of an organization of Massachusetts physicians (the Massachusetts Medical Society would be established in 1782 by Joseph’s youngest brother John).
As a woman, I find descriptions of Joseph’s beauty and mannerisms alluring. His elegance was also apparent to men.
Richard Frothingham, in his 1865 text on the Life and Times of Joseph Warren, amply describes Warren, whose sandy blonde hair and gentle complexion was considered, especially by the ladies, as being quite handsome.
“He had a graceful figure, was scrupulously neat in his person, of thorough culture, and had an elegant address; and these traits rendered him a welcome visitor in polite circles, while a frank and genial manner made him a general favorite. He had a great love for his fellow man; and being a stranger to the passion of avarice, and even neglectful to a fault in pecuniary matters, he had an ear ever open to the claims of want, and a hand ever extended to afford relief.” 
John Adams wrote in a letter dated July 29, 1775, shortly after Joseph’s death: “Warren was a young man whom nature had adorned with grace and manly beauty, and a courage that would have been rash absurdity, had it not been tempered by self-control.” 
Joseph’s religious roots were Puritan, and his writings reveal his passionate use of religious allegories coupled with erotic metaphors. His 1772 and 1775 Boston Massacre Orations are filled with such references. How did his religious beliefs influence his associations with women?
Joseph married seventeen-year-old orphaned heiress, Elizabeth Hooton, in September 1764. She was probably pregnant when the couple married. Their first child, Elizabeth “Betsey”, was born sometime in March 1765. The marriage appeared to have been, at least in the beginning, little more than a union of convenience. The couple went on to have three more children: Joseph, Richard, and Mary.
No authentic records of Elizabeth’s thoughts, beliefs, or life with Joseph exists. Her portrait lacks adornments–jewelry, hairdressing, a book, a favorite pet–to suggest her personal tastes. Elizabeth died on April 26, 1773. (Paul Revere’s wife, Sarah, died a few weeks later.)
The only accounts of Joseph’s thoughts on his wife were written following her death. On her passing, Joseph wrote:
Aetherial Spirits see the S[y]stem’s right, But mortal Minds demand a clearer Sight, In Spight of Reason’s philosophic Art, A tear must fall to indicate the Heart.
After Elizabeth’s death, Mercy Scollay cared for his children and became a member of the Warren household. Mercy was said to be Joseph’s intellectual equal. She was certainly articulate in her writings. Lore suggests she was Joseph’s fiancee at the time of his death. There is no documented evidence of that engagement.
After Joseph’s death, his youngest brother, Dr. John Warren, eventually got custody of the children. Their welfare remained in dire straits until 1778 when General Benedict Arnold (who had befriended Joseph at Cambridge) gave $500 for their education and petitioned Congress for the amount of a major general’s half pay for their welfare until the youngest reached majority.
Joseph’s biographer, Dr. Samuel Forman wrote that Joseph was “dismissive of women”.  Yet, history tells the tale of a handsome young doctor whose female patients feigned continuing illnesses as a ploy for Dr. Warren’s lingering attentions.
Apart from Mercy Scollay, lore links Joseph to many women, outside of the years he was married. Mary Wheatley, Margaret Gage, and Sally Edwards are among the women who may or may not have had a romantic relationship with him.
Joseph was too occupied with establishing his medical practice, a smallpox epidemic, attempts to organize a province medical society, and his new life as a husband and soon-to-be father to notice the growing colonial despair over the acts of the British parliament. Then, parliament passed the Stamp Act on March 22, 1765. The new tax was imposed on all American colonists and required them to pay a tax on every piece of printed paper they used. Joseph went from a young independent physician to a committed radical Whig and Son of Liberty insider.
Enter Joseph’s political mentor, the much older, Samuel Adams. Their budding interaction was to mature into one of the most significant of their lives and of the patriot movement.
Joseph’s first successful strategic battle was an initiative to resolve a Boston dispute between his masonic lodge, St. Andrew’s Lodge of the Ancients, and the exclusionary and privileged English St. John’s Grand Lodge of the Moderns. The members of St. John’s refused to allow the inclusion of St. Andrew’s “common folk” into their masonic celebrations and rituals. One can imagine Joseph leaning in close to his fellow St. Andrew’s lodge members, Paul Revere and John Hancock, and with a smile, saying, “Screw this. We will procure our own Grand Lodge charter.”
A committee headed by Joseph, by-passed England and applied to Scotland for St. Andrew’s chartering as a Grand Lodge. The application was granted, and the commission establishing a new Grand Lodge of the Ancients with Joseph as its Grand Master was dated May 30, 1769. Now, St. John’s and St. Andrew’s Masonic lodges were on even ground.
I adjourn our visit with Joseph Warren’s life until June 17, when we will follow him to Bunker Hill.
Frothingham, Richard. Life and Times of Joseph Warren. 1865: Little Brown & Company, New York, NY.
Forman, Samuel A. Dr. Joseph Warren, The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty. 2012: Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, Louisiana.
Philbrick, Nathaniel. Bunker Hill A City, A Siege, A Revolution. 2013: Penguin Books, New York, NY.
Warren, M.D., Edward. The Life of John Warren, M.D. Surgeon-General During The War Of The Revolution; First Professor Of Anatomy And Surgery In Harvard College; President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, Etc. 1874: Noyles, Holmes, and Company, Boston
Painting of Joseph Warren by John Singleton Copley, 1765. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Painting of Elizabeth Hooton Warren by John Singleton Copley, 1772. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
On May 24, three days after British General Thomas Gage sent four sloops to tiny Grape Island near the town of Weymouth to pick up some recently harvested hay from the loyalist Elijah Leavitt, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety ordered all livestock and hay removed from nearby Noddles and Hog Island. The two contiguous islands lay east of Charlestown and formed a peninsula that reached from the town of Chelsea toward Boston to the southeast with the town of Winnisimmet on the opposite shore directly north.
Those who sold their goods to the British faced the wrath of rebels, just as Elijah Leavitt had, and those who sold to the rebels faced the wrath of the British. One resident of Hog Island had been warned that if he sold anything to the British, the rebels would take all the cattle from the island and … handle him very roughly.
On the evening of May 26, American General Artemas Ward sent Colonel John Nixon of Sudbury and Colonel John Stark and his New Hampshire regiment to implement the committee’s directive. On the morning of May 27, approximately 500 rebels waded across the Chelsea-Hog Island channel, which at low tide became an easily fordable, knee-high creek with wide mudflat banks. A detachment of 30 men continued on to Noddle’s Island to corral livestock and burn hay. About 40 British marines occupied buildings on the island to warehouse stores and stockpile hay there for its horses in Boston.
As the rebels rounded up sheep and cattle, British Admiral Samuel Graves was celebrating his promotion to vice admiral of the white squadron. His nephew, Lieutenant Thomas Graves, commander of the schooner Diana, sailed into Boston Harbor and joined the festivities.
Amid the pomp of his promotion ceremony, Admiral Graves was aware of an urgent message from General Gage dated two days before, reporting that “the Rebels intend this Night to destroy, and carry off all the Stock & on Noddles Island for no reason but because the owners having sold them for the Kings use.” This piece of intelligence may have come from Dr. Benjamin Church, but Church wasn’t Gage’s only spy and at that time, Church was on the road to Philadelphia to deliver missives from the Massachusetts Provincial Congress to the Continental Congress.
Around 2:00 p.m., the admiral was notified that smoke could be seen rising from Noddle’s Island. Stark and Nixon and their men had set fire to a barn full of hay and had killed some of the livestock drawing the attention of the marines stationed on the island. Admiral Graves responded by ordering his nephew to sail Diana up the narrow waterway that lay between the islands and the mainland while 170 marines were sent to pursue the rebels on foot on Noddle’s Island. Armed with four six-pounders and a dozen smaller swivel guns, Diana fired on the rebels on Noddle’s Island while the larger force of marines splashed ashore from longboats. The Noddle’s Island rebel forces slaughtered some of the livestock they had corralled and retreated across Crooked Creek.
Half the rebels continued on with the livestock while the other half jumped into a ditch and commenced a rear guard action to keep the schooner and the marines at bay. By 5:00 p.m. Diana was in the shallows between Hog Island and the mainland. Diana exchanged heavy fire with the rebels on Hog Island and the rebels on the Chelsea mainland. Under heavy rebel fire and with an outgoing tide threatening to ground his schooner, the commanding officer, Lieutenant Graves, sought the aid of a dozen longboats to tow him back down the creek in the dying breeze. In hopes of ambushing Diana before she reached the safety of the harbor, the rebels rushed down the north shore of Chelsea Creek toward Winnisimmet.
By 9:00 p.m., the sun was setting. Colonel Israel Putnam and Dr. Joseph Warren arrived at Newgate Landing with two field pieces and more men. Putnam directed his cannon fire at Diana that was now slowly drifting south along the shore.
The Royal Navy marines had transported several cannons to a hill on Noddle’s Island. Out of the darkness, cannonballs whistled down at the rebels as they waded into the creek and fired at the longboats towing Diana past the Winnisimmet shore. The rebel cannons returned fire with such effectiveness that the British longboat crews were forced to abandon Diana. The schooner soon drifted toward shore and grounded on the wooden rails extending from the ferry dock.
Lieutenant Graves and his men attempted to use their anchor to drag the schooner to deeper water, but as the tide ebbed, the schooner began to roll onto her side. They had no choice but to abandon her for the sloop Britannia anchored in deeper waters. Later that night, the rebels plundered Diana of her guns, rigging, and equipment, and then set her on fire. Around 3:00 a.m., the fire reached the vessel’s powder magazine and the schooner exploded.
That night, Israel Putnam and Joseph Warren returned to Cambridge to report to General Ward.
“I wish we could have something of this kind to do every day,” Putnam crowed.
General Ward was concerned that the engagement might provoke the British to launch a sortie from Boston.
The skirmish at Chelsea Creek was a humiliating defeat for Admiral Graves and his nephew. It was a clear rebel victory, but it had also consumed a large amount of rebel gunpowder. Joseph Warren had been in favor of an attack on Boston. He now had a more realistic view of his army’s preparedness.
Rather than agree with Putnam, Warren said, “I admire your spirit and respect General Ward’s prudence. Both will be necessary for us, and one must temper the other.”
Philbrick, Nathaniel. Bunker Hill A City, A Siege, A Revolution New York: Penguin Books, 2013. Print.
Borneman, Walter R. American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014. Print.
I’ve had my nose in stacks of books, historical maps, and reliable websites so I can accurately depict the 1776 Battles of New York and the celebrations after the reading of the Declaration of Independence while writing Angels and Patriots: Book Two.
When I took my nose out of the books and from the writing screen, I was honored to find that my novel Angels and Patriots: Book One had won four awards. What an incredible spark to keep my writing going! I now feel a greater sense of the need to continue the story of archangel, Colm Bohannon, and his brotherhood of angels and their challenges as they fight in the Continental Army and support the patriotic cause of 1776.
I ardently hope that Angels and Patriots: Book One will continue to be a historical source for readers who prefer fantasy/fiction and would not normally pick up a book on the American Revolution or the people who sacrificed everything for liberty.
Angels and Patriots: Book Two is progressing a little bit slower than I had anticipated. This is due to the shift in the theater of war from Massachusetts to New York, a new cast of characters intermingled with those in Book One, and the angels’ changing challenges among the children of man.
However, it promises to be an exciting read once it’s done!
Angels & Patriots Book One is available for free download on Amazon May 24 in celebration of my writing victory. It is also available in paperback (which is currently discounted) or read for free anytime on Kindle Unlimited. Angels & Patriots Book One