I wrote the short story “Act Worthy of Yourselves” that asks the question “What if Dr. Joseph Warren had survived Bunker Hill?” as part of the Historical Writers Forum anthology “Alternate Endings” because frankly, Dr. Joseph Warren is the love of my American Revolution life.
This young and largely forgotten patriot is an important character in the first book of my historical fantasy series, Angels and Patriots Book One: Sons of Liberty, Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill. I’ve also have published non-fiction works about Warren including a short piece titled America’s First Martyr in the Military Writers Society of America’s 2021 anthology Untold Stories, numerous blog posts, and three audio clips for a website called Hear About Hear that provides audio clips for historic places. The three audio clips can be heard at Old South Meeting House in Boston, Massachusetts, Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and King’s Chapel in Boston where Warren delivered two Boston Massacre Orations (1772 & 1775), was killed at age 34 at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, and the chapel where his funeral was held, respectively.
Warren was a Boston physician, Son of Liberty, politician, orator, masonic Grand Master, president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and a major general. He was a member of the Sons of Liberty, a group of political dissidents formed in Boston to protest King George III and Parliament’s taxation and control of colonial authority. Their protests against the Mother country’s sudden subjugation after more than a century of autonomy, proliferated in the America colonies in the 1760s. Some of their famous members were Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams. John Adams, a Massachusetts lawyer and politician was not a Son of Liberty, but he was a sympathizer.
It was Joseph Warren who sent Paul Revere, along with William Dawes, on that ride to warn the countryside that the British regulars were out of Boston and on the march looking for rebel munitions on the night of April 18, 1775. He was holding the rebellion together in Massachusetts during the spring of 1775 while Samuel Adams and John Hancock were hiding in Lexington for fear of being hanged by the British for treason.
Through the committees of the Provincial Congress, he tirelessly wrote letters to leaders of other colonies, rallying for the cause, asking for help, and pressing them for their responsibilities in the rebellion against Britain. He gathered militia, supplies, and directed the provincial army who conducted the siege of Boston on the British in that town after the first shots of the war were fired in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775.
His death at the Battle of Bunker Hill was widely lamented by his friends and patients such as Abigail Adams, John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, patriots who fought alongside Warren on that fateful day and as far reaching as Philadelphia and the southern colonies. His death, early in the war, served to leave him in obscurity. He deserves to be known for everything he did in the infancy of the American Revolution to promote freedom and liberty. So the questions is “what if Joseph Warren had survived Bunker Hill?” Where would he have stood among the American Founding Fathers, many of whom were his fellows long before the rest of the world had heard their names.
One last very important comment.
Under the tutelage and permission of the Dr. Joseph Warren Foundation and their operations director J Hart (with whom I will be doing further work), I’m thrilled to announce that the foundation is producing a docudrama about Joseph Warren with a target release date of 2025. This is the trailer narrated by Christian di Spigna author of the biography Founding Martyr.
You can help preserve the legacy of Joseph Warren by supporting the Foundation, giving to the cause, and spreading the word. Huzzah!
I wrote my alternate ending about Abigail Adams and women’s suffrage after researching women’s rights and looking at the current storm on abortion rights with the overturn of Roe vs. Wade. When I was writing my first book, “Clouds of War”, I was surprised by the fact that most women couldn’t sign contracts, and lost control over the property as soon as they were married. In researching my as-yet-unpublished Revolutionary War novel, I discovered that in some colonies, women could vote before the signing of the US Constitution, but lost that right. That led me to look at where these laws depriving women of rights came from – and the answer was somewhat astonishing. It turns out that there was a barrister named William Blackstone in England, who spread the idea of “coverture” because he believed women were emotionally and intellectually unfit for politics, business, and most intellectual endeavors. Blackstone was an obscure lawyer who had lost his job and was not particularly adept at the law, but his book “Commentaries on the Laws of England” was particularly popular with men. It became a mantra of male dominance, without bothering to prove the points it contained.
In studying the Revolutionary War, I read many of the original letters and documents from Abigail and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Mercy Otis Warren, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. I was impressed in particular with the logic, intellect, and writing of Abigail Adams. Thanks to her separation for months at a time from her husband, she wrote over two thousand letters. Though she requested that they be burned at her death, thankfully, someone did not follow that instruction, and we have a large collection of her thoughts and feelings during that period.
One letter, in particular, caught my attention, from Abigail to John, and his reply. She had just heard of the decision to declare independence from England, and being of sharp mind, immediately realized that the slate of laws was wiped clean, and they might begin afresh. She was excited at the prospect of equal rights for women, including the vote, and wrote to John that when they made the new laws, the men must “remember the ladies”. John effectively laughed at her and expressed many of the same opinions voiced in Blackstone’s book. In real life, while she was vexed, Abigail acted as the submissive wife of her time and culture, though voicing her indignation in letters both to John, Thomas Jefferson, and her friend Mercy Otis Warren. Reading Abigail’s displeasure led me to wonder – what if? What if she had rallied the other leading women, as well as the poor non-landowning farmer men, to demand the right to vote? How could she have leveraged it to make the men listen? What had the women done before as a group, and what had its effect been?
From there, the story “Remember the Ladies” practically wrote itself, primarily using Abigail’s own words. I hope you enjoy it.
By the summer of 1777, the Revolutionary War had inflicted stress on the colonists, the Continental Army, the British, and the governmental bodies of America, Canada, and Britain. Lack of everything on both sides of the conflict—food, fodder, clothing, money, troops, horses, confidence, faith, and loyalty—ground the souls of the most hearty and steadfast down. Governments were self-serving and citizens were fickle. The British were trying to conduct and finance conflicts in their many colonies throughout the eastern hemisphere. The Americans were struggling for power among their top ranking politicians and military commanders. The French, with their promises of rank and dreams of monetary gain and glory in the Continental Army arrived with letters of commissions freely given out by American emissaries in Paris.
On July 4, 1777, America celebrated the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence to the joy of patriots and the disdain of loyalists. The Continental Congress’ and the Continental Army’s troubles escalated into a never ending series of events that would test George Washington, his officers and troops’ skills, patience, and endurance. The British Army, divided by the desires of their commander-in-chief General Sir William Howe, Howe’s subordinates Generals John Burgoyne, Henry Clinton, and Guy Carlton, were in no better condition.
General John Burgoyne began his long march from Montreal with an army of 8,000 troops, Native Americans, camp followers, and some loyalist militia with the goal to ultimately take Albany, New York and cutoff New England from the other colonies.
He expected his commander-in-chief to rendezvous with him, but William Howe had other ideas: take Philadelphia, the capital of the American government by loading 18,000 British and Hessian troops and 5,000 camp followers on board his brother, Admiral Richard Howe’s ships, sail up the Chesapeake, and march to Philadelphia. Many of his officers worried their destination was south and about the misery of the approaching heat while they rocked on the waves, some for as long as three agonizing weeks while the embarkation took place.
On July 6, American held Fort Ticonderoga situated on the southern tip of Lake Champlain fell to Burgoyne’s army without a fight. Subsequently, other American strong holds fell like dominoes in the following days: Fort Anne, Fort Edward, Skenesborough, and Hubbardton in the New Hampshire Grants. The fall of Ticonderoga generated shock waves in England and America. Its exaggerated importance as the key to the continent produced despair in Philadelphia and jubilation in Whitehall, England.
When the news reached London, King George III was rumored to have rushed into the Queen’s chambers exclaiming, “I have beat them! I have beat all the Americans!”
William Howe’s second-in-command, General Henry Clinton, returned from England on July 5 and warned him that the British secretary of state to the colonies, Lord George Germain expected William to rendezvous with Burgoyne’s army in Albany. The ever torpid and stubborn Howe ignored Clinton’s reminders, as the two were longtime rivals. Thus, William, keeping his plans a secret from his officers except Richard, continued to embark his troops onto ships. Clinton feared that the 7,500 troops planned to remain in New York under his command would succumb to an easy rebel defeat and was too small to assist Burgoyne’s army without leaving New York vulnerable.
Meanwhile, Congress was grappling with decisions on what to do with the influx of French officers arriving to demand the fulfillment of agreements doled out to them by the American emissaries were fulfilled. One such officer, who had already approached Congress, was French General Philippe du Coudray, a proclaimed specialist in artillery and engineering. General du Coudray arrived in June to claim his position to replace General Henry Knox as commander of the army’s Artillery corps.
As a result, Generals Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, and John Sullivan submitted their letters of resignation. The letters were read aloud in Congress the first week in July. The letters were seen by congress as “an attempt to influence our decisions and an invasion of the liberties of the people, and indicating a want of confidence in the justice of Congress.” They directed Washington to accept the generals’ resignations if they could not serve their country under the authority of Congress.
General Nathanael Greene
General John Sullivan
General Henry Knox
On July 11, after hearing the news of the defeat at Fort Ticonderoga, Washington moved his army from Morristown, New Jersey near the New Jersey-New York border until William Howe’s intentions became clear. This left New Jersey open for Howe to march overland to the Delaware River, but Howe’s attention was already turned to the Chesapeake. Washington spread out the Continental Army to watch the Hudson River, the Delaware River, New Jersey, and the Hudson Highlands at Peekskill and West Point.
General Howe’s experienced officers felt anxiety over where they were going while awaiting their embarkation. Colonel Carl von Donop, commander of the brigade of Hessian grenadiers, jotted down his thoughts in the middle of July: “God knows where we shall go south or north, but the heat which is beginning to make itself felt with the approach of the dog-days makes one wish that the general would choose north rather than south.”
But the rotund pompous General James Grant, who spent seven years as governor of East Florida and led the feint near the Red Lyon Inn during the Battle of Long Island, offered a different opinion. “The most intelligent are wide of the mark from a mistaken idea of climate which is the same all over America in the months of July and August. During that time the heats are as great at Boston as at St. Augustine.”
During this time, American General Philip Schuyler, in command of the Northern Army engaged with Burgoyne’s army, appealed to New York state officials for more troops. His appeal fell on deaf ears. Washington, however, was listening and he sent General John Nixon with 600 Massachusetts Continentals, and later instructed General Israel Putnam to send “four of the strongest Massachusetts regiments to proceed immediately to Albany.” George Washington, after writing to Congress, also sent General Benedict Arnold and Benjamin Lincoln to contend with Burgoyne’s movements. Arnold requested Colonel Daniel Morgan and his regiment of riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, called Morgan’s Rifles, to aide him.
After three weeks of embarking his army onto ships, General William Howe and his brother, Richard, set sail for the Chesapeake on July 23. Washington was still unaware of their destination.
On July 27, the French officers, among them the nineteen-year-old Marquis De Lafayette,
arrived in Philadelphia after a 650 mile trip from Charleston, South Carolina. The sick and bedraggled Frenchmen arrived only to have John Hancock, Robert Morris, and James Lovell shuffle them around until they were finally told they were not needed and to go home. But Lafayette had sent a letter to Congress who read it, overturned their decision and allowed Lafayette to stay under a modified agreement which gave Lafayette the major general commission Silas Deane had promised.
On the domestic front in Braintree, Massachusetts, Abigail Adams was expecting a child in July. Her husband, John, was away at Congress. She wanted him home in time for her delivery and longed for his soothing tenderness. On a night in early July, she was taken with a “shaking fit” and feared the life within her was lost.
Two weeks later, after several days of labor she wrote to John that she had given birth to a stillborn baby girl.
“It appeared to be a very fine babe, and as it never opened its eyes in this world, it looked as though they were only closed for sleep.”
I chose to write about this month because I’m writing about it in my work in progress, the third book in my series, Angels and Patriots. Of course, the events were much more complicated emotionally, physically, and intellectually which I have tried to convey in my book. I’ve written about two and a half years of the Revolutionary War thus far in my series and this one month exhausted even me.
I chose to share that exhaustion.
Pancake, John S. 1777 The University of Alabama Press, 1997. Print.
Auricchio, Laura. The Marquis Lafayette Reconsidered New York: Penguin Random House, 2014. Print.
O’Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson. The Men Who Lost America New Haven & London Yale University Press, 2013. Print.
Puls, Mark. Henry Knox Visionary General of the American Revolution Palgrave McMillian New York, 2008. Print.
Snow, Dean. 1777 Tipping Point at Saratoga Oxford University Press New York, 2016. Print.
Harris, Michael C. Brandywine Savas Beatie LLC El Dorado Hills, California 2017. Print.
Philbrick, Nathaniel. Valiant Ambition Penguin Books New York, 2016. Print.
McCullough, David, John Adams Simon & Schuster New York 2001. Print.
My award-winning historical fantasy book series:
Angels & Patriots Book One. Sons of Liberty, Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill is available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle eBook, or read for free on Kindle Unlimited. Angels & Patriots Book One
Angels & Patriots Book Two. The Cause of 1776 is available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle eBook, or read for free on Kindle Unlimited. Angels & Patriots Book Two
John Hancock was raised by his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Lydia Hancock, after his father died when John was a boy of seven.
John Adams was the defense lawyer for the British soldiers who were put on trial for the Boston Massacre. The soldiers were acquitted.
Dr. Joseph Warren became the situational leader of the patriotic cause. He dispatched Paul Revere and William Dawes to spread the alarm that the British were on the move the night of April 18, 1775.
Samuel Adams was the leader of the early American rebellion. He was uninterested in money. He failed as a tax collector and neglected his father’s brewery.
Paul Revere rode to spread the alarm and deliver news for the Massachusetts Provincial Congress throughout New England on many, many occasions other than the night of April 18, 1775.
Dr. Benjamin Church, a trusted compatriot of the Sons of Liberty, was a spy for British General Thomas Gage.
Benedict Arnold donated $500 to the education of Dr. Joseph Warren’s children after Warren died at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Israel Putnam was the leader of the Connecticut branch of the Sons of Liberty.
Dr. Samuel Prescott was the man who carried the alarm to Concord that the British were on the move, after Paul Revere and William Dawes were detained by a British patrol in the early morning hours of April 19, 1775.
Abigail Adams urged her husband, John, to take women’s rights into consideration if and when the colonies gained independence. “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment [promote] a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
Dr. Joseph Warren is an important character in my award-winning historical fantasy novel Angels & Patriots Book One. Sons of Liberty, Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill Available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook.