Joseph Warren and Benedict Arnold – An Alliance

What did the American Revolution’s first martyr and the American Revolution’s most infamous traitor have in common that was so important?

Dr. Joseph Warren was an influential and ubiquitous Boston physician, Son of Liberty, masonic grand master, and in the absence of John Hancock, pro tempore president (Joseph would be voted president on May 2, 1775) of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and member of its sub-committees when he and Benedict Arnold met in Cambridge, Massachusetts in late April 1775.

Joseph
Dr. Joseph Warren

Joseph, who sent Paul Revere and William Dawes on their famous midnight ride to warn the countryside that General Thomas Gage’s British regulars were on the move to seize patriot arms in Concord and possibly to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams hiding in Lexington, was holding the American rebellion and the provincial army together.

Benedict Arnold was from an influential Connecticut family. His great-grandfather was an early governor of Rhode Island. The family prospered until some poor business deals caused financial problems. Arnold’s father turned to the local taverns for solace. Prior to the Revolution, Benedict was an apothecary and a successful seagoing merchant captain. Some of his business dealings drifted into smuggling . . . in contempt of the customs laws of the Crown.

benedict arnold
Benedict Arnold

Both Joseph and Benedict were born in 1741. They were handsome, charismatic, energetic, ambitious, and both had an indifference to personal safety. Future actions by Benedict with respect to Joseph’s children suggest that the two seemed to have struck up an almost instant friendship, but no details of their personal interactions survive.

In April 1775, Captain Benedict Arnold marched his well-appointed militia unit from New Haven, Connecticut to Cambridge. Benedict approached Joseph and the Committee of Safety with a scheme to take the poorly defended British stronghold of Fort Ticonderoga at the southern end of Lake Champlain where there were “80 pieces of heavy cannon, 20 brass and 4 18-pounders and 10-12 mortars.” This is exactly what the Committee of Safety needed to hear. The provincial army had two experienced artillery officers, but it still did not have a sufficient number of cannons.

Joseph championed the project and shepherded it through the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Benedict was appointed a Massachusetts militia colonel, issued 100 pounds, 200 lbs of gunpowder (a decision that would prove portentous 6 weeks later at Bunker Hill), 200 lbs of lead musket balls, and bayonets.

Joseph proceeded in relative secrecy so British General Thomas Gage might be kept in the dark. Unknown to Joseph and Benedict, the Connecticut governor, John Trumbull, was simultaneously pursuing the same scheme with Ethan Allen.

Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys were equally eager to capture such a prize and the two groups met up with each other at Bennington. Arnold was surprised and angered because Ethan Allen did not care if Arnold had permission from the Committee of Safety and Arnold couldn’t talk Allen out of relinquishing command. Nevertheless, on May 10, 1775, they surprised the British garrison at Ticonderoga and took the fort.

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The Taking of Fort Ticonderoga May 10, 1775

Joseph was one of the first leaders to hear of the expedition’s success. He sent news of Benedict’s success to Governor Trumbull. Joseph glossed over the murky inter-colonial jurisdictional issues and sought to calm ruffle feathers when Benedict’s querulous personality began to reveal itself. Joseph wrote:

Gentlemen, We have the happiness of presenting our congratulations to you on the reduction of that important Fortress Ticonderoga… [We] should be extremely glad if all the battering cannon, especially brass cannon, which can be spared from that place…may be forwarded this way with all possible expedition, as we have here to contend with an army furnished with as fine a train of artillery as ever seen in America; and we are of extreme want of a sufficient number of cannon to fortify those important passes without which we can neither annoy General Gage, if it should become necessary, nor defend ourselves against him…. 

History has given laurels to Henry Knox for leading the epic hauling of Ticonderoga’s artillery across the New England winter landscape of 1775-76 and delivering it to General George Washington in Cambridge, Massachusetts where it was used on Dorchester Heights to break the Siege of Boston. Ignored are Joseph Warren’s, Benedict Arnold’s, Ethan Allen’s, and Governor Trumbull’s conceptualization and early actions that initiated Knox’s campaign and well-deserved success.

With the new rank of major general, Joseph Warren was killed five weeks later at the Battle of Bunker Hill (Breed’s Hill) on June 17, 1775. His was a widower who left four destitute orphaned children behind. Benedict Arnold went on to become a major general in the Continental Army, led an expedition to Quebec City, commanded at Valcour Island, and fought at the Battle of Bemis Heights (the 2nd Battle of Saratoga) where on a borrowed horse named Warren, he stormed the enemy’s Breymann Redoubt and took a shot to the thigh which killed his mount.

By 1780, Benedict had become disgruntled with the Continental Army over back pay among other things. He donated $500 of his own money toward the care of Joseph’s children. It was a move that shamed the delegates of Congress, such as Samuel Adams, who had once been Joseph’s close compatriots and had refused measures to pay for the support of Joseph’s children.

In September of that same year, Benedict Arnold passed off the plans for West Point to British Major John Andre in exchange for an excess of 10,000 pounds and a general’s commission in the British army. The Americans discovered the plot. Benedict successfully escaped and turned. Andre was hung as a spy.

Benedict Arnold became the vilest traitor of the American Revolution. Perhaps it was a mercy that Joseph Warren never knew.

Resources:

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. 2013Penguin Books, New York, NY.

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Valiant Ambition Penguin Books New York, 2016. Print.

https://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/served/arnold.html
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. 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

The Long Stressful July of 1777

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.

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British General John Burgoyne

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.

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King George III

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.

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.”

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General Philip Schuyler

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,

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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.

Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams

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.

Resources:

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