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The patriots commemorated the anniversaries of the Boston Massacre, a bloody conflict that took place near the State House on March 5, 1770, between the citizens of Boston and British soldiers in which five civilians died. Hear the story of the circumstances surrounding Dr. Joseph Warren’s 1775 oration on the event.
The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on the Charlestown peninsula north of Boston on June 17, 1775. The peninsula was the original objective of both the colonial and British troops. Hear the story of Dr. Joseph Warren’s part in that pyrrhic battle.
After the Siege of Boston ended in March 1776 and the British withdrew, Dr. Joseph Warren’s remains were recovered from the Charlestown peninsula where he was hastily buried after the Battle of Bunker Hill. Hear the story of his honorable obsequies.
The Billop House on Staten Island was the site of a peace conference between British Admiral Lord Richard Howe, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams during the Revolutionary War in September 1776. Hear the story of what transpired.
The Battle of White Plains in New York was fought between General George Washington’s Continental Army and General William Howe’s British and Hessian armies on October 28, 1776. Hear the story of this important battle.
“On the 17th of June, my father was again called from Salem by the sound of the firing of cannon, and by the flames of Charlestown. I well recollect the pathetic and glowing description he gave me…of his lonely march on that night.” ~~ Dr. Edward Warren writing about his father, Dr. John Warren’s journey after the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Twenty-two-year-old John Warren tried to pass the British sentries guarding the Charlestown peninsula to search for his missing oldest brother, Dr. Joseph Warren, who held a major general commission at the time of the battle. John’s pleas were answered with a bayonet to the chest. He bore the physical scar of grief for the rest of his life.
From John’s own account of his overwhelming anxiety:
“Accordingly, in the morning about two o’clock, I prepared myself, and went off on horseback, and when I arrived at Medford, received the melancholy and distressing tidings that my brother was missing. Upon this dreadful intelligence I went immediately to Cambridge, and inquired of almost every person I saw whether they could give me any information of him [Joseph]. Some told me he was undoubtedly alive and well, others, that he was wounded; and others, that he fell on the field.
“This perplexed me almost to distraction. I went on inquiring, with a solicitude which was such a mixture of hope and fear, as none but one who has felt it can form any conception of. In this manner I passed several days, every days’ information diminishing the probability of his safety.”
At that time, it was impossible to reconcile what happened during the fierce and confused melee of the battle. Who was involved and the circumstances where not clear. That the British obtained possession of the ground was all that could be known.
But the extreme distress and susceptibility of John Warren’s state of mind was evident in the young doctor’s journal entries. His indignation was directed at the British ministries and not the king himself. He writes of Joseph’s death as if it were murder, and of Joseph’s four young orphaned children.
“Unfeeling wretches! reflect a moment, if you have still one feature of humanity which is obliterated from your minds, and view the helpless orphan bereft of its fond and only parent, stript of every comfort of life, driven into an inhospitable wild, and exposed to all the misery which is the result of your brutal violence.”
The siege of Boston came to an end nine months later, on March 17, 1776. In late March, John and his older brother, Eben, walked the theater where the scene of the bloody battle had been acted on Breed’s Hill. Perhaps, Paul Revere, Joseph’s close friend, was with the Warren brothers as they searched the hillocks under which the remains of dead heroes laid.** It is said that an Englishman claimed to have witnessed Joseph’s hasty burial in the shallow grave he shared with a farmer.
What is certain is that Paul fashioned a false tooth with a wire for Joseph before his death. This piece of forensic clue did not surface until some years later as evidence that it was used to identify the badly decomposed remains. Joseph Warren’s unborn nephew would decades later specify that the body was recognized “from the circumstance that the left upper eye-tooth, had been secured in its place by a golden wire.” There were also rumors of disrespect to his body after he was slain: mutilated by British bayonets, stripped of his beautiful wedding suit, and decapitated.
Joseph’s remains lay in state at the Massachusetts Provincial State House in Boston for three days. The outbreak of the Revolutionary War dispersed the Masons, many of whom belonged to the British army; but on the discovery of Joseph’s remains, they returned to give their late Grand Master of the “Ancient Lodge” (St. Andrew’s) the burial he was due. On April 8, 1776, a large and respectable number of the masonic brethren, with their late grand officers, assembled to attend his obsequies, and followed in procession from the State House to the Stone Chapel (King’s Chapel).
One prominent mason was unable to attend the service. The merchant, John Rowe, had questionable patriotic political leanings and was the Grand Master of the “Grand Lodge” (St John’s). He wrote in his journal “I went by invitation…to attend the funeral of the remains of Dr. Warren.” When Rowe came to walk in procession with the lodges under his jurisdiction with their proper jewels and clothing, he was to his great mortification “very much insulted by some furious and hot persons without the least provocation.” One of his fellow masons thought it most prudent that he retire. That evening, Rowe was plagued by “some uneasy reflections in my mind as I am not conscious to myself of doing anything prejudicial to the cause of America either by will or deed.”
The names of all those who attended Joseph’s funeral in King’s Chapel are unclear. Members of the St. Andrew’s Masonic Lodge and deputy Grand Master Joseph Webb, Paul Revere, Rev Dr. Samuel Cooper, and probably Dr. John Warren were in attendance. Whether Joseph’s mother, Mary, or his children, or his fiancee at the time of his death, Mercy Scollay, attended are not known. Boston was in an uproar at the time because the British had just evacuated, therefore, a good account of the attendees was not recorded.
Joseph’s eulogy was delivered by young lawyer, Perez Morton. Morton met Joseph as a minor official on the Massachusetts Provincial Committee of Safety during the early months of the Siege of Boston. Morton’s eulogy of Warren, delivered under Masonic auspices, was well received at the time. It was a notable example of oratorical eloquence and public advocacy in favor of Independence from Great Britain. The eulogy was reprinted well into the 19th century along with collections of the Boston Massacre orations.
Morton’s conclusion of Joseph’s eulogy:
“We will assert the Blood of our murdered Hero against thy hostile Oppressions, O shameless Britain! and when “thy Cloud-cap’d Towers, thy gorgeous Palaces” shall by the Teeth of Pride and Folly be levell’d with the Dust—and when thy Glory shall have faded like the Western Sunbeam—the Name and the Virtues of WARREN shall remain immortal.”
Joseph’s casket was taken in funeral procession for interment at the Granary Cemetery. The Minot family offered their family’s plot since the Warren family did not have one in Boston. His remains would lie in the tomb, lost to posterity for fifty years until his nephew, John C. Warren, after much research, identified the body’s whereabouts. Joseph was reburied two more times.
*St. Paul’s Church in Boston in 1825
*Forest Hills Cemetery in Roxbury, MA (Jamaica Plains) August 8, 1856
Statue of Joseph Warren erected on his family grave site by the 6th Masonic District October 2016
Warren family grave site in Forest Hills Cemetery
The Tory Peter Oliver’s January 1776 newspaper address to rebelling colonists cited Joseph Warren’s grisly end as just desserts for a scheming social climber and recklessly ambitious rebel against the king’s authority. In 1782, Oliver was quoted as saying, “Had Warren lived George Washington would have been ‘an obscurity.’ “
*The blog post painting is by John Trumbull, The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, 17 June, 1775. (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Joseph Warren is the man in white lying on the ground in the forefront of the painting. A man is protecting him as he dies, but Joseph was shot in the face during the waning moments of the battle, therefore, his death would have been instantaneous.
*The pictures of Joseph’s grave site on Mount Warren at Forest Hills Cemetery are from my camera.
**Some sources definitely place Paul Revere at the recovery of Joseph’s remains. Others do not, such as Joseph’s contemporary biographers.
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
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.
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.
Rally the boys! Hasten the chiefs! Our Warren’s there and bold Revere. With hands to do, and words to cheer!
And Warren was there. You just had to look a little harder to find him.
My seven day return trip to Boston was a pilgrimage I’m sure few people take. At the time, I was writing the first book in my Historical Fantasy series about the American Revolution, “Angels and Patriots Book One, Sons of Liberty, Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill” in which Warren is an important character. My husband and I were determined to find evidence that Dr. Joseph Warren was indeed still in and around Boston.
Green Dragon Tavern. The Sons of Liberty regularly met here. This isn’t the original tavern or site which was located in the North End in the mid-1700’s. Aside from the back bar, he was listed on the menu with his fellows, who each had a menu item. We ate and drank at the tavern four nights.
Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The museum is massive. It was no easy feat finding the gallery where John Singleton Copley’s paintings hung. The painting of Joseph Warren hung on a wall between the paintings of John Hancock and Mercy Otis Warren. Copley’s paintings of Samuel Adams and Paul Revere were also in the gallery. The paintings are almost life-size and breathtaking!
We found John Trumbull’s painting of The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775 in a different gallery. It was small and somewhat faded and hung out of the reach of tourists.
The State House. Joseph was mentioned in a small exhibit on the second floor. What looks like a hacksaw to the right behind the sword’s tip is a doctor’s bone saw. In April 1776, his remains laid in state here until his funeral at King’s Chapel (the Stone Chapel) on April 8.
The Old South Meeting House. Joseph delivered two Boston Massacre Orations in the meeting house. One in 1772, and one in 1775. This was where the patriots met to build a revolution. To my dismay, the Plexiglas in which his likeness and achievements is etched, reflected light (even without a flash) and the camera shot was impossible to see. This is the pulpit (today) from which he gave his oration.
King’s Chapel. After the Siege of Boston ended in March 1776, Joseph’s remains were identified and removed from Bunker Hill. The Freemasons made the arrangements for their Grand Master’s funeral, which was held in King’s Chapel in the heart of Boston.
Boston City Hall Plaza. The house where Joseph lived with his family and his medical apprentices was once located here. It’s recently been in the news. Joseph’s biographer, Dr. Samuel Forman, and others are intent on erecting a monument on the grounds proclaiming that this was the spot where the Revolutionary War began because Joseph dispatched Revere and Dawes to Lexington from his house. This is a view of the plaza (where the event tents are) from the Bell in Hand tavern across the street. The WWII Holocaust Memorial is the green glass between the two locations.
Bunker Hill. Dr. Joseph Warren and Colonel William Prescott are the only names on the Massachusetts Gate. While my husband climbed the monument, I sat inside the adjoining building and watched the tourists largely dismiss the seven foot tall statue of Joseph’s likeness, which commanded the attention in the sparse room. It saddened me to witness how obscure he really is.
Warren Tavern. Located a few blocks from the Bunker Hill monument, the tavern, named for him, dates to 1780 and is dedicated wholly to all things Joseph Warren. Of course he was never there, but the tavern was a favorite watering hole for his close friend, Paul Revere. We visited Bunker Hill and ate at Warren Tavern on my birthday.
The Clarke-Hancock House in Lexington. Joseph dispatched Paul Revere and William Dawes to this house to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British regulars were out to possibly arrest Hancock and Adams, who were hiding out there. We were the only tourists there at the time.
Harvard. Of the three buildings that made up the Harvard campus when Joseph attended from 1755 to 1759, only one original building is still standing — his dormitory, Massachusetts Hall. Washington housed his army in the dormitory in 1775 – 1776.
The Roxbury Latin School. We didn’t visit the school where Joseph was a student and later a teacher after graduating from Harvard. There is a statue of him in the school’s courtyard that was once located in Warren Square in his childhood town of Roxbury. The General Joseph Warren Society contributes to the school’s annual fund. This picture is from the school’s website.
Grand Lodge of Masons of Massachusetts. We didn’t visit the masonic lodge, that houses a museum, because we arrived after it closed and it was our last day in Boston. We will visit next time and look for Grand Master Joseph Warren.
Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plains, MA. Perhaps, if Joseph remains hadn’t been moved from Granary Burying Ground in Boston, where some of his fellows are buried, like Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, and a place thousands of tourists visit daily, history may not have forgotten him. But the magnificent beauty of Forest Hills Cemetery where he’s buried changed my mind. As soon as I saw the cemetery gates, I knew he belonged there. The cemetery is expansive and magnificent: full of beautiful gravestones, monuments, statues, and gracefully curving roads. Forest Hills Cemetery
The road where his burial site is located is called Mount Warren.
Joseph’s remains are buried in a joint family plot with his paternal grandmother, Deborah Warren; his mother and father, Mary and Joseph Warren; his oldest son, Joseph; his youngest brother, Dr. John Warren; and John’s son also named John. A glacial boulder selected by the Warren family serves as a giant tombstone. The remains of each person, appears that at one time, they were buried in their own grave. Except for Joseph’s, it appears that the original tombstones surround the boulder.
A statue of Joseph stands atop the boulder. The statue was erected on October 22, 2016 by the 6th Masonic District that hosted a ceremony where their Grand Master dedicated a new memorial to “the namesake of our Distinguished Service Medal, M.W. Joseph Warren” in conjunction with members of the Warren family. The flags on his grave site are new, so someone is visiting.
Statue of Joseph Warren erected on his family grave site by the 6th Masonic District October 2016
Warren family grave site in Forest Hills Cemetery
Men Joseph knew if life, General William Heath and William Dawes are also buried in Forest Hills.
Vine Lake Cemetery. We traveled to Medfield, MA to visit the grave of the woman who was nanny to Joseph’s four children and assumed to be his fiancé at the time of his death: Mercy Scollay. My husband gathered acorns from the ground around Joseph’s grave site and placed them on Mercy’s grave. The inscription on her gravestone read:
I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.
Mercy lived another 50 years after Joseph’s devastating death. She never married.
This was the last picture I took in Boston the evening before we left. Faneuil Hall is the brick building to the left. Samuel Adams’ statue is in the mall in front. Faneuil Hall was only two stories high during Joseph’s time.
Dr. Joseph Warren is an important character in my award-winning historical fantasy series Angels & Patriots Book One. Sons of Liberty, Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill Available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook.