John Adams’ and Joseph Warren’s Last Correspondence

John Adams in a letter to John Winthrop following the Battle of Bunker Hill:

 Alass poor Warren! …. For God Sake my Friend let us be upon our Guard, against too much Admiration of our greatest Friends. President of the Congress, Chairman of the Committee of Safety, Major General ….. was too much for Mortal, and This Accumulation of Admiration upon one Gentleman, which among the Hebrews was called Idolatry….”

 As I turn my attention to the second novel in my series Angels & Patriots, I’m allowing another look at the object of my affection and an important character in Angels & Patriots Book One: Dr. Joseph Warren. (Of course, I have yet to write about the discovery and identification of his remains, his funeral and second burial, and his orphaned and destitute children.)

I began the second book with the resources I already had and I stumbled across the last letter Joseph Warren wrote to John Adams.

 To John Adams from Joseph Warren, 20 May 1775

Cambridge May. 20th. 1775

Dear Sir

Having wrote fully upon several Subjects to Mr. Hancock and Mr. Adams, upon several Matters which they will communicate to you,1 I can only add here that I Yesterday heard from your Family at Braintree were all in Health. A person having brought me a Letter from your Lady to me recommending one of your Brothers to be a Major in one of the Regiments, I am sorry the Letter did not arrive sooner, but I shall do all in my Power to obtain such a place for him yet, as he is the Brother of my Friend, and I hear is a worthy Man.2 I am Dear Sir most sincerely, Your Friend & Humble Servt.   

Joseph Warren

In discovering Joseph Warren’s last letter to John Adams, I also found the following letter. It moved me greatly when I realized that John, at the writing of his letter, didn’t know Joseph’s mutilated body had been lying on Breed’s Hill for four days, in a shallow grave with a farmer. I felt genuine sorrow for John Adams.

John entrusted George Washington to deliver the letter to Joseph. Washington delivered the letter to the man who was elected to fill Joseph’s shoes as the president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, James Warren (no relation to Joseph Warren).

When he received the letter, James Warren read the letter aloud to the congressional members.

From John Adams to Joseph Warren, 21 June 1775

 Phyladelphia June 21. 1775

Dr Sir

This Letter I presume will be delivered into your own Hand by the General. He proposes to set out, tomorrow, for your Camp. God Speed him. Lee is, Second Major General, Schuyler, who is to command at N. York is the third and Putnam the fourth. How many Brigadiers general we shall have, whether five, Seven or Eight, is not determined, nor who they shall be. One from N. Hampshire, one from R. Island, two from Connecticutt, one from N. York, and three from Massachusetts, perhaps.1

I am almost impatient to be at Cambridge. We shall maintain a good Army for you. I expect to hear of Grumbletonians, some from parcimonious and others from Superstitious Prejudices. But We do the best we can, and leave the Event.

How do you like your Government? Does it make or remove Difficulties? I wish We were nearer to you.

The Tories lie very low both here and at New York. The latter will very soon be as deep as any Colony.

We have Major Skeene a Prisoner, enlarged a little on his Parol—a very great Tool.2 I hope Govr Tryon, will be taken care of.3 But We find a great many Bundles of weak Nerves. We are obliged to be as delicate and soft and modest and humble as possible. Pray Stir up every Man, who has a Quill to write me. We want to know the Number of your Army—A List of your officers—a State of your Government—the Distresses of Boston—the Condition of the Enemy &c. I am, Dr sir your Friend, 

John Adams

 We have all recommended Billy Tudor for a secretary to the General. Will he make a good one? This moment informed of Powder arrived here, 500 Blls they say. We must send it along to you.


Forman, Samuel A.  Dr. Joseph Warren, The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty.  2012:  Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, Louisiana.

“To John Adams from Joseph Warren, 20 May 1775,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 3, May 1775 – January 1776, ed. Robert J. Taylor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979, p. 10.]

“From John Adams to Joseph Warren, 21 June 1775,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 3, May 1775 – January 1776, ed. Robert J. Taylor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979, pp. 44–45.]

Dr. Joseph Warren is an important character in my historical fantasy novel Angels & Patriots Book One. Buy it today on Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook. Angels & Patriots Book One

Happy 276th Birthday, Dr. Joseph Warren!

“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.

Dr. Joseph Warren

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, he 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.

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.

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.


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.” [1]

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.” [2]

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.)

Elizabeth Hooton Warren

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.[4] 

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 fiance 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”. [3] 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.

Margaret Gage

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.

Battle of 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.; Revolutionary War Journal 2017

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

Painting of Margaret Gage in the Turquerie style, circa 1771, by John Singleton Copley. Timken Museum of Art in San Diego, California.

Image of the Battle of Bunker Hill by Winthrop Chandler, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

[1] (Frothingham, pg 19)


[3] (Forman, pg 191)

[4] (Forman, pg 183)

Dr. Joseph Warren is an important character in my novel Angels & Patriots Book One. Buy it today on Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook. Angels & Patriots Book One

Lexington and Concord: The Last Days Leading up to a Revolution, Part 2

The violences committed by those who have take up arms in Massachusetts Bay have appeared to me as the acts of a rude Rabble without plan, without concert, & without conduct, and therefore I think that smaller Force now, if put to the Test, would be able to encounter them with greater probability of Success….. 

….In this view of the situation of the King’s affairs, it is the opinion of the King’s servants, in which his Majesty concurs, that the essential step to be taken toward reestablishing government would be to arrest and imprison the principle actors and abettors in the Provincial Congress (whose proceedings appear in every light to be acts of treason….

~~Lord Dartmouth to General Thomas Gage, about April 16, 1775

lord dartmouth

The Earl of Dartmouth
Secretary of State for the Colonies 1772 – 1775

This was part of Lord Dartmouth’s long awaited, cross-Atlantic response to General Gage’s admonishments, which he had written to Lord Dartmouth in late January 1775, on how to handle the rebellious acts of the colonists. Those defiant acts were seemingly endless: the illegal proceedings of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and the Continental Congress, the Suffolk Resolves, smuggling, seizures of powder and munitions, and threats to march into Boston “like locusts and rid the town of every soldier.” (Philbrick quoting Rev. John Andrews, pg 71)

thomas gage

General Thomas Gage
Royal Governor of Massachusetts 1774 – 1775

General Gage did not consider himself a royalist, but part of his advice to Dartmouth was something he believed the King wanted to hear:

“It’s the opinion of most People, if a respectable Force is seen in the Field, the most obnoxious of the Leaders seized, and a Pardon proclaimed for all other’s, that Government will come off Victorious, and with less Opposition than was expected a few Months ago.”

By the time Lord Dartmouth’s lengthy letter of advice reached Thomas Gage, tempers among the British ministry, the loyalists, and the patriots in Massachusetts had simmered down. In fact at this point, there was growing discord among the patriots’ own ranks, rooted in a misguided optimism that once King George III saw for himself that his ministers had misled him, the king would withdrawal his troops and the demand for unfair taxes would withdraw with them, leaving New England free. That optimism was founded in the colonists’ previous experiences with protests and the king’s withdrawal of the transgressions.

If Gage had chosen to do nothing in response to Dartmouth’s letter that spring, the patriots may have had a difficult time maintaining a united front. Ironically, Dartmouth’s letter, based on information and instructions months old, arrived around the same time Gage was receiving valuable information from his British spies. Those things came together to lead Gage to make a series of decisions that would change the course of history.

Just as ironically, one of Thomas Gage’s spies was a trusted colleague among the members of the Sons of Liberty and the Provincial Congress: Dr. Benjamin Church.

benjamin church

Dr. Benjamin Church

When it came to rebel secrets and plotting; only Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Joseph Warren were more involved than Benjamin Church. But Benjamin had an expensive mistress, and spying brought the ready cash he needed to please her. He had no qualms about betraying his fellow patriots in exchange for the means to pay for the treasures that lay between the legs of his mistress, Phoebe Yates.

Church, among other spies, assured Gage there was a stockpile of provincial armaments located in Concord. Instead of taking Dartmouth’s advice to arrest the leaders of the Provincial Congress, Thomas Gage focused on securing and destroying the rebel military stores in Concord.


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.

 Dr. Joseph Warren is an important character in my novel Angels & Patriots Book One. Buy it today on Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook. Angels & Patriots Book One

Lexington and Concord: The Last Days Leading up to a Revolution

On April 11, 1775, five days before Lord Dartmouth’s long awaited orders on how to deal with the rebels reached General Thomas Gage via the HMS Falcon, the general’s clandestine patriot informer noted, “A sudden blow struck now or immediately upon the arrival of reinforcements from England would cripple all the rebels’ plans.”

But despite this warning, the rebels already had plans.

The members of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and their president, John Hancock, feared that the sudden rapid decay between England and America would thrust them into war. All those in attendance, including Samuel Adams and Dr. Joseph Warren, recognized the portent and the need for preparedness.

The Committee of Safety put a military command structure in place, incorporating existing militia companies and regiments, and their officers. They promoted six men, of various military abilities, to generals, and tasked them with tightening the local militias in Cambridge and Watertown and Roxbury into a well-trained fighting force.

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Joseph Warren had a rebel intelligence network of tradesmen and skilled workers who frequented the Green Dragon and other Boston taverns. These members of the Sons of Liberty noted British troop movements, ship arrivals and departures, and anything out of the ordinary.

On April 7, the rebels observed longboats being moored under the sterns of British men-of-war in Boston harbor for ready access and concluded that an attack somewhere was imminent. The next day, Paul Revere saddled up to carry a message of alarm to Concord given the stockpiles of munitions and supplies located there, and to the the Committee of Safety of the Provincial Congress, which was now adjourned in Concord.

Joseph Warren did not attend the Committee of Safety sessions held in Concord after April 8. The committee had already laid plans for a watch and couriers to alarm the countryside of suspicious British army movement, and he was well-versed in those plans.

By this time, it was obvious to both John Hancock and Samuel Adams that things had deteriorated with the British to the point that it was not safe for them to return to Boston before setting out for Philadelphia and the Second Continental Congress scheduled to convene on May 10.

john hancock seated

John managed to get word to his aunt, Lydia Hancock, his fiancee, Dorothy Quincy, and his young clerk, John Howell, to leave Boston and refugee to Reverend Jonas Clarke’s house in Lexington. John was very familiar with the Clarke house. It was from that house that he had been spirited away, as a seven-year-old boy, by his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Lydia Hancock, to be raised in the world of Boston business.

samuel adams

Samuel’s wife, Betsy, left their house on Purchase Street in Boston and went to stay in the home of her father in Cambridge. Samuel’s nineteen-year-old daughter, Hannah, his child with his deceased wife, Elizabeth, joined Betsy in Cambridge.


During this time, the widowed Dr. Joseph Warren was making arrangements to refugee his children and their nanny, Mercy Scollay, out of Boston. It is unclear exactly what those arrangements were and whether their destination was Roxbury or Worcester. (His children and Mercy Scollay did eventually refugee to Worcester to the home of Joseph’s colleague Dr. Elijah Dix).

In the meantime, Joseph continued to tend to his patients in Boston, but his friends were concerned for his safety. The young handsome doctor was well-known and very recognizable.


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.

Forman, Samuel A. Dr. Joseph Warren The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty Gretna, Pelican Publishing, Inc, 2012. Print.

Dr. Joseph Warren is an important character in my novel Angels & Patriots Book One. Buy it today on Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook. Angels & Patriots Book One