Joseph Warren Biography

Joseph Warren, a Harvard graduate and prominent American physician, played a crucial role in the American Revolution. Known for his involvement in Patriot organizations in Boston, he became President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and a respected leader in Masonic lodges. Warren gained recognition for his role in sending Paul Revere and William Dawes on their famous ‘Midnight Rides’ to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock about the British troops’ mobilization. Despite holding the rank of major, he selflessly volunteered to fight as a private at Breed’s Hill, where he tragically lost his life while protecting retreating colonist militia. His death became a symbol of sacrifice, inspiring countless revolutionary soldiers.

Quick Facts

  • Died At Age: 34
  • Family: Spouse/Ex-: Elizabeth Hooten (m. 1764–1772), father: Joseph Warren, mother: Mary Warren, siblings: John Warren, children: Elizabeth Warren, Joseph Warren, Mary Warren, Richard Warren
  • Born Country: United States
  • Physicians
  • Military Leaders
  • Died on: June 17, 1775
  • Place of death: Charlestown, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • Cause of Death: Killed In Action
  • City: Boston
  • U.S. State: Massachusetts
  • More Facts
  • Education: Harvard College

Childhood & Early Life

Joseph Warren was born on June 11, 1741, in Roxbury, Province of Massachusetts Bay, a colony in British America. His parents were Joseph, a respected apple farmer, and Mary Warren. He was the eldest child of his parents. Tragically, when he was 14 years old, his father died after falling from a ladder while gathering fruits in his orchard.

Education and Early Career

Joseph Warren attended Roxbury Latin School before enrolling at Harvard College. He obtained his Master of Arts degree in 1759. After graduating, he apprenticed with James Lloyd, a leading doctor in London and Boston. He also taught for a year at Roxbury Latin.

Medical Career & Politics

During the 1763 smallpox epidemic, Joseph Warren practiced medicine and surgery in Boston. He gained a reputation for successfully reducing deaths through his inoculation hospital at Castle William in Boston Harbor. His patients included influential people such as John Adams, Thomas Hutchinson, Paul Revere, and William Dawes.

As his contacts among the Boston leaders expanded, Joseph Warren became involved in political activism. He wrote about the 1765 Stamp Act and became associated with Samuel Adams’s group, the “Sons of Liberty.” He wrote an incendiary newspaper essay under the pseudonym “A True Patriot” in 1768, which led to attempts by Royal officials to put his publishers on trial.

Joseph Warren also joined the Scottish Rite Freemasonry and held the position of “Grand Master of Masons of Boston, New England, and within one hundred miles of same” in 1769. In 1772, he was appointed “Grand Master of Masons for the Continent of America” by the Earl of Dumfries, the Grand Master of Scotland.

He played a role in the investigation of the Boston Massacre and was appointed to the Boston Committee of Correspondence. He also wrote and published the song “Free America” in 1774, which gained popularity in colonial newspapers. In September of that year, he introduced the first draft of the Suffolk Resolves, calling for a boycott of British imports.

Military Career & Death

In April 1775, Joseph Warren played a crucial role in alerting Samuel Adams and John Hancock about the British troops’ movements. He sent William Dawes and Paul Revere to ride to Lexington to warn them. On April 19, as the British troops retreated from the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Joseph Warren coordinated the local militia in harassing them.

Joseph Warren was elected as the president of the Third Provincial Congress on May 31, 1775. He played a significant role in recruiting soldiers for the Siege of Boston. He was appointed a major general on June 14, 1775, but declined requests to serve as a commander, believing he had less military experience. Instead, he fought as a private defending Breed’s Hill.

During the final assault on June 17, 1775, Joseph Warren fought with the cover force until the last bullet, buying time for the retreating militia. He was killed by a musket ball that went through his skull, causing instant death. His body was disfigured with bayonets and dumped into a shallow ditch.

Personal Life & Legacy

Joseph Warren married Elizabeth Hooten in 1764, and they had four children together. After her death in 1773, he got engaged to Mercy Scollay, who took care of his children during the Siege of Boston and after his death.

Joseph Warren’s death has been immortalized in John Trumbull’s painting “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775.” He has been honored with statues, the naming of Fort Warren on George’s Island, and the naming of counties, townships, ships, roads, and streets. He has also been portrayed in films and TV series.

Trivia

There were rumors that Joseph Warren had a highly placed informant, possibly Margaret Kemble Gage, wife of General Thomas Gage, who leaked information about the arrests of Samuel Adams and John Hancock. However, modern scholars largely agree that she never conspired against the British.

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