Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Warren, Warren County
Physician and General Joseph Warren was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Warren County is named in his honor.
General and physician Dr. Joseph Warren II was born in 1741 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. After receiving his medical degree from Harvard University, Warren opened up an inoculation clinic for smallpox. In addition to his medicinal involvements, Dr. Warren was a prominent revolutionary who drafted the Suffolk Resolves. Dr. Warren was killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill in June of 1775.
Joseph Warren II was born to Joseph and Mary Warren on June 11, 1741 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The middle-class Warren family had been in New England for 150 years prior to the American Revolution. The young Joseph Warren received exceptional education at the Roxbury Latin School and, at age of 14, enrolled in Harvard University in 1755. He graduated from Harvard with a medical degree in 1759 and practiced medicine under Dr. James Lloyd.
During the smallpox epidemic of 1763, Dr. Warren opened an inoculation clinic in Castle William, Boston Harbor to address the health issues in the greater Boston area. Although Dr. Warren did not meet his contemporary John Adams until he gave him is small pox inoculation in 1764, the two became close friends. Within the same year, Dr. Warren met someone of great significance to him—his wife Elizabeth Hooten, an established woman from a prominent New England family.
Aside from his family life, Dr. Warren’s medical practices foreshadowed his involvement with the revolutionary movement, forcing his contact with both Tories and Whigs. One of his patients, in addition to John Adams, included Thomas Hutchinson, Royal Governor of the colony.
Historian George Wildrick reports that throughout his medical career, Dr. Warren “Learned the value of direct action in providing public service while practicing medicine for a broad spectrum of the citizens of Massachusetts.” Dr. Warren’s direct patient relations provided him with the communication skills necessary to be a successful revolutionary.
Dr. Warren’s political career was catalyzed by his membership to the Freemason society at St. Andrews Lodge. Both the National Park Service and historian John Cary contend that Dr. Warren immersed himself into politics in 1767 upon Great Britain’s passage of the Townsend Acts—a taxing extension imposed on the colonies. Dr. Warren’s reaction to these Acts were directed towards Governor Francis Bernard and published in the Boston Gazette on February 29, 1768 under the alias “A True Patriot.” These remarks published are noted by historians Maryann Smith and Gerald Baldasty.
We can never treat good and patriotic Rulers with too great Reverence—But it is certain that men totally abandoned to Wickedness, can never Merit our Regard, be their Stations ever so high. If such Men are by God appointed, The Devil may be the Lord’s anointed.
Dr. Warren’s provocative reaction to the Townsend Acts promptly established him as a political zealot, attracting attention from both Separatists and Loyalists.
On July 4, 1910, Charles W. Stone gave an address at the unveiling of the Warren Monument in Warren, PA. Stone referenced a Tory pamphleteer who, alluding to Dr. Warren, wrote that “One of our most brawling demagogues and voluminous writers is a crazy doctor,” emphasizing the duality of Dr. Warren’s various impacts—both political and medicinal—during the Revolutionary time period. This anonymous Tory pamphleteer was not alone in the disapproval of Dr. Warren’s comments. Governor Thomas Hutchinson voiced his disapproval of Dr. Warren, writing that “A most infamous libel has been published in one of the papers.”
While the disapproval of Dr. Warren’s political prose escalated, his influence as a Revolutionary amplified. In 1770 he was named Chairman of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety and, two years later, Dr. Warren gave the first of two famous Boston Massacre orations from the Old South Church.
If you, with united zeal and fortitude, oppose the torrent of oppression; if you feel the true fire of patriotism burning in your breasts…if you perform your part, you must have the strongest confidence that THE SAME ALMIGHTY BEING who protected your pious and venerable forefathers, who enabled them to turn a barren wilderness into a fruitful field, who so often made bare his arms for their salvation, will still be mindful of you their offspring.
In an effort to beckon the colonists to action, Dr. Warren’s oration illustrated the unjust and tyrannical behavior of the British.
In 1773, Dr. Warren was granted the title of Grand Master of Masons for the Continent of America. Following this appointment was the unfortunate death of his wife Elizabeth in 1773. Shifting from the sadness of his family life, Dr. Warren was rumored, but never conclusively proven, to have taken part in the Boston Tea Party with fellow Revolutionaries Paul Revere and Benjamin Church.
More significant than Dr. Warren’s assumed role in the Boston Tea Party was his drafting of the Suffolk Resolves 1774; a document which was delivered to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Paul Revere. Throughout this document, Dr. Warren eloquently critiques the relationship that has evolved between Britain and the colonies.
….Whereby the charter of the colony, that sacred barrier against the encroachments of tyranny, is mutilated and, in effect, annihilated; whereby a murderous law is framed to shelter villains from the hands of justice; whereby the unalienable and inestimable inheritance, which we derived from nature, the constitution of Britain, and the privileges warranted to us in the charter of the province, is totally wrecked, annulled, and vacated, posterity will acknowledge that virtue which preserved them free and happy…
Through strong reasoning and sound rhetorical appeals, Dr. Warren exposed the absurdities of Britain’s relationship with the colonies. The format of the Suffolk Resolves, consisting of an opening paragraph followed by 19 numbered paragraphs of grievances, foreshadowed that of the Declaration of Independence.
While Samuel Adams was attending the Continental Congress, Dr. Warren organized the public army and collected weapons and gun powder. His leadership strength was fully and publicly recognized upon his 1774 appointment as President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress.
On March 6, 1775, Dr. Warren gave his second address regarding the Boston Massacre. He would say:
Where justice is the standard, heaven is the warrior's shield; but conscious guilt unnerves the arm that lifts the sword against the innocent…but should America, either by force, or those more dangerous engines, luxury and corruption, ever be brought into a state of vassalage, Britain must lose her freedom also.
According to the producers of the documentary “Patriots Day,” the British sat in the front row holding their firearms while Dr. Warren gave his oration. “Dr. Warren's mere appearance was a sign of his bravery—and his second speech confirmed his commitment to the patriot cause.”
Dr. Warren further exemplified his political fervor when, following the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775, he abandoned his role as a physician and rode his horse to present day Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Through the duality of his occupations, as an agent of medicine as well as politics, Dr. Warren expressed his commitment to the preservation of life as well as the preservation of rights. Historian Fielding Garrison notes that in future years, the College of Physicians dissuaded doctors like Dr. Warren from abandoning their medicinal responsibilities to fight the British, emphasizing that, at the time, acting as an agent of medicine was more significant than acting as an agent of the Revolution.
Upon recognition of his labors with the militia, Dr. Warren was named second general in command by the provincial congress on June 14, 1775. Three days later, he convened with the Committee of Safety in Cambridge, Massachusetts to learn that the British were stationed in Charleston, Massachusetts. Upon receipt of this information, Dr. Warren rode to the American’s military base, Breed’s Hill (commonly referred to as Bunker Hill).
Throughout the battle at Bunker Hill, Dr. Warren refused to merely give orders as a general, instead choosing to stand by his fellow soldiers, fighting the British until he was shot in between the eyes. According to Charles Morris, Dr. Warren gave a last phrase in Latin that translated to “It is pleasant and honorable to die for one’s country.”
Dr. Joseph Warren II died at the age of 34. His contemporary Paul Revere identified his disfigured body upon confirmation that he had crafted the set of teeth Dr. Warren wore at the time of his death. In addition to Paul Revere, Dr. Warren’s contemporaries were deeply saddened by his death. Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough notes that Abigail Adams, in a letter to her husband John Adams, referenced the death of Dr. Warren writing “My bursting heart must find vent at my pen.” Abigail Adams’ comments exemplify her reliance on writing as a coping mechanism to endure the death of the Adams’ close friend and fellow revolutionary.
Dr. Warren’s death was a symbol of advocacy; a courageous representation of commitment to change, responsibility, and loyalty. As eloquently phrased by Sarah Purcell, “Memories of Dr. Joseph Warren and his part in the epic battle of Bunker Hill became symbols with the power to define and inspire political and military allegiance.” It is evident that without the medical contributions of Dr. Warren, countless lives would not have been saved. But, as for his political contributions, if Dr. Warren had not drafted the Suffolk Resolves and fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill, to whom American’s allegiance would lie would remain an enigma.
In 1795, Americans in Western Pennsylvania named Warren County, PA after Dr. Joseph Warren, recognizing and preserving his multitude of contributions to the American Revolution. Five years later, the City of Warren, also in Pennsylvania, was named for Dr. Warren. Americans from other states also recognized Dr. Warren’s efforts, naming counties after him in Illinois, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.
Through literary eloquence and a plethora of academic and military experiences, Dr. Warren changed the direction of America. As noted by historian Joseph Toner, “No name, except that of Washington, is more cherished or will be longer retained in the hearts of the American people than that of Dr. Warren.”