Dr. Warren: Amid The War & His Demise
A Close Call
Following the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the British retreat back to Boston. Warren and members of the local militia follow the troops, firing at them behind trees, bushes and rock fences. At Menotomy (present day Arlington, outside Boston), Warren narrowly escapes death when a shot from British forces knocks out one of his hair pins.
The Second Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia in the State House (Independence Hall) on May 10, 1775. That same day, Captain Benedict Arnold, provided with arms, ammunition and money for the campaign by Dr. Warren, as President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, captures Fort Ticonderoga, NY in the first American offensive operation of the war.
Following the actions of April 19th, Warren is involved in two other skirmishes in Boston Harbor. The first, on May 21, 1775, thwarts General Gage's efforts to procure hay after he dispatches four British sloops to Grape Island. The second skirmish, on May 27, 1775 at Noddles Island, occurs when 1000 Provincial forces led by John Stark, Israel Putnam, and Joseph Warren repel British troops and burn the HMS DIANA when it runs aground.
Breed's Hill: First Pitched Battle of the Revolution
On June 16th, 1775, local militia from Boston and the surrounding area assemble in the city to build earthworks to fortify Breed's Hill, located on a lower rise in front of Bunker Hill, defying the British to attack, in what is to become the first pitched battle of the Revolution. American commanders Israel Putnam and William Prescott try to persuade Warren to take full command of the forces, but Warren insists on taking his place among his troops in the trenches.
When the provincials run out of ammunition, the British forces are finally able to penetrate the redoubt on their third assault charge. A brutal fight ensues and the provincials begin to retreat in desperation. Warren remains fighting on the battlefield to cover his retreating men, but is killed in the last seconds of the battle when he is shot through the face. When General Howe is told that Warren fell in the battle, he remarks that Warren's death is equal to that of 500 soldiers. Pictured is "The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill, June 17, 1775," one of John Trumbull's most famous paintings.
Final Resting Places
Warren is initially buried in a common grave on the battlefield, where he remains for nearly ten months, during the British occupation of Boston. When the British depart, a masonic funeral ceremony is held and Warren is re-interred in the Old Granary Burial Ground on April 8, 1776; reinterred again at St. Paul's Church in Boston (1825); and finally reinterred in the Warren family vault at Forest Hills Cemetery in Roxbury (1856).
Benedict Arnold to the Rescue
Dr. Warren leaves four children, who are initially raised by his fiance, Miss Mercy Scollay, with the financial assistance of Benedict Arnold and the St. Andrews Masonic Order. By 1780, Arnold has donated nearly 3,000 British pounds to assist with the children's education, the equivalent of about $560,000 in today's (2020) U.S. dollars.