A fresh biography of an underappreciated figure in American history.
John Trumbull immortalized Dr. Joseph Warren (1741-1775) in his painting The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, which depicted the demise of the young physician and military officer. In his first book, Di Spigna, a speaker and volunteer at Colonial Williamsburg, reminds readers that Warren was more than a man who sacrificed his life for the cause of liberty. The son of a pious Massachusetts farmer, Warren attended Harvard, where the future revolutionary developed his oratorical skills when he was not committing pranks such as nailing his roommates’ shoes to the floor. His training as a physician coincided with the post–French and Indian War crisis between Britain and her American Colonies, and Warren would hold several positions in the Massachusetts resistance: head of the Boston Committee of Correspondence and North End Caucus, president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, and chairman of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety. He delivered two prominent orations on the Boston Massacre, wrote numerous articles and pamphlets, authored the Suffolk Resolves, sent Paul Revere on his famous ride, operated a spy ring, and participated in the battles of Lexington and Concord. In short, Di Spigna persuasively argues that Warren was “a rare combination of statesman and warrior” and that “his effective arsenal of voice, pen, and sword was unrivaled by any other patriot.” Yet the author does not neglect Warren’s medical career. He was one of the most prominent and respected physicians in Massachusetts, inoculating hundreds of people against smallpox without a single death. Warren was also a prominent Mason and devoted family man.
In his first inaugural address, Ronald Reagan referred to Joseph Warren as “a man who might have been one of the greatest among the founding fathers.” Hopefully, Di Spigna’s insightful biography will rekindle public interest in Warren, a man who deserves to be remembered for more than his death at Bunker Hill.