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Joseph Warren Martyr of Bunker Hill
JOSEPH WARREN - Martyr of Bunker Hill
By Robert W. Williams III, in The Trowel (Massachusetts) Winter 1989 issue
On a quiet summer afternoon about 230 years ago, some Harvard
College students shut themselves in an upper dormitory roorn to
arrange some affairs pertaining to their class. Another class
member desired to be with them - knowing they intended to thwart
some fondly cherished purpose of his own. They refused to admit
him the door was closed, and he could not gain admittance without
violence, which he chose to avoid.
Reconnoitering the premises he discovered that one of the windows
in the room was open and he noticed a nearby waterspout that
extended from the roof to the ground. He climbed to the top of
the house and slid down the eaves, then laid hold of the spout and
descended until he was opposite the open window. With a prodigious
physical effort he thrust himself through the window and landed in
the room! Simultaneously, the waterspout crashed to the ground had
it fallen a moment sooner he would have been thrown to the pavement
below and, undoubtedly, seriously injured. He cooly remarked to
himself, "It served its purpose!"
That Harvard boy was Joseph Warren, later known as Doctor Warren
and General Warren, the martyr of Bunker Hill and the Grand Master
of Masons (Massachusetts Provincial Grand Lodge) in North America.
The boy had already given promise of the man in whatever he
undertook. The fearless act of getting to that room was the
swelling bud which opened and blossomed and bore fruit in his adult
In December 1769 Warren received a commission from the Earl of
Dalhousie, Grand Master of Masons in Scotland, appointing him
Provincial Grand Master of Masons in Boston and within 100 miles of
the same. The commission was dated May 30, 1769. When the Earl of
Dumfries succeeded Dalhousie as Grand Master he issued another
appointment to Warren, dated March 7, 1772, constituting him "Grand
Master of Masons for the Continent of America," extending his
original limits. He was indefatigable in the discharge of his
Masonic duties and, coupled with his extensive medical practice,
the care of his motherless children, together with his patriotic
devotion to his country, won for him the highest regard of the
public and the Craft. His name is indelibly engraved on the mystic
temple of FreemasGnry, just as it is on the pages of American
Somewhat impetuous in his nature, but brave to a fault, Bro.
Warren craved the task of doing what others dared not do the
same courage imbued in Paul Revere and other patriots. On the
anniversary of the Boston Massacre (March 3, 1770) Warren was the
orator. While it was a duty which won him distinction, it was also
one of peril. English military officers usually attended in order
to heckle Warren and it required a brave man to stand up in Old
South Church, in the face of those officers, to boldly proclaim
their bloody deeds. It required a cool head and steady nerves, and
Grand Master Warren had both.
The crowd at the church was immense the aisles, the pulpit stairs,
and the pulpit itself were filled with officers and soldiers of the
garrison, always there to intimidate the speaker. Warren was equal
to the task but entered the church through a pulpit window in the
rear, knowing he might have been barred from entering through the
front door. In the midst of his most impassioned speech, an English
officer seated on the pulpit stairs and in full view of Warren,
held several pistol bullets in his open hand. The act was
significant while the moment was one of peril and required the
exercise of both courage and prudence, to falter and allow a single
nerve or muscle to tremble would have meant failure even ruin to
Warren and others.
Everybody knew the intent of the officer and a man of less courage
than Warren might have flinched, but the future hero, his eyes
having caught the act of the officer and without the least
discomposure or pause in his discourse, simply approached the
officer and dropped a white handkerchief into the officer's hand!
The act was so adroitly and courteously performed that the Breton
was compelled to acknowledge it by permitting the orator to
continue in peace.
On June 14, 1775, three days before the Battle of Bunker Hill
(actually Breed's Hill), Dr. Warren was elected Major General by
the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts. Without military
education or experience, he was placed in the presence of the whole
British army. Against the protests of Gen. Artemus Ward, Gen.
Israel Putnam and others, Warren chose to shoulder a musket and
join the fighting men behind the barricades on the hill. He felt a
premonition of his death and declared to Betsy Palmer (whose
husband joined the Tea Party and the Battle of Lexington), "Come,
my little girl, drink a glass of wine with me for the last time,
for I shall go to the hill tomorrow and I shall never come off."
The shooting lasted less than one hour but only because the
Patriots ran out of ammunition. Warren had been shot in the back of
the head and thrown to the ground. His body was thrown in a ditch
by a British officer and buried with the others. It was discovered
months later and identified by Paul Revere who recognized a false
tooth he had made for Warren. He was next buried in the Granary
burial ground (Tremont .St., Boston) where he was laid after
Masonic ceremonies in King's Chapel and, thirdly, in the Warren
Tomb in St. Paul's Cathedrdal, Boston. Finally, on August 3, 1855,
"The precious ashes were carefully deposited in an imperishable urn
and placed in the family vault at Forest Hill Cemetery where they
now repose." (G.L. Proc. 1855-69 p. 511.) On April 8, 1777 Congress
ordered a monument to be erected over the grave of Gen. Warren in
the Town of Boston, but like many other things Congress resolves,
it was never accomplished. In 1794 Klng Solomon's Lodge of
Charleston (now meeting in Somerville) erected a monument on
Bunker Hill on land donated by Bro. Benjamin Russell for that
purpose. It was "A Tuscan pillar, 18 feet in height placed on a
platform 8 feet high, 8 feet square, and fences around."
The Bunker Hill Monument Association was formed in 1823 for the "purpose of
erecting on Bunker Hill a more fitting and enduring monument to the
memory of the brave men who fell there in the cause of human
liberty." King Solomon's Lodge (1783) then gave the Association the
ground which it owned, together with the monument it had erected to
the memory of Bro. Warren, on condition "that some trace of its
former existence" might be preserved in the monument to be erected.
On June 17, 1825, Grand Lodge opened at 8 a. m. and a procession
was formed on the Common which marched to Bunker Hill in
Charleston. There, in the presence of Bro. Lafayette (the apron he
wore is in the Grand Lodge archives), representatives from every
New F:ngland state except Rhode Island, along with the Grand Lodge
of New Jersey, Grand Master John Abbot, and Senior Past Grand
Master Isaiah Thomas, assisted in laying the cornerstone and
Lafayette and Bro. Daniel Webster addressed the great gathering.
The momument was completed and dedicated June 17, 1843, but without
the presence of the Grand Lodge. It was during the anti-Masonic era
and a resolution to attend was defeated.
Inside the present obelisk is a model of the first monument that
had been erected by King Solomon's Lodge. It is made of the finest
Italian marble and, including the granite pedestal on which it
stands, is ahout nine feet in height and bears substantially the
same inscription as the former one. The memorial is now under the
jurisdiction of the National Park Service ( 1976) and anybody can
climb the 294 steps to the top without charge. From windows you can
view Boston and, in particular, Charleston Navy Yard where the
U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) is berthed.
(Contributing source: Cornelius Moore in the Voice of Masonry,
published in The Freemasons Repository, Nov. 1881, Vol. 11.)
(Scaned for Hiram's Oasis from the Southern Califorinia Research
Lodge newsletter, Feb. 1991)
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