Paul Revere Heritage Project


Dr. Joseph Warren - the Man who Organized the Midnight Ride

“Now is no time for any of American’s children to shrink from any hazard. I will set her free or die.”

Dr. Joseph warren was one of the brightest stars of the American Revolution. He died for the American independence during the battle of Bunker Hill, but during his short life was one of the most inspiring patriot leaders in Boston. His organizational talents were also unsurpassed. It was Warren who dispatched Revere on his Midnight Ride with the secretly obtained information about the planned advancement of the British troops to Concord.

Joseph Warren was born in June, 1741 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Despite the fact that his father was a farmer, young Joseph received the best education available in colonial Boston. He first attended Roxbury Latin School and then studied medicine at Harvard College. He later practiced medicine and surgery in Boston.

Politics came into his life as he became involved in freemasonry and became a member and eventually the Grandmaster of the Masonic Lodge for St. Andrew. The Lodge counted Samuel Adams, John Hancock and other prominent patriot leaders among it’s members. Dr. Warren was also a member of the Sons of Liberty organization that was created in Boston to resist the British rule.

In the years preceding the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere Warren put himself into the forefront of the anti-British movement. Through his political activities Warren rallied to protest the British policies such as the Coercive Acts and condemned the Boston Massacre. Despite being a well known politician Warren had not been elected in the British-sanctioned Massachusetts House of Representative. On the other hand when the independent Massachusetts Provincial Congress was organized in the early days of American Revolution, Dr. Warren became its president, which was the highest political post in the new government.

The Midnight Ride undertaken by Paul Revere on April 18, 1775 probably would not have occurred if it wasn’t for Dr. Warren who obtained the information about General Thomas Cage’s plan to send troops to Concord to disarm the patriots. Through the Correspondence Committee Warren was able to dispatch Revere and the second messenger William Dawes to warn the patriots. Warren himself shortly left Boston leading a group of militia to disrupt British troops in Concord.

During the next several months after the start of the Revolution, Dr. Warren’s life could be best described by his own quote. After being nearly killed in Concord he told his mother, “Where danger is, dear mother, there must your sun be. Now is no time for any of American’s children to shrink from any hazard. I will set her free or die.” Warren put all his energy into organizing population during the Siege of Boston. He also used his political influence as the president of the Provincial Congress to negotiate with the British.

His final service to the Revolution was truly heroic. Shortly before the battle of Bunker Hill, Warren was appointed a Major General but despite of his higher rank he decided to allow Gen. Israel Putnam and Colonel William Prescott to command the troops because they had more battlefield experience. Instead Dr. Warren made a decision to lead the troops into the battle as a private inspiring them to hold against the British. It was during this battle on June 17, 1775 when Warren was killed by a shot fired by a British officer who recognized him. His body was buried by the British troops anonymously but later it was exhumed by patriots and Paul Revere himself identified Warren by the artificial tooth that he once paced in his jaw.

Dr. Joseph Warren is buried in the Granary Burying Ground in Boston but was later moved into his family vault in the Forest Hills Cemetery. There are two monuments in Boston commemorating the great patriot.