Book Review: Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution's Lost Hero


by Christian Di Spigna,

New York: Crown, 2018. Pp. xiv, 322+. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $28.00. ISBN: 055341934X

A Neglected "Founding Father"

In this insightful biography, independent scholar Christian di Spigna, makes an excellent case that Dr. Joseph Warren (1771-1775) not only merits a place among the “Founding Fathers”, but that the final break with Britain was easily as important as Jefferson or Adams or any of the others, only his early death at Bunker Hill obscuring his role in the nation’s founding..

The son of a successful farmer, Warren graduated from Harvard, studied medicine, establishing a very successful practice, and became active along with the Adamses, Hancock, and other ‘Sons of Liberty’ in the defense of the rights of the colonists. He wrote ‘patriotic’ tracts and was a member of the committee appointed to investigate the Boston Massacre. He drafted the “Suffolk Resolves”, laying out the case against Britain’s repressive measures aimed at the colonials, which were adopted by the First Continental Congress, and was elected President of the Provincial Congress, the colonial shadow government. When the final break came in 1775, although without any military experience, he joined the fighting at Lexington and Concord, was appointed a major general by the provincial congress, and was killed at Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, at 34.

Di Spigna gives us a very good account not only of Warren’s political activities, but of his youth, education, and professional development, offering looks at daily life, education, business, medicine, and many other aspects of colonial life unfamiliar today, or overlooked, such as the casual acceptance of slavery. Founding Martyr is a valuable read not only for its “rescue” of Warren from relative obscurity, but also because it gives us a window into the social and political environment in which Warren lived. 




Note: Founding Martyr is also available in e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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