On June 17th, 1775 Warren was the President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and Chairman of the Committee of Safety. There was no more senior official in Massachusetts and perhaps no one knew as much about the state of affairs from the Patriots side as he did. He had struggled for years along side Samuel Adams and was as important and as prominent a Patriot as there was. Warren had turned 34 only six days earlier and all contemporary accounts describe him as a young, attractive man and politician who was enormously respected. That he was a man of high courage there is no doubt. After giving the order to Paul Revere to alert Samuel Adams and John Hancock and the other couriers to alert the countryside that "the regulars were out", he received news of the clash at Lexington. He immediately rode out of Boston in search of the action, even at one time running into the rear of General Percy's relief column and being asked by two British officers if he knew where the troops were. Eventually Dr Warren found himself attached to BGen William Heath and stuck by his side as he attempted to control the actions of the militias during the British retreat back to Boston. At one point in Cambridge while standing next to Heath, a "musket ball came so near his head as to strike the pin out of the hair of his earlock." (An earlock is a curl of hair hanging in front of the ear.)
|Dr Joseph Warren - 1765|
Three days prior to Bunker Hill, the Provincial Congress voted to offer him a commission as a major general, making him the second major general of Massachusetts Forces. The Congress had originally determined to give him a commission as a "physician-general" but Warren preferred a "more active and hazardous employment'" so he received a "regular commission." Unlike many others in the Patriot ranks, Warren had absolutely no military training or experience, either in the militia or in actual service or combat. To say that he was unqualified for the commission is putting it mildly.
On the morning of June 17th, Warren had thrown himself on his bed, suffering from a nervous headache. After the alarm was given that the British were out, Warren rose from the bed, said his headache was gone and headed for the action. Warren reached the Charlestown neck sometime between two and three in the afternoon when the British artillery bombardment was at its peak and made his way up the northwest side of Bunker Hill.