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  • Writer's pictureJanet Uhlar


There was barely enough light in the wee hours of the June 17th morning as Dr. Joseph Warren's horse trotted along the dirt road. As president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, Warren sat in lengthy meetings the day before preparing for today's events. It had been 2 months since the colonists faced the British in battle at Lexington and Concord. Today, the devastation and horror of battle would be faced again on a hill in Boston.

Bunker Hill was a strategic location overseeing the Mystic River--one of three hills the British intended to occupy. The colonists had to beat them to it.

The strategy and tactics of the day's battle were sound -- as sound as they could be for a quickly assembled ragtag, untrained army. If all went according to plan, the day would end in a colonial victory. If all went according to plan... A ragtag army defending the hill in an earthwork fort

still being created as Warren made this 4 mile trek from Watertown to Cambridge before sunrise. A ragtag army daring to face the attack of the British Regulars -- the most powerful army on Earth.

With such thoughts pouring through his head all night, Warren couldn't possibly sleep. He would oversee a meeting of the Provincial Congress in Cambridge in the morning, and then his plan was to go to the hill and stand alongside the men he encouraged to turn out -- men he played a role in ordering to do battle that day.

Perhaps the cooler early morning air would clear his thoughts, and he prayed it would ease the pounding, nauseating headache that now seemed to plague him daily. Tossing aside his bed clothes, he purposefully chose his finest jacket and waistcoat to adorn himself in for the day. To celebrate our victory, he attempted to tell himself, though the nagging premonition he felt the evening before lingered. He remembered his words to his long-time friend and patient Betsey Palmer as he dined with her family. He told her he was going to the hill the following day and he wasn't coming off. Betsey's astonished response to the words reflected his own astonishment in uttering them. And yet, the words felt certain.

Friend and fellow congressman Elbridge Gerry greeted Warren upon his arrival, immediately noting Warren's sickly appearance. Gerry insisted Warren get some rest. At this point, he was eager to oblige. As Warren slowly ascended the stairs to the bed chamber, he reminded Gerry to awaken him for the morning meeting, and stated that he intended to go to the hill after.

Elbridge Gerry objected, telling Warren he could not risk his life as he was needed in counsel. Warren stopped his ascent and quietly responded, It is right and just to die for one's country.

Warren fell into a sound sleep. The morning broke. The cannon fire boomed in the distance as the British Warships spotted the earthen fort upon the hill.

Gerry did not attempt to wake his friend. The Provincial Congress met and adjourned, leaving the minutes for President Warren to view when he awoke. And, Joseph Warren slept...

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