The Death and Reinterment of Dr. Joseph Warren

As research for his forthcoming book 1775, Derek W. Beck uncovered photos of Dr. Joseph Warren’s skull, which support the idea that Warren was shot facing his enemy, at close range, during the Battle of Bunker Hill. As Beck summarizes:

“Dr. Joseph Warren was shot in the face, looking at his assailant, and given the exit wound, he undoubtedly died instantly. He made no final speeches. He was not shot in the back of the head while retreating. Whether he rallied a few steadfast Yanks to give a final volley into the oncoming British is unknown, but Dr. Warren certainly died facing the swarm of redcoats as they poured over the Breed’s Hill redoubt toward him.”

J.L. Bell also writes about Warren’s death and Beck’s photographic discovery on his Boston 1775 blog. According to Bell:

“After the doctor was killed at Bunker Hill, the British forces put his body in a shared grave, and then after the siege of Boston—on 4 Apr 1776, in fact—the Americans dug him up again… Physicians, including Warren’s brother John, examined this skull in some detail in 1776 to be sure the body was actually his; eventually Paul Revere identified his dental work.”

As Rag Linen’s contribution to the conversation, below are two newspaper reports of great significance and insight to the subject matter of Warren’s death. The top photo, from the 1775 June 29 New England Chronicle (printed in Cambridge, MA, at Harvard College, 3.5 miles west of Breed’s Hill), is a first report of Warren’s death. The second photo, from the 1776 April 25 New England Chronicle (printed in Boston), is the news of Warren’s reinterment and identifying his body by two false teeth. The last paragraph is the latter report is difficult to read so I provided a transcription below.

The last paragraph, difficult to read because of an archival repair to the paper, is transcribed below:

Though the Body (which our savage enemies “scarce privileged with earth enough to hide it from the birds of prey”) was disfigured, when taken up, yet was sufficiently known by two artificial teeth, which were set for him a short time before his glorious exit.


  1. Derek W. Beck
    April 4, 2011

    Do you know where the reference of the Perez Morton eulogy of Warren came from, as cited in Frothingham’s Life and Times of Joseph Warren 524?

  2. Derek W. Beck
    April 4, 2011

    PS: Thanks for the additional details to the story!

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