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Dr. Joseph Warren’s Letter – Stolen but Now Found

As those of you in Boston who read the Boston Globe may recall, back in February of this year, the Massachusetts State Archives back in February announced they had reacquired a rare letter of Dr. Joseph Warren (read my blog post on him). The two-page letter was stolen sometime circa 1950 when security was lax, and was one of many stolen at the time. Massachusetts Archivists have been using the internet to look for these stolen documents, and late in 2010 they discovered this Warren letter in an estate auction. Here I present the rare letter itself, including a transcription, giving a glimpse into the burdens of Dr. Warren’s busy responsibilities as the Massachusetts Provincial Congress President in the weeks just before his untimely death.

(Read more on the particulars of the letter and how the Massachusetts Archives re-acquired it.)

Courtesy of the Massachusetts Archives, SC1/series 45X, Massachusetts Archives Collection, v.193:p.241. (click images to enlarge)

The most interesting highlight of this long-lost letter: Dr. Warren on this date, May 25, 1775, had become aware of a daring raid by Benedict Arnold of the British frontier Fort St. Jean’s (John’s or Johns). The raid was a short affair, just days after his and Ethan Allen’s taking of Ft. Ticonderoga and Crown Point on May 10, 1775. Days later, Benedict Arnold and a small crew confiscated a schooner belonging to a local British Army retiree and sailed it up Lake Champlain to its northern extremity: the source of the Richelieu River. Arnold and his crew sailed downriver, surprised the small garrison at Ft. St. Johns and took them prisoner. Learning a large British reinforcement was due any hour, they quickly gathered what supplies they could and took His Majesty’s Sloop Betsey. With their schooner and this new sloop, they quickly returned south to Lake Champlain, their daring raid successful. Months later, once Ft. St. Johns was well-garrisoned, it would become the site of a massive siege effort as Brig. Gen. Richard Montgomery attempted to drive forward in the 1775 Campaign into Canada.

Joseph Warren, circa 1765, by John Singleton Copley (95.1366), courtesy of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

The full transcription of Warren’s once lost letter:

                    Watertown, May 25, 1775

[To the Honorable Committee of Safety]
      Upon my Arrival here just
this Minute I had the Pleasure
of being informed that our worthy
Friend Coll Arnold, not having
had the sole Honor of reducing
Ticonderoga and Crown Point
determined upon an Expedition
against St. Johns in which He
happily succeeded___ the Letters
were directed to the Committee
of Safety but were supposed to be
necessary to be laid before the
Congress, I have not yet seen them
but you will have the particulors [sic]

[page 2]
from the Bearer___ I have also
received A Letter from the Congress
at New Hampshire informing
me of a Resolve to raise forthwith
2000 Men and more if it should
be necessary___ The Troops, at least
one Company with a Train or Artillery
from Providence are in the upper
End of Roxbury___ to say the Truth
I find my Health much mended since
this Morning

        I am Gentlemen your
         Most obedt Servant
           J Warren

PS you will be
                       to communicate the Contents of
kind enough                                         ^               this
Letter to Generals Room as I love to give pleasure
to good men 

Coming at the end of May: a collection of short posts that continue on the theme of Dr. Joseph Warren, which will further discuss the death of Warren, and will include contributions by Dr. Sam Forman, author of the forthcoming book Dr. Joseph Warren: The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty.

Thanks to Ms. Joyce Kelly for alerting me to this discovery. This letter first appeared in print in Richard Frothingham’s Life and Times of Joseph Warren p. 494.

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About Derek W. Beck

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3 Responses to Dr. Joseph Warren’s Letter – Stolen but Now Found

  1. J. L. Bell says:

    I commented on the initial news reports of that letter, and their statement that its postscript mentioned “General Knox” here. “Generals Room” also makes more sense than “General Knox.”

    • Derek Beck says:

      Thanks J. L., I guess I missed your post on the subject. I agree, it is definitely not “General Knox”, as he was no general yet, barely a player in the Revolution in May of 1775 (as you know well). “Generals Room” seems more plausible too because of the end of the line: “I love to give pleasure to good men”, suggesting that whatever the word is that is confusing us, the word is plural (or refers to people, not a person). For what it’s worth, I transcribed this myself (as best I could) without drawing on these other transcriptions. I only realized that is was transcribed in Frothingham after I had done so.

  2. Van Warren Walter says:

    As the 5th Great Grandson of Dr. Major General Joseph Warren III, I find his short lived life exciting. I’m proud to be a descendant of this patriot.

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