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General News    H3'ed 4/18/11

Spy vs. Spy: the First Patriots Day

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Nearly 100 depositions were taken from witnesses and put into print, along with a letter from Warren addressed to the "Inhabitants of Great Britain."

The patriot leaders had riders carry news of the battle down the American coast, but equally important, a fast American schooner took the news to England, where the documents were slipped to the mayor of London, who was considered sympathetic to the American cause.

It was a masterstroke of 18th Century propaganda as the Americans got their depositions -- and their side of the battles of Lexington and Concord -- into the British press some two weeks before Gage's reports arrived by sea.

Back in America, the British forces were bottled up in Boston, and Doctor Warren was emerging as an important leader of the revolution. He was elected president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and was appointed general of the Massachusetts troops on June 14, 1775.

However, on June 17, before his commission took effect, the British moved to break out of Boston by assaulting American militia forces dug in across the Charles River near Bunker Hill. Warren volunteered as a private soldier, rebuffing offers of a command position.

He then put himself in the middle of the battle as two British infantry charges were repelled at great loss of life to the Redcoats. On the third charge, with the Americans out of ammunition and falling back, Warren rallied a final defense of the retreat and was shot in the head.

Warren's lifeless body was recognized by a British officer who had Warren's clothes stripped off and the body mutilated by bayonets before being dumped into a mass grave. Doctor Warren had just turned 34.

British Captain Walter Laurie, who had commanded British forces at Concord's North Bridge, was later quoted as saying that he "stuffed the scoundrel with another rebel into one hole, and there he and his seditious principles may remain."

Gen. Gage reportedly hailed Warren's death as an important blow against the rebellion, but Warren quickly became a martyr to the cause of freedom, exemplifying the willingness of Americans to give their lives for independence from the King of England.

After the war moved away from Boston, Paul Revere and two of Warren's brothers located the grave, exhumed Warren's body (which Revere identified based on artificial teeth that he had wired into Warren's mouth) and reburied him in the Granary Burial Ground in Boston (Warren's remains were later moved to a family funeral vault in Jamaica Plain).

Though his sacrifice has faded from the national memory, Warren was an inspiration to many of his fellow patriots. As historian Fischer noted, Paul Revere named his next-born son, Joseph Warren Revere, and a portrait of Warren was kept in a place of honor over the parlor fireplace in the Adams family home.

Warren also impressed on his fellow American revolutionaries the need for accurate intelligence about the enemy's planning and the value of using documented truth to rally the people of the world to a worthy cause.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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