Red Coats - Storming Breed's Hill

Red Coats - Storming Breed's Hill  American History American Revolution Famous Historical Events Visual Arts

Joseph Warren, a popular and innovative doctor who advocated sterile conditions in treating patients and inoculation of small-pox patients, sent Paul Revere and William Dawes on their warning-mission to Lexington and Concord. 

Soon after this event (later made even more popular by Longfellow's poem), the Massachusetts Provincial Congress commissioned Dr. Warren to serve the American cause as a major-general. 

Since that commission was not-yet in effect, at the time of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Warren fought at the famous battle as a volunteer (despite requests from General Putnam and Colonel Prescott that he take command). Demonstrating great heroism, Warren was shot (between the eyes) by a British officer who recognized him. 

It was six days after his 34th birthday.

This painting by John Trumbull (1756-1843), now at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, depicts the death of General Warren near the end of the Bunker Hill battle. 

Trumbull, who became a famous American painter, also fought at Bunker Hill.

More than a doctor and a general, Warren was also a poet. During those Revolutionary-War days, it was common for Americans to write new lyrics for existing melodies (which were familiar, to most people, and often British-based). In the 1770s, Dr. Warren wrote the lyrics to such a song.

He set his poem, called “Free America,” to the tune of a song called “British Grenadiers.” Note that, at the time, writers often rhymed their words by pronouncing “America” with a long “a” at the end. (With this approach, “prey” rhymes with “America.”)

Here are the verses of Dr. Warren’s work (which is also known as “A Song on Liberty” and/or “Liberty Song”):

That Seat of Science Athens,
And Earth's great Mistress Rome,
Where now are all their Glories,
We scarce can find their Tomb;
Then guard your Rights, Americans!
Nor stoop to lawless Sway,
Oppose, oppose, oppose, oppose,
My brave America.

Proud Albion bow'd to Caesar,
And num'rous Lords before,
To Picts, to Danes, to Normans,
And many Masters more;
But we can boast Americans!
We never fell a Prey;
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza,
For brave America.

We led fair Freedom hither,
When lo the Desart smil'd,
A paradise of pleasure,
Was open'd in the Wild;
Your Harvest, bold Americans!
No power shall snatch away,
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza,
For brave America.

Torn from a World of Tyrants,
Beneath this western Sky,
We form'd a new Dominion,
A Land of liberty;
The World shall own their masters here,
Then hasten on the Day,
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza,
For brave America.

God bless this maiden Climate,
And thro' her vast Domain,
Let Hosts of Heroes cluster,
Who scorn to wear a Chain;
And blast the venal Sycophant,
Who dares our Rights betray.
Preserve, preserve, preserve, preserve
My brave America.

Lift up your Heads my Heroes!
And swear with proud Disdain,
The Wretch that would enslave you,
Shall spread his Snares in vain;
Should Europe empty all her force,
Wou'd meet them in Array,
And shout, and shout, and shout, and shout,
For brave America!

Some future Day shall crown us,
The Masters of the Main,
And giving Laws and Freedom,
To subject France and Spain;
When all the Isles o'er Ocean spread
Shall tremble and obey,
Their Lords, their Lords, their Lords, their Lords
Of brave America.

Richard Frothingham—in his book on Warren entitled Life and Times of Joseph Warren—tells us that the doctor-turned-Patriot (fighting as a volunteer at the Battle of Bunker Hill) wrote this poem not long before his death resulting from injuries sustained in the battle. (See Frothingham, footnote 2, at page 405.)

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 08, 2016

Updated Last Revision: Dec 08, 2016

Media Credits

Image online, courtesy the U.S. Library of Congress.




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