J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Warren Elected in Place of Warren

On the morning of 19 June 1775, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress passed the following vote:

Resolved, That three o’clock, P. M., be assigned for the choice of a president of this Congress, in the room of the Hon. Joseph Warren, Esq., supposed to be killed in the late battle of Bunker Hill.
That language shows that over a day after the battle in Charlestown, the Provincial Congress still didn’t know for sure, or perhaps didn’t want to acknowledge, that its leader was dead.

The records for that afternoon’s session begin:
Ordered, That Col. Prescott, Doct. Hall, and Col. Otis, be a committee to receive, sort, and count, the votes for a President.

The committee having attended that service, reported, that the Hon. James Warren, was chosen.
And thus was born a confusion that continues to linger. Dr. Joseph Warren of Roxbury and Boston wasn’t related to James Warren of Plymouth (1726-1808, shown above). The latter had other connections: he was married to Mercy Warren, and thus brother-in-law to James Otis, Jr., and Samuel Alleyne Otis. He was also a good friend of John and Abigail Adams. He later served as Paymaster General of the Continental Army and a member of the Continental Navy Board.

The two Warrens aren’t the only understandable source of confusion for authors from those years. In 1774, the late Lieutenant Governor Andrew Oliver was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Thomas Oliver; they weren’t related, either, but Andrew’s brother Peter was Chief Justice.

And Sheriff Stephen Greenleaf of Suffolk County was eventually succeeded by Sheriff William Greenleaf, his brother—not to be confused with their nephew William Greenleaf, later sheriff of Worcester County.


Garden Keeper said...

Any relationship between Colonel Wiliam Prescott of Groton and the night riders, Samuel and Abel Prescott?

J. L. Bell said...

Col. Prescott of Groton and the Prescott brothers of Concord were only distantly related, I understand.