Q&A with Christian Di Spigna, author of Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, The American Revolution’s Lost Hero
Old North Church & Historic Site will be hosting a Speaker Series and book-signing with Christian Di Spigna on Tuesday, February 25th from 6:30 to 8:30. For more information or to register for the event click here.
Q: What made you choose Old North Church & Historic Site as a fitting space to host this event?
A: Given the history surrounding Old North Church and the integral part it played on the night of April 18, 1775, I can’t think of a better site to host a talk about Dr. Joseph Warren. Warren’s dispatch of Revere and Dawes that night set off a series of events that ultimately led to independence.
Q: What drew you to Joseph Warren’s story in the first place? Were there any specific details that prompted you to dig further?
A: Over 20 years ago I had come across a book written in 1835 by his niece. The list of what he had accomplished within such a brief period of time was impressive. I became fascinated with his story and curious as to why someone so pivotal to the revolutionary movement had been forgotten. Once I had discovered that several major “facts” within the history books were actually incorrect, I became determined to deconstruct any myths and try to fill in so many of the voids that had plagued the Warren literature for centuries. I hope other historians and scholars will continue the research and keep building upon the Warren literature.
Q: What do you think is the main reason that Warren became a lost or forgotten hero of the Revolution?
A: Unfortunately Warren’s life has been reduced to the events of a single afternoon. His death at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, and his subsequent martyrdom has overshadowed his important contributions to independence.
Q: Did you have a favorite moment during the process of creating Founding Martyr that sticks with you?
A: There are many, one of which was making contact with Warren’s direct descendants. For well over a century it has been asserted that Joseph Warren’s direct line had gone extinct, when in fact there are more than two dozen living direct descendants. When I met the family historian, George C. Wildrick—Joseph Warren’s 5th great grandson—in person, it was surreal.
Q: When you initially started your research, was Founding Martyr always the plan? Did you know you would end up writing a book from the beginning, or was the book something that evolved as you went on?
A: The initial project began as a senior thesis when I was an undergraduate student at Columbia University. With the encouragement and support of my mentor, upon graduation, I switched gears from the Warren thesis project to writing a complete biography of the man.
Q: What themes can readers pull from your research on Warren’s life & legacy, and correlate to the social climate of the present day?
A: I think readers can take away various themes, whether it be about selfless service to a cause one believes in, the importance of education and personal valor, or how one chooses to conduct themselves in the face of insurmountable odds and the personal sacrifices for a greater cause. I believe Warren is relatable to modern audiences because he is an example of the quintessential notion of American idealism. He was not born into wealth but through education and hard work was able to reach the top social echelons within a stringent hierarchical society. I think many people today can relate to Warren’s grassroots activism both politically and socially. History is infused with lessons from the past and Warren’s life and times are no exception.