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HRBook notes: Little-known Founding Father detailed in new biography from Williamsburg author

HRBook notes: Little-known Founding Father detailed in new biography from Williamsburg author
Williamsburg author Christian Di Spigna has released a book on Dr. Joseph Warren. (contributed photo / HANDOUT)

Years of research and uncovering primary documents led Christian Di Spigna to publishing his first work.

“Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero” was released Aug. 14 by Crown Publishing. The biography examines the life — and death — of one of the more unknown Founding Fathers.

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Di Spigna shares his time between Williamsburg and New York City, where he is originally from. He will be at the Barnes and Noble near the College of William and Mary’s campus 11 a.m. Sept. 1 for a book signing.

Part of Di Spigna’s book tour will take him to New England, including stops in Massachusetts, which is where Warren resided.

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Warren was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill before the start of the American Revolution. Di Spigna said Warren’s influence on American thought leading up to the war with ruler Great Britain was significant and in league with fellow Massachusetts revolutionaries John Adams, Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, among others.

Di Spigna said he was intrigued by Warren’s story, and even more so by the fact that it has gone largely untold. He said his interest was piqued when he came across Warren’s name in a book by the doctor’s niece.

“Here’s this guy, he keeps being mentioned for all events,” Di Spigna said.

His detective work to uncoverwho Warren was and his impact in the nation moving toward revolution began while he was a student at Columbia University. An adviser, after reading Di Spigna’s senior thesis on Warren, encouraged him to write the definitive biography.

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Warren performed the autopsies following the Boston Massacre, Di Spigna said, and helped plan the Boston Tea Party. While representatives were in Philadelphia for the Continental Congress, Warren kept the movement going in Boston.

“It’s amazing how his footprints are everywhere but nobody knows about him,” Di Spigna said.

Tracking down those footprints was “painstaking and time consuming,” Di Spigna said. Warren had burned much of his personal correspondence because he didn’t want to be caught by the British, which would have been treason.

One of the things Di Spigna uncovered was a mourning ring of Warren’s wife, after she died. Another major find was one of Warren’s medical ledgers. Di Spigna said he was able to find some of Warren’s living descendants and unearthed family documents.

“A lot of things I was able to find out about his personal life had been elusive for so many years,” he said.

A former volunteer at Colonial Williamsburg, Di Spigna said he mined his resources there as he uncovered more information about Warren’s life.

He said it took years to figure out what descriptions in the medical ledgers meant, and he used help from historic interpreters in the apothecary shop to help him translate. Di Spigna said he stopped being a volunteer at Colonial Williamsburg in the height of writing his book.

CW interpreters also helped him uncover that Warren was a man of wealth and taste, with a carriage painted vermilion — “the most expensive color” of the time — and kept up with the fashions of London.

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Di Spigna said his publisher was great in working with him, extending his research time, but eventually had him throw in the towel and get the book done.

While Di Spigna said he plans to focus on getting Warren’s name into the public with the book’s publication, he also has some ideas brewing for what he might tackle next. He said he isn’t sure if he wants to do another biography, but it will be nonfiction.

Other news

The Tabb and Yorktown libraries will be closed Aug. 24 for staff in-service training, according to a news release. The book drops will be open. …

The Parish House hosts its annual book sale Aug. 31-Sept. 2 to benefit the youth mission and pilgrimage fund. Sale begins 9 a.m. Aug. 31-Sept. 1 and 10 a.m. Sept. 2. The Parish House is located at 331 Duke of Gloucester St. in Williamsburg.

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