Bonding over a Serious Chest Wound

in about Warren

Date: February 24, 1772

“BOSTON, February 24.

Last Saturday Afternoon two pettey Officers of His Majesty’s Ship Beaver now in this Harbour, had some Words in a Shop in King Street, which soon arose to Blows on the side of Mr. Bryant, Captain’s Clerk, and were returned by Mr. Quelch, the Gunner, with a Stab under the Left Pap, which penetrated the Breast, but immediately closed and the Patient fainted away. Dr. Young was brought speedily, who recovered him a little with Volatiles, and Dr. Warren coming directly after, they dilated the Wound and gave Vent to the Blood, on which he came to his Speech, and being laid in a proper Posture, passed the Night, and the Forenoon of the Sabbath, in a tolerable easy Condition : But in the Afternoon Mr. Bryant had a slight Delirium with Spasms, whence the Doctors fear his Life is much in Danger. Mr. Quelch readily surrendered himself, and was committed to Prison, much concerned for the unhappy Accident, of which probably the Sufferer was but too much the immediate Occaision.

Last Friday fo’nnight a Daughter of Mr. George Abbot of Portsmouth, about 4 Years old, being left alone, while her Mother steped to a Neighbours, her Father coming in first found the Room full of Smoak and the little Girl’s Cloaths all on fire, which burnt her to that Degree, that she died in a few Hours, she was almost burnt thro’ some Parts of her Body. There was but little Fire in the Chimney, and being cold, ‘tis supposed the Child endeavoured to blow it up. A melancholy Accident this! Which ‘tis hoped will be a Warning to others.

On Tuesday the 11th Instant, at a very full Meeting of the Church and Congregation in Brattle-Street, whereof the Rev. Dr. Cooper is Pastor, it was determined by an unanimous Vote that it was expedient to erect a new House for publick Worship : a Committee was chosen to make an Estimate, procure Plans, and obtain Subscriptions : Since which we learn there have been large and very generous Subscriptions made and on Monday last a Committee was chosen to carry the Design into Execution.

We hear that the Members of Dr. Cooper’s Congregation have already subscribed a Sum which is thought Sufficient for the Purpose of Erecting a large and elegant Church ; and that among the generous Subscribers for the Purpose, the Honourable JOHN HANCOCK, Esq; distinguished on many Occaisions by his Benevolence and publick Spirit, has given One Thousand Pounds, Lawful Money.”

Source: Boston Post Boy, February 24, 1772: Boston Gazette, February 24, 1772; Boston Evening Post, February 24, 1772; Massachusetts Spy, February 27, 1772; Conecticut Gazette, March 6, 1772; Pennsylvania Packet, March 9, 1772.

Commentary: Although British troops were withdrawn from the streets of Boston to Castle William in the immediate aftermath of the March 5, 1770 Boston Massacre, sporadic incidents continued to annoy the populace. Patriot writers were quick to publicize such episodes in addition to op-ed pieces on Parliament’s assertion to tax “in all cases whatsoever” and the judiciary’s accountability, via appointments and salaries, to the elected House of Representatives. The Boston Gazette and newer Massachusetts Spy devoted many columns to such content.

This story about criminal violence between British sailors while ashore in Boston, resulting in a penetrating chest wound, was both news and an implicit example of the evil influences of armed forces present in Boston. Some commentators have accused Samuel Adams of embellishing or even inventing such incidents for the Massachusetts Spy for the purpose of propagandizing distant readers. The specifics and serious nature of this incident suggest that it was literally true in all particulars. Violence perpetrated by sailors or soldiers on local citizens, versus one another, would have made a better story if propaganda were the sole motivator. The episode did dramatize moral superiority of benevolent Patriot leaders addressing senseless mayhem that accompanied an unwelcome British military presence.

The story was picked up, with identical wording, by newspapers as far away as Philadelphia. The medically precise description of Mr. Bryant’s chest wound and its treatment suggest that it had input from, or had been written by, Drs. Joseph Warren or Thomas Young. If written by Warren, the Boston Gazette could have been the originating newspaper for the story. Simultaneous first appearance of the identically worded story in the February 24th issues of the Boston Gazette, Boston Post Boy, and Boston Evening Post, is a circumstance suggesting a deliberate communications effort by the Boston Sons of Liberty.

On a medical note, a penetrating chest wound was a grave injury in the 18th century, as there were no invasive procedures available to stem internal bleeding, re-inflate a collapsed lung, or prevent rampant infection. Despite this, Drs. Joseph Warren and Thomas Young attended the wounded man with near-term stabilization. United intervention in a serious case enabled medical bonding between fellow Sons of Liberty Warren and Young, further reconciling the two physicians, who earlier had publicly excoriated each other during the 1767 Philo Physic medical malpractice newspapers controversy.

Many British ships had their own physicians and in-house medical care, services apparently not readily available to intervene ashore in this emergency situation.

The same news column coincidentally reported on John Hancock’s largesse to Rev. Samuel Cooper’s Brattle Street Church toward a new building. Joseph and Elizabeth Warren belonged to this congregation.

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