The Death of General Warren...

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The Death of General Warren at Bunker's Hill, Charleston, Mass., 17 June 1775 By: John Trumbull

The Story Truth By: Hannah Chen

This painting by John Trumbull depicts the death of General Warren. However, while General Warren was actually shot in the head and then stripped of his clothes and bayoneted until unrecognizable, the painting shows Warren dressed in white clothing. This contrasts against the darkness and red tones in the background allowing the audience to draw their eye straight to the general. In addition, the white clothing gives him an appearance of innocence and purity as if he was ruthlessly and unjustly shot down. The countless people gathered around General Warren gives him a sense of importance and dramatizes his death. Additionally, the painting depicts several colonial flags, giving the audience a feeling of nationalist pride. The dark smoke and clouds in the background of General Warren actually depict the smoke rising from the British torching Charleston, but Trumbull uses the darkness along with the dead bodies falling down the hill to add a sullen mood to his piece while depicting the brutality and countless casualties lost through the battle. This evokes a feeling of sadness and anger in the viewer. Therefore it is evident in this painting, along with many others, that artists often depict events in a certain way that may not always depict the 100% factual truth, but serves a purpose and often evokes specific emotions in the audience.

The Happening Truth By: Daniya Sheikh

General Warren died as an honored man, but the painting doesn't depict the truth of how this great man passed away. It was the night of June 17, 1775, when General Warren was killed instantly by a musket ball. It which was shot in his head by a British officer, presumably Lieutenant Lord Rawdon, who had recognized General Warren and shot him. This had happened because a friend of General Warren called out to him when he was on the top of a hill, and then the British officer spotted him and killed him. After he died, his body was stripped of clothing, and shoved in a shallow ditch, with his face being unrecognizable. Nine months later, General Warren's body was found by Paul Revere, and found two false teeth that were wired into his mouth, and this was the way that Revere recognized General Warren. Contradicting the story truth, there weren't a significant number of people surrounding General Warren at the time of his death, presumably there were only a couple of people who saw him when he died, and only British officers or soldiers had buried General Warren. Even though this man left a legacy that many people look up to, his death wasn't as exemplified as the painting by John Trumbull depicted upon his death.

War Story

There were three of us in that portion of the field. Led by General Warren, we headed out; it was an insane task. Impossible by any measure.


But, we had no choice. We had to defend Massachusetts and our country. We had to prevent the tyranny of Britain from further instituting century old oppression and unjust taxation.


Our first obstacle was Bunker Hill. Immediately upon entering the vicinity, there was a crowd of redcoats surrounding us. Like a swarm of hornets chasing after an invading predator, the redcoats began their attack. There was no sign of our reinforcements. There is no happy ending.


Instead, there is death. General Warren had always been my role model. He was a man of broad stature, loud voice, and sense. It has been twenty years, and not a day passes in which I don't remember his death: the sword that was thrust into body and his screech that echoed through the premises.


I can recall the flags in the field, held up by the younger boys. They were red and gold in color, depicting symbols which I still can't place names with. I can recall the overhead horizons and dark grey clouds that clustered in the corners of the skies.


When General Warren was struck, his death was almost immediate. I was grateful for that: the lack of pain. Yet, it seemed to me that time almost froze in place. The moments in which he fell seemed to be played in slow motion, as if the acceleration of gravity had greatly reduced itself for a single man.


I don't know what happened to the body; I hope it was found and buried through a glorified funeral procession. If there was a funeral, I wasn't invited.


But, maybe that's for the better.

Critique of the Painting By: Ira Gulati

In John Trumbull's painting, The Death of General Warren at Bunker's Hill, Charleston, Mass., 17 June 1775, several elements of art and principles of design are utilized to create a successful composition.


This oil on canvas painting presents a foreground of several colonial soldiers surrounding a man who is presumed to be General Warren; a larger number of British redcoats are also seen in the foreground in stances meant to convey the continuation of fighting. However, General Warren and his colonist men draw the most attention as their bright cream clothes provide a focal point for the viewers' eyes to settle upon.


Exaggeration and dramatization are also visible through the entirety of the piece; rays of light emerge from the parting clouds and appear to be shining down to accentuate the forms of the colonist soldiers. This use of light and shade also propels the painting into being seen as a more three-dimensional illustration: a factor also brought out more through the dark hue usage.


Through this painting, Trumbull portrays the colonists in a more noble sense. Potentially, the light emerging from the skies is in correlation with colonist beliefs that God was on their side. By depicting General Warren as dying nobly in battle, Trumbull is presenting an argument that exhibits a superiority in the American ideals. The purpose of this painting is the glorify the side and cause of the American soldiers, who fought in the revolution.


As for the concept of exigence, Trumbull was most likely persuaded to paint this piece as an act of American nationalism. Most likely, Trumbull wanted to glorify his country and therefore provide a painting of one of the most critical battles in the American Revolution. This piece was originally intended to be seen (audience) by upper class or elite colonists (those who tended to have a background of wealth).

Identity of the Author By: Brandon Ta

John Trumbull was an artist during the Revolutionary War, known for historical paintings during the war. He was born in Connecticut, and entered Harvard College at 15. As a child, he lost the ability to see in one eye, which could have led to his extremely detailed style in his art. His job in the Revolutionary War, though a soldier, was to sketch plans of British ones. He created this painting, The Death of General Warren at Bunker's Hill after witnessing the battle there. After his resignation from the army, he studied under Benjamin West in London, until he was arrested for being the same rank as a British agent, who was captured and executed in America. After his release, he continued to paint in both Europe and America, creating historical paintings of famous figures and battles. His painting Declaration of Independence was later featured as the back of the $2 Bill. Later in his life, he held the position of president of the American Academy of Fine Arts for 20 years. He died in New York City at 87.
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John Trumbull