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American "Truth"

Examination of American "Truth" Through Art

The Death of General Warren At Bunker's Hill, John Trumbull, 1786

Identity of the Artist - Cameron Strauss

Who was John Trumbull?

John Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut on June 6th, 1756. His father, Jonathan Trumbull was the the governor of Connecticut when John was a boy. Due to childhood accident, he lost use of one of his eyes (which would later affect his paintings). He attended Harvard University and he graduated from Harvard in 1773 when he started pursuing a career in teaching. However, when the war for American Independence started, he joined the cause by joining the Patriots. He Witnessed the fighting at Bunker Hill, and was appointed the position of the personal aid of George Washington. Due to his good reputation and skills, he gained the position of a Colonel soon after.

He Had painting experience, as he painted around 250 miniature portraits/pictures in his life. He was the president of the American Academy of Fine Arts for 20 years. In 1817 Trumbull was given the opportunity to paint four large pictures in the rotunda of the Capitol at Washington. His painting The Declaration of Independence is on the back of the 2 dollar bill, which features Thomas Jefferson on the front (these two were really good friends so it is relevant that they both made an impact on the same piece of our history). He died November 10th, 1843 in New York City.

Story Truth - Austin Damle

How does the artist tell the story?

Even though he was a General in the war, he wanted to be a soldier in the front line. He went to his fellow soldiers to fight alongside them instead of behind them, so he could truly be in the battle. But the British immediately recognized him and purposefully aimed to him so that they could take out the American Leader.

General Warren was shot in the chest by the British as they were overwhelming the Americans.

As the British were marching forward, the Americans stood by General Warren to protect him from the oncoming soldiers. But the British fought their way through the Americans to get to General Warren. However, there is one soldier kneeling next to the General to make one final stand against the british. He can’t hold them off so a british soldier then stabs the General with his bayonet even though the soldier is trying to protect the already dead General Warren.There are bystanders who witness this event this event in horror because the General risked his own life for the revolution.

Happening Truth - Preston Holley

What really happened at Bunker Hill?

Joseph Warren was a widely known doctor and war leader who perished as a war hero in the Battle of Bunker Hill. He was also a known patriot, beginning his radical acts in 1776 after the Townshend Acts were passed and writing documents for the newspapers speaking out against British wrongdoings. After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Warren was appointed as second general in command over the Massachusetts.

As the Battle of Bunker Hill came around, Warren refused to stay behind the line of fire as a general. He participated as a soldier but was killed by a ball shot between his eyes. His death has been immortalized in the painting. Warren is undoubtedly a war hero and a true patriot.

The happening truth differs from the story truth in that his death is not portrayed as violent and bloody as it must have happened in reality. There is no bullet hole, nor any blood on him at all, creating more of a peaceful sentiment to his death.

The stories also differ in that there were most likely no american patriots left there to defend his dead body. The Happening truth reveals that he was simply scooped up by the British soldiers and put in a common mass grave, which is not even close to what the painting shows. Furthermore, it can be said with confidence that a bright white light did not actually shione down from the sky onto Warren's dead body.

Critique of the Painting - Arta Fan

What art techniques are used in the painting? How do they affect tone, message, etc.?

In this painting, John Trumbull is trying to convey the message that General Warren was greatly valued in the army. The painting of his death depicts the British soldiers running to him as if to stab him with a spear, but the soldier supporting his body holds his hand out to tell the soldier to cease as if to tell Britain that he was already dead. He painted this to show that if patriots kept fighting, they could defeat the British.

The audience that Trumbull is trying to reach his message to is any patriot. He is trying to convey that patriotic dedication can defeat British powers. This battle, being the bloodiest (illustrated in the painting by the dead bodies and pools of blood on the ground in the shadows), showed that American’s can put up a tough fight which made Britain realize that this revolution would be long and tough. Therefore, the tone of this painting would be heroic and inspiring because it shows how patriots should keep fighting and not give up.

General Warren is dressed in all-white/light colors which glorifies him. Every character in the painting is dark except for General Warren. He is the only person in the spotlight even though half of the sky shown in the painting is dark and half of it is light. This shows that he is a martyr and is looked upon by god. The painting is asymmetrical because the majority of the people are clumped together on the left side of the painting.

War Story - Everyone

There he was.

Behind us all. Not only wanting, but needing to fight.

He walks towards me and I knew what was about to happen.

I saw the rage in his eyes, his eyes glowed with fury.

They were red I tell you. That dark sharp red.

The type of red that’s in the middle of a raging fire.

He stops and looks down at me.


I tried to hold him back.

“NO!” warren exclaimed, “I will fight!”

He ran through the smoke and dirt in the air to the front line.


He went down just as quick as the decision he made to go and fight.

Just like that he was gone.

An iron ball between the eyes.

The eyes were still red.

The man that we all admired… the man we all thought to be invincible… had just been shot and killed in front of all of us.

There was no time to stop; we had no choice but to continue our retreat as the British pressed on. They scooped his body up. I knew I would never see him again. No need to sugar coat it.

We found a letter in his jacket that he was writing to his wife that read, “Dear Mercy Scollay, I have long been a leader of this proud Patriot Army, and I feel like it is my natural duty to not only lead them, but to fight alongside with them as well! I know this is not very comforting to hear, as it may cost me my life; however, I cannot hold back from being on the front row with my brothers in arms. I hope to to see you soon, and I love you very dearly.”

A son now without a father.

A fiancee now without a lover.

An army without a leader.

But a country with a new hero.