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Peter Salem (circa 1750–August 16, 1816) was an African American who served as a soldier in the American Revolutionary War. He was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, a slave of Jeremiah Belknap. Salem was later sold to Lawson Buckminster, who gave him his freedom to enlist in the Continental Army.
Peter Salem was given his freedom by Major Lawson Buckminister to join the military and took part in the battle of Concord on April 19, 1775. He appears on the roll of Captain Simon Edgell's company of militia from Framingham as having served 4 days from April 19, 1775. On April 26, he enlisted in Captain Drury's company of Colonel John Nixon's 6th Massachusetts Regiment.
Battle of Bunker Hill
Salem served with his regiment in the Battle of Bunker Hill where he fired his last shot and killed British Marine Major John Pitcairn. Other free African Americans in the battle were Barzillai Lew, Salem Poor, Titus Coburn, Alexander Ames, Cato Howe, and Seymour Burr.
Later life and death
After his discharge, Salem lived in Salem, Massachusetts and married Katy Benson in September 1783. He later built a cabin near Leicester, MA, where he worked as a cane weaver. On August 16, 1816 at the age of 66, he died in the poorhouse at Framingham. He was buried in the Old Burying Ground in Framingham. In 1882, the town of Framingham erected a gravestone monument in his memory.
Salem became well known in American history because he fought in the battle of Bunker Hill, as shown in John Trumbull's famous painting of the Battle of Bunker Hill. He is most remembered for killing British Marine Major John Pitcairn. In 1909, the Daughters of the American Revolution turned his home in Leicester into a historical monument; a stone there bears the inscription "Here lived Peter Salem, a Negro soldier of the Revolution".
- "The Revolution's Black Soldiers"- Retrieved 2011-02-09
- "Peter Salem". American National Biography Online. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
- Barry, William (1847). A History of Framingham, Massachusetts: Including the Plantation, from 1640 to the Present Time, with an Appendix, Containing a Notice of Sudbury and Its First Proprietors; Also, a Register of the Inhabitants of Framingham Before 1800, with Genealogical Sketches. Framingham, Massachusetts: J. Monroe and Company. p. 160. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
- History of Framingham, p. 278.
- Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War. Vol. 13, pp. 743–744.
- Celebrate Boston article about role in Battle of Bunker Hill
- African American article on Peter Salem
- New York Review of Books clarification about Peter Salem in Trumbull's painting
- Harcourt Horizons United States History
- "Patriots of Color", more information about Salem and the Trumbull painting
- Identifying the Soldier Named “Salem”, from Boston 1775
- "Peter Salem". Celebrate Boston. Retrieved 2013-08-13. clarification on the identity of Peter Salem in Trumbull's painting