Peter Salem

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There were many brave men at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. Among them was Peter Salem, an African-American from Framingham, Massachusetts. Salem was a slave and had been given his freedom in exchange for enlisting in the provincial army. He was noted for great bravery at the battle.

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Peter Salem is believed to have killed British Major John Pitcairn, in the redoubt and at the height of combat. In John Trumbull’s famous painting Battle at Bunker’s Hill shown at the top, Major Pitcairn is dying under the British flag, while being held up by his son and another British officer.

From History of the Colored Race in America by William T. Alexander (1887), Salem is mentioned: “At the battle of Bunker Hill, Peter Salem, also a colored man, who so gallantly manned and defended the slight breastworks, shot dead Major Pitcairn, of the British Marines, who, in the final struggle, had scaled the redoubt and shouted ‘The day is our own!’ and was commanding the patriots to surrender, thereby probably gaining the battle.” Peter Salem also served at Saratoga and Stony Point.

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It is important to note that many African Americans participated in the Revolution on the American side.

Image result for Peter Salem Revolutionary War

There was little indication slavery would be abolished in the new republic, and in Virginia the British had even recruited slaves promising eventual freedom (Britain completely abolished slavery in 1833).

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Salem Poor was another African-American soldier that served at Bunker Hill.

 

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