Peter Salem – African Americans in the Revolution


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.

==Military service==

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.

Salem reenlisted for one year on He was honorably discharged from the Continental Army on December 31, 1779 with four years and eight months service.

In addition to Bunker Hill, Salem also fought at the battles of Saratoga and Stony Point.

==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”.