Peter Salem

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The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill, by John Trumbull. Peter Salem is at the far right with a musket in his hands.

Peter Salem (sometimes known as Salem Middlesex) was a former slave who served as a soldier in the Battle of Bunker Hill, and is oftentimes regarded as the hero of the battle.[1]

Early life

Salem was born in Framingham, and, in 1783, married Katie Benson, a granddaughter of Nero, living for a time near what is now the state muster field.


Peter Salem was the colored man who particularly distinguished himself in the Revolutionary war by shooting down Major Pitcairn at the battle of Bunker Hill, as he was mounting a redoubt, and shouting, "The day is ours!" this being the time when Pitcairn fell back into the arms of his son. Peter Salem served faithfully in the war for seven years in the companies of minute men under the command of Captain John Nixon and Captain Simon Edgell, of Framingham, and came out of it unharmed. He was a slave, and was owned, originally, by Captain Jeremiah Belknap, of Framingham, being sold by him to Major Lawson Buckminister of that town, he becoming a free man when he joined the army.

Emory Washburn, an early colonial governor for Massachusetts, said the following:

There was one other whom I have noticed elsewhere who was in that fight - Peter Salem, a black man, belonging to Colonel John Nixon's regiment. All the accounts of the battle speak of the gallant conduct of Major Pitcairn, of the British marines, on that occasion. He was shot down as he mounted the redoubt, crying out, exultingly, 'The day is ours,' and fell into the arms of his son, who tenderly bore him off the field to a boat, and thence to a house in Prince Street, Boston, where he died. That shot was undoubtedly fired by Peter; and the death of Major Pitcairn, with its accompanying circumstances, formed one of the most touching incidents of that eventful day.[2]


On the 10th of April, 1882, the town of Framingham voted to place a memorial stone over the grave of Peter Salem. The committee in charge of the matter placed a granite memorial over his grave, and it bears the following inscription: "Peter Salem, a soldier of the Revolution, died August 16, 1816. Concord, Bunker Hill, Saratoga. Erected by the town, 1882."[3]

Later Life and Death

He removed to Leicester after the close of the war, his last abode in that town being a cabin on the road leading from Leicester to Auburn. He was removed to Framingham, where he had gained a settlement in 1816, and there he died.

In popular culture

Peter Salem was portrayed by Jimmy Akingbola in the 2015 mini-series Sons of Liberty.[4]

See also


  1. Peter Salem, Hero at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
  2. An Oration Pronounced at Worcester (Mass.) on the Fortieth Anniversary of American Independence
  3. The Budget: Containing the Annual Reports of the General Officers of the African M. E. Church of the United States of America; with Facts and Figures, Historical Data of the Colored Methodist Church in Particular, and Universal Methodism in General; Together with Religious, Educational and Political Information Pertaining to the Colored Race
  4. Sons of Liberty, IMDB