Born into slavery on October 1st. 1750 in Framingham, Massachusetts, Peter Salem was named after his owners’ hometown of Salem, Massachusetts where he labored on a farm. In 1775, Major Lawson Buckminster purchased Peter from Army Captain Jeremy Belknap and subsequently emancipated Salem, enabling him to serve in Buckminster’s minutemen’s regiment.

Salem joined Captain Simon Edgell’s Framingham company and fought at the battles of Lexington and Concord. He was later transferred to Captain Thomas Drury’s company, fighting bravely at Bunker Hill alongside several other African American minutemen including Titus Coleman, Salem Poor, and Seymour Burr.

During the Battle of Bunker Hill, Peter Salem is credited with firing the shot that killed British General Thomas Pitcairn, a pivotal moment that rallied the Americans, even though the army did not win the battle. Salem continued to fight for the Patriots in the battles of Saratoga, Monmouth, and Stony Point. He was honorably discharged in December 1776 and signed up for three more years in the 6th Regiment of Massachusetts Bay Forces, showcasing his unwavering commitment to the American cause.

After the war, Salem moved to Massachusetts, where he moved around for some time. He died in a poor house in Framingham, Massachusetts on August 16, 1816, at the age of 66. In 1882, Framingham honored Peter Salem with a statue commemorating his contributions to the American Revolution, cementing his legacy as a courageous freed slave who fought for liberty and independence.

Peter Salem. American Battlefield Trust. (n.d.). Retrieved December 19, 2022, from

“Peter Salem and the Battle of Bunker Hill.” National Museum of African American History and Culture, 15 Mar. 2017

Nielsen, contributed by: Euell A. “Peter Salem (Ca.1750 -1816) •.” , 11 Dec. 2022