Revolutionary Hero & Former Slave…Peter Salem Poor
The First Battle of the American Revolution was at Concord Massachusetts on April 19th 1775. The first shot of that Battle has been called “The Shot heard around the world”. That first shot may have been fired by this man. Peter Salem Poor one of the original Boston Patriots who would go on to fight with George Washington throughout the rest of the American Revolution.
Here is his citation for Gallantry from the Revolutionary Army:
“The Reward due to so great and Distinguished a Character. The Subscribers beg leave to Report to your Honorable. House (Which We do in justice to the Character of so Brave a man) that under Our Own observation, we declare that A Negro Man Called Salem Poor of Col. Fryes Regiment, Capt. Ames. Company in the late Battle of Charleston, behaved like an Experienced Officer, as Well as an Excellent Soldier, to Set forth Particulars of his Conduct would be Tedious, We Would Only beg leave to say in the Person of this Negro Centers a Brave & gallant Soldier.”
Here is his story…
Peter Salem Poor (1750-1816)
Peter Salem was a member of the famous Massachusetts Minutemen and was involved in a number of important battles, including the battles of Bunker Hill, Concord, and Saratoga (the first American victory of the Revolution). However, it was in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, that he gained notoriety.
After the battles of Lexington and Concord, American troops from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island assembled at Boston to confront the 5,000 British troops stationed there. The out-manned American forces engaged the British outside the city. The Americans were winning the conflict until they began running out of ammunition.
With the Americans near defeat, British commander Major John Pitcairn (who had earlier led the British forces against the Americans at Lexington) mounted the hill and shouted, “The day is ours!” whereupon Salem promptly shot him, sending the British troops into confusion and allowing the Americans to escape safely.
Peter Salem was honored before General Washington for his soldierly act.
Salem became a member of the Fifth Massachusetts Regiment and served throughout the rest of the Revolution – a total of seven years of military service in behalf of his country, a length of time achieved by few other soldiers in the Revolution.
Salem had entered the Revolution as a slave but finished it as a free man, marrying in 1783, at the conclusion of the Revolution.
A stone monument was erected to Peter Salem at Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1882; and Salem is pictured in the famous painting of John Trumbull titled, “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill
The Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition.
Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.