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Freed from slavery by his owner in order to fight in the Continental Army, Peter Salem was one of about 500 African Americans who served in the Revolutionary War. Along with Salem Poor, Peter Salem fought bravely in early pivotal battles in Massachusetts, including Concord in April 1775 and Bunker (Breed's) Hill in June 1775. Some contemporary eyewitnesses credited Salem with firing the decisive shot that killed British Major John Pitcairn at Bunker Hill. Artist John Trumbull is said to have depicted Salem in his 1786 painting “The Battle of Bunker's Hill,” which shows a black soldier holding a musket. Serving bravely until the end of the war, Salem died in poverty in his hometown of Framingham, Massachusetts, after a career as a cane weaver. In 1882, a monument was erected to his memory in Framingham.

See also American Revolution.

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Caryn E. Neumann

who was born a slave in Framingham, Massachusetts. Salem's master, Jeremiah Belknap, named the newborn slave after his Massachusetts hometown. Salem was eventually sold to Major Lawson Buckminster, who freed the young man to allow him to serve in the Framingham militia. In 1774 the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts set up the Committee of Safety under John Hancock to call out the entire militia of the colony should events lead to its necessity. Special groups were formed within militia units to be ready at a moment's notice, and Salem became one of the few black minutemen.

As a militiaman Salem attacked the British at Concord after a group of Royal Marines under Major John Pitcairn fired the shots that started the war, assaulting minutemen at Lexington in April 1775 Salem joined the Fifth Massachusetts Regiment led by Colonel John Nixon The regiment rushed to Boston as reinforcements ...