Battle Star

The freed slave who turned the tide of the Revolution

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ou didn’t learn this in school: It was a black former slave who’s credited with killing the British commander at the Battle of Bunker Hill, turning the tide of the battle and the early stages of the Revolutionary War. During the battle on June 17, 1775, Peter Salem is said to have shot British Major John Pitcairn when Pitcairn ordered the American troops to lay down their arms and surrender. Suddenly leaderless, the British were temporarily stunned, giving the Americans time to successfully retreat before they ran out of ammunition. Salem, who died on August 16, 1816, is buried in Framingham’s Old Burial Ground.

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It was a black man with Wampanoag Indian blood who was the first to die in what became the American Revolution: Crispus Attucks, killed in the Boston Massacre in 1775.

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