• Email
  • Print

It Wasn’t Peter Salem

In response to:

The Ends of Slavery from the March 30, 1989 issue

To the Editors:

Professor Sidney Kaplan has sent me convincing evidence showing that the black soldier portrayed in John Trumbull’s painting of the Battle of Bunker Hill was not Peter Salem, as Kaplan and other authorities had previously thought, and as I wrote in my review of The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery by Robin Blackburn [NYR, March 30]. Peter Salem did fight in the Battle of Bunker Hill, along with a dozen or so other blacks. According to Samuel Swett, the earliest chronicler of the battle, Salem even shot Major John Pitcairn, the British officer who achieved notoriety at the Battle of Lexington. Peter Salem also fought at the Battles of Lexington, Saratoga, and Stony Point. These revisions will be documented in Sidney and Emma Nogrady Kaplan’s revised edition of The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution.

David Brion Davis
Department of History, Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

  • Email
  • Print