Salem Poor: story of the black hero of the American Revolutionary War

Salem Poor: story of the black hero of the American Revolutionary War

The American Revolutionary War account will be incomplete without admitting Salem Poor's exceptional contributions in ensuring America's founding. He was among numerous African-Americans who fought against the British controlling the Breed's and Bunker Hills. His courage as a soldier was recognized and commended.

Salem Poor
Slave-turned-soldier Salem Poor. Photo: @salem_poor
Source: Twitter

Although Salem spent his early years in slavery, the determined soldier bought his freedom and enlisted in the Massachusetts army. From his service reports, the negro re-enlisted severally and also partook in many wars. Besides his service, the legendary soldier married several women at different times, although there are no divorce records.

Who is Salem Poor?

Salem Poor was an African-American slave. He bought his freedom, became a soldier, and eventually rose to fame as a war hero when Bunker Hill's Battle was on during the American Revolution. When was Salem Poor born? In 1747, he was born into slavery on a farm in Andover, Massachusetts. John Poor and his son John Poor Jr owned the farm.

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According to a report, an Andover woman purchased the little child at a slave auction in 1747. What did Salem Poor do? On the 10th of July, 1769, at 22 years of age, he bought his freedom for 27 pounds from John Poor Jr. This amount was what an average working man earned yearly at that time. The purchase granted him the opportunity of enlisting as a soldier.

In May 1775, the legendary soldier enlisted in the Massachusetts militia and served under Captain Benjamin Ames in Colonel James Frye's regiment. On the 16th of June, 1775, Frye's regiment and two others received an order to march to Charlestown (Boston) from Cambridge

Unfortunately, on the 12th of November, 1775, General George Washington ordered black men not to serve in the Continental Army again. This was after he previously stopped the recruitment of African-Americans. Because of this, Lord Dunmore, Virginia's governor, freed all slaves who wished to serve with the British, and Poor had the opportunity to re-enlist.

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Salem Poor's family

In August 1771, Salem took Nancy Parker as his wife. Nancy was Captain James Parker's maidservant and half Native American and half African-American. Where did Salem Poor live? The couple lived in Andover, and it was there that their first child, Jonas, was born in about 1775.

Whether he divorced Nancy or not is not confirmed, although some reports state that. Nevertheless, in 1780, Salem took another wife, Mary Twing. Twing was also a slave. The couple lived in Providence, Rhode Island, until they were asked to leave.

Additionally, in 1787, Salem took Sarah Stevens, a white woman, as his wife again. In 1793, they spent many weeks in a Boston Almshouse before Salem was jailed in 1799 for a short time for breaching the peace. There was another account that he again married in 1801, although the marriage details are not available.

What battles did Salem poor fight in?

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The legendary soldier served at the Battle of Bunker Hill that took place on the 17th of June, 1775, and assisted in repulsing several British charges. Because of his distinguished character, Colonel William Prescott and 13 regimental commanders signed a testimonial addressed to the commonwealth's General Court. In it, they wrote in part:

A negro man called Salem Poor... 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 Sd. Negro centers a brave & gallant soldier—the reward due to so great and distinguish a character, we submit to the Congress.

While no other soldier received that kind of recommendation, the legendary soldier reportedly signed a three-year enlistment with Colonel Edward Wigglesworth's 13th Massachusetts Regiment. He had the privilege of serving on the team during the Saratoga Campaign and at Monmouth Courthouse and Valley Forge winter encampment.

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Moreover, after he re-enlisted in the militia, Poor served under General Benedict Arnold at Fort George in upstate New York in 1776. That same year, on the 28th of October, he partook in the Battle of White Plains. In September and October of 1777, he fought the Battles of Saratoga before he retreated alongside other patriots to the winter camp at Valley Forge.

On the 28th of June, 1778, Salem fought in the Battle of Monmouth. He kept fighting with the Patriot forces until the 20th of March, 1780, when they discharged him.

When did Salem Poor die?

The slave-turned-soldier died in 1802 at 55 years of age, and they buried him on the 5th of February, 1802. Since Salem Poor's death, his gravesite at Copp's Hill Burying Ground has become a stop on Boston's Freedom Trail. Nevertheless, he was a hero, and his relentlessness was partly what stood him out among other soldiers of his time.

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Why is Salem Poor a hero?

Salem Poor's participation at The Battle of Bunker Hill during the American Revolutionary War cannot be forgotten in the country's history. He was part of those who defended the hills after the Americans knew that the British attempted to take two hills, Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill, to have a tactical advantage.

While the Americans did not win the battle, about 268 British soldiers died that day compared to 115 American soldiers that died. As a result, the British recorded the highest casualties they have ever witnessed in a single fight.

Salem Poor is a legendary soldier whose contributions during the American Revolutionary War are well appreciated. In 1975, he was honoured with a stamp in the Contributors to the Cause series for the 1976 United States Bicentennial.

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