Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African Americans in the Revolutionary War

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Salem Poor

Courtesy of Snark/Art Resource, N.Y.

As member of Captain Benjamin Ames's company in Colonel James Frye's Fifth Massachusetts Regiment, Salem Poor was one of approximately three dozen black soldiers who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Yet he was the only soldier, black or white, to be singled out for praise for his "distinguished" and "gallant"conduct in a document signed by fourteen officers after the battle. While the exact nature of Poor's role in the battle remains uncertain (he was originally commissioned to construct fortifications), according to tradition he shot and killed Lieutenant Colonel James Abercrombie, a high-ranking British officer whose death is pictured in the painting "The Battle at Bunker Hill Near Boston, June 17, 1775," by John Trumbull, shown here. Trumbull, who was present at the fighting, most likely depicted Salem Poor at the right, having just fired the shot that has felled Abercrombie, on the left. However, it is also possible that the painting depicts Peter Salem, another black patriot who fought in the battle.

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