Salem, MA Military History

“Salem has a rich military history that stretches all the way back to the Seventeenth Century, and continues on today. Salem’s designation in 2013 as the birthplace of the National Guard, and Salem’s privateer connections get most of the military heritage attention, but there is much more to this story.

Salem Common was “Ye Olde Training Field” when Captain John Endicott organized the first training day to drill settlers in 1630. In 1637 the first militia muster was organized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony Court.

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Cadet Band, ca: 1910, led by Jean Missud.

Today we know Winter Island for its beach, boat ramp, and beautiful lighthouse. Originally named for King William, the original fort dates back to 1643-1667. It was renamed for Salem’s Colonel Timothy Pickering in 1799, and became a Coast Guard Air Station in 1935.

Six weeks prior to the “shot heard around the world on Lexington Green,” British Colonel Alexander Leslie retreated from a gathering of angry citizens on Salem’s North Bridge. Leslie and the 64th regiment had been sent by the British governor general of Massachusetts, Thomas Gage, to seize Colonial cannons and gunpowder in Salem. Leslie’s Retreat is considered by many to have been the first armed resistance of the American Revolution. Learn more about Leslie’s Retreat in this article from The Boston Globe.

Salem Privateers made a name for themselves during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Privateers were privately owned vessels that had government permission to capture enemy vessels during wartime, and during the Revolutionary War alone Salem sent out 158 privateers that captured 444 prizes (enemy ships), more than half the number taken by all the Colonies during the war. Today you can sail aboard a replica Salem Privateer, Schooner FAME, out of Pickering Wharf.

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Salem Coast Guard matchbook (front).

Include the Pickering House on Broad Street in your visit to       Salem, and you will be exploring the birthplace of Colonel Timothy Pickering, who was an officer in the Continental Army and   Quartermaster during the Revolutionary War. Pickering’s career went on to include Adjutant General of the Army, Secretary of State, and   Secretary of War. Pickering, who was known for his unwavering integrity, lack of prejudice, devotion to justice, and commitment to service, is buried in the Broad Street Cemetery.

Glover’s Regiment claims Marblehead as its home, but Colonel John Glover was born on St. Peter’s Street in Salem. A good friend of General George Washington’s, Glover’s Regiment ferried Washington across the Delaware River, and Glover’s Schooner HANNAH was the first commissioned ship in the US Navy.

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Salem Coast Guard matchbook (back).

Salem mathematician and navigator Nathaniel Bowditch wrote “The New American Practical Navigator.” Known as “The Bowditch,” a copy of this book was been onboard Naval and Coast Guard vessels since the War of 1812.

Residents and visitors still remember when two US Naval Submarines were docked at Derby Wharf, used as training vessels during World War II.

Salem’s military connections continue today, most notably in newly-elected Congressman Seth Moulton, who served in the Marine Corps in the Iraq War.

Armory Park, adjacent to the Salem Regional Visitor Center, pays tribute to more than 365 years of military heritage in Essex County and includes a timeline tracing the history of the citizen soldier and the Second Corps of Cadets.

Material for this feature was provided by Bonnie Hurd Smith, Nelson Dionne, Schooner FAME, and SethMoulton.com.

Black History Month in Salem, Massachusetts

February is Black History Month, and we’re sharing two walking tours that focus exclusively on Salem’s black heritage.

Pick up a self-guided walking tour brochure for Salem’s African American Heritage Sites from the Salem Regional Visitor Center at 2 New Liberty Street. (You can also view and print the tour online here.)

Salem Regional Visitor Center

Following the tour to Hamilton Hall on Chestnut Street, where Curacao immigrant John Remond ran a successful catering business in the early 19th century. Remond was a successful local businessman whose catering business was responsible for planning important events like Salem’s 200th anniversary and a dinner for President Andrew Jackson. Today, Hamilton Hall continues Remond’s legacy by hosting social events each year including weddings, catered dinners, themed balls, lectures, and more.

Continue to Harmony Grove Cemetery, where John Remond and members of the Remond family are buried. From here, learn about Remond’s children, Charles and Sarah, who became known for their activism during Salem’s abolitionist movement in the mid-19th century.

Salem Abolitionist Sarah Parker Remond

Sarah Parker Remond

The two traveled throughout the U.S., Ireland, Scotland, and England where Sarah stayed during the Civil War to convince British Parliament to offer no assistance to the Confederacy. Following the war, she stayed in Europe and moved to Florence, Italy, where she became a physician.

Charles was selected by the American Antislavery Society to work as a representative at a world convention in London, where he also continued to travel from speaking about the importance of the abolitionist movement. His work was supported by abolitionists in Salem as well as William Lloyd Garrison. During the Civil War, Charles worked as a recruiter for the Massachusetts 54th Regiment.

The tour continues to include stops at Lyceum Hall, which was home to the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, Pond Street and Rice Street, where the homes of many African American sailors and merchants are located, and Cedar Street, whose residents have included a number of volunteers in the Massachusetts 54th Regiment as well as Regiment Captain Luis Emilio.

Salem's Black Heritage TourPrefer an audio tour instead? The Salem Award Foundation for Human Rights and Social Justice sponsors an audio tour that you can download (for free) on your smartphone. Download the UniGuide mobile app and select “Salem’s Black Heritage” to visit 24 stops around town associated with Salem’s black history. This tour covers historical figures and events from the role of Tituba in the Salem Witch Trials to the success of contemporary author Stephen Hemingway.

Be sure to keep the UniGuide app after your tour, as additional Salem tours, as well as tours for sites around the country, may be found on the app.

Salem.org