Peter Kiteridge was born into slavery in Boston, Massachusetts and worked in the household of the Kittredge family, from Andover, Massachusetts. Although slavery is most often associated with the southern colonies, and later the southern states, it was an established institution across the the thirteen original colonies at the time of the American Revolution. Despite being born into the institution legalized in the colony in which he lived, African American Peter Kiteredge cast his lot with those fighting for the cause of independence. The Kitteridge family had as well. Many in the extended family of Kittredges were physicians, and Dr. Thomas Kittredge went on to serve as as surgeon for Colonel James Frye’s regiment (Essex County Regiment) that was raised in Andover. In May 1775, the regiment became part of the Army of Observation. During the war, Peter Kittredge served in Captain William H. Ballard’s company of Colonel James Frye’s regiment. Peter joined the army in 1775 or 1776, according to his memory over thirty years later, and served for five years in the army before later becoming a sailor.Read more: Financial Assistance for a Veteran
By the early 1800s, Peter Kiteridge was struggling both with his finances and his health. In this letter dated April 26, 1806, he noted that he is a freeman and in need of financial assistance. This document reveals much more about Peter, including the time between when he was a slave and when he went into military service. But the heart of Kiteridge’s letter was his request for assistance from the Selectmen of the town of Medfield. Due to a “complaint” that he had suffered since the war, perhaps the lingering effects of a disease contracted during his time in the service, Peter was unable to continue to work, and he asked for help to support his wife and four children. Because he later signed this petition with an “X” we can assume that his years as a slave left him illiterate. By the turn of the century, however, he was not the only veteran of the Revolutionary War that needed financial assistance. As this generation of servicemen aged, a growing demand for what later became known as veteran pensions increased. Today, veteran pension records, and petitions for assistance such as this, provide scholars a wealth of information on those that lived and served during this turbulent period.
Below you will find the full petition of the Medfield Selectman of April 26, 1806 courtesy of the Gilder Lehrman Collection.
I beg leave to state to you my necessitous circumstances, that through your intervention I may obtain that succour, which suffering humanity ever requires. Borne of African parents & as I apprehend in Boston, from whence while an infant I was removed to Rowley and from thence again to Andover into the family of Doct. [Thom] Kiteridge, with whom as was then the lot of my unfortunate race, I passed the best part of my life as a slave. [struck: At the age of twenty five] In the year of our Lord 1775 or 6 & in the twenty fifth of my age I entered into the service of the U.S. as a private soldier where I continued five years [inserted: and] where I contracted a complaint from which I have suffered in a greater or less degree ever since & with which I am now afflicted. After leaving the army to become a sailor for two years; when I quited the sea & resided for some time in Newtown, from whence I went to Natick where I remained for a short time & then removed to Dover where I [struck: remained] [inserted: carried] as a day labourer during the period of seven years. Eight years past I removed to the place where I now live, & have untill this time, by my labor, assisted by the kindness of the neighbouring inhabitants been enabled to support myself and family. At present having arrived  at the fifty eight year of my life and afflicted with severe and as I apprehend with incurable diseases whereby the labour of my hands is wholly cut off, and with it the only means of my support. – My family at this time consists of a wife and [struck: three] four children, three of whome are so young as to be unable to support themselves and the time of their mother [struck: has] is wholy occupied in taking cair [sic] of myself & our little ones – thus gentlemen, in this my extremity I am induced to call on you for assistance; not in the character of an inhabitant of the town of Westfield, for I have no such claim, but as a stranger accidently fallen within your borders, one who has not the means of subsistence, & in fact, one, who must fail through want & disease unless sustained by the fostering hand of your care.
I am Gentlemen your mos obedient, most humble servant.
His X Mark
Attent. Ebenezer Clark
To the policemen Selectmen of the
Town of Medfield.
Medfield 26 April 1806
To the gentlemen Select
[Men] of the Town of
Medfield – “