Peter Slater was a native of England, born May 2, 1760, son of Peter and Abigail Slater. His father was English and his mother Scotch. His father was captain of a merchant vessel which sailed between England and Boston. While Peter was a small boy, his parents emigrated and his father purchased an estate on Elm Street in Boston. His father was a strong Whig, and endorsed the sentiment that "taxation without representation was tyranny." This idea was instilled into the mind of his son Peter. In 1766, when Peter was about 6 years old his father died at sea. After attending the public schools in Boston for a few years, Peter was put out to trade at the rope-making business of John Gray, whose rope-walk was on the south side of the Common.
On March 2, 1770, three days before the "Boston Massacre", there was a skirmish between the British soldiers and the rope-makers. Young Peter, only a boy of 10 years, took part by providing the men with "way-sticks," which were made of hickory and used in the rope making process.
December 16, 1773 at age 13 he was one of the youngest participants in the Boston Tea Party. The record of the events say that a man by the name of Cotton was found filling his pockets and boots with tea, upon which Peter opened his jackknife and cut off the pockets and pulled off the boots of the selfish, unpatriotic fellow and threw them into the water. Altogether, Peter and the others threw overboard 342 chests of tea, then valued at £18,000, or nearly $100,000, into Boston harbor.
June 17, 1775, Peter was one of the spectators from Boston Heights (Fort Hill) of the battle going on at Bunker Hill. Soon after this battle, Boston being blockaded, he obtained a pass, and, with his mother, moved to Worcester, MA.
April 6, 1777, at 16 years of age, he enlisted into the Continental Army with the rank of Matross, and served with Col. Jonathan Holman's Regiment, third Artillery Company under Capt. Wm. Treadwell.
He fought at Brandywine (September 11, 1777) and was with Gen. Washington at Valley Forge (winter of 1777 – 1778) and the battle of Monmouth, (June 28, 1778). He was taken prisoner at the battle of Stony Point (July 15-16, 1779) and often spoke of the small number of men defending the fort at Stony Point for one day and a half, against some three thousand British. When they had spent the last ammunition it was agreed they should surrender as prisoners of war. They marched out of the fort and grounded their arms, with the exception of their side arms, their number being only seven. The British general could not be satisfied that this small number had done so much duty, and had the fort searched, after which he gave them great credit for their bravery.
They were shipped to New York and imprisoned with 500 other prisoners in a sugar house. He was held for five months before his release as part of a prisoner exchange. He served briefly under Arnold in the Hudson River Valley (this was Arnold's last command before becoming a traitor at West Point in the summer of 1780). Peter Slater was discharged April 6, 1780 and returned to live in Worcester, MA.
In 1787 he was elected a lieutenant in the old Worcester Artillery Militia Company and was promoted captain under a commission from Gov. Strong in 1812. He was a member of the Board of Selectmen of Worcester for four years, 1818 to 1822, and always took a lively interest in matters pertaining to the welfare and prosperity of the town. He enjoyed remarkably good health throughout his life, never being sick until six months before his death. He was always active and industrious.
BURIAL NOTE: Peter Slater and his wife Zilpath were first buried at the Pine Street Burial Ground on the eastern side of Worcester, Mass. When this burial ground was closed due to urban expansion both were moved to Hope Cemetery in Worcester. Hope Cemetery opened in 1854 so this would have occurred shortly after the opening of the cemetery.