Francis Salvador was a man of firsts.
Salvador was born in 1747 to the wealthy Sephardic owners of a shipping firm. Struggling to rebuild their fortune after an earthquake in Lisbon destroyed much of the family’s business interests, Salvador left for South Carolina in 1773 to find work. There, he took up with the American revolutionary cause.
In 1774, Salvador became the first Jew elected to public office in the thirteen colonies. Soon after he was assessing frontier safety, obtaining ammunition, and drafting up a new state constitution.
But, unfortunately, that wasn’t Salvador’s only first. In July 1776, the British persuaded Cherokee Native Americans to attack the South Carolina frontier as a diversion for British operations on the coast. Salvador was shot and scalped during one of the scrimmages, becoming the first Jew to die in the name of an independent America.
A compatriot’s report of Salvador’s final minutes:
“When I came up to him after dislodging the enemy, and speaking to him, he asked, whether I had beat the enemy? I told him yes. He said he was glad of it, and shook me by the hand—and bade me farewell—and said, he would die in a few minutes.”