1: Summary and Analysis
story begins in April of 1775. Sam Meeker returns home from
college in uniform and full of excitement. "We've beaten the
British in Massachusetts" are the first words out of his mouth.
This comes as a surprise to his father, mother, brother, minister
and other locals in the taproom of the Meeker's tavern; they
are unaware of the rebellion brewing in Boston.
of what Sam is so excited about:
1775: a provincial congress was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts
during which John Hancock and Joseph Warren begin defensive
preparations for a state of war.
1775: the English Parliament declares Massachusetts to
be in a state of rebellion.
1775: Patrick Henry delivers a speech in Virginia against
British rule, stating, "Give me liberty or give me death!".
1775: the New England Restraining Act is endorsed by King
George the Third, requiring New England Colonies to trade
exclusively with England and bans fishing in the North
1775: Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage is ordered to
enforce the Coercive Acts and suppress "open rebellion"
among the colonists by all necessary force.
1775: Gage orders 700 British soldiers to Concord to destroy
the colonists' weapons depot. That night Paul Revere makes
his famous ride reaching Lexington around midnight to
warn Sam Adams and John Hancock of the British plan.
1775: 70 rebels face off against the British on Lexington
Green. An unordered shot is fired and results in musket
volleys and a bayonet charge which leaves 8 Americans
dead and 10 injured. The British proceed to Concord, destroy
the colonists' weapon depot, yet are surprised by the
rebels on a bridge in Concord and suffer 14 casualties.
They are continually attacked on their retreat back to
Boston by the rebels and lose over 250 men.
- News of these
events spread like wildfire through the Colonies. Sam Meeker
portrays one example of how this news was delivered and
the initial shock of Sam's report, his father questions him
about the specifics of the events in Boston.
"Well, the beginning was when the Lobsterbacks-"
"By that I suppose you mean the soldiers of your King,"
displeasure with Sam's use of Lobsterbacks to describe the
British is our first indication of the Meeker family's allegiance
to the King of England: they are Anglican Church members who
regularly pray for the health of the King and Parliament.
comical and ironic about Sam's commentary is his use of the
word "Lobsterbacks" over and over again; Sam is wearing a
scarlet red coat himself. One would expect an American soldier
to be dressed in Blue or tan, but many colors (green, brown,
blue, purple, tan, black & white) were used by different companies
of soldiers in that period. The different colors distinguished
the regiments from one another.
Sam recounts what he knows about Lexington and Concord the
room is filled with emotion & concern:
"…that's rebellion, they'll have us in war yet."
Beach: "I think men of common sense will prevail. Nobody
wants rebellion except fools and hotheads."
"That's not what they say in New Haven, sir, they say that
the whole colony of Massachusetts is ready to fight and if
Massachusetts fights, Connecticut will fight too."
"I WILL NOT HAVE TREASON SPOKEN IN MY HOUSE, SAM!"
reaction of those present mimics the reaction of men, women
and children throughout the colonies in 1775. War with England
was a frightful thought, below are some examples why:
Army was powerful and experienced. Many men, 40 years
of age or older, had fought along side the British soldiers
in the French and Indian War. They had experienced, first-hand,
the skill and tenacity of the enemy.
Land to the
West of the Appalachian Mountains was occupied by Indians,
the Spanish and the French, not Americans. Would the colonists
be able to defend themselves from attacks from any one
of them without the assistance of the British Army?
businesses and merchants worried that if America split
from England they would be at risk of losing their prosperity.
Tobacco farmers are an example of those who actually did
suffer as a result of the American Revolution.
plan for self-government in place how would the colonies
- For families
that attended Anglican Churches their religion was directly
tied to England and a split from England would surely threaten
As the main characters
debate the issues, we receive the opinions of the Rebels from
Sam and the opinions of the Loyalists from his father and
"I don't think the people of Redding are anxious to fight,
get the wrong idea from Redding, sir. There's a lot more Tories
in this part of Connecticut than in the rest of the colonies."
"…These agitators can always manage to stir up the passions
of the people for a week or so, but it never lasts. A month
later everybody's forgotten it- except the wives and children
of the men who've managed to get themselves killed." *Foreshadows
the fate of both Life and Sam.
it's worth dying to be free." *Foreshadows Sam's death.
Free to do what, Sam? Free to mock your King? To shoot your
neighbor? To make a mess of a thousand lives?…"
should they get rich off our taxes back in England? They're
3,000 miles away, how can they make laws for us?"
When Sam's comments
to Mr. Beach become disrespectful, Life loses his temper and
the discussion ends. Mr. Beach heads off to the church, and
Tim explains the relationships within his family and his feelings
about them. He also describes the tavern/store his family
operates on Redding Ridge, and the tasks a boy like himself
was responsible for in that time period. We learn of the role
and importance of religion in the life of the Meeker family
too, it is clear Tim and Sam have been raised on the ideals
of the Church of England:
said that idle hands make the Devil's Work."
couldn't boast about his triumphs to Father or Mother or Mr.
Beach or anybody like that, because boasting was pride and
pride was a sin..."
curse," I said. "It's a sin."
Talk of war returns
towards the end of the chapter, first when Sam discloses to
Tim that he came back to Redding for his father's gun and
second when Sam and Life argue over Sam taking the gun and
going to Massachusetts. Foreshadowing of what will happen
later in the novel occurs in both these conversations:
that: "he (Life) took it (the gun) with him every fall
when he went over to Verplancks Point to sell cattle and buy
supplies for the store. He'd never met up with any trouble…but
people he knew had been held up and robbed." Tim obviously
knows the importance of the gun and the purpose it serves
his father on cattle runs.
Life knowing the
horrors of war, (having fought in the Siege of Louisbourg
during French and Indian War) attempts to reason with Sam
using examples of the atrocities he experienced personally
when Sam exclaims that he is "…going to fight to keep my country
free." Sam refuses to be reasoned with and finally Life orders
him to leave:
Sam. Go. Get out of my sight. I can't bear to look at you
anymore in that vile costume. Get out…"
After the door
slams shut Tim hears something he has never heard before…his
had his head down on the table, and he was crying. I'd never
seen him cry before in my whole life; and I knew there were
bad times ahead."
There were certainly
bad times ahead, the hardships of war were marching towards
them. Men like Life would soon be called traders, loyalists
and tories because they did not support the rebellion. Some
would stay and remain silent, others would leave and join
the British forces, in either case they would suffer.
What do we learn
about the characters in Chapter 1?
1. Sam Meeker:
- Is for the
- Is returning
from college in New Haven (Yale)
- Likes being
the center of attention
- Is in the Governor's
Second Foot Guard under Captain Benedict Arnold
- Has a bad temper
- Often speaks
before thinking about what he's saying
- Is sixteen
years of age and has been in college for less than a year
- Was a triumphant
sort of person
- Has runaway
a few times after arguing with his father
- Plans on taking
his father's gun (Brown Bess) so he can go with his company
to Massachusetts and fight the Lobsterbacks.
2. Eliphalet (Life)
- Is against
- Is practical
- Has a bad temper
- Believes children
ought to keep a civil tongue in their heads and respect
- Has hit Sam
before, mostly for arguing
- Owns a store/tavern
on Redding Ridge
- Is a veteran
of the French and Indian War where he saw several friends
- Is an Anglican
- Sees himself
as an Englishman and subject of the King.
3. Tim Meeker:
- Looks up to
his brother Sam, "Oh, I envied him"
- Finds it funny
that Sam keeps saying "Lobsterback" when he was dressed
in red, too.
- Doesn't like
to see his father and Sam fight
- Is confused
by the topic of rebellion, thinks Sam makes some good points
but figures there is more too it than Sam knew about
- Respects his
father's practical knowledge
- Wants the debating/fighting
to end and for things to be like they used to be
- Knows that
Sam might run away to Warrups' hut if the fighting gets
- Is aware of
right and wrong, what you should and shouldn't do
4. Susannah Meeker:
- Had not seen
Sam since Christmas
- Does not like
it when Life hits Sam for speaking out but believes Life
is right that children ought to keep a civil tongue in their
head and respect their elders
5. Mr. Beach:
- Is the minister
at the Anglican Church on Redding Ridge
- Is against
- Feels loyalty
to England is virtue everywhere in America
- Warns Sam that
"God meant man to obey." As he sees it, King George the
Third is the head of the Anglican Church and thus his subjects
should obey him and should not question his ways.
2: Summary and Analysis
Tim provides background
information about his mother, father, town, neighborhood and
religion at the onset of chapter two. His comments here are
very important to the story as they show us that the war caused
division not only between England and America but also between
families, neighbors, and countrymen. In chapter one we learned
that Tim's family is divided over the rebellion, and in chapter
two we learn some underlying factors that will play a part
in why his neighborhood, town and ultimately the American
Colonies will be divided over "…whether we ought to obey His
Majesty's government or whether we should rebel."
The most important
comment Tim makes in chapter two is "What kept confusing me
about it was that the argument didn't have two sides the way
an argument should, but about six sides." Tim is speaking
of "opinions" people had of the British government's policies
following the French and Indian War. These new policies hampered
America's economic and geographical growth via:
- Trade restrictions
- The Presence
of British troops in America (and cost of having them here)
- British efforts
to prevent westward expansion of the colonies
- The Political
corruption of Royal Governors
The anger over
these policies had reached a boiling point and as Tim states:
"..it wasn't going to be just arguments anymore." The reason
Tim's comment is so important is that the debate over rebellion
was a complex topic with many sides that needed to be examined
and decided on by the American colonists prior to a rebellion.
Issues like: economics, government, religion, and safety in
the American Colonies should they gain Independence from Great
Britain were very important questions that really did not
have answers before the events at Lexington and Concord thrust
the American citizens into war with the British.
To know people
in your country (including your own son) planned on engaging
in military skirmishes with the intention of Independence
from imperial rule without a strategic plan of action nor
a solid political agenda was quite alarming. Life Meeker's
thoughts echoed many in the American Colonies at the outbreak
of the war:
whole argument is over a few taxes that hardly amount to anything
for most people. What's the use of principles if you have
to be dead to keep them? We're Englishmen, Timmy. Of course
there are injustices, there are always injustices, that's
the way of God's world. But you never get rid of injustices
by fighting. Look at Europe, they've had one war after another
for hundreds of years, and show me where anything ever got
any better for them…"
He was absolutely
right, one war after another had plunged England into such
a financial deficit that it had to turn to its colonies to
help pay for war debts. The reaction to these taxes and trade
restrictions paved the way to the Revolution, so England didn't
have anything better because of war and it was about to get
But the debating
was over now, the war had begun and from this point forward
all anyone wanted to know was "what side are you on?". As
Anglican church members is was tough to be on the side of
the Patriots (rebels) when your minister Mr. Beach made loyalty
to the King the subject of his Sunday sermon.
said that our first duty was to God but that our Lord Jesus
Christ had said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things
which are Caesar's" and that meant we were supposed to be
loyal Englishmen. He said that hot-tempered young men who
listened not to the voices of their elders would bring a wrathy
God down on their own heads. He said that the Bible commanded
youth to honor their fathers, which made me pretty nervous
for Sam, because it was a sin to shout at your father the
way he had done, and maybe God would punish him…between being
worried about that (God getting Sam) and being confused over
which side was right I couldn't concentrate on church much.
I just wanted to get out of there. But Mr. Beach always preached
at least an hour and being fired up about the Lexington battle
he went on longer."
in chapter two distinguish him as a metaphoric symbol of one
third of the American population during the war. He portrays
the American that is uncertain which side is right and does
not wish to choose a side until forced to, sometimes referred
to as "fence-sitters". Sam and Life are examples of the other
two thirds: the rebel/patriot and the loyalist. While there
were obviously more than three positions regarding the war
it is easiest to group them in this fashion.
"Timmy are you on your father's side or Sam's?
wished she hadn't asked me that question. I didn't want to
answer it ; in fact, I didn't know how to answer it. 'I don't
understand what it's all about,' I said."
simple, either we're going to be free or we're not."
"It isn't that simple, Sam. There's more to it."
The ensuing conversation
between Sam, Betsy and Tim at Tom Warrups' hut contains a
foreshadowing comment by Sam:
wants to get killed, but you should be willing to die for
And a foreshadowing
comment by Tim:
you can't take it (the gun), we need it at home. Father needs
Sam being a triumphant
sort of person is still speaking without thinking about what
he is saying. His bravado and zest for action have taken over
and he's ready to go to war at all costs. He's even willing
to take away the only defense his family has at home and his
father has on his cattle runs to live up to his principles
and teach the King a lesson.
3: Summary and Analysis
Chapter 3 does
not offer much information, Tim explains what life in Redding
is like in the summer of 1775. He misses Sam and is still
confused about the which side he is on.
still hadn't made up my mind which side I was on in the war,
and I didn't care whether Sam was a Patriot or a Tory or what.
All I could think about was snuggling up to him and listening
to him talk about scoring telling points."
The war was underway
but the "…battles all seemed far away- they were just things
we read about in the Connecticut Journal and other newspapers."
As far as Tim is
concerned "it wasn't any different from usual, it was just
normal." What wasn't normal was the topics being discussed
in the tavern, and Betsy Read does her best to linger around
and listen to what is being said. Betsy is looking out for
Sam and his cause. She stated in chapter 2 that: "I'd fight
if I could." She cannot and so her contribution to the rebellion
4: Summary and Analysis
Sam has returned
to Redding but Tim's excitement quickly turns to fear when
the Sons of Liberty arrive at the tavern to disarm his father.
When his father explains that his son, Sam, has taken his
gun and run off to join the Patriot army, the soldiers aren't
buying it and start to rough him up. If the Brown Bess cannot
be found Tim fears they will kill his father.
knew the Rebels weren't just playing; they'd kill Father if
they wanted to."
His daydreams of
heading up to Tom Warrups' hut to visit Sam have been replaced
with nightmarish visions:
I could see in front of me was that Rebel officer pushing
a sword through Father's stomach."
In a panic he
races franticly to Lonetown and is able to get the gun away
from Sam, who is asleep, but cannot out run his brother once
Sam discovers what has happened. The brothers face-off in
a confrontation that ultimately defines Tim's position on
the war and alters his view of Sam.
leveled the Brown Bess at his stomach and I said, Don't come
any closer, Sam, or I'll shoot you."
isn't loaded Tim."
don't be crazy. It isn't loaded. Now give it to me before
it gets damaged."
Sam, Jesus, they're down there and they're going to kill Father
if he doesn't give them the Brown Bess."
Who's down there?"
Continentals, with some others from Fairfield."
"Then he lunged. I never knew whether I would have pulled
the trigger because the next thing I was lying on the ground
with Sam on top of me, and he'd got the gun."
would have shot me, you little pig, wouldn't you?" then he
got up. "Are you all right?"
wouldn't tell you if I wasn't, you son of a -----. By this
time they've probably killed Father."
I can't go down there…I'm not supposed to be here"
right then, let me take the gun home and give it to them."
can't do that, Tim. If I go back to camp without my weapon,
they'll surely hang me."
God, Sam, what did you have to fight for? Why didn't you stay
couldn't, Tim. How could I not go when all of my friends were
family ought to be more important than your friends…I think
you're a coward."
right, Sam, if you're not a coward, come home with me and
see if everything is alright."
Sam agrees to follow
Tim as far as the barn, but once the house is in sight realizes
his place and crosses the barnyard with Tim to the kitchen.
In the kitchen, Life, with a line of dried blood across his
face, stands within five feet of Sam who stares back at his
father, then turns and runs away from him for the last time.
The war has forced
Tim to mature and take on responsibilities that he normally
would not have. The events of Chapter Four call for quick
and decisive thinking on his part and Tim has chosen the side
of his father. The glorified view he once had of the Rebel
Troops fighting against the British Lobsterbacks in some far
away place, has been replaced with threatening soldiers in
his own home.
war had finally come to Redding, and it was terrible."
Tim has not completely
lost respect and admiration for Sam but it is clear that Tim
has chosen to defend his family not "principles".
5: Summary and Analysis
Chapter Five is
a narrative chapter. Tim paints us a picture of the dilemma's
Redding is facing at this point in the war:
have lost their guns, no longer have any protection, cannot
hunt for food, kill wolves, etc...
Food was getting
Cows and Cattle
were being stolen
- Soldiers from
Redding were coming home injured; Some local soldiers had
But for Tim, the
worst part is Sam is not at home. Despite the drama between
Tim and Sam in Chapter Four, time has healed all wounds and
Tim worries that Sam will be "shot or get sick and die or
something else." He even admits that he envies him several
seemed to me that it must feel wonderful to be able to load
up a gun in the casual way he did…He (Sam) seemed so brave
and grown-up, and I wished that I could be brave an grown-up
like him , too…Being a soldier probably didn't have much glory
to it…But still, I envied Sam, and I wished I were old enough
to do something glorious, too."
Tim's envy stops
at Sam, he is still not sure which side is right: the British
have the best uniforms though the gritty, underdog position
of the Patriots is attractive to him, too.
the mysterious William Heron, offers Tim a sound opportunity
to gain some glory of his own…
"Mr. Heron had wanted me to carry some sort of war message
or spy reports or something, and that night as I lay in bed
in the loft, I thought about it. Oh, it would scare me all
right, walking down to Fairfield with spy messages, but I
wanted to do it, because it would give me something to boast
about to Sam. He'd been having all the adventures, he was
going to come home with terrific stories about being in the
army and fighting and all that, and I wanted to have something
to tell, too. Why should he have all the glory? Why shouldn't
I have some, too? I wanted him to respect me and be proud
of me and not think of me as just his little brother anymore."
His father does
not want Tim to carry messages for Mr. Heron, he knows it
is too risky. As he had done with Sam, Life tries to provide
Tim with a sensible explanation of why he does not want him
to carry messages for Mr. Heron.
please, it's dangerous. You think that because you're a child
they won't hurt you, but they will. They've been killing children
in this war. They don't care. They'll throw you in a prison
ship and let you rot. You know what happens to people on those
prison ships? They don't last very long. Cholera get them
or consumption or something else, and they die. Tim, it isn't
foreshadow his own fate, and are very true, many died on prison
ships during the American Revolution and children were amongst
them. Tim's reaction is much different than Sam's but rebellious
knew he was right, that it wasn't worth taking the chance.
I wanted to do it anyway. But there wasn't any use in arguing
about it with father…Two weeks later I figured out how to
The irony is how
Tim figures out how to do it: the idea comes from his friend,
Jerry, who dies on a prison ship later in the story.
6: Summary and Analysis
Tim has an solid
alibi, now he just needs an opportunity to speak to Mr. Heron
without his father seeing him. The chance comes two days later
when Heron comes into the tavern to buy a keg of rum.
will bring it (keg of rum) right over, Mr. Heron."
Mr. Heron wisely
questions Tim when he asks to be a messenger.
"Aha, your father changed his mind, did he?"
sir, he said it would be all right so long as he didn't know
anything about it."
"That's a lie isn't it Tim?"
sir, I'd like to go, though. Aren't we supposed to be loyal
to the King?"
"You've got you brother's spirit, haven't you?"
Tim is thrilled
to be compared with Sam, "I'm as brave as he is" is his response.
The thrill and excitement of contributing to the war has overtaken
him and though he is cognizant that he is being dishonorable
to his father, a shot at "glory" is more important to him.
We see the similarities
between Tim and Sam in this chapter:
- Thirst for
- Ignorance of
Tim whistles the
patriotic "Yankee Doodle" on his way to Mr. Heron's, which
is comical because in order to get the job he did his best
to convince Mr. Heron that he's a strong Loyalist. Very similar
to Sam wearing red and calling the British "Lobsterbacks".
As he starts on
his way to Fairfield, Tim meets up with Betsy. Betsy is traveling
too, she has just received news that Sam is in Greenwich (then
Is he in Horseneck?"
shouldn't tell you that. You're a Tory.
do you know Sam's there?"
Heron told me."
Heron? How does he know, he's a Tory?"
I know that, but he said that Sam was there with a commissary
officer, scouting for beef."
how come Mr. Heron didn't tell me about Sam this morning?"
were you seeing Mr. Heron about this morning?"
I just happened to go by his house this morning and he was
there…standing in the yard."
wouldn't have been standing…the letter. Tim, you're lying.
The letter. He gave you the letter to carry….where are you
going with the letter?"
have to go, Betsy."
"No, Tim, you know what's in that letter? A spy report
can't be. Why would Mr. Heron make a spy report on Sam?"
not just on Sam. Can't you see? He found out about Sam and
the commissary officer buying beef, and now he's sending news
to the Lobsterbacks so they'll know where to find them and
kill them and steal the cows. Give me that letter."
She snatched at my shirt, but I ducked back. "Don't, Betsy.
It's Mr. Heron's."
"Tim, it's your brother they are going to kill. Just throw
the letter away and say you lost it."
"I didn't know what to do. I felt awful- sick and scared.
I didn't say anything."
A struggle between
Betsy and Tim ensues and Tim loses. Betsy takes the letter,
reads it and then throws it aside. Tim picks it up to find
it reads: "If this message is received, we will know that
the messenger is reliable." Tim
has failed at his chance for glory.
and disappointing the day has been, Tim is fortunate to have
run into Betsy. Had he succeeded in delivering the message
for Mr. Heron he would have increasingly been placing himself
in dangerous situations in the name of glory, which is precisely
what Sam is doing.
7: Summary and Analysis
The summer of 1776
has ended and Tim's family begins preparing for the winter
months in Chapter Seven. The war is still distant and though
no one is really desperate, provisions, like cloth and leather,
are running short locally because the soldiers need them for
clothing and shoes. Sam has sent two letters and Susannah
plans on sending one back to him. Life disapproves but to
Tim's delight is overruled and turns his attention to planning
his annual cattle run to the Hudson River.
The cattle run
to Verplancks is essential to Tim's family, as he explains:
idea of our trip was to drive cattle to Verplancks Point where
we could sell them, and then use the money to buy supplies
we needed at the tavern and store."
Yet, a cattle run
across Westchester County was dangerous and Life, knew it:
woods are full of those cow-boys over there. They claim they're
patriots gathering beef for the troops, but really they're
nothing more than thieves. And we don't have our gun anymore."
Despite the danger,
Life doesn't have much of a choice but to take Tim with him,
as he states: "There's nobody else to do it."
Tim is thrilled,
"there would be a lot of exciting things on the trip-" perhaps
something would happen that he could boast to Sam about. As
they make their way out of Redding, the trip is every bit
as good as he imagined:
seemed pretty exciting when we passed a house, especially
if there were some people there. A couple times there were
children staring out the windows as we went by. It made me
feel proud of myself for being a man while they were still
children, and I shouted at the oxen and smacked them on their
rumps with my stick, just to show off how casual and easy
I was with the oxen and how used I was to managing them."
Tim is mimicking
Sam when he shows off "how casual and easy" he is with the
oxen. He may not know how to load a musket but he certainly
knows livestock. Like Sam, his focus is more on the glory
than the danger of the trip, but that changes abruptly once
they near the New York line.
"There were six of them, and they were carrying weapons- mostly
muskets, but one or two of them had swords and pistols. They
were dressed in ordinary clothing- brown shirts and trousers
and muddy boots…They charged up to us, surrounded us, and
calls these men Cow-boys but Cow-boys were loyal to the British
and these men are definitely not fond of the British.; They
are Skinners. Skinners, like the Cow-boys were "land-going"
raiders preying on enemy civilian supplies. Though "Skinners"
sympathized with the Patriots, they were comprised largely
of tramps and bandits, serving their own interests more often
than those of any cause.
The group of men
that come to Tim and Life's rescue are Loyalists. This is
evident in their conversation with Life:
were those people? Cow-boys?"
thieves is a better name. We had reports that they were riding
this morning, and we've been looking for them all day. You're
a Loyalist, I take it?"
interested in making a living, not fighting a war, my boy
and I are just trying to get this beef to Verplancks Point
the way I do every year."
Point? It'll go to New York, then. We'll see that it gets
there. There are still a lot of people loyal to His Majesty
in these parts."
The men escort
them to the New York line and summon another group to take
them to North Salem. To Tim's disappointment New York State
doesn't look or feel any different than Connecticut, it was
just like being home. The reality was that it was not "just
like being home" as Tim states, he is no longer isolated from
war-time activities, he is in the thick of them.
This chapter begins
the symbolic journey of Tim's maturation and position on the
war. Simultaneously, it lays the groundwork for Life's tragic
end. When Life states: "I'm interested in making a living,
not fighting a war." He is exposing a theme in the novel,
which is the unfairness of war. Life is simply a man that
wants to live his life as he always has and that position
has placed him and his son in great danger.
8: Summary and Analysis
Life and Tim arrive
at the Platt homestead just after dark. Tim's first observation
is how lucky he is to have not been raised on a farm when
he sees how crowded and uncomfortable the sleeping arrangements
Life has not visited
in a year and Tim has never met his cousins before, still
the topics of discussion soon turn to the war when Life tells
Mr. Platt about their encounter earlier that day.
"Lawlessness has run wild, common decency between people has
disappeared, every man is armed against his neighbor."
Redding we still have law and order"
"We should have it here, too. There are plenty of Loyalists
in Westchester County, but there's no control. Rebel and Tory
live almost in open warfare with each other."
happy we haven't got to that point in Redding"
"You're fortunate. People have been tarred and feathered here,
houses have been burned and livestock slaughtered."
about the party that escorted us here?"
"That's one of our Committees of Safety. They're all about
we have to keep order."
Even though Southwestern
Connecticut was considered a "Tory" heavy region, the Loyalists
of Redding did not endure the hardships that other Loyalists
experienced in other parts of the Colonies. There were isolated
incidents of violence but overall Loyalists in Redding faired
better than most. The purpose of the conversation between
Mr. Platt and Life is to make us aware of these issues.
with his cousin Ezekiel highlights that fact that the war
and whose right still troubles him.
you a Loyalist?"
"Of course. Aren't you?"
guess so, only sometimes I'm not sure. Sam's fighting for
the Rebels, did you know that?"
"My father doesn't think he was so smart for joining the Rebels.
They'll likely be hung when the war's over."
can't. How can they beat the whole British army?"
I don't know, the way Sam explains it, it sounds right to
be a Rebel. And when Father explains it, it sounds right to
be a Loyalist. Although if you want to know the truth, I don't
think Father really cares. He's just against wars."
Once they reach
Verplancks Point Tim is impressed by the beauty and vastness
of the Hudson River. Life, negotiates successfully and they
are ready to make their trip home with a full wagon of goods:
"He had got a good price for the cattle and had negotiated
for most of the other things he wanted to bring back to Redding.
It was a good wagonload: two hogshead of rum, a half dozen
big sacks of salt, a couple of barrels of molasses; a large
chest of tea, a sack of coffee beans, a dozen brass kettles
and some tin pots; a chest of breeches and some brass buckles;
some drills, knives, files, axes and spades; and small boxes
of pepper, allspice, cinnamon, and white powdered sugar."
Life wants to avoid
heading back through Ridgebury on the return trip, having
heard of a drover from Norfield that had been shot on the
Ridgebury Road two days earlier, but a sudden snow storm forces
them to return the way they came and they eventually make
their way back to the Platt's farm in North Salem.
9: Summary and Analysis
Tim wakes up to
a warm sunny day and a foot of snow, conditions that would
be wonderful back at the tavern but are far from optimum when
you're in charge of an ox drawn cart. Tim is aware of the
troubles they will face on the road but is more concerned
we going to have an escort?"
don't know, Platt rode out last night to arrange one, but
with the snow, people may not want to ride. But that works
two ways- the raiders may not want to ride, either. You work
the oxen; I'm going to ride ahead."
Life is correct,
no one wants to ride, they have no escort for their return
"Father would ride a mile or two and then ride back to see
how I was doing; and then he'd ride out again. That way if
he ran into the cow-boys he could race back to me and we could
find a place to hide…the only trouble with this plan was that
there usually weren't any woods close to the road."
After a short break
for lunch, they make it to Ridgebury and decide to keep right
"We got through Ridgebury all right. Some people came
to the tavern door and stared at us as we went through. I
guess they thought it queer to see us trying to travel in
that snow. Father looked grim, "If nobody knew we were around
before, they do now." He said. Then we got out of the village
and he rode on ahead again, scouting.
Tim does his best
to keep his mind off the predicament they're in by trying
to name all the countries in the world. He ponders whether
he would count America or not if the Rebels won the war, he
finally decides his father is right about the Rebel's losing
and chooses not to count America. This is symbolic of Tim's
position on the war and the faith he has in his Father's judgement
subsequent to the events he has endured in the past few days.
His name game continues
until he suddenly realizes that he has not seen his father
in quite a while. The narrative of the chapter is exceptional
from this point forward, you feel like you are there with
Tim. His mind races through all the possible explanations:
it only seemed like a long time…Maybe being involved with
listing all those countries gave me a funny idea of time…Father
could have met someone he knew and started talking…He could
have stopped at a farmhouse to get us something to eat…Maybe
Father got hurting in an accident…"
and lonely he pulls the oxen off to the side of the road and
clears some snow for them so they can graze on some weeds
and then races off to find his father. The fact that Tim takes
the time to clear a patch of grazing space for the oxen shows
us he is responsible. Tim follows his father's horse tracks
to a hemlock grove and there realizes what has happened to
"I plowed on until I came to where the hemlocks began to border
the road, casting a cool shadow on the snow. There it was
written out for me to see as plain as if I were reading it
in a book. The road was all a turmoil of mud and snow marked
with dozens of hoof-prints. There were more hoof-prints in
the hemlock grove; and then going on up the road away from
me the tracks of three or four horses. The cow-boys had lain
in ambush in the hemlock groves, jumped father, and taken
Tim has a decision
to make: what now? His initial thought is to run home
alone "I could make it home in three hours if I pushed", next
he asked himself: what would Sam do? "The most daring
thing to do would be to track down Father," He quickly realizes
that isn't the smartest thing to do, and finally decides to
do what his father would do: "get the wagon and the load of
goods back home…so we'd have something to run the store and
the tavern on through the winter."
As the sun sets
behind him, Tim makes his way down the road. He knows that
he will eventually have to face the cow-boys and he will have
to outsmart them in order to make it back home.
"They were sitting on horseback in the middle of the road
about twenty yards ahead of me- three black figures stock
still in the night. The sight of those unmoving figures shocked
me, and I almost ran. But I didn't…"
"I stopped the oxen up and walked forward a few paces.
Then the man with the lantern leaned forward to let the light
shine on me. "It's the boy," he said."
sir, Father said that the escort would be along soon, but
when you didn't come I was worried that the cow-boys would
get me first."
"We're not the-"
"Shut up, Carter. Come here boy…When did your Father say the
es- we'd be here?"
figured you be here an hour ago. That's why I was so worried.
He told me not to worry, but I couldn't help it. He said when
the shooting started to fall flat and I'd be alright…I thought
there'd me more of you, though. Father said there'd be at
least a half dozen men in the escort. He said just fall flat
when the shooting started."
Tim's story makes
the bandits uneasy and two immediately become apprehensive:
Bandit #2: "I
don't like this. It sounds like an ambush."
"Are you going to get scared off by a boy's story?"
"I don't like this. Let's go."
Are both of you going to be scared off by a boy's story."
"It isn't worth the risk, Judson, Let's leave."
"Not worth the risk? There's a hundred pounds worth of stuff
in that wagon."
"Judson, stealing rum is a hanging matter. I don't want to-"
Just then, a dog
barks in the distance and starts the oxen bawling which sends
the bandits galloping off through the snow.
"I stood for a moment listening to the sound of their
hooves dying out on the snowy road, and then I began to laugh
and cry all at once…I felt terrific, because I'd fooled them;
it would be a great story to tell Sam. But everything else
was awful- Father being gone and me being alone in the snow
and dark and hours to go before I got home."
The method Tim
employs to outsmart the bandits is innovative and witty, a
plan that neither Sam nor his Father would have come up with.
Tim has evolved into a man on this trip, maturing personally
and mentally via the tests this trip has presented him with.
10: Summary and Analysis
With Life and Sam
gone, Tim and his Mother are forced to work long hours to
keep things afloat at the tavern; They even have to work Sundays,
which Tim knows is a sin. But as we've learned throughout
the story, Tim is more concerned with the issues he's dealing
with than his religious obligations.
"Now half the family was gone and our lives were really changed.
Mother and I had all the work to do, which meant that there
was hardly any time off for either of us. We even had to work
on Sunday, which was a sin. "God, will forgive us, Tim," Mother
said. "Don't worry about it, I'm sure of that." I didn't tell
her that I wasn't worried."
"But the work
worried me all right. There was so much to do- old Pru and
the chickens and sheep to take care of and the spring, planting
the corn and greens we needed for the tavern, and the cleaning
and the cooking. And of course somebody had to be at the tap
all the time to draw beer and serve meals to travelers and
make up beds for people who came through needing a place to
Tim goes on to
explain the frustration and hardship businesses faced in the
"…So business seemed good, but actually it wasn't, because
a lot of people- the ones on official business- paid in commissary
notes which were just pieces of paper that wouldn't be worth
anything at all unless the Rebels won."
good at the store, too….But even that didn't help much. Prices
kept going up and up, and depreciation of the paper money
took a lot of the profit out of it."
"The whole thing
really made me feel pretty sick, working that hard from sunrise
to sunset and never being able to get ahead. But there was
nothing we could do about it except to pray every night that
the war would end soon, and Father and Sam would come home
The Collier brothers
have masterfully made us aware of the two financial burdens
businesses were faced with during the Revolution via Tim's
narration about the tavern (commissary notes) and the store
Payments in commissary
notes were no more than IOU's, as there was no guarantee that
payments would be made if the Patriots did not win the war.
And even if the Patriots did win the war reimbursements would
not be paid until the conclusion of the war which was unknown.;
Claims for reimbursement on record in New York State range
from 1782 and 1794. This was compounded by currency inflation
caused by the over the issue of paper money. In 1775, the
Continental Congress chose to finance the war through the
printing of bills of credit (paper currency receivable for
future taxes), inexplicably the States never levied taxes
for these bills and printed their own bills to match the Continental
bills. This caused a disastrous situation in the colonies
that was difficult to remedy initially because for the first
two years of the war it was considered a crime against patriotism
to even admit that the Continental dollar was sinking in value.
When it became clear that the Continental dollar had depreciated
(it had sunk to 66% of a specie dollar), states made it a
crime to refuse paper money, demand a premium in paper, or
charge lower prices for specie (hard cash). Punishments included
public humiliation, fines, imprisonment, and the forfeiture
or confiscation of the goods or property concerned.
Read a very good
article about Inflation and the Revolution at this site: http://www.mises.org/story/1273
Susannah does her
best to alert Sam of the situation they are in. She hopes
that if he knows that his Father has been captured or maybe
even killed he'll come home and help manage things.
"He should be tired of playing soldier boy by now, I should
think that glory would have worn off."
Tim isn't so optimistic
Sam will change his mind about the war.
"He'd got himself set to win the war and throw the British
out of the country so we could be free, and when Sam was determined
he usually stuck to things."
"I wasn't exactly
sure he'd come home even when he finally found out that Father
was gone. There was only one way to find out, so we kept trying
to get messages to him."
Tim continues to
contemplate the different positions on the war and cannot
seem to find any way the English government has hurt him personally.
In the process he explains that his minister, Mr. Beach, continues
to pray for the King and Parliament even though the Assembly
has declared it treason to do so. Mr. Beach did just that
in real life and was threatened by Patriots on several occasions,
he was one of very few Anglican ministers that continued to
hold church services and openly pray for the King during the
Tim realizes that
he has changed since the cattle drive to Verplancks, he no
longer procrastinates or tries to get out of his chores, he
now plans how he can get things done.
"That morning after the terrible trip home, right from the
first moment we got finished saying grace, I began planning
the things I had to do- which things had to be done first
and what was the best way to get them done…I wasn't acting
my usual self, I was acting more like a grownup."
For a moment he's
proud of himself and starts to think about showing off to
Sam (when he gets home) but his thoughts quickly turn to the
fact that his Father is not there and it's all the fault of
the Rebels for starting the war.
"I'd get angry with the Rebels for starting the war and angry
with Sam for going to play soldier and have the glory while
I had to do all the work at home. It wasn't fair."
echo those of any American who did not support the war, yet
suffered through it's consequences. The one thing he has yet
to experience is the war up close, but that changes one Saturday
morning in April, 1777 while he is tending to the kitchen
garden by the side of the house.
"I began hearing from a long way away a heavy muttering noise.
It sounded a bit like thunder, but not exactly. It made me
uneasy. I jammed the spade in the ground and went out front
of the tavern to have a look up and down the road. The sound
seemed to be coming from the southwest over behind the church
somewhere…And then I saw Ned, Samuel Smith's Negro, come running
up the road. At the same moment Captain Betts, popped out
of his house next door. Captain Betts was in the Rebel militia.
"What is it, Ned" he shouted. "British Troops, Captain," Ned
shouted. He ran on by."
"The noise grew
louder. I watched, and all at once through the hedgerows I
caught a glimpse of movement and things flashing. In a moment
the vanguard appeared around the bend…On down the road toward
me they came. It was a frightening thing to see. They just
kept coming on and on as if nothing in the world could stop
With the war in
his front yard, Tim experiences many realities in a short
frame of time:
1. The British
troops are numerous, organized, and impressive looking: "Oh,
those troops were impressive looking with all those belts
and buckles and powder horns and bayonets and so forth dangling
about their red uniforms. How could people like Sam expect
to beat them?"
2. There are split
loyalties in his own neighborhood: "It gave me a funny feeling
to realize that while Mr. Heron was giving the British officers
rum and beef, Captain Betts and Mr. Rogers were sitting a
hundred yards away trying out a way to kill them."
3. That he's a
Tory. "Suddenly I realized that I was. Father's capture had
4. War turns men
into beasts. "At first when the troops had arrived, swaggering
around so bold and gay, I had really admired them. But seeing
them take Jerry Sanford off like that gave me a sick feeling
in my stomach."
5. He doesn't want
to be a Tory anymore. After watching the British kill Ned
and the others in Captain Starr's house he realizes that neither
side of the war is worthy of his support.
11: Summary and Analysis
The British march
on toward Danbury and Tim returns to the tavern which is filled
with townspeople who have come to talk about the British raid.
This exemplifies that a tavern was more than a drinking establishment,
it was an important community gathering place.
As Tim listens
to a wounded man explain why he came to Redding, he becomes
hopeful that Sam will be in Redding shortly when the man says
that both General Arnold and General Silliman's troops have
been chasing the British up from Compo. He goes to the window
to look for Sam but instead sees Captain Betts racing toward
the tavern, the British have let him go. When Betts hears
they have killed Dan Starr and burned down his house with
others in it, he tells Tim to ring the Church bell. Ringing
the Church bell will alert the local militia to muster for
Tim doesn't want
to do it, but knows he has to obey. His mother won't allow
it, she's had enough.
"No, no, not my boy. You don't involve anymore Meekers in
this terrible war. Send your own child out there to play soldier
if you want, Stephen Betts, but no more of mine."
your patriotism, woman?"
"Bah, patriotism. Your patriotism has got my husband in prison
and one of my children out there in the rain and muck shooting
people and likely to be dead any minute, and my business is
half ruined. Go sell your patriotism elsewhere, I've had enough
When everyone has
left she takes Tim by the hand and asks him to pray with her.
"Oh, Lord, please take this war away from here. What have
we done to endure this? Why must it go on for so long?"
The war does not
go away, it returns in an hour, this time it's the Continental
Troops. In comparison to the British troops Tim doesn't find
the Patriots all that impressive.
"General David Wooster was head of the Connecticut militia.
I'd never seen a general up close before, and as I brought
the rum and water I looked him over. I was disappointed: he
wasn't very glorious-looking- just a tired old man who was
worried and frowning."
Suddenly the tavern
door crashes open again and this time it is General Benedict
Arnold. While Tim listens in on their conversation, he is
confused and intrigued by their friendly references to William
Heron, but he is more concerned about another matter…Sam may
be back in Redding.
"I went through the kitchen out to the barnyard, and then
around to the front. It was full dark and the rain was spitting
against me, soaking my face. Across the road some troops stood
in the church doorway smoking pipes. I crossed over. A soldier
barred my way. "I'm looking for Sam Meeker," I said. "Is he
Sam is in
the church and briefly the brothers embrace in a teary hug,
but the conversation soon changes to the events of the past
two years and the imprisonment of their Father.
more of a grownup, now."
can see that. Has it been hard on you and Mother?"
even have to work on Sundays, Sam, what have they done with
don't know. Put him in prison, probably."
you feel bad about Father being in prison, Sam?"
Sam explains that
he has tried to find out where their Father is and that he
does feel terrible about the fight they had over his decision
to fight for the Patriots, but that was two years ago and
he's moved on. Tim urges him to keep trying to locate him
before he relents to avoid a fight with Sam.
Tim heads back
into the house to get his Mother. She's been alone in the
tavern and is not too pleased with Tim for being gone for
have you been?"
something wrong with Old Pru's leg. I think you better come
out and look at it."
"It will have to wait."
think you ought to look at it now, Mother."
"It wasn't like me to insist on anything that way and she
got the idea. "All right, just a moment," she said. "See if
the gentlemen need more rum." I filled the glasses and helped
her clear the plates, and then we went out through the kitchen
into the barnyard. "What's happened, Tim?"
in the barn."
As with Tim and
Sam's reunion in the church, Susannah and Sam embrace and
clear the air about his decision to leave the family then
the conversation quickly turns to Life's absence and the war.
"Sam, you have to come home. We need you. Your people have
taken Father from us; they'll have to give us you in return."
I can't come home. That's desertion, they hang people for
is your enlistment up, Sam?"
two months. But I'm going to reenlist…It's my duty to stay
have a duty to your family, too."
duty to my country comes first…For God's sake, Mother, people
are out there dying for you."
"Well they can stop dying, I don't need anybody's death."
him alone, Mother, he isn't going to change his mind."
"We watched him go, knowing that we might never see him
again…I had a funny feeling about seeing Sam. It wasn't that
he was more grown-up or that I was more grown-up. It was something
else. For the first time in my life I knew that Sam was wrong
about something…He was staying in the army, not because of
duty or anything else. He liked the excitement of it…It felt
good to be a part of it, and I knew that was the real reason
why he didn't want to come home…I didn't feel like his little
brother so much anymore, I felt more like his equal."
doesn't require much analysis, it speaks volumes through the
conversations of the characters. Tim's growth as a man continues,
building upon his cattle drive experiences which toughened
him up, his experiences during the British troop's march through
Redding Ridge have hardened his position on the war and life
12: Summary and Analysis
Tim and Susannah
learn that Life is dead; he died on a British prison ship,
not a Patriot ship, as they had thought. They had buried him
someplace on Long Island, and it was not likely the family
would be able to figure out where. During the Revolution,
some 11,500 Americans died in British prison ships anchored
in Wallabout Bay, on the Brooklyn Side of New York Harbor.
Each morning, prisoners collected the dead from the ships,
where diseases like yellow fever and smallpox were rampant,
and buried them in shallow graves along the shore.
Life's last words
were: "Tell them that I love the, and say that I forgive Sam,
he's a brave boy but he's headstrong. And now I go to enjoy
the freedom war has brought me." Life's final comment, perhaps
in delayed response to Sam's quote in Chapter One: "It's worth
dying to be free."
Two days later
Betsy brings news that Jerry Sanford has died on a prison
"Nobody understands it….you can understand why they took Mr.
Rogers and Captain Betts, but why imprison a ten-year-old
"What harm could he have done them? This war has turned men
into animals…they're animals now, they're all beasts."
think they are, Sam should come home."
The way Life and
Jerry die hammers home the fact that war creates illogical
decisions and circumstances. Tim is well aware of this now
and doesn't want any part of either side of the war.
decided that I wasn't going to be on anybody's side any more:
neither one of them was right."
All in all Tim
has had it with the war completely.
"Oh how I hated the war. All of life was like running on a
treadmill. I was fourteen, I should have been going to school
all this while and learning something. Maybe by this time
I would have begun to think about going to New Haven to study
at Yale. I wasn't much interested in Latin or Greek, but in
the last couple of years I'd learned as lot about buying and
selling and the tavern business, and I wanted to study calculating
and surveying and the agricultural sciences: I thought I might
have a career in business. I might apprentice myself to a
merchant in New Haven or New York, or even London, to learn
the art of trade. Sam owed it to me to come home and help
Mother run the tavern for a couple years while I started to
make my way in the world."
of school and a better life come in the midst of depressing
circumstances at the tavern. Prices continued to rise, merchandise
was dwindling, and the Rebel now had control of northern Westchester
which included Verplancks so the annual cattle drive was out
of the question. Tim knows he must find a British commissary
in order to keep the tavern and the store in business. He
wants to sell to the British not because he wants to help
them but because the British paid in hard money.
"All through November I tried to find out about the British
commissary- whether it really existed or not, and where it
actually was…I didn't want to go until I was sure: If I ran
into Rebels I'd lose the cattle and probably be put in prison
myself. It was only worth the risk if I were sure where the
commissary was: otherwise we might just as well eat the cattle
Tim's search for
the commissary comes to a halt on December 3, 1778; Sam has
returned to Redding.
"He looked thin and tired. There were black circles under
his eyes and his uniform was torn in about six places. He'd
lost his belt and was wearing a piece of rope around his waist,
and his hat wasn't an army hat but just an ordinary fur cap."
of Sam is an accurate portrayal of a Patriot soldier in the
fall of 1778; Each soldier was provided with one uniform for
the entire year and thus after twelve months of marching and
fighting these uniforms were well worn and raggedy.
In the winter of
1778-79, the Continental Army wintered in Redding, Connecticut.
As Sam states, they were situated so they could quickly move
West or East to protect the Hudson River and the Coast of
Long Island, a secondary reason behind their position was
the Military Depot in Danbury which the British had raided
Sam's concern about
his family's cattle and his attempts to convince Tim to slaughter
them and hide them or sell the meat to the troops are driven
by what Sam has experienced as a soldier. He knows that the
soldiers on both sides are desperate for solid food and will
break laws both moral and legal to satisfy their hunger.
you got any cattle, Tim?"
they're not much to look at."
them and hide the meat. Or sell it. You can get a good price
for the hides from the troops. Sell what you can.. I promise
you, the stock will be stolen…Tim, butcher the cattle. Let
the meat freeze and hide it in the loft under the hay until
you need it…I'm warning you, Tim, sooner or later somebody's
going to get them"
Tim doesn't listen,
business at the tavern is good since the soldiers arrived,
but they are still being paid with commissary notes. If they
want to purchase more liquor and supplies they will need hard
cash and that can only come from selling the cattle to the
British. Tim and his Mother know that they must make a decision
but choose to wait out the month of January, because of rumors
about the British in New York City and the chance that the
Continentals may be called on to fight soon.
While Sam, Tim
and Susannah sit around the taproom fireplace discussing the
war and what Sam thinks will happen in the spring, they hear
some commotion outside.
"Suddenly he stopped talking. "What was that?" I'd heard
it too- a kind of thump and then a cow bawling. We listened.
There were noises coming from outside somewhere.
"Sounds like something's
bothering the cattle," I said.
"There are people
out there," Sam shouted. "Let's go."
We ran out through
the kitchen toward the barn. It was dark, but there was nearly
a full moon reflected on the snow and plenty enough light
to see what had happened. The barn doors were open. Two cows
were standing in front of the barn blinking, and we could
see two more behind…four of the cows were gone.
"Pen 'em up," Sam
shouted. "They'll be butchering the others somewhere near."
He darted around the house toward the road, his eyes following
the hoof prints in the snow.
I snatched up a
shovel and drove the remaining four cattle back into the barn
with the handle…Then I raced across the snow around the house
to the road…I saw nothing, but distantly I heard the noise
of shouting, off toward the far end of the training ground.
I ran in the direction of the sounds, and then suddenly I
saw three men walking toward me through the moonlight, side
by side. I stopped and waited. They came up. The one in the
middle was Sam. His nose bleeding and there was a cut in his
chin. His hands were tied behind his back.
"Timmy, get Colonel
Parsons," he cried. "They're taking me in as a cattle thief."
I went cold. Then I turned and ran."
Sam is being framed
as a cattle thief by his own troops, another illogical circumstance
caused by the war. Throughout the novel Sam has placed his
country and fellow patriots ahead of his own family and now
in a twist of fate he faces court martial and the possibility
of death by execution for attempting to recover his family's
13: Summary and Analysis
Having no luck
at Colonel Parsons' headquarters, Tim locates the missing
cows and drives them back home. He returns to the tavern where
his mother is waiting and after telling her the bad news,
"Mother was sitting in front of the fire, looking worried.
"I saw you coming across the road, " she said. "Where's Sam?"
him," I said. "The ones who stole the cattle beat him up,
and then they said he'd stolen the cattle himself and marched
him off somewhere."
"Back to the encampment?"
"I guess so," I
said. "They'll let him go in the morning, won't they? I mean
all we have to do is explain it, don't we?"
She shook her head.
"I have a terrible foreboding, Timothy. I want to pray."
is validated the next morning when Tim returns to Parsons'
headquarters. There is more to Sam's arrest than just whose
right or wrong. "Defection from Duty" has become an issue
for the Continental troops and to put an end to it General
Putnam wants to make an example of somebody to show what happens
to defectors under his command.
"In the morning I went back to Captain Betts' house to
talk to Colonel Parsons…I told him the story, but he shrugged…"He
didn't do it, sir. These other men - -" He held his hand up
to stop me. "I know, you told me that. In any case there isn't
anything I can do. They've taken him out to the encampment,
and it'll be up to General Putnam to do what he wants. I'd
get out there in a hurry, though. The General is determined
to make an example of somebody. It could go hard with Sam.
General Putnam is a great and dedicated patriot and he does
not take defection from duty lightly."
After a brief discussion
about which one of them will go to the encampment and who
will watch the tavern, Susannah heads down the road and Tim
ponders butchering the rest of the cattle. In this narration
Tim explains that taverns were required by law to remain open
and serve travelers. Because of their great importance to
the community, there were many laws and regulations regarding
taverns in the colonial period.
When Susannah finally
returns, she is cold, tired and hopeless. The meeting with
General Putnam did not go well.
"You see what the problem is, Tim. Those two men who brought
him in have sworn it was Sam who stole the animals…Sam wasn't
supposed to be here; he was supposed to be on duty with Colonel
Parsons at the Betts' house."
Colonel Parsons didn't care, he always let Sam come over and
"Still, he wasn't supposed to. Officially Sam had deserted
"I've been down to the encampments. I've talked with some
of the officers there. I'm afraid it looks bad for Sam."
is it bad for Sam, sir?"
"Here's the problem. Those soldiers Sam caught with the cattle
are scared to death Putnam will simply decide to hang them
all as an example. They're prepared to tell any kind of lie
about Sam to get themselves off. If it were just Sam's word
against somebody else's, it might be different, but there
are two of them, and if they tell the same story, they can
be convincing." He shook his head. "Then there's the fact
that Sam comes from a Tory family."
won't there be a trial, sir?"
"Oh yes, a regular court-martial. There'll be a presiding
justice and a board of officers acting as the jury. But we
have to face the fact that the board will do whatever they
think General Putnam wants."
can we do?"
The trial was set
for February 6th, an agonizing three week period for both
Tim and his mother. When the day finally arrives Tim is so
nervous that he cannot eat, or even sit still. Colonel Read
arrives after dark with the news they didn't want to hear.
"Mrs. Meeker, I have bad news. They're going to execute Sam."
goes to see Colonel Parsons.
"I can't help you," he said bluntly. "The court-martial has
decided and that's the end of it."
"Then who can help
me, sir." I demanded.
He stared at me.
"General Putnam. Nobody but General Putnam."
Tim and Colonel
Parsons debate why Parsons should give Tim a note to see General
Putnam and Tim makes some pretty good "telling points" because
in the end Parsons agrees to give him a letter to see General
"Because I happen to believe you, I'm going to give you a
letter to see General Putnam. But I am warning you right now
that it won't do a bit of good. The one thing General Putnam
cannot do at this point is how clemency. If he is going to
make his point with the troops, he can't start letting people
"He took up a piece of paper, wrote something on it swiftly,
folded it and sealed it, and addressed it to General Putnam.
Then he gave it to me and I left, running."
"I ran most of
the way out to the encampment over the packed snow…I handed
my letter to the guard…he took it and he called over a soldier.
"Take this boy to General Putnam," he said.
As they make their
way to General Putnam's hut, Tim very accurately describes
the encampment and the activities of the soldiers.
was sitting behind a rough trestle table they'd set up as
desk…He was a big man of about sixty, with lots of white hair.
He wore the Continental uniform of buff and blue. He did not
"All right, let's have it."
wouldn't steal our own cattle. He just wouldn't. He's been
fighting for three years, he's been a good soldier. And he
didn't do it, sir, I swear it. I know because --"
"Enough, my time's valuable. I'll consider it. That'll be
Tim is allowed
to visit Sam in the stockade, which was a short visit but
just long enough for Tim to learn what really happened that
knew they were in for it right from the moment I spotted them
in the training ground. I only saw one of them at first, and
I leveled the musket at him. But the other one was down on
the ground in the shadows, gutting the cow, and he came up
behind me and stuck his knife point against my back. So they
got me. Then they bashed me around a little and took me in.
Oh, they were smart. They had a story all worked out about
hearing somebody shout "Stop Thief" and seeing me driving
the cattle across the training ground, and coming out to get
me. And of course I wasn't supposed to be home, anyway. I
was supposed to be on duty at the Betts' house. So that went
against me. And that was that."
14: Summary and Analysis
On Saturday, February
13th, Colonel Read came up from the encampment to let Tim
and Susannah know that General Putnam had refused their plea
for clemency. The unfairness of war is voiced by both Tim
and Colonel Read as it is a very important theme in the novel.
Tim is too emotional
to sit through the church service for Sam and the others,
his Mother is too depressed to even attend.
not going, they can murder who they like, church who they
like, but I'm not going. For me the war is over."
The tavern is closed
and as far as Susannah is concerned it can remain that way.
Tim, feeling angry and bitter, sharpens his father's bayonet
with the intention of heading to the encampment to free Sam.
"Going to get yourself killed, son?"
going to save my brother"
"No, you're going to get yourself killed. Well you might as
well. Let's have it all done with at once. How does that old
line go? Men must fight and women must weep, but you'll get
no more tears from me. I've done my weeping for this war."
As they have done
in Chapter 13, the Collier brothers paint a picture of the
encampment at Redding via Tim's narrative. Tim's comments
about the lack of trees, the lines of huts, the muddy road,
the corrals, etc… are written for more than dramatic effect.
In real-life there were not many trees left in the encampments
of Redding during the winter of 1778-79, there were lines
of huts, muddy roads, wagons and cannons, officer's quarters.
They even place the prisoners in the correct location. The
1778-79 guardhouse was not located within the encampment,
but on a road in close proximity to General Putnam's headquarters.
So we are given a glimpse of the winter encampment through
Tim's eyes and entertained by the well orchestrated climatic
representation of Tim sneaking around the encampment, stalking
guards and dodging bullets as a bonus really.
"I began to slip down the steep hillside from stump to
boulder…I stopped and I stared. I couldn't see anybody moving
around…I glanced at the guard…he didn't move for several moments…and
I suddenly realized that he was asleep. I took the bayonet
out of my belt and clutched it tight in my hand. If Sam could
killed people, so could I…I stood up and charged…the guard
stirred. I drove my feet faster…"Halt." He shouted. He swept
the musket up, the bayonet pointing straight at me, twenty
feet away…"Sam" I shouted, and "Sam" again as loud as I could.
The guard lunged at me. I lifted the bayonet and threw it
in the air. It flashed in the moonlight, spinning lazily over
and over and fell into the stockade. Then I turned and began
racing as fast as I could across the snow for the safety of
the boulders on the hillside. I had gone only three paces
when the musket went off with a terrific roar…I dashed onto
the slope, and then began staggering upward, zigzagging from
boulder to boulder to keep protection at my back. Behind me
there was shouting and running and the sound of a horse being
wheeled around…I reached the trees at the top of the ridge
and flung myself flat. They'd never get me now…I rolled over
and looked down…I stared into the stockade. There was no action
there, no people moving at all. Lying in the center of that
square of snow, something shiny glistened in the moonlight.
And I knew it had all been a waste. The prisoners weren't
in the stockade anymore."
Tim has a bullet
wound to show for his efforts at the encampment, but nothing
severe. The following day is Sam's execution and Tim attends
knowing Sam would want somebody there, Susannah refuses to
go. Tim's narration of the executions is straight forward,
he simply tells us what happened. A sad, abrupt ending, much
like the life's of many soldiers during the War of Independence.
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Available at the History of Redding Website:
War Research mostly Connecticut information but an excellent
American Revolution Sites Connecticut Society of the
Sons of the American Revolution (SAR)
the Revolution Occurred- a very good timeline of events
that led to the colonist revolt, what happenned during it
and how our nation was formed.
of the Revolutionary War- Awesome resource showing you
dates, locations and winners and losers.
of the Revolutionary War
Money and Inflation
and Death Aboard British Prison Ships
of Prisoners who died on British Prison Ships
George, 1732-1799. The writings of George Washington
from the original manuscript sources: Volume 13 Electronic
Text Center, University of Virginia Library
Complete General Orders of George Washington October
2, 1778 to 1780
and the Revolution The Revolution split some denominations,
notably the Church of England, whose ministers were bound
by oath to support the King, and the Quakers, who were traditionally
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