uniform at the Meeker tavern one rainy April evening in 1775. “We’ve beaten the British in Massachusetts,” Sam exclaims, beginning a fght with Father, who is staunchly loyal to the English government and king. Sam explains to the people around the table how the Minutemen lay a surprise attack on the British “Lobsterbacks” in Lexington. Sam basks comfortably in all the attention. Father asks him a series of skeptical questions, including who fired the first shot. Sam does not know who fired first. The dinner guests, the minister Mr.
Beach and several farmers, all support England, and they take Father’s side, arguing with Sam about the cause, uestioning whether the loss of thousands of lives is worth saving a few pennies in taxes. Tim explains the religious background of the town of Redding. People built their houses according to the church they attended, either Anglican or Presbyterian. Tim’s family lives in Redding Ridge, which signals that they are Anglicans and therefore loyalist. Tim does not feel he is particularly tied to the loyalist or Rebels, which worries him. Tim speaks of the effects of the war on his home life.
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He had thought the war would bring battles and great change to his quiet Connecticut village, but it has not. There are no marching armies, no cannons, and no food shortages. There are Just lots of talk about the war, as there always was. Occasional the arguments get heated, as when Father throws a man out of the tavern for subversion, by which he means criticism of the British army. Betsy often stops by to listen to conversations, but Tim’s mother always shoos her along. Tim racks his brain to think of an excuse to get away so he can visit Sam.
As he chops wood, Tim sees a troop of Rebel soldiers clad in blue uniform, approaching the tavern on horseback. Tim follows them to the tavern, cracking open the door to see his mother held up at unpoint and his father trying to wrestle his way out of the grip of several soldiers who are holding him and demanding his gun. Father tells them that Sam took it. Tim finds Sam sleeping with the Brown Bess in his arms. Knowing Sam to be a heavy sleeper, Tim carefully moves Sam’s arms, gets the gun, and sneaks away. Sam wakes and chases Tim, catching Tim and demanding the gun back.
By January of 1776, Tim has yet to see any actual fghting, but the effects of the war are becoming visible. Food and guns disappear quickly, and soldiers steal cattle all across the countryside, esperate to feed themselves and their troops. Tim says the worst part of the war is missing Sam, worrying about him, as enwing him his glory. Tim realizes that in the eyes of a younger brother, everything an older brother does seems brave and grown- up, even milking the cow. Once Tim has decided that he wants to run Mr. Heron’s errand, he waits for an excuse to see Mr. Heron.
Within two days, this excuse comes when Mr. Heron orders a keg of rum from the tavern and Father sends Tim to deliver it. At the delivery, Tim volunteers to run the errand. Mr. Heron asks Tim to set out ith a letter the following morning. The next morning, Tim tells his father that he will be fishing all day. While walking, Tim runs into Betsy, who spies the letter and begins to tease Tim about it being a love letter. Tim lies and says he is going fishing, thinking that he hates lying and lying is a sin. As they set out, Tim enjoys the young children watching him.
He is proud to be doing an adult task. Father and Tim are stopped in Ridgebury by six “cow-boys,” armed cattle thieves. The cow-boys ask Father where he New York, and his beef will go to feed the enemy army. Tim meets his cousins, the Platts, for the first time. Four girls sleep in a tiny clapboard house and the two boys sleep in the barn. Tim feels grateful to have grown up in the tavern, which always had plenty of room for himself and Sam to sleep comfortably. In a cozy scene, the Platt family, Tim, and Father sit around a fireplace.
Tim observes that he felt shy about meeting them, but they do not feel shy, because they are in their house. Father and Tim leave early the next morning and have no more trouble as they approach Verplancks Point, thanks to escorts along the way. Tim is impressed by the size and eauty of the Hudson River and astounded when they arrive in Verplancks and see the widest part of the river and the fisherman in their skiffs. When Tim and Father leave from the Platt house, the snow has covered the land and the ground is slippery and hard to travel.
Their escort home has not met them, due to the heavy snowfall. They trek on, Tim behind with the cattle and Father riding ahead on his horse to check on the safety of the road. In June of 1777, Tim and his mother find out that Mr. Meeker is dead. He died of cholera on a prison ship, and his last words were that he oved his family and forgave Sam. Two days later, Tim finds out that Jerry Sanford also died on a prison ship, and the soldiers buried his body at sea. Mrs. Meeker says war turns men into animals, a phrase she will repeat several times.
Tim continues tending to the tavern. Prices are rising and merchandise is short, and everybody is buying things on credit. Tim has eight cows as pay from people who owe him money, and is debating about how to make the greatest profit from them. For the next few weeks and months, the officers remain in Redding and come to the tavern for rum. Sam returns as often as he can, continually pressuring Tim to get rid of the cattle and speaking of the exhaustion of the soldiers. One evening as Sam sits talking with Tim, the two brothers hear strange noises outside.
They dash to the barn and see that four cows are missing. Tim runs to Colonel Parsons to proclaim Sam’s innocence. Colonel Parsons is asleep, and his men instruct Tim to return the next day. Tim goes to tell his mother the news. She has an awful foreboding feeling and insists that they pray together. They kneel in prayer before going outside, cutting up the dead cow, nd herding the three remaining ones into the barn. When Tim finally speaks with Colonel Parsons the next day, he learns that General Putnam wants to make an example of someone.
Mrs. Meeker dresses warmly and goes to speak with General Putnam. General Putnam refuses to consider Sam’s case again. Sam is to be executed with other convicted criminals on Tuesday, February 16. Tim weeps when he hears the news and fury wells up inside him. The Sunday before the execution, the entire town is required to go to a church service praying for the souls about to be executed. Mrs. Meeker refuses to go. Tim goes but leaves in tears in the middle of it.
Tim leaves the house without a plan, and without feeling cold or sad or anything other than a simple determination to help Sam. Tim wonders whether prisoners about to die worry about keeping warm, and concludes that they probably do. At the encampment, the guard is asleep. A bag is placed over his head and he is led in front of the gallows, several feet away from the soldiers who were about to shoot him. When the muskets are poised for fire, Tim cries out, “Don’t shoot him! ” Shots ring out, and Sam writhes on the ground, Jerking, on fire from the shots and still alive. Quickly,