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My Brother Sam is Dead Summary and Analysis- Sample of my summary and analysis of the novel My Brother Sam is Dead. Everything you wanted to know about Tim, Sam, Life, Betsy, Mr. Beach, William Heron, Tom Warrup and Jerry Sanford!

Chapter 1: Summary and Analysis

The 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.

Timeline of what Sam is so excited about:

  • February 1, 1775: a provincial congress was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts during which John Hancock and Joseph Warren begin defensive preparations for a state of war.

  • February 9, 1775: the English Parliament declares Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion.

  • March 23, 1775: Patrick Henry delivers a speech in Virginia against British rule, stating, "Give me liberty or give me death!".

  • March 30, 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 Atlantic.

  • April 14, 1775: Massachusetts Governor Thomas Gage is ordered to enforce the Coercive Acts and suppress "open rebellion" among the colonists by all necessary force.

  • April 18, 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.

  • April 19, 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 received.

After the initial shock of Sam's report, his father questions him about the specifics of the events in Boston.

Sam: "Well, the beginning was when the Lobsterbacks-"

Life: "By that I suppose you mean the soldiers of your King,"

Life's 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.

What's 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 (like Sam) 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.

To the left is how a 4th Regiment Connecticut Soldier encamped in Redding during the winter of 1778-79 looked. This soldier would have been quartered at the middle camp in Redding under Brig. Gen. Samuel Parsons' 1st Connecticut Brigade, of which the 4th Connecticut Regiment was a part of. The regiment was led by Col. John Durkee.

Most Continental regiments probably went through 2 or 3 or even 4 evolutions of uniforms during the entire war. Washington himself called for a standard blue regimental coat at the end of 1779, but it is doubtful if the entire army ever changed to this color.

For more great paintings and images of the Revolutionary War and Civil War, please visit Don Troiani's gallery of Military Paintings.

Don Troiani was kind enough to paint the soldier to the left for the Friends and Neighbors of Putnam Park this spring.

After Sam recounts what he knows about Lexington and Concord the room is filled with emotion & concern:

Farmer: "…that's rebellion, they'll have us in war yet."

Mr. Beach: "I think men of common sense will prevail. Nobody wants rebellion except fools and hotheads."

Sam: "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."


The 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:

  • The British 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, England, 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?

  • Successful 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.

  • Without a plan for self-government in place how would the colonies function politically?

  • For families that attended Anglican Churches their religion was directly tied to England and a split from England would surely threaten their future.

North America in 1775

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 Mr. Beach.

Mr. Beach: "I don't think the people of Redding are anxious to fight, Sam."

Sam: "You 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."

Mr. Beach: "…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.

Sam: "Sir, it's worth dying to be free." *Foreshadows Sam's death.

Life: "Free? Free to do what, Sam? Free to mock your King? To shoot your neighbor? To make a mess of a thousand lives?…"

Sam: "Why 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:

Tim: "Mother said that idle hands make the Devil's Work."

Tim: "Sam 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..."

Tim: "Don't 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:

Tim states 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:

Life: "Go, 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 father crying.

Tim: "Father 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 rebellion
  • 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) Meeker:

  • Is against the rebellion
  • Is practical and to-the-point
  • Has a bad temper
  • Believes children ought to keep a civil tongue in their heads and respect their elders
  • 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 die.
  • Is an Anglican church member
  • 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 bad enough
  • 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 the rebellion
  • 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.

Common Question: What Country Did We Fight in the Revolutionary War?

Chapter 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:

  • Taxes
  • 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:

Life: "…The 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 worse.

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.

Tim: "He 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."

Tim's commentary 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.

Betsy Read: "Timmy are you on your father's side or Sam's?

Tim: "I 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."

Sam: "It's simple, either we're going to be free or we're not."

Betsy: "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:

Sam: "Nobody wants to get killed, but you should be willing to die for your principles."

And a foreshadowing comment by Tim:

Tim: "Sam, you can't take it (the gun), we need it at home. Father needs it."

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.

Chapter 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.

Tim: "I 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 is information.

Chapter 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.

Tim: "I 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:

Tim: "All 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.

Tim: "I leveled the Brown Bess at his stomach and I said, Don't come any closer, Sam, or I'll shoot you."

Sam: "It isn't loaded Tim."

Tim: "You're a liar."

Sam: "Timmy, don't be crazy. It isn't loaded. Now give it to me before it gets damaged."

Tim: "Jesus, Sam, Jesus, they're down there and they're going to kill Father if he doesn't give them the Brown Bess."

Sam: "Who? Who's down there?"

Tim: "Some Continentals, with some others from Fairfield."

Tim, narrating: "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."

Sam: "You would have shot me, you little pig, wouldn't you?" then he got up. "Are you all right?"

Tim: "I wouldn't tell you if I wasn't, you son of a -----. By this time they've probably killed Father."

Sam: "Timmy, I can't go down there…I'm not supposed to be here"

Tim: "All right then, let me take the gun home and give it to them."

Sam: "I can't do that, Tim. If I go back to camp without my weapon, they'll surely hang me."

Tim: "Oh God, Sam, what did you have to fight for? Why didn't you stay in college?"

Sam: "I couldn't, Tim. How could I not go when all of my friends were going?"

Tim: "Your family ought to be more important than your friends…I think you're a coward."

Sam: "No, I'm not"

Tim: "All 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.

Tim: "The 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".

Chapter 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:

  • Loyalists have lost their guns, no longer have any protection, cannot hunt for food, kill wolves, etc...

  • Food was getting short

  • Cows and Cattle were being stolen

  • Soldiers from Redding were coming home injured; Some local soldiers had been killed

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 times:

Tim: "It 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.

His neighbor, the mysterious William Heron, offers Tim a sound opportunity to gain some glory of his own…

Tim narrating: "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.

Life: Tim, 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 worth it."

Life's warnings 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 non-the-less.

Tim: "I 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 do it."

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.


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The Setting of My Brother Sam is Dead, Redding Connecticut

Real-Life Characters portrayed in the My Brother Sam is Dead

Real-Life Events portrayed in My Brother Sam is Dead

Vocabulary used in My Brother Sam is Dead

Taverns of the Colonial Period

Camp Life and Orders Relating to Redding's Encampment

Loyalists (Tories) of Redding, CT

Cow-boys and Skinners

What is a Brown Bess?

Locations & Towns Mentioned in My Brother Sam is Dead

Colonial Money, Commissary Notes, Financing the War and Inflation Issues

Why is My Brother Sam is Dead Challenged?





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