History of Redding > My Brother Sam is Dead > Analysis > Real-Life Events  

Real-Life Events Fictionalized in My Brother Sam is Dead

The intent here is to point out real life vs. my brother Sam is dead events that relate to Redding, Connecticut. My web site, historyofredding.com, receives hundreds of requests each month about my brother Sam is dead, and most questions are fact vs. fiction related so there is an apparent need. That said, I'll go chapter by chapter.

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter I:

Tim: "Mr. Beach, lived in Newtown but spent Saturday night here in Redding so he could preach in our church early Sunday morning."

In Real Life: From 1733 to approximately 1760, The Rev. John Beach lived in a house just south of the Christ Church on the west side of what is now Black Rock Turnpike on Redding Ridge. Shortly after his first wife, Sarah, died in 1756, Mr. Beach moved to Newtown full-time. His son Lazarus, lived about a mile east of the Christ Church, so in *poor weather it is possible Mr. Beach stayed with Lazarus overnight to be at service on time. However, Newtown is not all that far from Redding Ridge so Rev. Beach could have made the ride without too much difficulty in good weather.

*By poor weather I mean rain or snow, which made travel laborious for horseman of the time period.

In a May 5th, 1772 report, Rev. Beach notes that he has only missed two services in 40 years:

"It is now forty years since I have had the advantage of being the venerable Society's Missionary in this place…Every Sunday I have performed divine service, and preached twice, at Newtown and Reading alternately; and in these forty years I have lost only two Sundays, through sickness; although in all that time I have been afflicted with a constant colic which has not allowed me one day's ease, or freedom from pain."

He also explains why travel in poor weather was laborious for horseman of the time period:

"The distance between the Churches…is between eight and nine miles, and not very good road; yet I have never failed…to attend at each place according to custom, through the badness of the weather, but have rode it in the severest rains and snow storms, even when-there has been no track, and my horse near sinking down in the snow-banks; which has had a good effect on my parishioners, that they are ashamed to stay from Church on account of bad weather."

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

In Real Life: It is difficult to state they were anxious to fight, but they were certainly prepared to fight. In June/July of 1775, several members of Redding's East & West militia's comprised the 10th Company, 5th Connecticut Regiment which joined other colonial militias for the Invasion of Canada. Zalmon Read, Ezekiel Sanford, David Peet and Benjamin Nichols appear as officers in William E. Grumman's recorded history titled Revolutionary Soldiers of Redding. Most Redding soldiers returned in November of 1775, though some did remain for the siege of Montreal that winter.

Tim: "Tom Warrups was the last Indian we had in Redding. He was the grandson of a famous chief named Chief Chicken…"

In Real Life: Tom Warrups, was a Native American Indian, and said to have been one of General Israel Putnam's most valued scouts and messengers in the Revolution. He was the grandson of Chickens Warrups, whose tribe resided in Redding at the time of first settlement. It was Chickens Warrups' name that appeared on land deeds to John Read in 1714, and Samuel Couch in 1724, indicating he was a chief or leader of the tribe at Redding.

Tom was not the last Indian in Redding, members of his family continued to work for the Read family in the Lonetown section of town. Eunice Warrups, for example, is noted in town records as late as 1814.

Tim: "…actually the house is partly a store and partly a tavern, too."

In Real Life: The Meeker's Tavern is fictional…in that they owned and operated it. Stephen Betts operated the tavern and store on Redding Ridge. Taverns were very important to the local community. Betts was prominent in town politics, serving as Town Selectman during the Revolution, as well as several town committees formed in support of the war. Betts represented the town in the State Legislature: May, 1782; October, 1782; May, 1783; October, 1783.

Tim: "The Brown Bess was the type of gun most everybody around Connecticut had. It was brown, and got its name from Queen Elizabeth, whose nickname was Bess…"

In Real Life: The Brown Bess was a "Long Land" musket with a 46" barrel length, .75 barrel caliber, and bayonet length of 16"-17".

Popular explanations of the use of the word "Brown" include that it was a reference to either the color of the walnut stocks or to the characteristic brown color that was produced by russeting, an early form of metal treatment applied to lessen the shine of the barrel in the field.

The word "Bess" is commonly held to either derive from the word "arquebus" or "blunderbuss" (predecessors of the musket) or to be a reference to Elizabeth I of England, considered unlikely as she died more than a century before the introduction of the weapon. More plausible is that the term Brown Bess could have been derived from the German words "brawn buss" or "braun buss", meaning "strong gun" or "brown gun"; King George I who commissioned its use was from Germany.

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter II:

Tim: "Redding was divided into two-parts: Redding Center and Redding Ridge"

In Real Life: Redding was divided and the Ridge is as Tim describes it. The "empty field" he mentions still exists today, as does the Christ Church Episcopal. As described in length in the Chapters of this book, Redding had Presbyterians (Congregationalists) and Anglicans (Episcopalians). The Anglicans did settle heavily on Redding Ridge, but there were also Congregationalists among them.

In 1771 the Rev. John Beach writes:

"In Reading, my hearers are about 300. There is a meeting of Presbyterians about two and a half miles from our Church, in which the congregation is not so large as ours. In a manner, all…who live near the Church join with us."

In the present day, there are four sections that make up Redding: Georgetown, Redding Center, Redding Ridge, West Redding.

Tim: "Redding Ridge being a small place I knew everybody there - all the kids, and Tom Warrups and Ned, the Starr's black man."

In Real Life: I'd call it a stretch to see Tom Warrups in church but it plays well in the story. Charles Burr Todd, author of Redding's only published history, described Tom as "a worthless, shiftless fellow, who lived chiefly by begging" Kind of rough but he did preface it with "except in war".

The Rev. John Beach does write that he has converted a good number of slaves in Newtown and Redding so it is plausible that Ned would attend church. Ned was the property of Redding resident, Samuel Smith, and was killed by British soldiers during the 1777 raid of Danbury. Apparently, Ned was among four patriot defenders who stayed behind and opened fire on British troops from a house in Danbury owned by Major Daniel Starr. The house was set ablaze and all inside were killed. There are no official accounts of Ned being beheaded before the house was put to flame. That resulted from an investigation after the raid had taken place, at the request of Samuel Smith. Mr. Smith was required to provide a report of Ned's death with witnesses in order to be compensated for his lost "property". It is in this petition that the accounts of Ned's decapitation surface and provide the view point and events that Tim witnesses in my brother Sam is dead.

Tim: "Church was practically the only time we ever saw some of the farmers from farther out in the parish - places like Umpawaug. They wanted to keep up with the news…"

In Real Life: The colonists in rural locations, like Redding, Connecticut, relied heavily on "hear-say" for general topics, and when it came to issues of importance in most cases it was the opinions of their preachers and ministers that held the most weight. Therefore it is very likely farmers would attended church to hear Rev. Beach's position on the rebellion.

Umpawaug still exists in present day Redding. It is said to have Native American origins and mean: "Land above the river." The Saugatuck River runs along the eastern border of the Umpawaug district.

Tim: "Her grandfather was Colonel Read, Her father was Colonel Read's son, Zalmon Read."

In Real Life: Colonel Read was John Read #2. Captain of Redding's first militia organized in 1739, he was Major of the 4th Connecticut Regiment in 1753, Colonel of the 4th Connecticut Regiment of Horse in 1757. He resigned his militia commission in the Revolution due to advanced age, but served as Justice of the Peace in cases of confiscated loyalist properties.

Zalmon Read was Captain of the 10th Company, 5th Connecticut Regiment in 1757, which marched to Canada and engaged in battles at St. Johns and Montreal during the French and Indian War. Capt. Zalmon also assembled and led Redding's militia to Weston to unsuccessfully challenge Tryon's British troops as they marched toward Danbury on April 26, 1777. Zalmon and his brother Hezekiah later converted to the Anglican faith; Zalmon moved to Bedford, New York after the Revolution, Hezekiah remained in Redding and was a major landholder.

Sam: "This is Tory Country. Father, Mr. Beach, the Lyons, the Couches - most of them in our church are Tories. And they think it's the same everywhere, but it isn't."

In Real Life: Tories or loyalists did live in Redding and Southwestern Connecticut was considered Tory Country. However, if you review town records during the war they are filled with entries in support of the war not against the war and for this reason I'd consider Redding to be Patriot Country.

Members from both of Redding's militia's (East & West) comprised The 10th Company, 5th Connecticut Regiment, which joined other colonial militias for the Invasion of Canada in June/July 1775 and Redding's West Company militia assembled, marched and fought in the Battle of Long Island, the Battle of Fort Washington and the Battle of White Plains in 1776.

The first action of the town officials in regard to the war is found in the records of a town meeting held on April 2, 1777, when a committee was appointed "to hire a number of soldiers to serve in the Continental Army." It was also voted that the "sum or sums said committee promise to or do pay to those soldiers…be paid by town rates, and the Selectmen are ordered to and desired to make a rate to collect the money." In the same meeting a committee was also appointed "to take care of the families of those soldiers that are in service of their country."

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter III:

Tim: "…the war didn't affect us much around Redding in the summer of 1775."

In Real Life: The summer of 1775 was actually an eventful one for Redding. As noted above, several members of both militias' (East & West) comprised The 10th Company, 5th Connecticut Regiment, which joined other colonial militias for the Invasion of Canada in June/July 1775.

The war caused quite a buzz around Redding even before the summer months: Redding's Loyalists led by the son of Rev. John Beach, Lazarus, joined with others in Fairfield County to publish an article in a New York publication proclaiming their loyalty to the King in February of 1775. In response, another group led by Ebenezer Couch, called the Redding Committee of Observance published an article of their own which identified and threatened the members of the Redding Loyalist Association (74 signers) with arrest and confiscation of property for said loyalty to the King. Publicly exposed, many Loyalists opted for Rev. John Beach's policy of passive resistance during the Revolutionary period.

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter IV:

Patriot: "Your all Tories here, We want your gun."

In Real Life: Patriotic soldiers did disarm and harass known Loyalists in this manner. In some cases, Loyalists were tarred and feathered, arrested, even murdered.

The Rev. John Beach In 1774 wrote:

"For some time past, I have not been without fear of being abused by a lawless set of men who style themselves the Sons of Liberty, for no other reason than that of endeavoring to cherish in my people a quiet submission to the civil government…"

In the autumn of 1775, several officers of the militia, having collected a number of soldiers and volunteers from the different towns in Western Connecticut, made an effort to subdue the Tories. They went first to Newtown, where they put Mr. Beach, the Selectmen, and other principal inhabitants, under strict guard, and urged them to sign the Articles of Association, prescribed by the Congress at Philadelphia. When they could prevail upon them neither by persuasion nor by threats, they accepted a bond from them, with a large pecuniary penalty, not to take any arms against the Colonies, and not to discourage enlistment into the American forces.

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter V:

Tim: "He'd (Mr. Heron) been elected to the General Assembly in Hartford, but he'd been pushed out of it by the Patriots for being a Tory."

In Real Life: A publication entitled Sir Henry Clinton's Secret Service Record of Private Daily Intelligence, which surfaced in 1882, revealed the truth about William Heron's role in the Revolutionary War…he was a double-agent.

Heron provided information to both American and British commanders during the war. The British received information of little importance, while the Americans received reports that were far more significant and useful.

He most certainly fit the profile of a double agent. He arrived in Redding just before the Revolution, at a time most residents were more concerned with the threat of war than who their new neighbors were; it appears local residents barely noticed his existence until the war was underway. Even to those who actually spoke to him, his past remained unknown, as he wouldn't discuss it. He was conveniently situated across the street from the residence/tavern of Patriot Stephen Betts (headquarters of General Parsons) and right next to the Anglican Church. From the comfort of his very own home, he was capable of monitoring the movements of either side.

Redding residents clearly viewed Heron as a patriot; throughout the war they honored him with office, and placed him on committees to advance the patriot cause. For instance, April 2, 1777, he was placed on a committee to hire recruits for the Continental army. June 2, 1779, he was appointed delegate to a county convention on monetary affairs; Dec. 27, 1780, on a committee to ascertain the length of time certain citizens of the town had served in the army; April 16, 1781, on Committee of Correspondence; Feb. 28, 1782, on a committee to form citizens into classes for recruiting purposes. For four sessions during the war he served in the Connecticut General Assembly by vote of his townsmen, viz.: May, 1778; October, 1779; January, 1780; May, 1781.

Other's outside of Redding viewed him as a patriot too. Connecticut's Governor Trumbull provided passes to Squire Heron that allowed him to freely travel to and from New York for business. General Samuel H. Parsons, in a letter to George Washington, dated April 6, 1782, gave his approval of Heron too.

Mr. Heron: "I have a little job I thought Tim might do for me. I need a boy to walk down to Fairfield for me."

In Real Life: One of the ways Heron gained access to the British lines was to ride to Fairfield, leave his horse with a Tory there named "Bradley", cross the sound to Huntington on Long Island, or an adjacent part, and thence make his way into the enemy's lines at New York.

It is very possible that messages from Heron to the British commanders in Long Island were also sent from Fairfield via loyalists like "Bradley" who received them from unsuspecting messengers who passed through Patriot country undetected.

Life: "They've been killing children in this war. They don't care. They'll throw you in a prison ship and let you rot."

In Real Life:

Children of patriots were killed in the war. Relating to Redding, British General, William Tryon, was said to have an ill-natured propensity for women and boys. The latter especially he made prisoners of, and consigned to the horrible prison ships, holding them as hostages, on the justification that they "would very soon grow into rebels."

In addition to prison ships, prisoners were also confined to the infamous "Sugar House", a Revolutionary War version of a POW compound. There were actually three "Sugar Houses"- i.e. sugar warehouses which the British converted into makeshift prisons. Van Cortland's on the northwest corner of the Trinity Church lot, Rhinelander's on William & Duane Streets, and another on Liberty Street, which was the largest and was used the longest. The most vivid accounts of confinement come from the journals of prisoners confined in the Liberty Street Sugar House, a five story stone building which was stifling in summer and frigid in winter. Food rations were minimal and of poor quality. Sanitation was deplorable and disease was rampant. Many prisoners died of mistreatment and/or neglect.

Jerry Sanford is portrayed as a 10 year old that is taken prisoner and dies in the prisons of New York in my brother Sam is dead. Jeremiah Sanford of Redding, Connecticut was taken prisoner by the British and did die in the prisons of New York but he was 19 years old not 10 years old. Jerry Sanford's portrayal as a youth is no fault of the Collier brothers. He was long thought to be a youth in Redding history, as that is how Charles Burr Todd portrayed him in both versions of his History of Redding publications. Jeremiah Sanford's gravestone holds the truth, it reads:

"Jeremiah Sanford, who died a prisoner in New York, June 28th in the 19th year of his age."

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter VII:

Tim: "Cloth was getting scarce, and leather, because the Continental troops needed them for clothing and shoes."

In Real Life: This was an issue during the war. Multiple examples are noted in Charles Burr Todd's History of Redding:

January, 1778, it was ordered that each town must provide: 1 hunting shirt, 2 linen shirts, 2 pair linen overalls, 1 pair stockings, 12 pair good shoes, and one-half as many blankets for Continental soldiers. But the towns were so impoverished that, in many cases, they could not respond to the requisitions and the soldiers suffered accordingly.

Redding Town Records: In 1778, the town of Redding petitioned the Legislature for relief. "49 of her citizens have gone to the enemy; 6 are dead or prisoners; 9 are in the corps of artificers; 28 are in the Continental Army, and 112 in the trainbands. Leaving scarcely none to man the farms and produce money or supplies to meet the Legislature's requisitions." May 8, 1778, Captain Zalmon Read and Asahel Fitch were appointed to provide "shirts, shoes, stockings and other articles of clothing for the Continental soldiers."

July 30, 1779, Micayah Starr, Thaddeus Benedict, and Stephen Betts were appointed a committee to prepare clothing for the soldiers, and a tax of 2s. on the pound was levied to pay for the same.

Tim: "Verplancks Point was on the Hudson River, just south of a town called Peekskill."

In Real Life: Verplanck's Point was a defended position of the Continental Troops during the war, the British assaulted the forts of Stony Point and Verplanck's Point in 1779. Between Verplanck's Point and Stony Point was King's Ferry, the most heavily used crossing on the Hudson River.

On August 31, 1782, an Amphibious assault was conducted by Continental troops moving the army from New Windsor to Verplanck's Point as rehearsal for an assault on Manhattan.

"Washington's Hill" marks the site of one of the nation's most splendid military reviews, where Washington and Rochambeau staged a welcome to the French and American armies in 1782.

Locals proudly to call themselves "Pointers". Verplanck is the home of a replica of the ship the Half Moon, with which Henry Hudson explored the Hudson River.

Peekskill. By the time of the American Revolution, the tiny community of Peekskill was an important manufacturing center from its various mills along the several creeks and streams. These industrial activities were attractive to the Continental Army in establishing its headquarters there in 1776.

The mills of Peek's Creek provided gunpowder, leather, planks, and flour. Slaughterhouses were an important part of the food supply. The river docks allowed transport of supply items and soldiers to the several other fort garrisons placed along the Hudson to prevent British naval passage between Albany and New York City. Officers at Peekskill generally supervised placing the first iron link chain between Bear Mountain and Anthony's Nose in the spring of 1777.

Tim: "I knew they were cow-boys. I pulled the wagon's long brake lever and whoa-ed the oxen."

In Real Life: Before it had any special application to America, cowboy was used in England with the obvious meaning: "a boy who took care of cows." Or he could have been a man, for boy implied not only youth and boyish attitudes but also low status in society.

Americans invented a new meaning for the term during the American Revolution. Cowboy became the name used in reference to pro-British raiders who harassed and plundered the rural districts of Westchester County, New York. Westchester County, was the so-called "Neutral Ground" seeing the British were in New York City and the Americans were in the Hudson Highlands.

Anti-British raiders were called Skinners. Both Cowboys and Skinners, were comprised largely of tramps and bandits, serving their own interests more often than those of any cause. Seldom did they legalize their depredations by accounting for them to their superiors, and, worse than that, their forays were as frequent on the stores of friendly civilians as on those of their opponents.

The first group that cause Life and Tim trouble were not Cowboys they were Skinners. The second group that comes to the aid of Life and Tim to drive the Skinners off were Loyalists serving as a Committee of Safety.

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter VIII:

Life: "I thought we'd curve south a little, hit into Connecticut at Wilton Parish and then go up thru Umpawaug to Redding."

In Real Life: Heading south in the present day would have taken them through Pound Ridge and Vista, New York, into North Wilton and then on to the Umpawaug section of Redding. This would have been through Georgetown which borders Redding and Wilton. The turnpike through Georgetown was the route of the main highway from Norwalk/Wilton to Redding and points north in the time period.

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter IX:

Tim: "…I was worried the cow-boys would get me first." Whether these men are Cowboys or Skinners is a bit confusing. Tim has good reason to fear either one.

In Real Life: Cowboys and Skinners were one-in-the-same in terms of their conduct, it was their allegiance that defined them as one or the other. Seeing Life dies in a British prison ship they are likely Cowboys, which is ironic seeing Life is loyal to the British cause.

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter X:

Tim: "Colonel Read had been head of a whole regiment of militia, but he'd quit the job. He said it was because he was too old, but everybody knew that was just an excuse."

In Real Life: Colonel John Read resigned his militia commission in the Revolution due to advanced age (75 years old), but served as Justice of the Peace in cases of confiscated loyalist properties.

Connecticut Colonial Records, May, 1775: "This assembly do appoint Gold Selleck Silliman, Esq., to be Colonel of the fourth regiment of militia in this Colony, in the room of Colonel Read resigned."

Tim: "As a matter of fact, we weren't suppose to pray for the King and Parliament anymore…But Mr. Beach was pretty brave…and he went on praying for them anyway."

In Real Life: Shortly after the Declaration of Independence (i.e., July, 1776) the Anglican clergy of the colony fearing to continue the use of the Liturgy as it then stood-praying for the kings and royal family-and conscientiously scrupulous about violating their oaths and subscriptions, resolved to suspend the public exercise of their ministry.

All the churches were thus for a time closed, except those under the care of the Rev. John Beach…He continued to officiate as usual during the war. Though gentle as a lamb in the dealings of private life, he was bold as a lion in the discharge of public duty; and, when warned of personal violence if he persisted, he declared that he would "do his duty, preach, and pray for the Kings till the rebels cut out his tongue."

Tradition has preserved a few examples of his experience during the War of Independence:

In one, it is related that a squad of soldiers marched into his church in Newtown, and threatened to shoot him if he prayed for the king; but when, regardless of their threats, he went on, without so much as a tremor in his voice, to offer the forbidden supplications, they were so struck with admiration for his courage, that they stacked their arms and remained to listen to the sermon.

In another, a band of soldiers entered his church during service, seized him, and declared that they would kill him. He entreated that, if his blood must be shed, it might not be in the house of God. Thereupon they took him into the street, where an axe and block were soon prepared

"Now, you old sinner (said one), say your last prayer."

He knelt down and prayed: "God bless King George, and forgive all his enemies and mine, for Christ's sake."

One of the mob then pleaded to "let the old fellow go, and take some younger man instead."

Tim: "…And I was doing this one Saturday morning early toward the end of April -the 26th, to be exact - when I began hearing from a long way away a heavy muttering sound. It sounded a bit like thunder…"

In Real Life: On the morning of the 26th, at a very seasonable hour (11am-12 noon), the British troops arrived and halted at Redding Ridge. During the halt the main body of the troops remained under arms on the green in front of the Anglican church. Tryon, Agnew, and Erskine were invited into Esquire William Heron's home (the first house south of the Christ Church). Here they were hospitably entertained with cake, wine, and it is presumed, many hopeful prognostications of the speedy collapse of the "rebellion." Shortly after their meeting, a file of soldiers entered the house of Lieutenant Stephen Betts, a prominent patriot who lived across the street from the church and seized him. Daniel Sanford, his son, Jeremiah Sanford (19 years old), and 16 year old, Benjamin Lines, met a like fate.

Tim: "The British column was disappearing around the bend, but a couple dozen troops had stayed behind. They were kneeling on the road in a line firing at Captain Starr's house…"

In Real Life: Captain Daniel Starr's house was located in Danbury not Redding and Ned was the property of Redding resident, Samuel Smith. Ned was killed by British soldiers during the 1777 raid of Danbury. Apparently, Ned was among four patriot defenders who stayed behind and opened fire on British troops from a house owned by Major Daniel Starr. The house was set ablaze and all inside were killed. There are no official accounts of Ned being beheaded before the house was put to flame. That resulted from an investigation after the raid had taken place, at the request of Samuel Smith. Mr. Smith was required to provide a report of Ned's death with witnesses in order to be compensated for his lost "property". It is in this petition that the accounts of Ned's decapitation surface and provide the view point and events that Tim witnesses in my brother Sam is dead.

One account of the house burning is as follows: "Soon after the arrival of the enemy, four persons, inflamed with a momentary madness of enthusiasm, had placed themselves in a large and valuable house of one Major Starr, to fire upon and resist a British Army! As the troops proceeded up the street, they were fired upon from the windows of Starr's house by these rash adventurers, who seemed here to have placed themselves in reality upon the last threshold of liberty. They repeated their firing a few times, it is said, with effect. But a dreadful retaliation followed. An exasperated enemy thrust them into the cellar of the house, barricaded the doors, and set the house on fire, which was burnt to ashes, together with these unhappy men. These persons were Joshua Porter, Eleazer Starr, one Adams, and a negro."

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter XI:

Wounded Man: "But we were expecting some Continental troops. You've heard of General Benedict Arnold, I expect? He and General Silliman and some others have been chasing the British up from Compo…"

In Real Life: As the British marched toward Danbury, the remaining patriots of Redding anxiously awaited the approach of the Patriot troops in pursuit. At length they came in view, marching wearily, in sodden, disordered ranks, a small army of five hundred men and boys, led by Brigadier General Silliman. They were comprised of soldiers from the companies of Colonel Lamb's battalion of artillery, with three rusty cannon, a field-piece, part of the artillery company of Fairfield, and sixty Continentals; the rest were raw levies, chiefly old men and boys. It was eight o'clock in the evening when the troops arrived at Redding Ridge- an evening as disagreeable as a northeast rainstorm with its attendant darkness could make it. Here the troops halted an hour for rest and refreshment. At the expiration of that time a bugle was heard from far down the turnpike; then the tramp of horsemen was heard, and presently Major General Wooster and Brigadier General Arnold, dashed into the village of Redding Ridge.

On hearing that the British were so far ahead, it is said that Arnold became so enraged that he could scarcely keep his seat, and his terrible oaths fell on his auditor's ears like thunder claps. Wooster at once assumed command, and the column moved forward through the muddy and heavily rutted roadway as far as Bethel, where it halted for the night at the intersection of Elizabeth St. and Blackman Ave. At Danbury, but three miles distant, Tryon's force was at rest, and might have been annihilated by a determined effort, but the Continental command was hampered by the weather conditions, rutted roadways and fatigue.

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter XII:

Tim: "In June of that year, 1777, we found out that father was dead…we found all this out from one of the men who'd been taken away during the raid on Redding that spring."

Life dying in a British prison ship is ironic seeing Life is loyal to the British cause. But it highlights the hardship of the loyalists who chose "passive resistance" in the war…they were caught in the middle of a war they didn't support, suffering injustices when attempting to go on with their lives as they always had.

In Real Life: Redding prisoners taken away during the raid were: *Redding militiamen captured in Weston (James Rogers, Timothy Parsons, Russell Bartlett, Daniel Chapman, Thomas Couch, David Fairchild, Ezekial Fairchild, Jabez Frost, Daniel Meeker, Jonas Platt, Oliver Sanford, Nathaniel Squire and 13 year old, Jacob Patchen were among the captured.), Patriots Stephen Betts, Daniel Sanford, Jeremiah Sanford and a non-combatant (Benjamin Lines) captured on Redding Ridge.

*Betts, Bartlett, Lines, Patchen, and most of the Redding militiamen would all eventually return to Redding. Daniel and Jeremiah Sanford, Daniel Chapman, David Fairchild died in captivity while being held in the "sugar houses" of New York, where sanitation was deplorable and disease was rampant.

Tim: "We couldn't get over to Verplancks Point that fall. The Rebels were holding all of northern Westchester County - Peekskill, Verplancks, Crompound, all of it.

In Real Life: By the time of the American Revolution, the tiny community of Peekskill was an important manufacturing center from its various mills along the several creeks and streams. These industrial activities were attractive to the Continental Army in establishing its headquarters there in 1776.

The mills of Peek's Creek provided gunpowder, leather, planks, and flour. Slaughterhouses were an important part of the food supply. The river docks allowed transport of supply items and soldiers to the several other fort garrisons placed along the Hudson to prevent British naval passage between Albany and New York City. Officers at Peekskill generally supervised placing the first iron link chain between Bear Mountain and Anthony's Nose in the spring of 1777.

Though Peekskill's terrain and mills were beneficial to the Patriot cause, they also made tempting targets for British raids. The most damaging attack took place in early spring of 1777 when an invasion force of a dozen vessels led by a warship and supported by infantry overwhelmed the American defenders. Another British operation in October 1777 led to further destruction of industrial apparatus. As a result, the Hudson Valley command for the Continental Army moved from Peekskill to West Point where it stayed for remainder of the war.

Sam: "I'm going to be in Redding for a while, General Putnam, is bringing a couple of regiments here for winter encampment. We're going up to Lonetown and hole up until spring."

In Real Life: General Israel Putnam's division of the Continental Army encamped in Redding in the winter of 1778-1779. This division was comprised of General Poor's brigade of New Hampshire troops under Brig. General Enoch Poor, a Canadian Regiment led by Col. Moses Hazen, and two brigades of Connecticut troops: 2nd Brigade Connecticut Line regiments commanded by Brig. General Jedediah Huntington, and the 1st Brigade Connecticut Line regiments commanded by Brig. General Samuel H. Parsons. This division had been operating along the Hudson (Eastern New York) during the fall, and as winter approached it was decided that it should go into winter quarters at Redding, as from this position it could support the important fortress of West Point in case of attack, intimidate the Cowboys and Skinners of Westchester County, and cover lands adjacent to Long Island Sound. But another major reason was to protect the Danbury supply depot, which had been burned by the British the year before but resurrected to keep supplies going to Washington's army.

Colonel Aaron Burr, one of General Putnam's aides and a frequent visitor to Redding, had suggested that Putnam look over the area for a future winter encampment during a summer visit to General Heath's Brigade in Danbury. Putnam found the topography and location ideal. Three camp locations were marked and later prepped by artificers and surveyors under the direction of the Quartermaster staff: the first in the northeast part of Lonetown, near the Bethel line, on land owned by John Read, 2nd (now Putnam Park). The second was about a mile and a half west of the first camp, between Limekiln Rd. and Gallows Hill in the vicinity of present day Whortleberry Rd. & Costa Lane. The third camp was in West Redding, on a ridge about a quarter of a mile north of West Redding Station (vicinity of present day Deer Spring Drive & Old Lantern Road).

During the winter encampment, James Sanford, enlisted with the teamsters for General Enoch Poor's New Hampshire brigade. The teamsters were responsible for bringing daily supplies to camp from the military stores in Danbury, Connecticut. James' enlistment was contrary to the loyalties of his family, which is similar to Sam Meeker in my brother Sam is dead. His younger brother John, who is said to have visited him at camp everyday, is a good candidate for the real life Tim Meeker.

Susannah: "You mean your troops are stealing from your own people?"

In Real Life: Given the conditions, it is difficult to blame the soldiers that took matters into their own hands and ventured out of camp in search of provisions. The citizens of Redding, did not see things this way, those who initially felt quite honored by the selection of their town for the army's winter quarters, soon grew tired of soldiers looting their livestock. The soldiers position was that they were the one's fighting the country's battles and plundering the neighboring farms was within their rights as men of war. To them a well-stocked poultry yard, a pen of fat porkers or field of healthy heifers offered irresistible cuisine when compared to the horse-beef they were being offered back at camp. After a time, however, the wary farmers foiled the looters by storing their livestock over night in the cellars of their houses and in other secure places. Others butchered their stock as Sam urges his family to do.

Tim: "Of course the ordinary soldiers didn't have much fun. For one thing, there was always snow. It came down in a great blizzard about a week after the troops had started to build the encampment."

In Real Life: Brigade orders out of Parsons' command on December 27th reveal a desperate lack of food:

"The General of the brigade informs the officers and soldiers that he has used every possible method to supply flour or bread to the brigade. Although a sufficiency of every article necessary is at Danbury, the weather had been so extreme that it is impossible for teams to pass to that place. Every measure is taken to supply flour, rum, salt and every necessary tomorrow, at which time, if a quantity sufficient comes in, all past allowances shall be made up. The General, therefore, desires for the honor of this corps and their own personal reputation, the soldiery, under the special circumstances caused by the severity of the season, will make themselves contented to that time."

The journals of private Joseph Plumb Martin (stationed with the 8th Connecticut in Parsons' middle camp) show the desperate lack of food and poor weather conditions continued through January:

"We settled in our winter quarters at the commencement of the new year and went on in our old Continental Line of starving and freezing. We now and then got a little bad bread and salt beef (I believe chiefly horse-beef for it was generally thought to be such at the time). The month of January was very stormy, a good deal of snow fell, and in such weather it was mere chance if we got anything at all to eat."

Report out of the New Hampshire division (main camp, present day Putnam Park), Dec. 22, 1778:

"a severe snow storm..."

" Report out of the New Hampshire division, Dec. 25, 1778:

"Christmas Day. The Weather is so cold we take but little notice of the day..."

" Report out of the New Hampshire division, Dec. 26, 1778:

" we have a very severe snow storm..."

Tim: "I thought General Putnam gave strict orders against stealing." Sam: "Oh he did, and knowing General Putnam he'll hang any soldier he catches stealing. He's tough as nails but he's honest."

In Real Life: General Putnam was more concerned with deserters and spies while he was in Redding. Nothing had so much annoyed Putnam and his officers during the campaign of the preceding summer on the Hudson than the desertions which had thinned his ranks, and the Tory spies, who frequented his camps, under every variety of pretext, and forthwith conveyed the information thus gathered on the enemy.

To put a stop to this it had been determined that the next offender of either sort (deserter or spy) captured should suffer death as an example.

Sam: "The other day some of the men were actually talking mutiny."

In Real Life: The troops went into winter quarters at Redding in no pleasant humor, and almost in the spirit of insubordination. This was particularly the case with the Connecticut troops. They had endured privations that many men would have sunk under: the horrors of battle, the weariness of the march, cold, hunger, and nakedness. What was worse, they had been paid in the depreciated currency of the times, which had scarcely any purchasing power, and their families at home were reduced to the lowest extremity of want and wretchedness.

The frustrations caused by the deprivations brought to a head the attempted mutiny on the morning of December 30th at Huntington's camp. The troops had decided on the bold resolve of marching to Hartford, and airing their grievances in person to the Legislature then sitting. The two brigades were plotting their escape when the threat of troop desertion was brought to Putnam's attention. He, with his usual intrepidity and decision of character, threw himself upon his horse and dashed down the road leading to his camps, never slacking rein until he drew up in the presence of the disaffected troops.

"My brave lads," he cried, "whither are you going? Do you intend to desert your officers, and invite the enemy to follow you into the country? Whose cause have you been fighting and suffering so long in-is it not your own? Have you no property, no parents, wives, children? You have behaved like men so far-all the world is full of your praises, and posterity will stand astonished at your deeds; but not if you spoil it all at last.

Don't you consider how much the country is distressed by the war, and that your officers have not been any better paid than yourselves? But we all expect better times, and that the country will do us ample justice. Let us all stand by one another then, and fight it out like brave soldiers. Think what a shame it would be for Connecticut men to run away from their officers."

When he had finished this stirring speech, he directed the acting major of brigades to give the word for them to march to their regimental parades, and lodge arms, which was done; one soldier only, a ringleader in the affair, was confined to the guard house, from which he attempted to escape, but was shot dead by the sentinel on duty- himself one of the mutineers. Thus ended the affair.

In January, Private Joseph P. Martin related two more uprisings in his camp journal, both were thwarted by regimental officers, but indicate some discontent among the troops still lingered. After that many of the Connecticut troops were placed on patrols at Horseneck, Stamford and Norwalk. Some were sent over to "no-man's land" in Westchester County and several hundred troops were sent to New London for guard duty and the construction of Fort Griswold.

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter XIII:

Tim: "In the morning I went back to Captain Betts' house to talk to Colonel Parsons."

In Real Life: Parsons' 1st Brigade Connecticut Line regiments wintered with General Israel Putnam's division of the Continental Army encamped in Redding in 1778-9 and Parsons was headquartered at Stephen Betts house/tavern. He remained headquartered on Redding Ridge until 1781.

Tim: "The trial was set for February 6th,"

In Real Life: To put a stop to soldiers deserting camp and spies infiltrating camp it had been determined that the next offender of either sort (deserter or spy) captured should suffer death as an example. The opportunity to implement this determination soon arrived. Scouts from Putnam's outposts in Westchester County captured a man lurking within their lines, and as he could give no satisfactory account of himself, he was at once hauled over the borders and into the presence of the commander-in-chief. In answer to the commanders queries, the prisoner said that his name was Jones, that he was a Welshman by birth, and had settled in Ridgefield a few years before the war commenced; that he had never faltered in his allegiance to the king, and that at the outbreak of the hostilities he had fled to the British army, and had been made a butcher in the camp; a few weeks before, he had been sent into Westchester County to buy beef for the army, and was in the process of carrying out those orders at the present. He was remanded to the guard house, court-martialed and at once ordered for trial. Putnam had his first example.

On Feb. 4, 1779, Edward Jones was tried at a General Court Martial for going to and serving the enemy, and coming out as a spy. He was found guilty of each and every charge exhibited against him, and according to Law and the Usage's of Nations was sentenced to suffer Death: "The General approves the sentence and orders it to be put in execution between the hours of ten and eleven A.M. by hanging him by the neck till he be dead."

Two days after another General Court Martial was held for a similar offence: on Feb. 6, 1779, John Smith of the 1st Connecticut Regiment, was tried at a General Court Martial for desertion and attempting to go to the enemy, found guilty, and further persisting in saying that he will go to the enemy if ever he has an opportunity. "The General approves the sentence and orders that it be put in execution between the hours of ten and twelve A.M. for him to be shot to death"

My Brother Sam is Dead Chapter XIV:

Sam's character takes the place of John Smith in the executions. Which are very close to the real-life events that occurred that day.

In Real Life: The scene which took place at the execution of these men on February 16 was described as shocking and bloody, it occurred on a lofty hill (known to this day as Gallows Hill) dominating the valley between the three camps. The instrument of Edward Jones' death was erected approximately twenty feet from the ground atop the hill's highest pinnacle. Jones was ordered to ascend the ladder, with the rope around his neck attached to the cross beam of the gallows. When he had reached the top rung General Putnam ordered him to jump from the ladder.

'No General Putnam,' said Jones, 'I am innocent of the crime laid to my charge; I shall not do it.'

Putnam drawing his sword, compelled the hangmen at sword's point, that his orders be obeyed and if Jones would not jump, that the ladder be over-turned to complete the act. It was and he perished.

The soldier that was to be shot for desertion was but a youth of sixteen or seventeen years of age. The Rev. Nathaniel Bartlett, who was pastor of the Congregational Church in Redding for a period of fifty years, officiated as chaplain to the encampment during that winter, and was present at the execution. He interceded with General Putnam to defer the execution of Smith until Washington could be consulted- for reason the offender was a youth; but the commander assured him that a reprieve could not be granted.

John Smith was described as "extremely weak and fainting" as he was led by Poor's Brigade Chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Evans, approximately 200 yards from the gallows to the place he was to be shot.

Putnam gave the order and three balls were shot through his breast: he fell on his face, but immediately turned over on his back; a soldier then advanced, and putting the muzzle of his gun near the convulsive body of the youth, discharged its contents into his forehead. The body was then placed in a coffin; the final discharge had been fired so near to the body that it had set the boy's clothing on fire, and continued burning while each and every soldier present was ordered to march past the coffin and observe Smith's mangled remains; an officer with a drawn sword stood by to ensure they complied.

It was indeed a grisly scene, and many have questioned the accuracy of the accounts published about it because it seems almost too ghastly. But it should be said that: boldness, firmness, promptness, decisiveness- were the chief elements of General Israel Putnam's character, and at this particular crisis all were needed. There was disaffection and insubordination in the army, as has been noted. Desertions were frequent, and spying by the Tories was almost openly practiced. To put a stop to these practices it was vitally necessary to the safety of the army, to see that these sentences were carried into effect. If the executions were bungling done, the fault was with the executioners, and not with the General.

Sam's death is another ironic twist in the Collier's story: A father and son's loyalty to their beliefs results in death at the hands of their own troops.


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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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