History of Redding > My Brother Sam is Dead > Teaching Aids > Exploring the Topics  

Exploring Your Own Town's Part in the Revolutionary War. Depending on where you live and the resources that are available these activities will vary in difficulty and scope. If you live in an area that wasn't involved with the Revolutionary War you can:

  • Explore who owned the land where your town is located and how it was used in the timeframe
  • See if a Revolutionary veteran moved to your town after the war and explore his history
  • Simply explore something that relates to your town- people, businesses, events

The idea is to provide students with a better understanding and appreciation of where they live while teaching them research skills they can use in the future.

Because the novel My Brother Sam is Dead is the motivation for these novel study activities I'll focus on towns that have histories relating to the Revolutionary War.

The first step is locating information on how the Revolutionary War impacted your area and your town. The local library and historical society are the sources you should contact first, they should have knowledge of or have someone with knowledge of your town's Revolutionary War history. If these sources are not available in your town- Books are a great place to start, especially if your town has a recorded history.

Activity: How Did the Revolutionary War Impact Your Town?

In My Brother Sam is Dead, we learn how the war impacted Tim's family, church and neighbors. This activity teaches students how the war impacted their own town and its inhabitants. In the process students learn how to research and where to research for this type of material.

There are many "angles" to research here but information wise, the easiest to locate are:

  • Soldiers from your town (how many enlisted, did any die, when did they serve and where, did any leave a journal?)
  • Anglican Church (was it shutdown? did the preacher keep a diary? if so what did he write about?)
  • Loyalists (how were they treated?, was their property confiscated? did any leave? if so where to? did any assist the British or join British forces? )
  • Town Records relating to Revolutionary War (town committees formed in support of war, town requests for items and soldiers, where there any battles or encampments in your town?)

Finding Revolutionary War Soldiers:
To locate information on soldiers from your town :

  1. Locate Pension Records. Check with your local historical society first, then try the state historical museum. In Connecticut the state library is an excellent source of information. For those with public library access search for pension records via Hertitage Quest Online. Another source of information is the Sons of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

  2. Locate Lists and Rolls. Check with your local historical society first, then try the state historical museum. In Connecticut the state library is an excellent source of information. Another source of information is the Sons of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Finding Anglican Church Information:
To locate information on an Anglican Church in your town :

  1. The first place to look is the local Episcopal Church.

  2. Check with your local historical society.

  3. Look for books or magazines covering your town's history.

Finding Loyalist Information:
To locate information on Loyalists from your town:

  1. Check with your local historical society.

  2. Review records at United Empire Loyalist (Canada) web site: http://www.uelac.org.

  3. Check with your town hall for probate & land records. *some town records are now stored regionally so check with your town clerk.

  4. Search for books or magazines covering loyalists from your state and town.

Finding Town Information:
To locate information on your town during the war:

  1. Check with your local historical society.

  2. Check with your town clerk.

  3. Search for books or magazines covering your town.

Activity- Soldiers from your town:

  • List soldiers and dates they served
  • Map locations where they served (in the classroom or create a Google map)
  • Find where they lived in your town
  • Find biographical information about them (who they were, what they did before and after war)

Activity- Anglican churches in your town:

  • What happened to the church during the war (was it shutdown?)
  • What happened to the church after the war (was it taxed?)
  • Find first-person reports of the church and its preacher in that timeframe
  • Find example of "prayers for King of England and Parliment"
  • Examine why Anglican Church members didn't want to rebel against England.

Activity- Loyalists from your town:

  • List loyalists from your town
  • Map locations where they lived (in the classroom or create a Google map)
  • Find where they went (if they left) and map it
  • Find biographical information about them
  • Explore how loyalists were treated before, during and after the war.

Activity- Your town during the Revolution:

  • What happened in your town during the war?
  • Who served on the town committees formed to support the war?
  • Is your town historically significant? Were there encampments in your town?, were there battles in your town? were there cow-boys and skinners in your town? are there houses in your town that date back to the revolution?

Activity: Secondary Sources vs. Primary Sources

Local History Books are largely "secondary sources" that provide an excellent opportunity to educate students on how many published histories are based on primary sources. This is best exhibited when you locate both secondary and primary sources and compare them with one another.

Locate all that you can find with regards to published works about your town's Revolutionary War history and have your students form research groups. Divide up the materials and have each group list out the primary sources referenced in the bibliographies.

Next give them one week to locate copies of primary sources. You can leave it open ended and have them figure out where to look on their own or instruct them where to look (historical societies, local libraries, local genealogist societies, online using resources like archives.gov) *For best results instruct them where to look.

During the week they are locating primary sources you can educate them on what primary sources are...reading soldier's journals is one way to keep their attention. "Private Yankee Doodle: The Diary of Joseph Plumb Martin" is a good one.

When you have all the primary and secondary sources you can find, have the students compare the text in the primary sources with the text in the secondary sources noting where the secondary sources' author has obviously spun his own story off the content of the primary source(s).

This exercise is a great segway to discussions on proper citing techniques and plagerism; Many students don't fully understand what plagerism is.

View the Library of Congress' Teacher Resource for Using Primary Sources in the Classroom - Suggestions for using primary sources were compiled from the National Digital Library's Educators' Forum held in July, 1995 and from the Library staff. Educators at the Forum, like many throughout the country, know that history comes alive for students who are plugged into primary sources. These suggestions for student activities can help you enhance your social studies curriculum using authentic artifacts, documents, photographs, and manuscripts from the Library of Congress Historical Collections and other sources.


Resources Available Online:


My Brother Sam is Dead Dropbox Account

Word Document that explains what is at the Dropbox: My Brother Sam is Dead Dropbox

Photo Examples of the Dropbox:
My Brother Sam is Dead Dropbox

Please feel free to email me with any questions @ bcolley@colleyweb.com.




Google Map of Redding with information about My Brother Sam is Dead

Putnam Memorial State Park- This is where Sam Meeker was encamped during the winter of 1778-79. This is the same camp Tim describes when he attempts to free Sam from the stockade.

Keeler Tavern Museum- Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Keeler Tavern Museum has been a farmhouse, tavern, stagecoach stop, post office, hotel for travelers and a private residence. The Meeker Family Tavern was very similar and thus Keeler Tavern gives a glimpse at the way Tim, Sam, Life and Suzanne lived and worked.

Putnam's Cottage / Knapp's Tavern Museum- Putnam's Cottage is intimately connected to the Revolutionary war, having housed General Putnam and hosted General Washington for lunch. The house has long been associated with General Israel Putnam and his heroic escape from the British during the Revolutionary War. General Putnam was Sam Meeker's General in the novel.

Compo Beach- The British landed on this beach in 1777. From here they marched north through Redding where they halted for several hours before their attack on Danbury Connecticut's military depot. Tim describes their visit in the novel.





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