History of Redding > My Brother Sam is Dead > Analysis  

What Country Did We Fight in the Revolutionary War?

Answer: England

My Brother Sam is Dead 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 Meeker 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.

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

Tim Meeker: "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.





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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