My Brother Sam Is Dead Summary
When the door to the Meekers' Connecticut tavern slams open on a rainy night in April of 1777, fourteen-year-old Tim is delighted to see his brother Sam standing there, wearing a fancy uniform of scarlet, white, and black.
Sam Meeker, who is sixteen and a student at Yale, is full of news about a recent skirmish with British forces in nearby Massachusetts. According to his account, the "damn Lobsterbacks" marched from Boston up to Lexington the previous day, looking for "Mr. Adams and Mr. Hancock," then proceeded on to Concord in search of ammunition stores. Due to the wiliness of the Patriots, however, both missions were unsuccessful and Minutemen hiding in the fields along the road "massacred them all the way . . . to Boston."
The group at the table—Mother, Father, Tim, Mr. Beach the minister, and some farmers—is silent when the young man finishes speaking. Struggling to keep his temper, Father asks Sam to retell his story in an orderly manner. This time, Sam admits that much of his information is based upon rumor but insists that the news about the fighting is true, as it came from the leader of his own company, Captain Benedict Arnold himself.
As Sam retells his story, Father, a staunch Loyalist, scolds him for using the derogatory term "Lobsterbacks" to describe "the soldiers of [his] King," while Mr. Beach asks pointedly, "Who shot first?" Sam concedes that he does not know for sure but argues that it does not matter as the Lobsterbacks have "[no] right . . . to be here anyway."
When he finishes his narrative by describing again how the Minutemen "peppered [the British] . . . all the way back home," one of the farmers exclaims, "Damn it, that's rebellion . . . they'll have us in war yet." An argument ensues with Sam asserting that the British are exploiting the colonists with unfair taxes, and that there are many like him who are ready to fight for freedom. Father counters by declaring that "God meant man to obey . . . children to obey their fathers . . . men to obey their kings," and forbids his son to speak treason in his house.
Listening wordlessly, young Tim is conflicted. What Sam says about freedom...
(The entire section is 899 words.)