Chapter 1 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 sounds right, yet he has the feeling that there is more to the issue than his brother understands. However, he is just glad that Sam is home and looks forward to hearing his tales about the pretty girls he knows in New Haven.
When the meal is over, Tim gets up to do the milking and asks Sam to help. Sam says he cannot get his uniform dirty, so Tim suggests that he borrow clothes from Father. Tim is almost done with the milking when his brother comes into the barn, still wearing his uniform.
Sam half-heartedly prepares to collect the eggs from the chickens but becomes frustrated when he finds that the basket he is using is broken. Tim tells his brother to stop complaining and adds that it is not fair for him to purposely bait Father with his uniform when the man is paying for him to go to college. After considering for a moment, Sam tells Tim that he is actually wearing his uniform for another reason—he is leaving "to fight the Lobsterbacks."
This admission both frightens and excites Tim, and he wonders "what it would be like to shoot somebody." Sam says that tomorrow, he will be walking with his company to engage the Lobsterbacks in Massachusetts and describes the easy...
(The entire section is 899 words.)