Brent M. Colley's Guide to My Brother Sam is Dead is now available
at the vistor's center at Putnam Park. This CD was created
to help parents and teachers better understand the topics
woven into each chapter of the fictional history novel, My
Brother Sam is Dead, and provide them with the resources needed
to effectively teach it in their classrooms. To view more
on what is in this CD, view what's in Brent
M. Colley's Guide to My Brother Sam is Dead CD.
CD is the product of six years of research and provides all
there is to know about My Brother Sam is Dead and what each
chapter is about. With this CD, parents and teachers can save
themselves hours of preparation while providing their students
with a much better understanding of what they are reading
about and why.
CD includes everything from maps to photos to primary source
materials from that time period to help parents and teachers
strengthen their classroom presentations and improve their
Colley if you have specific questions or information requests.
Below are summaries and analysis of several
chapters in the novel My Brother Sam is Dead that contain
information about events that take place in or around Putnam
My Brother Sam
is Dead Chapter 12: Summary and Analysis
Tim and Susannah learn that Life is dead;
he died on a British prison ship, not a Patriot ship, as they
had thought. They had buried him someplace on Long Island,
and it was not likely the family would be able to figure out
where. During the Revolution, some 11,500 Americans died in
British prison ships anchored in Wallabout Bay, on the Brooklyn
Side of New York Harbor. Each morning, prisoners collected
the dead from the ships, where diseases like yellow fever
and smallpox were rampant, and buried them in shallow graves
along the shore.
Life's last words were: "Tell them that
I love the, and say that I forgive Sam, he's a brave boy but
he's headstrong. And now I go to enjoy the freedom war has
brought me." Life's final comment, perhaps in delayed response
to Sam's quote in Chapter One: "It's worth dying to be free."
Two days later Betsy brings news that
Jerry Sanford has died on a prison ship too.
Betsy: "Nobody understands it….you
can understand why they took Mr. Rogers and Captain Betts,
but why imprison a ten-year-old boy?"
Susannah: "What harm could he have
done them? This war has turned men into animals…they're animals
now, they're all beasts."
Betsy: "I think they are, Sam should
The way Life and Jerry die hammers home
the fact that war creates illogical decisions and circumstances.
Tim is well aware of this now and doesn't want any part of
either side of the war.
Tim: "I decided that I wasn't going
to be on anybody's side any more: neither one of them was
All in all Tim has had it with the war
Tim narrating: "Oh how I hated
the war. All of life was like running on a treadmill. I was
fourteen, I should have been going to school all this while
and learning something. Maybe by this time I would have begun
to think about going to New Haven to study at Yale. I wasn't
much interested in Latin or Greek, but in the last couple
of years I'd learned as lot about buying and selling and the
tavern business, and I wanted to study calculating and surveying
and the agricultural sciences: I thought I might have a career
in business. I might apprentice myself to a merchant in New
Haven or New York, or even London, to learn the art of trade.
Sam owed it to me to come home and help Mother run the tavern
for a couple years while I started to make my way in the world."
Tim's daydreams of school and a better
life come in the midst of depressing circumstances at the
tavern. Prices continued to rise, merchandise was dwindling,
and the Rebels now had control of northern Westchester which
included Verplancks so the annual cattle drive was out of
the question. Tim knows he must find a British commissary
in order to keep the tavern and the store in business. He
wants to sell to the British not because he wants to help
them but because the British paid in hard money.
Tim narrating: "All through November
I tried to find out about the British commissary- whether
it really existed or not, and where it actually was…I didn't
want to go until I was sure: If I ran into Rebels I'd lose
the cattle and probably be put in prison myself. It was only
worth the risk if I were sure where the commissary was: otherwise
we might just as well eat the cattle ourselves."
Tim's search for the commissary comes
to a halt on December 3, 1778; Sam has returned to Redding.
Tim narrating: "He looked thin
and tired. There were black circles under his eyes and his
uniform was torn in about six places. He'd lost his belt and
was wearing a piece of rope around his waist, and his hat
wasn't an army hat but just an ordinary fur cap."
The description of Sam is an accurate
portrayal of a Patriot soldier in the fall of 1778; Each soldier
was provided with one uniform for the entire year and thus
after twelve months of marching and fighting these uniforms
were well worn and raggedy.
In the winter of 1778-79, the Continental
Army wintered in Redding, Connecticut. As Sam states, they
were situated so they could quickly move West or East to protect
the Hudson River and the Coast of Long Island, a secondary
reason behind their position was the Military Depot in Danbury
which the British had raided in 1777.
Sam's concern about his family's cattle
and his attempts to convince Tim to slaughter them and hide
them or sell the meat to the troops are driven by what Sam
has experienced as a soldier. He knows that the soldiers on
both sides are desperate for solid food and will break laws
both moral and legal to satisfy their hunger.
Sam: "Have you got any cattle,
Tim: "Eight, they're not much to
Sam: "Butcher them and hide the
meat. Or sell it. You can get a good price for the hides from
the troops. Sell what you can.. I promise you, the stock will
be stolen…Tim, butcher the cattle. Let the meat freeze and
hide it in the loft under the hay until you need it…I'm warning
you, Tim, sooner or later somebody's going to get them"
Tim doesn't listen, business at the tavern
is good since the soldiers arrived, but they are still being
paid with commissary notes. If they want to purchase more
liquor and supplies they will need hard cash and that can
only come from selling the cattle to the British. Tim and
his Mother know that they must make a decision but choose
to wait out the month of January, because of rumors about
the British in New York City and the chance that the Continentals
may be called on to fight soon.
While Sam, Tim and Susannah sit around
the taproom fireplace discussing the war and what Sam thinks
will happen in the spring, they hear some commotion outside.
Tim narrating: "Suddenly he stopped
talking. "What was that?" I'd heard it too- a kind of thump
and then a cow bawling. We listened. There were noises coming
from outside somewhere.
"Sounds like something's bothering the
cattle," I said.
"There are people out there," Sam shouted.
We ran out through the kitchen toward
the barn. It was dark, but there was nearly a full moon reflected
on the snow and plenty enough light to see what had happened.
The barn doors were open. Two cows were standing in front
of the barn blinking, and we could see two more behind…four
of the cows were gone.
"Pen 'em up," Sam shouted. "They'll be
butchering the others somewhere near." He darted around the
house toward the road, his eyes following the hoof prints
in the snow.
I snatched up a shovel and drove the remaining
four cattle back into the barn with the handle…Then I raced
across the snow around the house to the road…I saw nothing,
but distantly I heard the noise of shouting, off toward the
far end of the training ground. I ran in the direction of
the sounds, and then suddenly I saw three men walking toward
me through the moonlight, side by side. I stopped and waited.
They came up. The one in the middle was Sam. His nose bleeding
and there was a cut in his chin. His hands were tied behind
"Timmy, get Colonel Parsons," he cried.
"They're taking me in as a cattle thief." I went cold. Then
I turned and ran."
Sam is being framed as a cattle thief
by his own troops, another illogical circumstance caused by
the war. Throughout the novel Sam has placed his country and
fellow patriots ahead of his own family and now in a twist
of fate he faces court martial and the possibility of death
by execution for attempting to recover his family's stolen
Chapter 13: Summary
Having no luck at Colonel Parsons' headquarters,
Tim locates the missing cows and drives them back home. He
returns to the tavern where his mother is waiting and after
telling her the bad news, they pray.
Tim narrating: "Mother was sitting
in front of the fire, looking worried. "I saw you coming across
the road, " she said. "Where's Sam?"
"They arrested him," I said. "The ones
who stole the cattle beat him up, and then they said he'd
stolen the cattle himself and marched him off somewhere."
"Back to the encampment?"
"I guess so," I said. "They'll let him
go in the morning, won't they? I mean all we have to do is
explain it, don't we?"
She shook her head. "I have a terrible
foreboding, Timothy. I want to pray."
Susannah's fear is validated the next
morning when Tim returns to Parsons' headquarters. There is
more to Sam's arrest than just whose right or wrong. "Defection
from Duty" has become an issue for the Continental troops
and to put an end to it General Putnam wants to make an example
of somebody to show what happens to defectors under his command.
Tim narrating: "In the morning
I went back to Captain Betts' house to talk to Colonel Parsons…I
told him the story, but he shrugged…"He didn't do it, sir.
These other men - -" He held his hand up to stop me. "I know,
you told me that. In any case there isn't anything I can do.
They've taken him out to the encampment, and it'll be up to
General Putnam to do what he wants. I'd get out there in a
hurry, though. The General is determined to make an example
of somebody. It could go hard with Sam. General Putnam is
a great and dedicated patriot and he does not take defection
from duty lightly."
After a brief discussion about which one
of them will go to the encampment and who will watch the tavern,
Susannah heads down the road and Tim ponders butchering the
rest of the cattle. In this narration Tim explains that taverns
were required by law to remain open and serve travelers. Because
of their great importance to the community, there were many
laws and regulations regarding taverns in the colonial period.
When Susannah finally returns, she is
cold, tired and hopeless. The meeting with General Putnam
did not go well.
Susannah: "You see what the problem
is, Tim. Those two men who brought him in have sworn it was
Sam who stole the animals…Sam wasn't supposed to be here;
he was supposed to be on duty with Colonel Parsons at the
Tim: "But Colonel Parsons didn't
care, he always let Sam come over and visit."
Susannah: "Still, he wasn't supposed
to. Officially Sam had deserted his post."
Colonel Read: "I've been down to
the encampments. I've talked with some of the officers there.
I'm afraid it looks bad for Sam."
Tim: "Why is it bad for Sam, sir?"
Colonel Read: "Here's the problem.
Those soldiers Sam caught with the cattle are scared to death
Putnam will simply decide to hang them all as an example.
They're prepared to tell any kind of lie about Sam to get
themselves off. If it were just Sam's word against somebody
else's, it might be different, but there are two of them,
and if they tell the same story, they can be convincing."
He shook his head. "Then there's the fact that Sam comes from
a Tory family."
Tim: "But won't there be a trial,
Colonel Read: "Oh yes, a regular
court-martial. There'll be a presiding justice and a board
of officers acting as the jury. But we have to face the fact
that the board will do whatever they think General Putnam
Tim: "What can we do?"
Colonel Read: "Pray."
The trial was set for February 6th, an
agonizing three week period for both Tim and his mother. When
the day finally arrives Tim is so nervous that he cannot eat,
or even sit still. Colonel Read arrives after dark with the
news they didn't want to hear.
Colonel Read: "Mrs. Meeker, I have
bad news. They're going to execute Sam."
Tim immediately goes to see Colonel Parsons.
Tim narrating: "I can't help you,"
he said bluntly. "The court-martial has decided and that's
the end of it."
"Then who can help me, sir." I demanded.
He stared at me. "General Putnam. Nobody
but General Putnam."
Tim and Colonel Parsons debate why Parsons
should give Tim a note to see General Putnam and Tim makes
some pretty good "telling points" because in the end Parsons
agrees to give him a letter to see General Putnam.
Parsons: "Because I happen to believe
you, I'm going to give you a letter to see General Putnam.
But I am warning you right now that it won't do a bit of good.
The one thing General Putnam cannot do at this point is how
clemency. If he is going to make his point with the troops,
he can't start letting people off easily."
Tim narrating: "He took up a piece
of paper, wrote something on it swiftly, folded it and sealed
it, and addressed it to General Putnam. Then he gave it to
me and I left, running."
"I ran most of the way out to the encampment
over the packed snow…I handed my letter to the guard…he took
it and he called over a soldier. "Take this boy to General
Putnam," he said.
As they make their way to General Putnam's
hut, Tim very accurately describes the encampment and the
activities of the soldiers.
"General Putnam was sitting behind a
rough trestle table they'd set up as desk…He was a big man
of about sixty, with lots of white hair. He wore the Continental
uniform of buff and blue. He did not look kind."
Tim: "Yes, sir."
Putnam: "All right, let's have
Tim: "Sam wouldn't steal our own
cattle. He just wouldn't. He's been fighting for three years,
he's been a good soldier. And he didn't do it, sir, I swear
it. I know because --"
Putnam: "Enough, my time's valuable.
I'll consider it. That'll be all."
Tim is allowed to visit Sam in the stockade,
which was a short visit but just long enough for Tim to learn
what really happened that night.
Sam: "They knew they were in for
it right from the moment I spotted them in the training ground.
I only saw one of them at first, and I leveled the musket
at him. But the other one was down on the ground in the shadows,
gutting the cow, and he came up behind me and stuck his knife
point against my back. So they got me. Then they bashed me
around a little and took me in. Oh, they were smart. They
had a story all worked out about hearing somebody shout "Stop
Thief" and seeing me driving the cattle across the training
ground, and coming out to get me. And of course I wasn't supposed
to be home, anyway. I was supposed to be on duty at the Betts'
house. So that went against me. And that was that."
Chapter 14: Summary
On Saturday, February 13th, Colonel Read
came up from the encampment to let Tim and Susannah know that
General Putnam had refused their plea for clemency. The unfairness
of war is voiced by both Tim and Colonel Read as it is a very
important theme in the novel.
Tim is too emotional to sit through the
church service for Sam and the others, his Mother is too depressed
to even attend.
Susannah: "I'm not going, they
can murder who they like, church who they like, but I'm not
going. For me the war is over."
The tavern is closed and as far as Susannah
is concerned it can remain that way. Tim, feeling angry and
bitter, sharpens his father's bayonet with the intention of
heading to the encampment to free Sam.
Susannah: "Going to get yourself
Tim: "I'm going to save my brother"
Susannah: "No, you're going to
get yourself killed. Well you might as well. Let's have it
all done with at once. How does that old line go? Men must
fight and women must weep, but you'll get no more tears from
me. I've done my weeping for this war."
As they have done in Chapter 13, the
Collier brothers paint a picture of the encampment at Redding
via Tim's narrative. Tim's comments about the lack of trees,
the lines of huts, the muddy road, the corrals, etc… are written
for more than dramatic effect. In real-life there were not
many trees left in the encampments of Redding during the winter
of 1778-79, there were lines of huts, muddy roads, wagons
and cannons, officer's quarters. They even place the prisoners
in the correct location. The 1778-79 guardhouse was not located
within the encampment, but on a road in close proximity to
General Putnam's headquarters. So we are given a glimpse of
the winter encampment through Tim's eyes and entertained by
the well orchestrated climatic representation of Tim sneaking
around the encampment, stalking guards and dodging bullets
as a bonus really.
Tim narrating: "I began to slip
down the steep hillside from stump to boulder…I stopped and
I stared. I couldn't see anybody moving around…I glanced at
the guard…he didn't move for several moments…and I suddenly
realized that he was asleep. I took the bayonet out of my
belt and clutched it tight in my hand. If Sam could killed
people, so could I…I stood up and charged…the guard stirred.
I drove my feet faster…"Halt." He shouted. He swept the musket
up, the bayonet pointing straight at me, twenty feet away…"Sam"
I shouted, and "Sam" again as loud as I could. The guard lunged
at me. I lifted the bayonet and threw it in the air. It flashed
in the moonlight, spinning lazily over and over and fell into
the stockade. Then I turned and began racing as fast as I
could across the snow for the safety of the boulders on the
hillside. I had gone only three paces when the musket went
off with a terrific roar…I dashed onto the slope, and then
began staggering upward, zigzagging from boulder to boulder
to keep protection at my back. Behind me there was shouting
and running and the sound of a horse being wheeled around…I
reached the trees at the top of the ridge and flung myself
flat. They'd never get me now…I rolled over and looked down…I
stared into the stockade. There was no action there, no people
moving at all. Lying in the center of that square of snow,
something shiny glistened in the moonlight. And I knew it
had all been a waste. The prisoners weren't in the stockade
Tim has a bullet wound to show for his
efforts at the encampment, but nothing severe. The following
day is Sam's execution and Tim attends knowing Sam would want
somebody there, Susannah refuses to go. Tim's narration of
the executions is straight forward, he simply tells us what
happened. A sad, abrupt ending, much like the life's of many
soldiers during the War of Independence.
Resources available at the
History of Redding Web Site: