This collection of chapter questions for My Brother Sam Is Dead focuses on the literary aspects of the novel, primarily with regard to the changes and conflicts faced by the protagonist, Timothy Meeker.
It also follows how Tim perceives the older brother he admires so much and the country at war which has taken his brother away and changed his life so dramatically. Page numbers and answers are synchronized with the paperback version of the novel.
Chapters One to Five
- Where is Sam coming from when he arrives at home? (p. 3) Sam has been away at school at Yale.
- Who is Captain Benedict Arnold? (p. 4) Benedict Arnold is Captain of Sam’s company.
- What is Sam’s real reason for going home? (p. 17) He needs to borrow Brown Bess, father’s gun.
- Why are Sam and Father arguing? (p. 20-21) Because Sam wants the gun, Father says no, and he is afraid his son will be killed in the war.
- What excuse does Tim give his father so he can visit Sam at Tom Warrup’s place? (p. 31) Tim says he is going to help Jerry carry a big log from the wood lot.
- How does Sam ask Tim to help at the tavern while he is gone? (p. 35) Sam wants Tim to keep an ear out for talk about British army plans as well as learn who is loyal to which side.
- What does Tim expect from the war the summer of 1775 and what actually happens? (p. 38) He thinks war would make life different, but instead it is just normal.
- Why is it illegal to have a copy of Rivingston’s Gazette from Verplanks? (p. 39) This was a Tory newspaper.
- Why does Betsy Read linger at the tavern when she’d stop by to shop? (p. 41) She wants to listen for talk of the war or news of Sam.
- What do the Continental soldiers want from Tim’s dad? (p. 50) They want his gun, but Mr. Meeker doesn't have it anymore.
- What does Tim do to try and help his parents while they are manhandled by the soldiers? (p. 52) He runs out of the tavern in search of Sam at Tom Warrup’s shack.
- Why doesn't Sam shout for Tim to stop running while he is chasing him back to the Tavern? (p. 54) He doesn't want to alert anyone to his presence.
- When Tim turns to face Sam, why is he crying? (p. 56) Tim is overwhelmed with emotion: he is afraid of what might happen to his parents at the tavern, he’d been looking forward to visiting his brother but now must fight him off to protect his family, and he is torn by his loyalties.
- Why can’t Sam help Tim and his parents again the Continental soldiers at the tavern? (p. 58) If he’s found out, he could be hung as a deserter.
- Why does Sam run away? (p. 60) As Tim and Sam approach, Father comes out of the back door with dried blood on his face from the scuffle. Sam runs because he had stolen the Brown Bess from Father. If he stayed, Father would take the gun away from Sam.
- Why were guns so important to the people of Redding? (p. 62) Guns were valuable because they helped keep the wolves from eating the livestock and they provided general protection.
- Why does Tim envy Sam? (p. 64) Tim thinks Sam is brave and grown up for taking part in a war, which in Tim’s mind is a glorious undertaking. He admires Sam’s agility with the gun much like he once admired the way Sam milked a cow. He envies his big brother, but he clearly loves him, too.
- What is the real reason for Mr. Heron’s visit? How did Father respond? How did Tim respond? (p. 68-70) He wants Tim to go to Fairfield to deliver some business letters for him. Father is against Tim going because he has already unwillingly contributed Sam to the war. Tim, however, is angry at his father because he wants an opportunity to do something courageous and earn some form of glory for his contributions.
- How does Tim devise a way to deliver a note to Fairfield for Mr. Heron? (p. 76) He tells his father he is going shad fishing again.
- Why does Betsy want to intercept the letter Tim needs to deliver? (p. 82) Betsy thinks Mr. Heron has asked Tim to deliver a spy report which may have something to do with Sam’s well-being.
- What does the letter say? (p. 84) If the message is received then the messenger is reliable.
- Which items are in short supply as the war continues through the summer of 1776? (p. 86) Food is in short supply, as is powder and shot for guns, cloth, and leather.
- Why does Father insist that Mother not respond to Sam’s letters? (p. 87) He doesn’t want Mother to encourage Sam’s rebellious nature.
- Why does Father travel to Verplanks Point every year? (p. 89) Father sells livestock like pigs and cattle so he can afford to purchase items they need to run the tavern.
- Who are the six men who approach Father and Tim on the road to Verplanks Point? (p. 93) Known as cow-boys, they claim to be Patriots, but in truth they are thieves.
- How do Tim and his Father escape from the cow-boys? (p. 98) The cow-boys are chased away by a group of Loyalist horsemen.
- What is life like where the Platts live amongst the Rebels and Loyalists? (p. 101) Loyalists and Rebels live in open warfare with each other. People have been tarred and feathered, houses are burned, and livestock are slaughtered.
- What dilemma does Father face on the way home from Verplanks Point? (p. 108) He wants to avoid the road where they met the cow-boys on the way up, but there’s a snowstorm coming and the detour would delay them another half day.
- Why does Father ride ahead of Tim and the oxen on the way home? (p. 114) Father rides ahead as a scout, so if cow-boys approach, he’ll have time to ride back to Tim and find them a hiding place before the cow-boys can harass them on the road.
- Why does Tim become nervous on the way home from Verplanks Point? (p. 116) He begins to realize it’s been a while since Father has checked back with him.
- What has happened to Father? (p. 119) Tim traces Grey’s hoof prints in the snow back to where the hemlocks line the road. In the snow, Tim can clearly see the markings of many hoof prints which continue to lead into the hemlock grove and away from that spot on the road. Tim concludes that the cow-boys waited to ambush Father and then took him away somewhere.
- How does Tim outsmart the cow-boys who stop him on his way home? (p. 123) He acts as if he were expecting a large escort and he says his father had warned him to lie flat when the gunfire started.
- What is the biggest change in Tim’s life? (p. 132) The biggest change in Tim’s life is his attitude about work at the tavern. He no longer complains about chores or stalls to do what needs to be done. Instead, he willingly accepts the responsibilities of running the tavern with his mother.
- In the spring of 1777, what changes about the war? (p. 136) British troops march into Redding and set up a camp.
- What happens to the Rebel messenger who comes riding into town? (p. 141) As he turns his horse to race away from Redding, he is fired upon and shot by the British soldiers.
- What does Tim witness as he races down the road to fetch a doctor? (p. 144) Tim watches as the British troops fire upon Captain Starr’s house, smash down the door, and behead Ned, Samuel Smith’s servant.
- What does Tim conclude as he continues on his way to find Dr. Hobart? (p. 145) After witnessing the way the British hauled away Jerry Sanford, shot at the Rebel messenger in the road, and then attacked Captain Starr’s house, Tim thinks he doesn’t feel much like being a Tory anymore.
- Who approaches Redding after the British have left? (p. 151) Continental army troops march into Redding.
- What does Tim discover about Sam by the end of the chapter? How does this change Tim’s attitude toward his brother? (p. 162-163) Tim thinks Sam is not truly duty-bound to stay in the army, only that he wants to stay in the army because he thinks what he’s doing is important. Tim’s attitude changes because he feels he understands something better than Sam, which makes Tim feel more like his brother’s equal instead of his younger brother.
- What do Tim and Mother find out in June 1777? (p. 164) Father is dead. He’d died from cholera on a prison ship and his body is buried somewhere on Long Island.
- How has Betsy Read’s attitude about the war changed from the beginning of the novel? (p. 167) In the beginning, Betsy supported the Rebel cause and hoped for them to win. By the end of the novel, she only hopes for the war to be over soon.
- What does Tim hope to do with the eight cows they have left? What does Sam advise him to do with the cattle? (p. 170) Tim wants to sell the cows to a British commissary in White Plains because the British can pay with real money, unlike the Continental Army. Sam advises Tim to butcher the cows and hide the meat before the cattle are stolen.
- How is Sam able to get into town every week or ten days? (p. 177) Since he knew his way around Redding, Colonel Parsons uses Sam as a messenger.
- Why is General Putnam so strict? (p. 178) He wants the Continental Army to make a good impression with the populace, so if it means hanging anyone who steals, he’ll do so to make an example of them.
- How does Colonel Parsons respond when Tim tells him about the accusation against Sam? (p. 185) Colonel Parsons doesn’t seem to care much if Sam is innocent or guilty. Either way, Tim learns it will be up to General Putnam to decide Sam’s fate.
- What dilemma does Sam face according to the accusation? (p. 188) The two men who turned Sam in claim he stole the cattle. Sam was supposed to be on duty at the Bett’s house, so if he wasn’t at his station he could be considered a deserter.
- When Tim finally gets in to see General Putnam, how does the General respond to Tim’s plea? (p. 196) The general says he’ll consider Sam’s case and punishment.
- What is General Putnam’s final decision about Sam’s case? (p. 199) He refuses the plea for clemency.
- What is Tim’s plan for helping Sam before his execution? (p. 205) Tim’s plan is to throw the bayonet into the enclosure where Sam is being held so he can fight his way out and escape.
- When Tim turns back to look into the stockade, what does he discover? (p. 206) Tim discovers there is no one left in the stockade. The prisoners have already been moved.
These chapter questions for My Brother Sam Is Dead will help you to review for exams or simply review a chapter after reading. Quiz yourself with these chapter questions will help you recall information or begin a discussion or essay on pivotal issues from the novel.
Collier, James Lincoln and Christopher Collier. My Brother Sam Is Dead. Scholastic: New York, 1974.