by Esther Forbes
Johnny Tremain Chapter 12 Summary
A Man Can Stand Up
- Johnny goes to the ferry between Boston and Charlestown and sees the British wounded being unloaded.
- He realizes a foot soldier like Pumpkin wouldn't have returned to Boston unless he'd been wounded, so he rolls in the dirt and roughs himself up.
- He sees privates being treated badly and thinks of James Otis's words, realizing that they are fighting in part because men shouldn't be treated poorly simply because they are privates.
- Two wounded officers arrive—Colonel Smith and Lieutenant Stranger. No one is helping Stranger because they're all occupied with Smith, and Johnny almost goes to help his friend before he realizes he can't be recognized.
- Johnny runs up to a ferry crew and tells them he has a message for Earl Percy, who is commanding in Charlestown. They don't want to take him but at last are ordered to do so by another officer.
- When Johnny gets to Charlestown, he takes off the uniform, which he was wearing over his regular clothes, and hangs it on a clothesline.
- He finds a tavern keeper who is a Son of Liberty and learns that the British marched to Concord and faced the militia at North Bridge. The British were badly beaten there and have been retreating all day.
- Johnny also hears that Doctor Warren had a lock of hair shaved off by a bullet and that seven or eight men were killed at Lexington.
- He waits until the next morning to leave Charlestown, where people are cautiously celebrating the victory.
- On the road to Cambridge, he sees Sandy, Colonel Smith's horse, being pulled out of a pit. Sandy is chill, as always, and Johnny takes this as a good sign.
- On the road, he meets several burial parties, burying both British soldiers and Colonial militia.
- In Cambridge, Johnny hears that Doctor Warren is in Lexington, which is exactly where he wants to go.
- As soon as Johnny crosses into Lexington, he meets a young woman drawing water from a well. He asks her for water and for the names of those killed at Lexington. Rab's is not among them. The young woman tells him that the Silsbee women and children refugeed away from the fighting, but Grandsire couldn't go fight and wouldn't go hide, so he sat it out at home.
- In the late afternoon, Johnny arrives at Lexington Green, the scene of the first shots of the war.
- He finds Doctor Warren, and Doctor Warren tells him that Rab was badly wounded in the first volley. They talk around the truth: Rab is dying.
- Johnny and Doctor Warren find Rab in a second floor bedroom in a nearby tavern, and Johnny thinks that Rab doesn't look too bad, but then blood starts trickling out of Rab's mouth as he recalls how he met Johnny and remembers other things.
- Rab tells Johnny about the improvements he made to the musket and how he never even got to fire it. He says that the musket is Johnny's now and asks him to go to Silsbee's Cove to check on things.
- Johnny goes to Silsbee's Cove, where he finds no one but the animals. He feeds the cat and the dogs and realizes Grandsire and his old French and Indian War musket are both gone.
- Johnny returns to the village, where Doctor Warren meets him at the door of the tavern—Rab is dead.
- Johnny and Doctor Warren discuss James Otis's words; they know many more men will die so that "a man can stand up" (12.5.16).
- As Johnny examines Rab's musket, Doctor Warren looks at Johnny's hand and insists on examining it. Doctor Warren says the hand is really not that bad—because the midwife allowed the hand to turn in on itself instead of forcing it to lie flat to heal, scar tissue formed and attached the thumb to the palm.
- Doctor Warren offers to operate right then, if Johnny is brave enough. (Limited anesthesia, remember?) He tells him he can't promise anything, but he believes Johnny will at least be able to operate the trigger on Rab's musket.
- Johnny agrees, telling the doctor he can hold his arm still by himself and doesn't need anyone to hold him down.
- While Doctor Warren prepares for the surgery, Johnny walks about in the open air of Lexington Green, observing the people and reflecting that this is where he belongs and what he must defend.
- He hears "Yankee Doodle" being played once more and sees a ragged militia troop marching by. He realizes their commander is in a chaise and knows it is Grandsire Silsbee.
- He almost runs to Grandsire to tell him of Rab's death, but he knows Grandsire won't stop.
- Johnny reflects that Rab is dead and that many more will die, but what they die for will live on. Because of Rab and men like him, "A man can stand up…" (12.5.60).
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