Sad News #1: Mr. Meeker is dead. Tim and his mom find out in June 1777 that he died of cholera on a prison ship. The weird thing is that he actually went to a British prison, not a rebel one. But either way, prison ships were horrible gross places where tons of people died from disease or starvation. Tim and his mom are sad, obviously, but he doesn't really dwell on his dad's death too much.
Sad News #2: Tim's friend Jerry is dead. He also got sick on a British prison ship and died there. The fact that soldiers lock ten-year-old boys up in prison ships has Tim, his mom, and even Betsy Read fuming. In fact, Betsy used to be all for the war, but now even she is having some doubts. She just wants the war to be over, and Tim agrees.
But here's some good news to go with the bad. Tim learns that his father sent a message to the family before he died: Mr. Meeker forgives Sam.
Tim isn't sure he can forgive his brother, but he is sure of one thing: this war is the worst. It's taken his dad and his friend, and Tim is sick and tired of it. But the war isn't ending just yet.
As time passes on, food is in even shorter supply. This means everyone is hungry, from the soldiers to the people in Redding. In fact, food is in such short supply that Tim is thinking about selling some cows to the British, just to get some grub. He isn't necessarily trying to side with the Tories, he just knows the Brits have more money, and Tim wants food more than anything.
Things are still looking lean the next time Sam returns to Redding on December 3, 1778. That means it's been about a year and a half since Tim last saw his big bro. While Sam's in town, he gives Tim advice about the cows: butcher them and hide the meat. Sam knows that soldiers will steal the cows if they can because they're so stinkin' hungry.
Sam also tells Tim and their mom that he'll be nearby all winter. His troop will be camping out along with this Continental dude named General Putnam, who's a seriously strict commander. General Putnam punishes soldiers who disobey his orders, and Sam figures he might even hang some of them soon.
So all winter, Tim and his mom get visits from Sam, which is kind of cool. He also keeps hounding Tim to butcher the cows before they get stolen. But Tim and his mom decide to wait, just in case they're able to sell the cattle.
Then one night, there are sounds in the barn, and Sam and Tim dash out there. Someone is stealing the cattle. Sam runs after the cow thieves and Tim tries to round some of the loose cows up.
It's pretty chaotic, and all of a sudden, things take a turn that we weren't expecting. Sam comes back by the barn, but now he's all bloodied up and held captive by two other soldiers. "They're taking me in as a cattle thief" (12.72).