Study Guide

My Brother Sam Is Dead Summary

By James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

My Brother Sam Is Dead Summary

Spoiler alert: Sam dies.

We know, so shocking. It's not like the title gives anything away…

But actually, a whole ton of stuff happens before Sam dies. And during that time, we grow to love Sam. This means that whole dying thing becomes a serious downer.

So let's set the stage. The setting? The American Revolutionary War. And the characters? The Meeker family and the rest of their friends in Redding, Connecticut. The Meekers are a cozy little family of four: Papa Meeker, Mama Meeker, Sam, and Tim (who serves as our narrator).

Right off the bat, we learn that the Meeker family has some drama coming their way. Sam has decided to become a soldier in the Continental Army. This means he's going to join the Patriots to fight for the American Colonies to be free from England. Mr. Meeker has two reasons for hating this idea:

(1) Father Meeker leans pro-Tory, which means he supports England. Yep, that's bound to brew some conflict.
(2) Sam's dad hates war. Period. War stinks, and Sam's dad knows it.

Tim watches as his dad and Sam have a huge fight and Sam runs away. Sammy joins up with the Continental Army to fight against the English, and that's that. To make matters worse, Sam steals his dad gun (named the Brown Bess). Now that's just putting salt in the wound.

Since his big bro is gone, Tim spends a lot of time wondering which side he should be on. Should he be pro-America, like his brother? Or should he root for the British, like his father? He spends a ton of the book mulling this question over. Lucky for Tim, the war hasn't affected his life in Redding too much, so he doesn't really have to make a decision.

Things start to change when Tim goes on a road trip with his dad. Mr. Meeker and Tim are taking a bunch of cattle to a trading post when they run into a gang of cowboys. Thankfully, the cowboys get scared off…this time. But when Tim and his dad are on their way home, things don't go so well. Mr. M gets captured by the cowboys. Gulp.

This means that our cozy family of four is now down to two.

A few months later, Tim witnesses a skirmish between the British and the Rebels. Let's just put it this way: he sees some pretty gruesome stuff. He's starting to realize that he doesn't like the Tories or the Patriots. Instead, he just hates the war. And he hates the war even more when he learns that his dad and his friend Jerry have died on prison ships.

After another year and a half, Sam comes back to Redding with his troops. It seems like Tim and his mom will get to enjoy lots of visits from Sam, since the army is camping out nearby. But these visits are cut short when Sam is falsely accused of stealing the Meekers' own cows. Don't like where this is heading? Neither do we.

And finally, what we're all expecting: Sam dies. Surprising? No. Sad? Absolutely.

In the Epilogue, we find out that Tim has a decent life after the war. It's like a mini consolation prize, we guess. Very mini.