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“Our liberty must be preserved; it is far dearer than life; we must defend it from the attacks of friends as well as enemies; we cannot suffer even Britons to steal it from us,” Dr. Warren. –Daniel at the Siege of Boston 1776
Daniel at the Siege of Boston 1776
Boys of Wartime #1
by Laurie Calkhoven
Twelve-year-old Daniel helps his family in the family tavern. When English tea is dumped into the Boston Harbor to protest taxes, Daniel cheers. Then the British arrive, and soon Redcoats are taking over Boston. Soon everyone must take a side—support the British or join the rebels. Daniel’s family serves the British soldiers in their tavern to try to gain information and pass it on to the rebels.
When Daniel’s father leaves to join the fighting rebels, Daniel must help his mother in the tavern and help keep his sister safe. When Daniel overhears a crucial secret, he knows he has to cross British lines to deliver it to his soldier father and General Washington. He knows that liberty is worth fighting for, but is he brave enough to risk his life?
Daniel at the Siege of Boston 1776 brings the American Revolution to life through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy. Despite the young narrator, the story is at heart a war story that doesn’t shy away from death. Even though the dead and wounded soldiers are not described in bloody detail, Daniel is deeply disturbed by the battle between the Redcoats and the rebels. Daniel witnesses wounded soldiers dying, which may upset some readers. Although Daniel agrees with Dr. Warren, who said, “Our liberty must be preserved; it is far dearer than life,” watching people die leaves a lasting impact on Daniel.
Even though Daniel at the Siege of Boston 1776 shows the importance of the American Revolution, the book is best suited for history buffs. Even though the story focuses on Daniel’s family, the long list of names may become overwhelming to readers. In addition, many historical figures, like John Hancock and Samuel Adams, are mentioned, but they never appear in the book. Readers who already know some of the key figures in the Revolutionary War will enjoy learning about the Boston Revolution through the eyes of a young boy.
Several times, Daniel acts out of fear, then later feels ashamed of his actions. However, Daniel’s father lets him know that the soldiers all feel fear. Daniel’s father tells him, “only the foolhardy are unafraid, Daniel. That’s not what bravery is. True courage is moving forward when you’re most afraid.” The story shows how the courage and perseverance of colonial men paved the way for America’s freedom. Daniel and the reader both learn that “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages. They’re far more powerful than even the mightiest of armies.”
Daniel at the Siege of Boston 1776 shows the brave deeds that led men to fight for liberty and allows readers to understand America’s history. The book ends with historical information about children’s roles in the American Revolution, the historical characters, a timeline, and a glossary. Readers who enjoy learning about America’s involvement in wars should add Calkhoven’s G.I. Dogs series to their reading list.
- Daniel mentions British soldiers trying to desert the military. “General Gave, the military governor of Massachusetts, had threatened to execute all deserters from the British army and any who helped them. More than one soldier was shot on the Common, caught in the act of trying to leave Boston.”
- Soldiers bring a man into the tavern. The soldiers accuse the man of trying to help soldiers desert the “king’s army.” When the men come in, Daniel’s “father’s hands were underneath the bar, no doubt reaching for the musket that was hidden there.” When Daniel makes a quick move towards his sister, “my sudden movement put one of the soldiers on alert. He swung around and pointed his musket at me. His bayonet was fixed, candle light flickering against the shiny blade.”
- The soldiers are ordered to tar and feather the man accused of helping soldiers desert. “The soldiers rushed to their task like boys to a game of ringer, only it was a life they played with, not marbles. Some men did not survive such torture.”
- A man comes into Boston telling people, “‘They’ve done it,’ he said. ‘The Redcoats have fired on the people. . . I’ve seen the dead with my own eyes.’”
- During a battle, the Patriots seize the hill. Then, HMS Lively began “firing cannonballs in our direction. . . Soon the HMS Somerset and other ships in the squadron joined the warship Lively. . . Cannonball after cannonball pounded into the side of Breed’s Hill and our fort. I’d never seen such a storm of round shot as was poured out us, but our fort stood undamaged.”
- During the battle, “one soldier became too bold. A private stood tall and raised his arms in the air. The next I saw, his head was gone. I jumped to avoid the smoking six-pound ball that rolled past my feet.” The scene takes place over three pages.
- The British try to take Breed Hill. “The Redcoats seemed to be upon the very walls of the fort. The solider next to me muttered a prayer. . . Suddenly the Patriots let loose with a burst of fire. Smoke boiled in all directions. The first wave of Redcoats fell. And then the next, and the next. . . When the smoke cleared, I saw just how many bodies they had left behind. Redcoats dotted the hill. Some crawled. Most were still.”
- Again the Redcoats advanced. “The Redcoats seemed impossibly close to the walls of the fort before there was a burst of fire and smoke and noise. The first wave of Redcoats fell, and then the second. . . A third wave began to fall and once again the king’s men turned and ran. A good many of them were left behind, broken and dead.”
- When the Redcoats again advance, the Patriots are out of gunpowder. “The first Redcoat mounted the parapet and leaped into the fort. Soon they stormed in from three sides. The Patriots used their muskets as clubs, but they were no match for British bayonets.” Daniel recognizes Dr. Warren as “he defended an exit, making it possible for many of the Patriots to escape. . . I saw a bullet strike his head. Dr. Warren fell.”
- The Patriots begin to retreat and Daniel finds his father. “It was only then that I noticed my shirt was splattered with blood.” The blood wasn’t Daniel’s, but he watched as “two wounded men hobbled past us, one with a gaping wound in his neck, the other with a gash in his leg.”
- As Daniel leaves the battle, he “found a man kneeling by the side of the road, moaning. . . Someone had bandaged his wounds, but he was still bleeding fiercely. He opened his eyes, but did not see me. . . He slumped over and fell into me. Dead.” Daniel vomits and runs from the scene.
- As Daniel tries to get to his father, three men stop him. “I raised my hands to show them I was unarmed and prayed they would not shoot. . . They lowered their guns and after many questions gave me leave to go.”
- While trying to leave Boston, Daniel runs from soldiers. “A musket fired, and then another, but I kept running. Something hit my shoulder. A bullet whistled past my ear.” Daniel runs and then hides behind a bush. “My shoulder burned. My fingers found a hole in my jacket but no blood. The bullet had only grazed me.” As he was hiding, “Too late, I saw a flash. The next thing I knew, my hat was blown off.” Daniel is frightened, but not injured.
- The Redcoats hang one of the Patriots. Daniel sees “a man sat on top of a horse with his hands tied in front of him and a noose around his neck. The rope was attached to the strong branch of an oak tree. . . A crowd of soldiers and others jeered at the man. They urged the hangman to hurry, shouting for blood. . . The hangman slapped the horse’s rear and it lurched forward, out from under the barber. His legs dangled and the rope tightened around his throat. . . The barber’s legs danced, searching for purchase.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Daniel’s family owns a tavern, which the British soldiers have made their headquarters. Daniel’s family “filled their tankards and their bellies.” While serving the man, “Father quietly surveyed the room while he drew ale and poured rum. . . There was a low rumble of voices, and the occasional call for drinks, but all was peaceful.” The tavern and soldiers are mentioned drinking ale and rum many times throughout the book.
- When soldiers point a musket at Daniel, his mother says, “There’s no call for any of this. . . Come, finish this nice meal I’ve made for you. A free glass of rum for all.”
- After the battle, one of the Redcoats “walked into the tavern after camping on the hill for two nights, his breeches splattered with blood, and ordered a glass of rum.”
- While Daniel was getting water, he sees a couple of Redcoats “laughing so hard they fell into the other. Drunk, I thought, and up all night.”
- After a battle, one of the Redcoats says, “Kill the sorry cowards! Kill them!”
- When the men prepare for battle, the Reverend Mr. Langdon says a “long and fervent prayer.”
- When Daniel leaves the tavern, his mother tells him, “god be with you, Daniel.”
- When Daniel’s sister becomes ill, “we watched and prayed, hoping for the best.” Later, Daniel “wondered if Father knew of her illness and prayed he did not.” His sister recovers.
- In order to listen to the Redcoats, Daniel hides and “prayed their voices would reach my ears.”
- When a man is taken prisoner, Daniel’s mother tells him, “We must remember him in our prayers.”