April Morning is a novel covering a 24 hour period in Lexington, Massachusetts when the American War for Independence began. The story is compellingly told by a 15 year old Lexington boy, Adam Cooper.
The reader sees young Cooper’s life on the afternoon and evening before the fateful day in such a realistic manner that one is reminded of their own young adult life in countless ways. Cooper is annoyed by a younger brother and finds wisdom in his grandmother. As do many teenage boys he struggles to understand the lessons his father struggles to teach.
Cooper’s growing pains take on unexpected dimensions when a late night messenger gallops into the village. The redcoats are coming. But, the news is far from complete nor satisfactory for the town leaders. As the village men gather outside the tavern they discuss what can or should be done. In the end it is decided that the militia will stand, as is their right, but will not attempt to stop the invincible oncoming army. Young Adam Cooper, with both pride and uncertainty, signs the militia muster roll.
With his father and a few dozen men and boys from the village Cooper stands in the cold darkness on the village green wondering what, if anything, is going to happen. Is the redcoat army really coming? What then? Church bells can be heard tolling in the distance as neighboring communities alert their citizens of the approaching threat. The tension rises as dawn nears bringing with it, out of the mists, the sound of beating drums and marching feet.
The writing is so realistic the reader finds himself standing on the green, nervously clutching his fowling piece, shifting his weight from one foot to another. With dry mouth and a knot in the stomach the redcoats are seen coming into view. In a few minutes the little band of minutemen is facing lines of soldiers, their bayonets gleaming. Officers order the citizen soldiers off the King’s Green. A shot is fired. Instantly, a ragged volley erupts from the soldiers who then charge with lowered bayonets.
The surviving Lexington townsmen flee in all directions. Some are bayoneted in the back as they try to escape. Adam Cooper sees his father die when shot in the chest. Panic stricken, he runs for his life. In the fields outside of town the distraught young man meets up with men from other villages. Soon seemingly leaderless bands of armed citizens, their numbers growing continuously, converge on the road the redcoat army must take to return to Boston.
A stunned Adam Cooper takes the reader with him as he finds cover along the road to fire the load of pellets from his fowler then sprint away to relative safety. Again and again, through the dust and powder smoke, he catches only a brief confusing glimpse of the men who are now his enemy. He fires, then runs to leapfrog down the road to repeat the process. He finds terror, exhilaration, and bewilderment during an exhausting day like no other he will ever experience.
In the late afternoon the tired, dirty, hungry and numb young man, trudges down the road to his Lexington to find that his world has changed forever. His father is dead. He is now the head of the family and war has come to his village and his country. War. What does it mean? What was the fighting about? What will happen now?
We all know something of the story of the battle of Lexington. What this book does is bring it home in a very personal manner. The characters and scenes are developed quickly and the reader immediately joins in the action alongside other citizen soldiers. One can almost smell the powder smoke and feel the rapid heartbeat and dry mouth as he fires at red clad figures dimly seen.
In a manner superior to any movie, or any book, this short novel transports the reader to Lexington on April 19th to not only witness but to become a shadowy participant at the start of the Revolutionary War.
As the heirs of men like Adam Cooper it is proper for us, for a few minutes at least, to wear the shoes of the men and women who stood up for what they believed. This book is highly recommended for all ages.