Free Study Guide: Across Five Aprils by Howard Fast

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Adam Cooper, a fifteen year-old living in Lexington, Massachusetts in April 1775.


The British army, who disrupt the peacefulness of Lexington with an attack on the town's militia as they march towards Concord. On a broader thematic level, Adam is also engaged in a battle with the very notion of war, as he obliquely exhibits pacifist tendencies even in the midst of battle.


Adam engages the British soldiers in battles throughout the day, eventually falling asleep as a result.


With his father dead from the initial attack, Adam returns home as the new head of his household and is treated as a fully grown man because of his experiences that day.


Adam Cooper is a fifteen-year-old living in colonial Lexington, Massachusetts with his family. He feels oppressed by his father, Moses Cooper, but finds consolation from Granny Cooper, his paternal grandmother. When a meeting ot the township Committee is called on the evening of April 18t, Adam wishes to attend but Moses questions whether or not his son is a man yet and has earned the right to do so. Adam instead visits his neighbor and second cousin Ruth Simmons, whom he loves and sees himself marrying in the distant future. When his father returns home from the meeting, Adam eavesdrop as Moses tells his wife Sarah and Granny Cooper what happened, as the colonial communities prepare for a possible confrontation with the British army. Sometime after midnight, a rider arrives in Lexington, waking up the community with news that the British army is on the march to Concord to take out munitions being stored by colonists for a possible rebellion. A muster is held for the militia, and Adam decides to sign the muster book and commit to fighting for the militia. His father is present when it happens and allows this; later, Moses explains to an upset Sarah that he could tell Adam was determined to do this.

Moses and Adam prepare themselves and a total of seventy militia men wait for the arrival of the British army. Moses argues persuasively that they can not stand up to the thousands of troops they will be greeting, and so it's decided that they will state their case but do no more. When the British finally reach Lexington, the officers are sneeringly dismissive of the colonists and tells them to leave the common. A mysterious shot is fired, then British troops begin firing on the colonists. Adam watches as his father Moses, Jonas Parker, Sam Hodley, and others are killed. He hides in the smokehouse of a neighbor, but is discovered by his brother Levi. Levi tells him about their mother and grandmother bringing home the body of their dead father. Adam cannot go home because of the British troops in town, but assures Levi he will be alright. He is almost discovered by British soldiers, but before they do so are called away to march towards Concord. Adam goes on a run and is shot at by redcoats, only to be caught in the grip of an older colonial man - that man is Solomon Chandler, who provides some consolation and food for Adam. Adam joins Chandler on his journey to meet up with more members of colonial militias who agreed to meet at Ashley's Pasture. Along the way, other colonists join the two, also ready to fight the British. Once at the pasture, Adam is greeted by Cousin Joseph and The Reverend, and is relieved that others from the Lexington militia had survived.

Though the various town committees and militia have general instructions, there isn't a single leader chosen to lead the battle. Thus, people like Solomon Chandler take on the mantle for themselves, as Chandler instructs the men waiting at the pasture to split up into groups according to the firing range of their weapons. Adam fights in battles against the British redcoats but also sees them die, notably an officer whose head is dashed against a wall and a young man who reminds Adam of Levi. He tells Cousin Simmons about growing tired of fighting but Cousin Simmons tells him there is no choice left, that they must protect what is rightfully theirs and that killing over this principle means there can be no turning back. Lexington seems to have been set on fire by the British, though later Adam would find out it was only three buildings. Nevertheless, in the midst of one battle, Adam finally gives into exhaustion and falls asleep in a hiding spot. When he wakes, he finds the battle has moved to somewhere distant; he hears Cousin Joseph and The Reverend, meets them, and tells them where he had been. They agree to go home.

Adam is greeted with relief and happiness by the surviving members of his family and others from the town; further, he is treated like a fully-grown man when he was only recently considered a mere child. He makes his peace with his father's corpse, then helps to carry Moses' casket to the church. Cousin Simmons makes sure that Adam is aware this battle was only the start, and that he must consider his other responsibilities as the new head of household when deciding if he'll continue to fight. When Adam returns home, he is asked by his mother and grandmother to bring candles to the church; Ruth accompanies him, and on their return to her house she asks if he loves her. He thinks it over carefully and says he does, then goes home himself; his mother is already asleep but Granny Cooper is awake and says she knows he will go back into battle eventually. He puts off the question for the time being, and is relieved to finally go to sleep and end this momentous day.

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