April Morning

Patriot’s Day is held in remembrance of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The various militia units were able to fend off the British redcoats and drive them back to city, thus beginning the Siege of Boston. A fictional novelization of these fast paced events from the point of view of a teenager provides the context for April Morning.

 

 

What really struck me was not the actual opening to the Revolutionary War (since there are non-fiction works that do a much better job of doing so), but the contentious relationship between Adam Cooper and his father, Moses. Lexington and Concord seem to serve little more than a convenient backdrop for what is essentially a quasi-Victorian soap opera. While Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice are actually enjoyable for their appropriate genre, I felt that the “drama” of April Morning was more pathetic that even Emma. Let me get this straight…. I am supposed to seriously believe that Moses Cooper claims that Adam is not a man since he is “superstitious,” but mere hours later when Adam enlists with the Lexington militia, Moses tells his wife that he is no longer a boy?

This is not to mention anything of his family’s hypocrisy, especially concerning religion. Adam’s “superstitious spells” over water is bad, but praying before meals since the family is “Christian” is perfectly okay? The conversation between Adam and his paternal grandmother deeply reveals the inherent conflict not only between Adam and Moses, but between Adam and the entire Cooper family. His mother scolds him for not memorizing the Book of Lamentations, his little brother snitches on him, his father constantly berates and humiliates him, and his grandmother acts as an apologist for the entire gang. No wonder Adam is considered the black sheep; he is the inquisitive libertarian individualist!

I don’t blame Adam for trying to rectify the situation between himself and his father; what child doesn’t want to have a good relationship with his parents? It’s only natural to want do so, but I do blame Moses for grossly misleading his son (what kind of a man who claims to be oh so rational and literate switches his mind so flippantly about his own child’s maturity the second the kid signs up to go get killed?). Even after Moses kicks the bucket, Adam is still bereaved throughout the entire engagement.

The historical accuracy leaves something to be greatly desired. John Parker was the captain of the Lexington militia, not “Jonas” Parker; Parker died from tuberculosis during the Siege of Boston, not from being bayoneted in the back during the Battle of Lexington. There also seems to be great confusion given the conflicting use of the term “Commiteemen.” Sometimes the author makes them sound like militia, other times they sound like members of a local Committee of Safety (CoS). To Howard Fast’s credit though, in the scene where Adam Cooper in waiting in line to enlist in the Lexington milita, it is emphasized that there are two sets of records being kept, one by “Jonas” and one by Moses, with the former representing the military side and the latter being the civil authority. I was glad to see that some form of republicanism (as evidenced by the separation of the civil from the military) was correctly demonstrated, albeit it never delved into how an actual CoS operated.

One real phenomenon that I think Howard Fast accurately captured was the trauma endured by these citizen-soldiers. Adam vomited pretty much every other skirmish, as well as being chronically exhausted. The reactions of his mother and grandmother were also pretty realistic, especially in demonstrating how noncombatant civilians dealt with some of their relatives coming back dead.

Another realistic reaction I thought the author captured was the reluctance of the colonists to move along the line towards the proverbial state of nature. Right after the inhabitants of Lexington got word of the redcoat’s mission, they then bickered with each other about what to do. Most of them did not want to do what was necessary; this is evidenced by the four chief positions; Sam Hodley didn’t think the report was honest and thought it would be best to forget the whole endeavor, the Reverend want to “go look for more information” before actually deciding on a course of action, Moses Cooper wanted to hold an immediate Committee meeting, and Parker was the only one who wanted to muster the militia. Notice that the three other positions were different versions of every possible excuse to not do something actually effective.

Overall, I don’t recommend this novel to anyone. If you want a drama of manners, then I recommend most of Jane Austen’s books. If you want an accurate historical depiction of Lexington and Concord, read David Fischer’s Paul Revere’s Ride. If you want to experience the cognitive pressures of warfare, read Christopher Ronnau’s autobiographical Blood Trails: The Combat Diary of a Foot Soldier in Vietnam. Howard Fast’s April Morning pathetically comes up short as either a drama of manners, an accurate historical depiction, or as a psychological examination of the effects of warfare upon the human psyche.

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