When Revolutionary War Patriot Lamberton Clark is shot by British soldiers while on a mission for the Continental Army, he has only two hopes of getting the secret message he’s carrying to General George Washington: his 14-year-old twin boys John and Ambrose. Upon discovering that their father is a spy in the Culper Spy Ring, the boys accept their mission without a clue about what they may be up against. They set off from Connecticut to New Jersey to find General Washington, but the road to the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army is full of obstacles; including the man who shot their father who is hot on their trail.
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Patriots, Redcoats and Spies
A Revolutionary War Adventure
By Robert J. Skead, Robert A. Skead
ZONDERKIDZCopyright © 2015 Robert J. Skead
All rights reserved.
Escape from New York
Long Island, New York July 1777
John Clark didn't know which was worse: that he could barely see where he was going or that his heart was pounding so fast he thought it might pop out of his chest. With trembling hands, he shoved aside the tall reeds as he struggled to maneuver his way through the darkness and the fog. "I should never have listened to you," he gasped to his twin brother as they ran.
Ambrose stumbled over an invisible lump in the ground and nearly fell. "Why is it always my fault?" he panted.
"Because it always is!"
Their father, Lamberton, brought up the rear, gliding soundlessly through the fog. "It's both your faults," he said through clenched teeth. "You will never follow me again. I will see to that."
John glanced back. The darkness hid the look he knew his father gave them. If only he had followed his gut, not listened to his brother, and stayed on the mainland as his father had ordered. Then their lives wouldn't be in danger. They wouldn't be running through the dark, desperately searching for their boat while the enemy closed in.
As if in response to his thoughts, a shot rang out. John dove to the ground. His father and brother landed inches from him as a musket ball cut through the reeds a few feet away.
Too close. Closing his eyes, John tried to still his heaving chest and waited for another shot. Would this be the one that met its mark?
I don't want to die. God, help me. Help us.
Silence. He opened his eyes again to see his father nodding at him. With a deep breath, John bolted to his feet and raced through the tall grass towards the water. His father and brother matched every step.
"Hurry up, brother," came Ambrose's trembling voice. "I'm almost running you over."
"I'm going as fast as I can." Eyes straining, John searched the fog for his father's sailboat. His legs burned as he summoned his last bit of strength and leaped over a small gulley. A film of sweat covered his forehead and body.
Please God, lift this fog, if only for a moment. A soft splish rose from his next step. "We're at the water's edge," he hissed. "We're close!"
The three slowed down, their footsteps gently padding along the shore as they searched the mist for the shape of their boat. They were running out of time.
Another shot rang out. It sliced through the grass about two feet to John's left. The two Redcoats were trying their luck. Shooting in the dark.
"They can't run and reload at the same time in this marsh," their father whispered. "That's good."
"Patriot pig! I'll kill you!" shouted a voice behind them. The soldier sounded to be about fifty yards away. Too close.
A second voice followed. "If he doesn't, I will!"
"They think there's only one of us," said Ambrose with a shaky grin.
Their father nodded. "That's why they only sent two men after us ... or me."
"It's the fog." John peeked over his shoulder. No one could be seen. The Redcoats had surely stopped running and were reloading. If they survived, their father's punishment for their impatience and disobedience would surely be severe. John picked up speed again along the rocky shore and then stumbled, throwing out an arm. Ambrose caught and steadied him.
"One lucky shot and one of us is dead or wounded," their father said. "You boys stay in front of me. And stay low." His voice was tense. John felt sick to his stomach. How could he have gotten them into this mess?
The three continued along the shoreline, picking their way around rocks and weeds. Suddenly, a white light pierced the mist from above. Thank God. John glanced up at the half moon and scanned the shoreline ahead for their sixteen-foot skiff. It lay anchored somewhere close by, he was sure of it. He just couldn't see it. He rounded a gentle curve in the shoreline, and then there it was—their boat, rocking gently on the waves about thirty feet away.
They entered the water, forcing themselves to slide slowly so they didn't splash. Seconds later, thick clouds hid the moon again.
Ambrose grabbed the rope attached to the anchor near the bow of the boat and gently pulled it up while Lamberton placed his left leg over the side of the boat and rolled himself inside. Ambrose dropped the anchor inside the hull as John heaved himself into the craft, followed a moment later by his brother. The two of them crouched against the hull of the boat and ducked their heads.
"Guess we'll have to come back another day for the rowboat we borrowed," John whispered, locking eyes with his brother.
Lamberton had already begun to raise the sail. As he hauled on the line, the craft turned into the wind.
"There he is!" a voice echoed over the water. John peeked over the edge of the boat and spotted two Redcoats emerging from the reeds on the shore, guns raised.
The wind howled fiercely as waves rocked the boat in the Long Island Sound, but it caught the sail and sent them speeding into open water. John caught one last glimpse of the Redcoats before they faded through the fog. Just then, another shot exploded in the air, and his father jerked and grunted. John turned to see red blooming on Lamberton's back. The musket ball had ripped through the flesh above his right shoulder blade.
"Dad!" John's voice caught in his throat.
His father fell to his knees as a second shot whizzed by and plunked into the water. The wind was blowing away the fog, allowing the soldiers better aim. John looked at his brother. Did his own face look as frightened as his twin's?
"Ambrose, get us out of here." Lamberton sat down heavily in the bottom of the boat near John and motioned his hand toward the other side of the bay. Seconds later, he fell back with a groan, thumping into John's arms. John struggled to support the sudden weight.
With a gasp, Ambrose lurched up and tied off the sail, then grabbed control of the tiller. Ducking back down, he steered the boat away from the shore toward Connecticut.
Behind them, the sounds of cursing carried across the water.
As the skiff skipped rapidly over the waves, John braced his legs against the floor and pushed his father's shoulder away so he could inspect his back. Blood soaked through the shirt. John knew he had to stop the bleeding. But how?
Settling his father gently on his stomach, John frantically searched the hull for a rag. He found one tucked under an old buoy and placed it over his father's wound. His hands were trembling. "Are you all right?"
No response. John's heart skipped a beat.
"Dad?" Ambrose's voice shook even as he smoothly navigated them away from danger. He was sitting a few feet away, gripping the tiller with white knuckles.
"I'll be all right," their father said, his voice little louder than a whisper. After a pause, he tried to roll over and sit up.
"Are you sure that's a good idea, Dad?" John asked as he slowly guided his father back into a sitting position. "Don't you want to lie down?" A beam of moonlight reflected off John's blood-soaked hand. Ambrose shuddered.
Their father reached over his shoulder and covered John's hand, putting pressure on his wound. "I'm all right," their father said again, though his voice was still shaky. "I don't think it hit anything vital." He took a shallow breath.
"We'll get you to a doctor," said John. Salty water sprayed in his face as the boat bounced over a wave. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve.
Their father closed his eyes and leaned his shoulder against the side of the boat. He winced as it hit a wave and he thudded against the side. "Steer us to where I left you boys yesterday, Ambrose—where you were supposed to be waiting for me." He opened his eyes and looked pointedly at each of them. Even through the pain clearly written on his face, John could see his disapproval. "Fourteen-year-olds should know enough to obey their father."
Ambrose pounded the side of the hull. "If you'd come back when you said you would, we would have stayed where we were." His tone was both surly and guilty. "I felt we had to do it."
John glared at him before turning back to their father. "We never should have left to find you. I'm sorry." He adjusted the rag and pressed harder on the wound. His fingertips were already slick with blood, and John fought back a wave of nausea. "But why were those men chasing us? What did you do? And why'd you have us slit those sails?" A wave bounced him in his seat, and his father breathed in sharply. "Dad?"
His father's face was twisted in pain, and for a moment he said nothing. "Thank Providence for the fog and that they didn't see you with me," he said at last. He paused and gingerly reached back to touch the rag John still held. "But I wish I could see the look on their faces when they discover the slashed sails."
Not for the first time that night, John thought back through the events of the last hours. When their father had asked John and Ambrose to wait for him on the opposite side of the sound, he told them that he'd be back in several hours. He was just going to visit with a friend in New York to talk about making some new masts for him. He never mentioned he was going to check out the British ships to make sure they weren't preparing for an attack on Connecticut or that he had arranged some sort of secret meeting. When he took too long to return, the boys worried and went to find him. The next thing they knew, they were helping him cut British sails and running for their lives.
"It'll be some time before they're seaworthy again," said Ambrose. "As a seaman, I didn't enjoy destroying them."
"It will take a bigger effort to launch one of their larger ships to come after me," Lamberton replied. He winced as John removed the rag and then quickly replaced it with more pressure. The wound was still bleeding heavily. "They'll do it," Lamberton said through gritted teeth. "But it will take at least an hour. Maybe two."
"Why are they after you?" John asked. He shielded his eyes from another wash of spray as the skiff sliced through the water.
With a grimace, Lamberton reached for his left breast pocket, hissing as he carefully pulled out a leather case. "Because of this. Or rather what's inside it."
John struggled to steady his voice. "What's inside it?"
"A very special letter."
Ambrose looked over his shoulder from where he steered and leaned in to get a better look. "To whom?" he asked. "Or from whom?"
Lamberton held the case over his heart.
"What are you going to do with it?" John peered at the case. There was nothing particularly unusual about it. It had a single flap with a metal buckle, and the leather had been worn smooth in spots from use.
Lamberton looked out at the dark waters of the bay. He shifted his weight, winced, and turned back to Ambrose and John. Finally, he spoke, his voice soft. "I hoped it wouldn't come to this."
John held his breath. What was he talking about?
Lamberton cleared his throat. When he continued, his voice was louder. "What's in this case is extremely important."
"What's inside?" John asked. He glanced at the leather case his father still held to his chest.
"A message to George Washington. I don't know what it says, but I know the contents are extremely time sensitive." He paused. "It's from a man we call Culper. The message is in invisible ink." Lamberton bit his lower lip and closed his eyes. "I'm supposed to deliver it. But I'm afraid now I can't finish my mission."
"You're ... a spy?" John asked. John and Ambrose exchanged an incredulous look.
Their father adjusted his position. "I guess you could say that," he breathed. "I prefer the term patriot." Suddenly, the skiff hit a large wave and Lamberton's back slammed against John's knee. Lamberton inhaled sharply.
Placing his free hand on his father's shoulder, John said, "We'll get you to a doctor." He hoped he sounded calmer than he felt.
"Then you can finish your mission," Ambrose added. He pointed the craft's tiller toward the dark Fairfield, Connecticut, shore, his brown hair fluttering in the wind. "After you get that ball removed and heal that shoulder."
Lamberton shook his head. His breathing was growing shallower, and even in the dim moonlight John could see that his father's face was pale. He had lost a lot of blood.
"Right, Dad?" John asked. He didn't like seeing his father look so weak. His father was never weak.
"I'm afraid there's no time for that." Lamberton looked at each of his sons in turn, sweat gleaming on his forehead. "That letter needs to get to Washington as soon as possible, and I'm in no condition to deliver it."
A gust of wind jolted the boat, and John had to grip the side to keep from bouncing out. "Can't someone else take it?"
Lamberton shook his head. His voice had grown very faint, and John had to lean in to hear him above the waves. "I've been compromised," he whispered.
"What?" John stared back. "By someone you know?"
"Could be. Maybe someone in Connecticut or New York. We may never know." An extreme weariness came into his father's eyes, but whether it was from the bullet wound or something else, John wasn't sure. "Those Redcoats shouldn't have been so close behind me." Lamberton paused to catch his breath. "The truth is I don't know whom I can trust." He eyed them intently. "I had hoped this wouldn't be the case, but ... Now, I only have two hopes for getting this secret message to George Washington." Lamberton took a shallow breath. "And I'm looking at them."
Excerpted from Patriots, Redcoats and Spies by Robert J. Skead, Robert A. Skead. Copyright © 2015 Robert J. Skead. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERKIDZ.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Contents1. Escape from New York, 9,
2. Double Trouble, 21,
3. Furious Lobsterbacks, 33,
4. It Must Be Fun to Be a Twin, 37,
5. Thieves & Entertainers, 49,
6. The Good Samaritan, 61,
7. The Bloody Hull & Tory Tattlers, 65,
8. The King's Ferry, 73,
9. Hot Pursuit, 85,
10. The Other Side, 87,
11. The Redcoat Sergeant Dressed Like a Farmer, 89,
12. It Couldn't Get Any Worse, 95,
13. To Catch a Thief, 105,
14. The Gopher Burrow, 115,
15. Worth Dying For, 131,
16. The Road to the General, 141,
17. Nothing More Sacred than Good Intelligence, 151,
18. For Liberty & Sacred Honor, 165,
19. We Did It, 171,
Note from the Storytellers, 175,
Discussion Questions, 177,
Historical Characters, 180,
Letters by General George Washington, 186,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read several adult books that center on the Culper Spy Ring but this is the first I have come across that is aimed at the younger set. From the opening page to the exciting conclusion kids will be enthralled with this action packed thriller. Lamberton Clark is part of the Culper Spy Ring. During one of his secret missions his twin boys, John and Ambrose, tag along unbeknownst to their father. Soon the three of them find themselves being hunted by the British. Lamberton is shot but the mission must continue so John and Ambrose rise to the occasion. The reader is taken on a fascinating journey into a very pivotal time in our history. John and Ambrose travel from Connecticut to New Jersey in search of General George Washington. They must find him and deliver a very critical message. The authors use real events and people to set the stage for this fictitious story. I appreciated all of the details that were woven into the story. I felt like we came away from the book knowing more about our great American heritage than when we started. If your homeschool curriculum includes American History this would be a great addition. Even if you do not homeschool I think that this would be a great book for your children to read or even better read it together as a family. We used it as a read aloud because some of the kids weren't old enough to read it themselves. Even the six-year-olds were riveted to the story. There are a few black and white illustrations scattered throughout that will help the younger kids picture what is going on. One of my favorite parts is the discussion questions in the back. If you have a kids book club like we do at our homeschool coop this would be a great read for them. We used the questions to spur discussion within our family. This is the first book in the series to be followed by at least three more. I'm looking forward to reading the whole series with our kids. It is so important to teach them why America is an exceptional nation. I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.