Esther Atkins is the beautiful seventeen-year-old girl, with many suitors, who singles Adam out among the militia taking a break at the Atkins farm. She gives him water and berry pie and sympathizes with the loss of his father.
Alan Becket is a small, nervous man from Sudbury, who thinks of the plan to trap the British between Lexington and Menotomy.
Mrs. Cartwright forces Adam Cooper to go up and look at his dead father on the bed. He is angry at her insensitivity and tells her to get out. She is a type of old busybody who likes to lecture the young on their duties.
Simon Caspar is one of the veterans from the French and Indian War who volunteers to train the Lexington militia. He lives in Concord. He is the only one in uniform, in an old green army coat, as the British enter Lexington. Simon Caspar wants the men to have their guns cocked and ready to fire, but Moses Cooper talks everyone out of this idea. He wants someone from the militia to talk to the British. Moses is impatient with Caspar’s military point of view.
Solomon Chandler is the sixty-one-year-old Lincoln Town man who finds Adam Cooper running away from the British soldiers after the incident on Lexington Common. Solomon is a hardened war veteran, having fought alongside the British in the French and Indian wars. He is a tall and thin but strong white-haired man, with broken yellow teeth and a long rifle. He imparts his wisdom to Adam about life, death, war, and fear. He guides him to the rest of the colonial men who continue to fight the British with guerilla tactics. A grandfather himself, he treats Adam like one of his own grandchildren, but Adam finally is disgusted by Chandler’s taste for battle and killing.
Clyde is a militiaman from Concord who shoots a British soldier holding a white flag of surrender, because he thinks it is a regimental flag. This incident is given as an example of the confusion of the battle.
Dr. Cody of Watertown
Dr. Cody is regarded as a quack by the Cooper family, but Adam watches him treat the wound of a British soldier and save his life.
Adam Cooper is the main character and first-person narrator, who grows up from childhood to manhood suddenly during the first battles of the American Revolution. He begins in conflict with his father, who still sees him as a child and does nothing but correct his 15-year-old son. Adam begins to see his father differently as he stands by him on the Lexington Common and sees him get shot down by the British. He is left as the head of the family and must do a man’s duty. First, he goes off with the other men to defend the women, children, and homes of his village. Secondly, he must comfort his family–his mother, grandmother, and little brother at home. Third, there is a hint that he will marry Ruth Simmons, his cousin and neighbor, and start a family of his own.
Adam is independent and questions things for himself. He has heard the revolutionary philosophy about the rights of man. He questions religion and authority, arguing with his grandmother, since his father and mother won’t listen to him. He fights with his younger brother, Levi, but must rise to a fatherly position with the younger boy, who looks to him for the answers, after their father dies. His girlfriend, Ruth, is ahead of Adam in feeling romantic inclinations, but he feels close to her and assumes he will marry her eventually. Adam’s father Moses had mentioned that he wanted Adam to attend college. Adam himself dreams of going to sea. The course of history leads him in another direction. He must continue fighting in the Revolution until the colonists win their freedom. He also must now run the family farm and homestead and marry his cousin.
Adam, like Moses, believes in the revolutionary cause, but like his father, is not enamored of war. He dislikes killing, and is nauseated by the deaths he sees on both sides. In the battles, he stands his ground and shoots at the redcoats but he does not actually kill anyone. His motivation for going to war is to defend his home.
Goody Sarah Cooper
Goody Cooper or Mrs. Cooper is Moses’ wife and Adam’s mother. Goody means “Goodwife,” a title for married women. Sarah respects her husband and is a peacemaker in the family, proud of her domestic skills and her cooking. The story behind her Dutch food (Donkers) is that her grandfather Isaac was a trader who got a Holland cook and brought Dutch recipes into the family. The grandfather reportedly had one wife in Boston and a half Shawnee wife in Philadelphia. Sarah intervenes when she finds out that Adam thinks his father doesn’t love him. She tells Moses about Adam’s concern. After Moses dies, she looks to Adam as the head of the family.
Granny Cooper is the mother of Moses and grandmother of Adam. She is spunky, strong, intelligent, and independent. She is fond of Adam and tries to help him negotiate with his father. She stands up to her son to protect her grandson. She spits in the face of the British officer who offers help when her son Moses is killed. Moses is the last of her five sons. Adam thinks his grandmother is as smart as his father is. She can think and argue though not as well educated as a man. She tries to stay out of the way in the family, helping with the household chores. Though liberal minded, she draws the line at the rational philosophy of the revolutionary Committee, quoting the Bible as her authority.
Levi Cooper is the younger brother of Adam. At eleven, he is even smarter than Adam, according to the Reverend. He engages in rivalry with Adam, informing on his mistakes to his parents. He cleans Adam’s gun and wants to be like him so he can kill the British. He becomes a witness to the events in Lexington, recounting them later to Adam. He carries a message to Adam in the smokehouse where he is hiding from the redcoats, telling him not to come home. After the death of Moses, Levi looks to Adam for protection and wisdom. Levi believes in ghosts and wonders what happens to dead people. Adam becomes the rational voice in the family now, calming Levi’s fears.
Moses is the educated and prosperous farmer in Lexington who is a leader in the revolutionary activities there. He is opinionated and likes to argue. Although he is proud of his Protestant heritage as a “people of the Book,” he is caught up in the new philosophy of rationalism fueling the thinkers of the revolution. He scolds his son Adam for superstitious behavior, telling him the Coopers have been proud of their literate and educated tradition. Moses helps his neighbor Joseph Simmons draft the statement on the rights of man as a basis for negotiating with the British for independence. Moses is hard on his son Adam until he hears that Adam does not think that he loves him. He tells him he is too young for the Committee but at the last minute allows his son to sign up for the muster on the Common because he sees in Adam’s eyes that he will lose his son if he does not recognize him as a man in front of the other men. Moses is clearly against war with the British. He believes they can negotiate their way to freedom, and insists that no guns be cocked when the British march in. He is the first to be shot down on Lexington Green by the British, though he showed no provocation.
Jonathan is one of the young boys of Lexington who is serving with the militia men. He is boastful about sticking a redcoat with a bayonet before the British come, but he bursts into tears later when he sees Lexington burning.
Joshua Dover is a cousin of Adam Cooper’s whom he meets with his son, Mattathias, after the killings on Lexington Green. The Coopers always had Thanksgiving dinner with the Dovers. Adam joins them and the other men to fight the British on the Metonomy Road.
Jonathan is the seventeen-year-old son of Caleb Harrington, who plays The Redcoat Bangle and Old Hundred on the fife while the men are waiting on the Lexington green. He and his father are among the eight killed in the shooting. Adam Cooper hides in the Harrington smokehouse.
Samuel Hodley chairs the Committee meeting in the church the night before the battle. He is the weapons and ammunition storemaster. He tells the weapon count and wants a central shot and ammunition depot in the village in case of a siege. He is voted down. He is one of the three who sign men in on the muster. He is one of the first killed on Lexington Common.
Goody Cooper’s grandfather Isaac was a trader who supposedly had a wife in Boston and a Shawnee wife in Philadelphia. A sea captain is not judged like other people, said Moses Cooper of Isaac, because Isaac left his wife two hundred sovereigns after his death. The captain was good and generous and though Sarah is embarrassed by his reputation, Moses is tolerant.
Captain Ishmael Jamison
Captain Jamison is an uncle on Adam’s mother’s side who lives in Boston. He is a smuggler against the British embargo on free American trade and has encouraged Adam to go to sea on a voyage to the Indies. Adam dreams of doing this in spite of the knowledge that his father would stop him. Adam thinks the life of a sailor sounds more interesting than Ruth’s idea of marriage. Ruth accuses the Captain of having a Jamaican wife, which Adam denies.
Jonas Parker is the Captain of Militia for Lexington. He is one of the three men who sign men in on the muster. Like Moses Cooper, he does not favor violence and wants a peaceful resolution. He is run through with bayonets on Lexington Common.
The local church deacon is rich and mean and two-faced according to Adam Cooper. Adam gives Isaiah as a reason for not believing in God or the church and tries to persuade Ruth Simmons Peterkin is a hypocrite.
Colonel Pickering leads the Essex militia men, who march to relieve the Middlesex men at the roadblock where they stop the British.
The Reverend (historically he was Reverend Jonas Clarke, though not named in the book) of the Lexington church is a good man, non-violent in nature, who argues against killing and war. He is one of the main leaders of the village of Lexington and strongly against the British tyranny and illegal taxes. He keeps the minutes of the Committee meetings under his Bible and quotes the Bible to justify the rebel cause. He agrees to be the unarmed spokesman to the British troops and speaks eloquently to the men of their cause of freedom. He sends away Sam Adams and John Hancock when they come to Lexington to confront the British, afraid they will start a war. He is sheltered by Moses Cooper as the British attack and survives to bury the dead.
Cousin Joseph Simmons
Cousin Simmons is the village blacksmith, a relative of the Coopers and the father of Ruth. He is not as intellectual as Moses Cooper, but he is kinder. He takes a moral stand against making money on slave ships and stays poor while his brothers get rich. When Moses dies, he becomes a surrogate father for Adam, protecting him and talking to him about the war. Adam feels comforted by Simmons, who will undoubtedly be his future father-in-law. Simmons explains to Adam that they cannot stop until the war is won, when Adam wants to forget about the battle.
Mrs. Simmons or Goody Simmons
Mrs. Simmons is Ruth’s mother, who, with her widowed sister, Susan, read Job from the Bible and try to entice Adam to read to them by giving him sweet carrot pie. They are always sad, and Adam believes they enjoy melancholy.
The Simmons Brothers
Brothers to Joseph Simmons, the Simmonses invest in slave ships and make a lot of money. Joseph disowns them. Later, they join the Committee, but Joseph still will not speak to them.
Ruth Simmons is Adam’s distant cousin and next-door neighbor. They have grown up together and are best friends. She has wanted to marry Adam from age thirteen. They walk together in the evening, and Adam has kissed her a couple of times, but is still too young to feel romantic towards her. When she brings up marriage, he cannot imagine marrying anyone else, and it is clear by the end of the book, that they will probably marry and carry on the farming tradition of the town. Moses asks his son what his intentions are towards Ruth and warns him of toying with her. When Ruth’s father thinks he might die in battle he tells Adam to take care of Ruth because she is frail like all girls. Adam does not think of Ruth as frail. She is strong, independent and always supportive of Adam.