Around here, we are finishing up a month of reading surrounding the first days of the American colonies and the beginnings of the Revolutionary War. While we by no means covered everything during the time period (and I’m already seeing a few things that I wish I could go back and add in, of course!), we did read aloud a lot together. This week we finished The Matchlock Gun, a Newberry Award Winner by Walter D. Edmonds. This is a short little book – we tackled it in two sittings - but very interesting.
It tells the brief (and true) story of a Dutch family that lives around Albany, New York in 1757, when New York was still a British Colony. The French are still trying to evict the Indians from Canada which is creating all sorts of problems for the young American colonies. The father, Teunis Van Alstyne, is part of a small militia group that is trying to keep the Indians away from their small settlement. The mother, Gertrude, is home with their two children, Edward, age 10, and Trudy, age six.
Edward’s father brought a matchlock gun from the “old country”, Holland, and it hangs on the wall of their house. A matchlock gun is an extremely long gun that is fired with fire as opposed to a flint, like the muskets that the colonists used. It was heavy for one man to hold and then to have to light it with real fire, it was a cumbersome piece of equipment and as the father said, “It’s a nonsensical, old-fashioned kind of a gun, isn’t it?” (p.5)
Without giving away too much of the story, this big gun does have to be fired in defending the home from the Indians and there were a few big-eyed moments by my oldest girl as we read this aloud. It’s not overly gruesome, but it there is some bloodshed.
I will add one more thing about this story … I thought it was interesting how this story was passed down. Not because of the Indian attack, or the use of this outdated gun, or the family’s role in the fight against Indians in the mid-1700s. It was because of the little girl Trudy … she apparently grew up and became one of the best spinsters (someone who spins thread/wool) around. She was so good at this and her spinning so fine that her descendants passed down stories about Trudy and a later descendant researched her and discovered this story about the matchlock gun. I thought that was a fascinating little tidbit! : )
I’m linking up for Amy’s Read Aloud Thursday this week with this book and recommend it for your reading if you are studying the early Colonial days!