Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Interview Series: Johnny Tremain

Since today is Memorial Day, I thought it would be appropriate to interview a character who played a small role in our country's fight for independence, Johnny Tremain. I've always been fascinated by historical fiction, and Johnny Tremain was one of the books that I loved.

So, let's take a little trip back to Boston, circa 1773, to speak with a young man who learned what it meant to be a patriot.

Greg:  Hi Johnny, thanks for taking some time out to have a word with us.

Johnny:  It is my pleasure, sir.

Greg:  What was it like living during the time of our nation's birth?

Johnny:  It has been very confusing. There have been many changes. I had been engaged as an apprentice to a master silversmith, Mr. Lapham, but I was injured through the negligence of another apprentice.

Mr. Lapham said it all came to working on the Sabbath, but we had to finish Mr. Hancock's order on time. Instead, my hand was injured and I had to set out in search of new employment.

Still, I enjoyed going down to Boston harbor and watching the ships sailing in and out. There are so many ships in Boston harbor, the masts look like a forest upon the water. There seemed to be a larger number of British regulars than usual about the city.

At that time, I had no idea of what that meant. You see,  I was blind to the larger events that were happening in the city and throughout the colonies.

Greg:  When did you first become aware of those events?

Johnny:  It was after I had been imprisoned. I had been charged with stealing a silver cup from Mr. Lyte. The cup belonged to my mother. She gave it to me before she died and told me that I was a Lyte.

Anyway, Mr. Lyte claimed that I stole the cup and had me arrested. It was a near thing, but the court exonerated me, thanks mostly to Josiah Quincy who came to my aid and acted as my attorney. After that, I was hired as a delivery boy for the Boston Observer. There I met Rab Silsbee, and we became friends.

He introduced me to the Sons of Liberty. That's when I became aware of what was transpiring in Boston and elsewhere. Eventually, I determined to help in whatever way I could, crippled though I was.

Greg:  I understand that you have met many of the major figures in the Whig party in Boston.

Johnny:  Oh yes. Let's see, there's Mr. Otis for one. He is the founder of the movement, but he's been unwell. Then there's John Adams, who gets most of the publicity. He's got some sort of rivalry with Mr. Otis or something. 

Then there's Paul Revere. He's the greatest silversmith in all of Boston, perhaps all the colonies. My old master, Mr. Lapham was in awe of him. Dr. Warren was a great patriot. He was a great help to me. Unfortunately, we lost him on Breeds Hill.

Greg:  You've also participated in a number of historical events, if I'm not mistaken.

Johnny:  I have. I took part in the Boston Tea Party. I helped spread the word that the regulars were coming. I also managed make it up to Lexington and Concord for the birth of our nation.

Greg:  What was that like?

Johnny:  I'm not ashamed to admit that it was terrifying. We were arrayed on Lexington Green, determined to stand our ground. The Lobsterbacks marched onto the Green in long columns. Their captain ordered us to disperse, but we would not.

Then came the shot, I don't know from where. The regulars opened fire, and there was death all around me. War is never pretty, despite what you read in books. After that, we ran. Better to run and fight another day.

We got a large measure of revenge later that day as we hounded the Lobsterbacks all the way back to Boston. There were many fewer that returned to their garrison in Boston than had set out that morning, I can tell you. 

Greg:  Well thank you for taking the time to talk with us, Johnny. Thanks to you and the Sons of Liberty, we have a country where honesty and freedom are important.

Johnny:  I enjoyed speaking with you. I hope we never forget the sacrifices made by those who fought and died to make our country free.


  1. Great interview! My students are just finishing up a HF unit and some kids read Johnny Tremain. I have read many HF books- but somehow this one slipped by me. Maybe I will have to put it on my summer list!

    1. Thanks, Steph. You need to check out this book. It's old school, but it's great HF. Enjoy!