The Revolutionary War has taken hold in the village of Setauket, Long Island, about 60 miles east of New York City. The local farmers call the British invaders "Redcoats" and watch as they make the church into a fort and sequester private homes to house their soldiers. Thomas Strong's father is captured in the dead of night and the family is forced to move into a small cottage on Little Bay. There, Thomas and his mother, Nancy Strong, become part of a Patriot spy ring that provides vital information to General George Washington. When Nancy hangs her laundry a series of colored petticoats and handkerchiefs she is actually signaling across the bay in a code that details what Thomas tells her he sees while out fishing in his rowboat. That information, about the movement of Redcoat troops, is not only passed forward to George Washington's command, but wins the release of Thomas' father. Based on actual events, Redcoats and Petticoats also includes historical notes, along with biographies and maps, to provide a full account of the often forgotten espionage efforts of the Setauket Spy Ring and other average Americans during the events of 1770s and 1780s. Ronald Himler's watercolor illustrations make vivid the details of early American life, while Katherine Kirkpatrick's story shows how larger historical events leave no single life untouched.
Ask students to become modern-day Paul Reveres. How would they quickly spread an urgent message throughout the entire community? Extend the learning with these activities related to Redcoats and Petticoats.