Fourteen-year-old Mary Cooper is staying with her Aunt Mary Wick and her cousin Tempe Wick on their farm, at the time of the American Revolution. She is staying with them because she is a Patriot, while the other members of her family are Tories, except for her brother Abraham. Twenty-two-year-old Tempe is in charge of the farm because her father has recently died.
The Pennsylvania Line of the Patriots is encamped on the Wick farm, having been given permission by Tempe's father before he died. Some of these military men have their wives and children with them, as there was nowhere else for their families to stay. However, the encampment is short of provisions, and in the middle of winter this has led to hardships and even the death of some of the men, women and children. Tempe is tired of women and children begging at their door for food, and tired of the war in general, and this has made Tempe short-tempered with Mary, for she knows Mary doesn't want to go back to her family. Tempe's only real happiness at this time comes from riding her beloved horse Colonel. Everyone admires Colonel, for he is white and a striking horse, and Tempe rides him past the encampment all the time.
Mary finds out that Tempe has been communicating with Billy Bowzar, a soldier who Tempe thinks will be leading a group to talk to General Wayne about the lack of provisions, clothing, and pay. Billy asks Tempe for the use of Colonel for this purpose, and even though Tempe doesn't want to, she is considering doing so just so that Billy leave her alone. However, Tempe's “lunatic” brother Henry, who deserted the army years ago and also deserted his family, has been going in and out of camp selling rum, and asks Mary to tell Tempe that Billy is actually planning mutiny. Tempe doesn't believe Mary, or believe that her brother is not a lunatic. Mary has to convince Tempe to talk to Henry, or Tempe will lose her horse if she lends him to Billy. Not only that, but if Tempe lends her horse to Billy, she will be associated with the mutiny. Henry also has a plan for Tempe so that she can keep Colonel from being stolen by the mutineers.
This report prepared by Crystal