Across Five Aprils Chapter 12
The whereabouts of the Army of Tennessee and General Sherman are still unknown, but in December, the army is found as Sherman wires the President that they have captured the city of Savannah. The army had marched through Georgia without meeting much opposition. There are mixed reactions as news of Sherman's march through Georgia reaches the communities. There is news that the soldiers burned houses and barns, taking food. Some frown upon this, saying that it isn't right to hurt our own countrymen who are like brothers. Others talk about places like Andersonville Prison and Camp Douglas in Illinois where prisoners are treated badly. There is word that the Army of Tennessee joined Grant after reaching Savannah: "it was then that South Carolina knew the lash of a triumphant army drunk with the plundering of Georgia and enraged at the stubborn tenacity of the South in holding onto a cause that was already lost. In South Carolina the vast, undisciplined army could find another excuse for its excesses." Chapter 12, pg. 177
Ed brings a letter from his son who has been in South Carolina. He writes about soldiers burning and looting houses, destroying others' belongings. Ed is worried that such experience is going to make his son think that life is cheap. The whole country is supporting such actions, and he is worried that his son will just go along with others.
The papers hint that the war will be over soon because the South is suffering. Eb writes from Tennessee; he thinks that he will be home soon to help with the spring plowing and planting, but the war does not end so quickly as more men die in Virginia.
Jethro turns thirteen in 1865, and he has grown taller over the years. Matt and Ellen notice that he has become increasingly gentle with the family, and they are worried because he is growing more like Bill, the gentlest one in the family, who left them.
At home, Jethro thinks about what Ross Milton said the last time he had come to visit. He had warned that peace would not be perfect: "This is a land lying in destruction, physical and spiritual. If the twisted railroads and the burned cities and the fields covered with the bones of dead men--if that were all, we could soon rise out of the destruction. But the hate that burns in old scars, and the thirst for revenge that has distorted men until they should be in straitjackets rather than in high office--these are the things that may make peace a sorry thing." Chapter 12, pg. 179 Jethro had been disturbed because he had so long wanted peace. Ross Milton had said that he hoped that President Lincoln would make things better so that peace will not be "a mockery."
They had also talked about the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery that was passed by Congress. Jethro was proud of the fact that his state, Illinois, had been the first state to ratify it. Although Jethro was optimistic about the thirteenth amendment, Ross Milton had said that it was only a small progress. He had said that it was unclear where the former slaves would go and what they would do. People who had been strong supporters of abolition are not so outspoken now that they must help do something about these colored people.
The waiting for the end of war continues, but finally, during the second week of the fifth April of the war, there is news that the terms of peace have been signed at Appomattox Courthouse. The community is in a celebratory mood. Jethro goes to town to spend the night with Ross Milton who takes him out for dinner at the Newtown restaurant. At night, there are fireworks and patriotic band music. Jethro comes home to tell his family about the celebration in town.
One day, however, Nancy brings the news that the President has been killed. Things must go on as usual, but Jethro feels disheartened. The stories surrounding his assassination reach the community. Jethro wishes to go to Springfield where the President has been taken, but he cannot take any time off from work. "It was the saddest and most cruel April of the five. It had held out an almost unbelievable joy and had then struck out in fury at those whose hands were outstretched." Chapter 12, pg. 184
Jethro lies on Walnut Hill, angry and sad when someone approaches him. Shad has come back home. Shad is amazed at how Jethro has grown to be like Bill. Shad tells Jethro that Jenny and he had seen the President on the night that he was assassinated; he had looked happy. He can take him to Springfield to see Mr. Lincoln, but he does not think that it will be good for Jethro who might get hurt. Shad says that he will be going back to college to continue his education, and Jenny and he have decided to take Jethro with them. Jethro will come back to his family after getting a good education. Jethro and Shad walk together toward the cabin where Jenny is standing by the gate, waiting.