Across Five Aprils Chapter 3
That summer in southern Illinois, every weekend is like the Fourth of July with speeches and brass music. The story about the battle of Bull Run reaches the town. Congressmen had driven out with their ladies to see the fighting. When the Union troops ran for safety, the spectators and their carriages had blocked the road. Jethro now notices that there is no more confident talk of ending the matter quickly in the community. When stories of Ball's Bluff reach the town, some begin to doubt that the war will end quickly, and others think that the northern factory workers are no match for the healthy outdoor men from the South.
Throughout the summer, Bill who remains quiet goes to the rallies in town, taking Jethro along. The two younger boys, Tom and EB, promise to go to war as soon as they are able, and Shad and John plan to leave by mid-winter. Shad will finish his contract to teach at school, and John will help with the harvest and provide food for the family before going.
After Tom and Eb have gone to war in late summer, there is news of another Northern defeat at Wilson's Creek in Missouri. The Union commander, Nathaniel Lyon, had been killed along with many boys. Because it had happened so close, the war sadly becomes more real to the people of Jasper County.
Jethro listens when men come to talk about these events in the Creightons' yard. Noticing that the name of a young officer, McClellan, is often spoken with respect, he becomes aware of many other names that are mentioned.
Since Tom and Eb have left home, Jethro sleeps in the loft with Bill. One night when he wakes himself with the sounds of his own cries, Bill is there to comfort him. Bill confesses that recently, he hasn't been sleeping well because of thoughts about the war. When Jethro asks whether or not the North will win the war, Bill says: "I don't know if anybody ever 'wins' a war, Jeth. I think that the beginnin's of this war has been fanned by hate till it's a blaze now; and a blaze kin destroy him that makes it and him that the fire was set to hurt. There oughtn't to be a war, Jeth; this war ought never to ha'bin." Chapter 3, pg. 41 Bill tells Jethro that he hates slavery, but he also hates another form of slavery that has people working in factories for small wages. Bill says that it angers him to see their father and John be so sure about which side they will support.
One autumn afternoon in October, Jethro is on Walnut Hill where as a child, he used to find company in the three boys buried there. He had talked to his imaginary friends on the hill, but after Mary died, he had stopped going. During that afternoon in 1961, however, Jethro returns to the hills. Soon, he is joined by Bill who shows bruises and cuts on his face. He confesses to having had a fight with John. There had been hard feelings building up between them for some time.
Bill tells Jethro that he is leaving to fight for the South. He refuses to fight for "arrogance and big money against the southern farmer." Chapter 3, pg. 45 He does not want to fight, but if he has to, Bill says that he will choose to fight for the South. Jethro chokingly yells after his brother who is leaving to take care of himself.