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It is now summer and people in southern Illinois spend their weekends at speeches and rallies in search of reassurance and support for the Union cause. The newspaper accounts of repeated defeat renews the Creighton boys’ determination to get involved in the defense of the Union. Tom and Eb leave in the late summer, John and Shad make plans to leave by mid-winter. Bill, however, is still uncommitted.
Jethro is fascinated with the events of the war and is well informed about the roles played by the various officers. He sleeps in Tom’s spot in the loft, near Bill, and has nightmares about the war. Bill comforts Jethro and admits that he, too, is “scairt sometimes” and troubled by the war. He reiterates that the war should not be and that no one really wins a war. He rambles on about the wrongdoing on both sides, but specifically speaks against Congress and people like John and Matt who unwaveringly take sides. Bill’s confession disturbs Jethro who wants to “leave off thinkin’ more about the war”.
As autumn progresses, the beauty of the landscape seems to deny the existence of the war. Jethro goes up to Walnut Hill, where four of his siblings are buried, to contemplate the beauty along with the dark mood of the times.
Bill joins Jethro on the hill. His face is cut and bruised. He explains that he and John, who have always been so close, have had a fight. His says that though his heart is not in it, if he has to fight, he will fight for the South. He will take his horse, but will put money inside the family Bible so that his father is not left short.
The fall colors fade as Bill leaves. Jethro fights the tears, then cries, knowing that he may never see his brother again.
In Chapter 2 the family was together for the last time. In Chapter 3, three go off to war - Tom and Eb on the Union side, Bill on the Confederate side. The family is not the same because the country is not the same. The battles of Bull Run [Manassas, as the South named it], Ball’s Bluff and Wilson’s Creek, though Union losses, had the psychological consequence of strengthening the resolve of the North. It is this renewed determination that sent Tom and Eb off and widened the gap between John and Bill. Throughout the novel, Hunt will use this method of chronicling each event of the war, the results of which determine the responses of the characters.
The war is now more personal for Jethro. While the older boys leave to become part of the war, Jethro alone is left to become the man of the family. Furthermore, though he wants the Union to win, he must hope for the South for Bill’s safety. This chapter marks the beginning of Jethro’s premature transformation into a man, forced by a time of war.
The family Bible is introduced in Chapter 3. This Bible contains a ledger of the births, weddings and deaths of the Creighton family and is a symbol of the joys and sorrows they experience. Though Bill’s departure would not be an official entry, he leaves money there signifying that although he has gone against the family’s opinion on the war, he is not against the family. He understands that his choice will mean sorrow. The struggles will be hard, but the Creighton family bond will remain intact.