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The number of deserters is increasing. They congregate at Point Prospect and steal food from the local community. The situation escalates when a man named Hig Phillips, who paid someone else to take his place in the draft, is murdered by a group of former soldiers. The people of the county become terrified with the presence of lawless deserters.
Federal Registrars come to the Creighton house searching for Eb. They threaten severe consequences for harboring deserters. Jenny stands up to them and tells them to go to Point Prospect, but even the arrogant Federal Registrars know it is dangerous there.
Later that spring, while Jethro is plowing, he hears what he thinks is a wild turkey in the brush. He goes to investigate and finds Eb, sickly and gaunt. Eb explains how horrible battle and death are and that he is ashamed of deserting, but he cannot go back. Jethro feeds Eb and brings him up to date on the family situation. He and Eb both know that it would be dangerous for the family to know that Eb is there.
Jethro is confused as to what he should do. He feigns a stomachache to avoid Jenny’s questions. She thinks he has been smoking and agrees to sneak him some food later that night. Jethro will bring the food and a quilt out to Eb in the morning. Unable to sleep, Jethro writes a letter to President Lincoln asking his opinion and advice.
Some time later, at dinner one afternoon, Ed Turner brings the Creightons their mail. It consists of one large envelope addressed to Jethro and postmarked Washington D.C. Jethro swoons knowing that soon the whole neighborhood will know his secret. He reads the letter, first to himself and then aloud. In it Lincoln shares that he has been troubled by the same problem that Jethro described. The President has decided that deserters may rejoin their regiments without punishment if they report back by April first. The letter is compassionate and praises Jethro for trying to “Seek out what is right.”
Public opinion fluctuates with the news reports that seem for a moment to support one general and then another. But the common thread is that support for the war is declining. Even soldiers have lost faith and are deserting. There are no heroes to believe in. However Jethro still believes in the President and this belief is rewarded with an answer to Jethro’s problem. Lincoln writes that if there is to be criticism about the decision he had made and he is found in error, he has erred on the side of mercy. This again demonstrates that the power of the President is constant.