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For some time there is no word from General Sherman’s army. Finally, there comes news that Sherman has taken Savannah and Atlanta with little resistance. His army advances through South Carolina plundering and burning as they go. Ed Turner, whose youngest boy had just joined the army, and Matt Creighton grieve over the atrocities committed by the soldiers and the cheapening of human life. They are hopeful in assuming that the war will be over soon. A letter from Eb echoes this hope. The winter countryside seems tranquil in anticipation of a Union victory.
However the war goes on and Jethro is disturbed by Ross Milton’s warning, “Don’t expect peace to be a perfect pearl, Jeth.” The destruction and hatred will take a long time to heal. Jethro knows Milton is right, reflecting that Tom, and probably Bill, will never return. But still, Jethro trusts the President to “bind up the nations wounds” and Ross Milton, with reservation, hopes the same, though he says that the thirteenth amendment will not automatically change the way people think and feel.
Then, in the second week of the fifth April of the war, the terms of peace are signed at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The whole country celebrates. Ross Milton takes Jethro to the restaurant where they had dined years before and they watch fireworks and listen to the town’s band.
Suddenly April loses its beautiful spring color with the news that Lincoln has been assassinated. For Jethro, it is the “saddest and most cruel April of the five.” He agonizes over the loss of the President until Shad comes home. Jethro is filled with joy and shares with his former teacher, now his brother-in-law, how much he would like to have been able to see Lincoln in person. Shad is sympathetic. He tells Jethro that he and Jenny will stay to help with the farm until John and Eb return. Then they will have Jethro move in with them to continue his studies. The two men head back toward the house to see Jenny. Jethro runs to his sister’s arms and “all the shadows were lifted from the April morning.”
The long awaited climax of the war is also the climax of the story. The North achieves victory at Gettysburg and then with Sherman’s momentum is able to sustain its position and preserve the Union. This last chapter however has an undercurrent sadness. Milton’s words that peace will not be perfect foreshadow the postwar bittersweetness of sons mourned and sons returning. The assassination of Lincoln, in whom so many people in Jasper County placed their hope, changes the April of celebration into the April of shattered faith. The melancholy is at last lifted in the final paragraph where Jethro, unforgettably changed by the war, can move on with his life.