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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
By May of 1864, the Yankees are amassing for an attack on Dalton, but the people of Atlanta are not alarmed. According to Dr. Meade, General Johnson is standing between the Yankees and Atlanta like "an iron rampart." In an attempt to cheer Melanie and Mrs. Elsing’s daughter Fanny-whose beau Dallas McClure is dead-Miss Pittypat decides to have a party and share the last chicken. Rhett joins the party without invitation, but is on his best behavior for most of it. He treats Fanny with kindness and puts Scarlett’s little boy Wade to sleep in his arms. Finally, however, when talk turns to war he speaks up, informing the company that Sherman is rumored to have over 100,000 men with him in the mountains and that General Johnson only has 40,000, including the deserters. Mrs. Meade protests that there are no deserters in the confederate army, and Rhett corrects the word to "furloughs" from which men have never returned to the battles. Dr. Meade responds with an assurance that one Confederate is worth a dozen Yankees; Rhett too, counters this as he reminds them that the Confederates are without bullets, food or shoes. Dr. Meade loses his temper, insisting on the surety of the mountain for invaded people throughout history.
In an attempt to save her party, Pittypat asks Scarlett to play the piano. However, Scarlett can think of nothing but war songs until Rhett comes to her rescue and tells her to play "My Old Kentucky Home."
Dr. Meade’s predictions prove true to a point. Sherman is unable to break through the mountain fortifications of Johnston. However, the Yankees simply pull back and move around the confederates, coming at them from behind. This action forces a repeated movement of pull back and fight, pull back and fight for the Confederates. It is as effective as if it were outright retreat and brings the Yankees to Kennesaw Mountain.
Scarlett continues working in the hospital although the novelty has worn off and she is sick of the smells and screams of men who have to endure amputations without anesthetizing. One day she sneaks away from the hospital and orders Rhett to take her riding someplace where no one will see her. They see a line of marching troops, the home guard that includes her father’s black overseer, Big Sam and several of the other male slaves from Tara. Their leader, Captain Randall, tells Scarlett that they are using the "biggest bucks" of the county to dig additional rifle pits around Atlanta in the event of a siege. He catches himself and assures her that there won’t be a siege, but that Old Joe is taking precautions. Scarlett suspects that Captain Randall is teasing her, but when she tries to get a straight answer out of him, they end up in a quarrel.
The drafting of the slaves from the plantations is the beginning of the end, and Scarlett knows it in spite of Old Joe's denial. Aunt Pittypat's pitiful attempt to have a party and share her last rooster is symbolic of the people's refusal to give up the old ways in their hearts and minds even if they are driven to the wall and forced to surrender literally. Perhaps Rhett's presence and his way of forcing them to acknowledge that many of their men have deserted-even though that desertion may be given fancy names-keeps them in touch with enough reality to be able to save themselves at the necessary moment.
Rhett illustrates his ability to probe the very depths of Scarlett's thoughts by asking her if Ashley ever kissed her. She is able to lie easily enough to most people, but she cannot lie to Rhett. Her only recourse is silence, which he interprets as assent.
The fighting reaches Atlanta. The fortress at Kennesaw Mountain held, but again Sherman has pulled his troops back and come around, trying to get between the Confederate soldiers and Atlanta. General Johnson is removed from command and General Hood is put in his place. Soon, however, wounded men are coming back in a steady stream from the battle. Pittypat’s house on Peachtree Street is one of the first houses reached by the wounded, retreating men. They collapse on her lawn, begging for water. General Hood returns to the fortifications around Atlanta and attacks the Yankees more aggressively than Johnston had.
Within eleven days he loses almost as many men as Johnston had lost in seventy-four, and Atlanta is under siege, hemmed in on all sides. In the night, after shells have been falling in the streets of Atlanta, the people begin evacuating, heading for Macon. Mrs. Meade, Mrs. Merriwether and Mrs. Elsing refuse to leave, as they are needed at the hospital. Pittypat wants to leave, and Scarlett wants to return to Tara herself. Melanie begs her not to leave her with Aunt Pittypat. Dr. Meade arrives and insists the Melanie is too delicate to be moved, and he orders Scarlett to stay with her. Pittypat goes off to Macon with Uncle Peter and Cookie, leaving Scarlet and Melanie alone with Wade and Prissy.
This sets the plot for Melanie and Scarlett to go back to Tara together. Also, it creates a situation where the only one who can help them is Rhett. Scarlett discovers that she can accomplish things beyond even what she thought she could. Where once she was the spoiled belle of the family, now she has to be the strength for all of them.