In May 1963, news arrives that the Union lost a battle in Chancellorsville. The Union army had more soldiers, but Confederate general Robert E. Lee outsmarted them. The Creightons receive a letter from Shadrach a few months later and learn he was not one of the unfortunate soldiers. Shadrach expresses anger and pessimism at the prospect of future battles. They also receive a letter from John, who inquired mostly about the status of the family. Eb writes also, saying that rejoining the army was hard but that he is doing okay.
People begin criticizing Grant's slow and seemingly inexplicable movements in Vicksburg, but the president does not demote Grant. They also learn that Robert E. Lee's army is moving north to Pennsylvania. The people fear Pennsylvania could be an eventual gateway to Washington D.C. Soon they receive word about the battle of Gettysburg, the most horrific and violent battle of all, but eventually resulting in a Union victory. News of a victory at Vicksburg follows—Grant's army surrounded the Confederate army and cut off all supplies, starving them into surrender. The Creightons learn that Shadrach was critically injured at Gettysburg.
Ross Milton suggests to Matt that he let Jenny see Shadrach. Milton offers to accompany her. Matt says that it is probably too late, and Milton says that on the chance it is not, Jenny should go. Matt agrees, and Jenny and Milton leave the next morning. A long time passes before they hear from Milton, who tells them that Shadrach is still alive but critically ill. He credits Shadrach's ability to hold onto life to seeing Jenny. Months later, Jenny and Shadrach send a request that Matt give written consent for them to marry. He does. Jethro marks the marriage in the ledger in the Bible.
Nancy does not hear from John again until December, and the waiting almost makes her assume the worst. She knows that John fought at Chickamauga, which was reported as a chaotic and confusing battle. The Confederates outnumbered the Union soldiers and beat them, except for one army under the command of George Thomas, which had been able to hold fast. Their stubbornness eventually resulted in the Confederates retreating. In his letter, John says the battle was hard, but he is proud of the way they held up. He says that they nearly starved and ate "things that wood make you sick to think about" until reinforcements from other armies came. John explains that the armies came together and planned to flank and trap the Confederates and that each tried to outdo the other. John's army had climbed a ridge and broken a Confederate line.
That November, the president makes the Gettysburg address. His mother says it "has the ring of the Scriptures about it." In December, Lincoln announces that he will pardon any Confederate who promised to swear by the Constitution and be a part of the Union. He also promises that any Confederate state can rejoin the Union if ten percent of its voters could assemble a Union government. In early 1864, the president's bid for reelection begins. Both northerners and southerners are angry with him for various reasons. In the meantime, Lee is still winning battles. Finally, Grant and Lee meet head on, and although Grant does not win, he refuses to give up. Grant redirects the army south to Petersburg—a city through which the railroads Lee uses to get supplies run—there would have to be a siege.
President Lincoln gets his party's nomination for president, and Milton predicts, "Lincoln will win. When it comes to the final vote, the country will not admit that its sons have died for nothing." They learn that one of the Union navies sunk a Confederate war ship and that the armies were closing in on Mobile, Alabama. Soon after, General Sherman reports that they have taken Atlanta as well. The North was close to victory and that fall Lincoln is reelected.
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