The hardships one endured had a purpose; his mother had been careful to make him aware of that.
This quote comes in Chapter 4, as Jethro goes to see Shadrach for the last time before Shadrach leaves to fight. The quote itself refers to the cold weather that he endures for fifteen miles each way, but the quote is relevant to more than the winter. This quote extends to the hardships Jethro and his family face throughout the war—missing and worrying about their loved ones, grieving Tom's death, anxiously wondering if the North would ever pull out a victory, wondering what the country would be like when the war was all over. If Jethro embraces this sentiment, then perhaps at the end of the five years he has something positive to take away. Ellen's statement to him seems prophetic in light of what the boy endures during the war.