Across Five Aprils

by: Irene Hunt

Chapters 10–11

Summary Chapters 10–11

Soon after, Sherman's army disappears—no one knows where they are. The people worry that Sherman was ambushed and defeated. The North loses a battle in Nashville, and then there is another battle in Nashville. John is in this second battle and writes home to tell them that while taking care of rebel prisoners, he saw Bill. He filled Bill in on news from home. Bill wanted John to tell them that he did not fire the bullet that killed Tom.

Analysis

By chapters 10 and 11, even the war seems to drag on and on. Hunt does not even represent all of the battles in this book, but there are still too many of which to keep track. The tide switches between the north and the south often, although until these chapters there is an overriding sense that the south has the upper hand. Here, after a series of particularly violent battles, the north begins to struggle back. General Grant serves as an emblem of the war effort. He has struggled, oscillating between being referred to as a hero and a disappointment. Grant gets beaten by Lee, who is the better general. But Grant is stubborn and never gives up. He ends up winning battles by cutting off supplies, not by fancy legal maneuvers. Grant personifies the dogged nature of this war, which is part of the reason he remains an unsung hero up until the end.

Grant also underscores an important theme in this chapter—having faith. The North becomes cynical about its generals, realizing that most of them are inconsistent and disappointing. They feel this way about Grant too, and they question his tactics until he surprises them with a victory. The people feel the same way about President Lincoln. Northerners are angry with him for being merciful toward the South, and Southerners are mad at him because he demands their presence in the Union. In a show of faith—not just in him, but faith that the war will end in the near future—the country reelects Lincoln. Lincoln, in the famous Gettysburg Address, rewards that faith.

Faith in love is also a theme in these chapters, as Jenny makes her way to Washington D.C. to be with Shadrach. The couple's faith in each other is what ultimately makes this reunion happen and what results in Shadrach's recovery and their marriage. It is interesting to see that Matt does not put up an argument when Jenny asks for his consent to marry. War changes everything, including making life and love and happiness even more precious than it was before. Matt's former argument was that Jenny was "too young." Because of the war, however, Matt has seen much happen to people who are young. The young fought, suffered, and died just as the old did. The young became people who were old in experience and in body. Even Jethro is no longer young—it seems that no one in a war- torn country maintains his or her youth or the innocence that accompanies it. Thus, Matt knows that neither Jenny nor Shadrach is too young for marriage, given all they have struggled through.

John and Bill's reunion underscores the importance of family, even if, militarily, it seems they are consorting with the enemy. As Bill asks about the family, Hunt reminds the reader that Bill has had absolutely no contact with any of the Creightons since he left. At the very least, Tom, Eb, John, and Shadrach have had letters to which they can look forward, and some purpose and reason to return home. Bill, on the other hand, does not even have a home anymore. He knows that the conversation with John is as close as he will ever come to being with his family. As if to demonstrate his love and loyalty to them, he asks John not to wish them well, but to tell them that he did not kill Tom.