Chapter 12

Everyone is still wondering where Sherman's army is. People take solace in Grant's trust in Sherman, but others worry that he is crazy. Suddenly, in December, Sherman wires Washington telling them that he marched from Atlanta to the ocean and wanted to present the "city of Savannah as a Christmas gift." A few weeks later, stories of Sherman's march begin to circulate—they army had ransacked farms, eating all the food and burning everything in sight. Some people think that Sherman's army only gave the south what they deserve, but others think the behavior is cruel and unwarranted.

Sherman's army then turns north to meet Grant. The armies together moved into South Carolina, carrying with them Sherman's momentum. Again, the armies indulged in horrifying behavior. "The role of this state in bringing on the war served as a 'just' excuse for atrocities that no thoughtful man could excuse." Ed Turner, the Creighton's neighbor, has a son in the army that marched through South Carolina and reads of the events in a letter. He worries about the effect it will have on his son. When Matt tells him that he taught his son right from wrong, Ed responds that everyone, including Congress, is cheering on the army's behavior and that he thinks he son will go with the crowd.

The papers predict the end is near—seaports and railroads have been cut off, and many southerners are starving. A letter from Eb echoes the papers and announces his intentions to come home and help Jethro in the fields. However, the war persists, soldiers from each side dying, the South refusing to give up.

Jethro turns thirteen in the beginning of 1865, and his family notices that he seems more reserved and quiet. One day, Jethro says to his mother, "Somehow I don't have the heart for things that used to set me up so much," and Jethro confirms that he has aged well beyond his thirteen years. Jethro explains that is it hard to share his thoughts, because even he does not understand them.

Later, Ross Milton warns Jethro not to "expect peace to be a perfect pearl." He explains that the scars from the war—especially the resulting hatred—will take a long time to heal. Jethro realizes that Milton is right, especially because even with the arrival of peace, his brothers Tom and Bill will not come home. Jethro seeks comfort in the fact that they "still have the president." Jethro is upset when, after destroying his vision of peace, Milton does the same to the thirteenth amendment (the amendment that abolished slavery). Milton says that an amendment will not change how people think or feel and that many ex-slaves will wonder when that amendment will change their lives for the better and are able to get jobs or be equal to others.

Finally, in April, news comes that the war is over and that two men signed for peace at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Citizens over the north celebrated, drinking toasts, singing and crying in joy. Milton takes Jethro back to the same restaurant they visited years before. Jethro says he wants to shake Abraham Lincoln's hand. The Creightons are still celebrating, anticipating the arrival home of their sons, brothers, father, and friend when they receive the news that the president has been killed.