Scarlett returns to Tara for Gerald’s funeral. Will Benteen tells her that Suellen, desperate for more money, tried to trick Gerald into taking the oath of loyalty to the Union. Men who swear loyalty to the Union receive compensation for property lost during the war. Will says that Suellen got Gerald drunk and got him to agree to sign anything. Although drunk, Gerald realized what was about to happen and ripped up the oath. He mounted his horse and rode away. When he tried to jump a fence, his horse pitched him off, killing him upon impact. Will shocks Scarlett by telling her that he plans to marry Suellen so that he can stay at Tara forever.
When she sees Tara, Scarlett’s heart surges with love. Ashley performs the funeral service and Will asks to say a few words. To keep any of the mourners from criticizing Suellen, Will announces their engagement and asks that no one else speak after him. Old Miss Fontaine tells Scarlett that the secret to success lies in changing with the changing times, rising up after misfortune, and using people and then discarding them. Scarlett finds the speech confusing and dull.
After the funeral, Scarlett gives Gerald’s gold watch to Pork as a reward for his faithful service. Upon learning that Ashley intends to move to New York with Melanie, Scarlett appeals to him to take a half-interest in the mill and live in Atlanta. Ashley refuses, ashamed to live on her charity and tormented by his love for Scarlett. When Scarlett begins to cry, Melanie rushes into the room. She learns of Scarlett’s offer and urges Ashley to accept it in order to repay Scarlett’s kindness and let Beau grow up in Atlanta rather than in the hostile North. Ashley accepts the offer at the expense of his honor.
After Suellen and Will’s wedding, Carreen enters a convent, and Ashley, Melanie, and Beau move into a little house in Atlanta adjacent to Aunt Pittypat’s house. Melanie’s optimism, generosity, and adherence to old Southern values make her house the social nucleus for proud Southern families. Ashley proves incompetent at wringing profits from the labor of the freed slaves, so Scarlett announces her intention to lease convicts to work in her mills.
Scarlett gives birth to an ugly baby girl and names her Ella Lorena. Scarlett is desperate to get back to the mill, but Frank forbids her to return. Atlanta has become dangerous, and Frank worries for Scarlett’s safety. The Yankees, he says, are trying to root out the Ku Klux Klan, and anger has begun to brew among the freed slaves in areas like Shantytown. A one-legged, one-eyed mountain man named Archie begins to work as Scarlett’s escort into town. Rude and intimidating, Archie quickly becomes an Atlanta institution, chaperoning women around town. When Archie hears about Scarlett’s plan to lease convicts to work in the mills, he threatens to stop assisting her. He tells her he was a convict for forty years after murdering his adulterous wife, and says that convict leasing is worse than slave ownership.
Scarlett learns that the Georgia legislature has refused to ratify a Constitutional amendment granting blacks citizenship. Though many Southerners take pride in the legislature’s resolve, Scarlett realizes it will make the Yankees even harder on Atlanta. She leases ten convicts to work in her mills, hiring a Yankee Irishman named Johnnie Gallegher as their foreman. Atlanta is appalled at Scarlett’s actions, and Archie quits as promised, but Gallegher gets an astonishing amount of work out of his men. To Scarlett’s dismay, Gallegher fares far better than Ashley as a manager.