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Free Study Guide for Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt-Book Summary

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“The autumn of ’62 was grim.” The Union army, though progressing well in the west, seems to be failing in Kentucky and Virginia. The President is being criticized and soldiers are deserting.

On the farm, work continues and men from all around come to help raise a new barn for the Creightons. Dave Burdow sends over a load of logs he had cut. It is a symbolic, “Thank you” to Jethro for helping Dave earn acceptance back into the community. As they work the men all talk of the war and whether Lincoln is right or wrong. Jethro is offended that the men consider him a child who is not concerned with the war.

The Creightons receive a letter from Shadrach in which he explains how devoted the soldiers are to General McClellan. In Shad’s opinion, however, McClellan may not have what it takes to win the war. Jethro follows the path of the war in Shadrach’s atlas. He reads of Antietam and Fredericksburg worrying that Shadrach is there. The family finally receives another letter that Shadrach is safe. Nancy also receives a letter from John who had been at Stone River where, “The scenes of deth was sech as to make a mans hart hate war.” Many were deserting back to Illinois.


Chapters 8 reads in part like a Civil War history book. The events of the war permeate the lives of everyone. At this point it seems there is a uniform perception of the war. Conversations, newspaper accounts, and the first hand experiences of soldiers recounted in their letters, all echo disillusionment and loss of faith.



The number of deserters is increasing. They congregate at Point Prospect and steal food from the local community. The situation escalates when a man named Hig Phillips, who paid someone else to take his place in the draft, is murdered by a group of former soldiers. The people of the county become terrified with the presence of lawless deserters.

Federal Registrars come to the Creighton house searching for Eb. They threaten severe consequences for harboring deserters. Jenny stands up to them and tells them to go to Point Prospect, but even the arrogant Federal Registrars know it is dangerous there.

Later that spring, while Jethro is plowing, he hears what he thinks is a wild turkey in the brush. He goes to investigate and finds Eb, sickly and gaunt. Eb explains how horrible battle and death are and that he is ashamed of deserting, but he cannot go back. Jethro feeds Eb and brings him up to date on the family situation. He and Eb both know that it would be dangerous for the family to know that Eb is there.

Jethro is confused as to what he should do. He feigns a stomachache to avoid Jenny’s questions. She thinks he has been smoking and agrees to sneak him some food later that night. Jethro will bring the food and a quilt out to Eb in the morning. Unable to sleep, Jethro writes a letter to President Lincoln asking his opinion and advice.

Some time later, at dinner one afternoon, Ed Turner brings the Creightons their mail. It consists of one large envelope addressed to Jethro and postmarked Washington D.C. Jethro swoons knowing that soon the whole neighborhood will know his secret. He reads the letter, first to himself and then aloud. In it Lincoln shares that he has been troubled by the same problem that Jethro described. The President has decided that deserters may rejoin their regiments without punishment if they report back by April first. The letter is compassionate and praises Jethro for trying to “Seek out what is right.”


Public opinion fluctuates with the news reports that seem for a moment to support one general and then another. But the common thread is that support for the war is declining. Even soldiers have lost faith and are deserting. There are no heroes to believe in. However Jethro still believes in the President and this belief is rewarded with an answer to Jethro’s problem. Lincoln writes that if there is to be criticism about the decision he had made and he is found in error, he has erred on the side of mercy. This again demonstrates that the power of the President is constant.

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Cassie, Donna L.. "TheBestNotes on Across Five Aprils". . 09 May 2017