(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Abner Beech was a stalwart, shaggy man, who had often been supervisor of his district. Jimmy, who was an orphan, went to live with him when he was six or seven years old. Abner was a town leader, a great reader, and he owned more books than most people did in Dearborn County, located in Northern New York State.

For some reason, Abner Beech violently hated the Abolitionists. The first Abolitionist in Dearborn County, as far as Jimmy knew, was old Jee Hagadorn, but now nearly everyone except Abner Beech shared the old man’s sentiments. Because the anti-Abolitionists were attacked from the pulpit every Sunday at church meeting, Abner and Jimmy finally stopped going to church. Then someone spread the rumor that Abner’s milk had not been accepted at the communal cheese factory because he had put water into it. At that time, Abner’s household became real outcasts in Four Corners.

One day in August, Abner came home early from the field. He was furious because he learned that Jeff, his only son, had been seen walking with Esther Hagadorn, the daughter of his enemy. Abner sent Jimmy to call Jeff home. When Jimmy found Jeff and Esther, the young man gave the boy his fishing pole and told him to tell Abner that he was going to Tecumseh to enlist in the Union Army. When Jimmy relayed Jeff’s message to their parents, they took the news calmly. They had already guessed his intention, for on that same day, an entire group of boys from the area had gone off to enlist.

Abner’s hired man also enlisted, and Abner hired an Irish widower, Hurley, who had been doing odd jobs in the neighborhood. Hurley was also an anti-Abolitionist, the only one in the area besides Abner. It was understood in Abner’s household that Jeff’s name should never be mentioned, and Abner refused to show regret over the departure of his only son.

In late September, Hurley and Jimmy went to Octavius to buy some butter firkins; Abner refused to buy firkins from Jee Hagadorn, who lived close by. In Octavius, Hurley and Jimmy learned of the terrible battle at Antietam, in which a number of the boys from Dearborn County had taken part. Hurley got into a fight when some of the citizens taunted him for being a Copperhead, a Northerner who sympathized with the Southern cause in the Civil War.

On the way home from Octavius, Jimmy went to see Jee Hagadorn. Jimmy found Esther there, worrying about Jeff. Jee came home elated because Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

A fortnight later, the Beech household learned that Jeff Beech and Byron Truax had been reported missing after a battle in the South.

The work on the farm continued. Warner Pitts, Abner’s former hired...

(The entire section is 1112 words.)