When Jethro meets Bill on Walnut Hill, Bill tells him that he is leaving to fight for the Confederacy.
Bill has just had a terrible fight with John, the brother with whom he has always been the closest. "Hard feelings" had been building up between them for weeks, feelings that have to do with the conflict between the North and the South. John is firmly in support of the Union position, while Bill believes that the North stands for "arrogance and big money aginst the southern farmer." In good conscience, Bill cannot support the Union cause, and even though he is in the minority in his family and community, he has made the hard decision to fight on the side of the Confederacy.
On Walnut Hill, Bill tells Jethro that he is leaving immediately. He says that he is taking the brown mare, which is rightfully his, but is leaving money he has saved up so that their father will be able to buy another horse to use on the farm. Bill asks Jethro to tell their father that the money is "inside the cover of his Bible," and cautions the boy, who is crying, that there will be hard things during the coming years that he will have to endure, and that "cryin' (won't) make 'em right."
Bill tells Jethro that his heart "ain't in this war," and that his decision has caused him a great deal of pain. Bill understands that neither side is completely in the right, but that if he has to fight he "reckon(s) it will be fer the South." Bill's parting words to his brother are words of encouragement. He says,
"Git all the larnin' you kin - and take keer of yoreself, Jeth" (Chapter 3).