What did Hannalee and Jem find at the bottom of the sycamore tree in "Turn Homeward, Hannalee"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hannalee and Jem find a scene of carnage, the aftermath of a fierce battle, at the bottom of the sycamore tree.

Hannalee and Jem had inadvertently walked right into the middle of the Battle of Franklin on their way back home to Roswell, Georgia.  A kind soldier tells them to "get up a tree and pray to God a Secesh cannonball don't take (their) heads off at the shoulders".  Hannalee and Jem find "a big sycamore growing beside the river" and climb high up in its branches.  It turns out they have "a truly good view of everything that (goes) on - a terrible good view, in fact".  The two children watch in horror as the battle unfolds before their eyes, with "hand-to-hand fighting...blood suddenly spurting", and men being shot dead before their eyes.  To Hannalee and Jem, who until this time had only a romantic notion of what war is really about, it is "like looking into hell" (Chapter 8).

When the battle is over, Hannalee and Jem see lights below their tree, and realize they are torches.  When they come down out of the sycamore, they find "heaps of bluecoat soldiers lying on the ground...(and) piles of men in gray coats and butternut-jackets...lying there where they died, on top of each other in layers six and seven deep".  Feeling like her "innards had turned to icy coldness", and with an "aching pain in (her) chest", Hannalee make their way among the dead, and learn from a surviving soldier that the battle was a loss for the Confederacy, and that her brother Davey was most likely killed in Virginia (Chapter 9).

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Turn Homeward, Hannalee

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