Chapter 11 Summary
Stories of chaos and confusion dominate the news during the late summer and fall of 1863. After their hard-won victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in early July, the North is dealt a "dreadful reversal" at Chickamauga, in northern Georgia. Outnumbered by as many as twenty thousand, Union troops under General Rosecrans suffer a crushing defeat. The rout is not complete, however, as the left wing of the Army of the Cumberland, led by General Thomas, holds firm in the face of the Confederate assault.
Nancy receives a letter from John, who is serving in Rosecrans' forces. He writes about the disaster at Chickamauga, the difficult days spent afterwards in the mountains near Chattanooga, and how reinforcements had arrived, led by the illustrious Generals Hooker, Sherman, and Grant himself. John feels that the Army of the Cumberland had been looked down upon by the "hifalutin...Potomac boys," but proudly declares that his scrappy unit had conducted itself admirably in the fighting that was to follow. Led in the charge by "a short littel Irish officer named Sheridan," his men had broken through the center of the Confederate line and forced the divided opposition to retreat, thereby winning Chattanooga for the North.
In November of that year, the president makes a speech at Gettysburg. Newspapers across the country cannot agree on its significance, and though Jethro does not know what to think of the oration, he is deeply drawn to Abraham Lincoln. In December, as it begins to appear that the South will not be able to fight on much longer. Lincoln issues a proclamation of amnesty, promising pardon to those who would swear allegiance to the Constitution and the Union of the states, and providing an avenue for states to return to the Union if ten percent of its voters should vote for it. Some, like Matt Creighton, are moved by the president's attitude of conciliation, but around the country, the decision arouses virulent criticism from both sides. The Confederate Congress cries out that the arrangement will only create a relationship "between the conqueror and the conquered," and a faction in the North demands harsher punishment for the Rebels, even to the point of "wholesale execution."
Talk of the upcoming presidential election begins early in 1864. Though a final Union victory seems tantalizingly within reach, the bloodshed continues as the South fights on. As General Grant, now commander of all the Union forces, fails time and again to conquer the Confederates under General Lee, war-weariness descends upon the nation, and many in both political parties begin to advocate an end to the hostilities without a Union victory. Despite division within the then-named Republican party, Lincoln is nominated in June, while the Democrats choose General George McClellan as their candidate. Surprisingly, upon accepting his nomination, McClellan defies those in his party who would capitulate to the South, declaring that to accept any terms "short of reestablishment of the Union...would be an insult and an affront to the thousands of soldiers who [have] died in battle." In a letter to Jethro, Shad, who had served under McClellan, applauds his former general's stance, affirming that it demonstrates "a quality of...
(The entire section is 830 words.)