Across Five Aprils

by Irene Hunt

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Student Question

Describe the meeting of John and Bill in the prison in Chapter 11 of Across Five Aprils.

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John tells about finally meeting up with his brother Bill in a letter written soon after a battle in Nashville, Tennessee, in December of 1864.  John, who is fighting for the North, is put in charge of "helpin to feed the reb prisners" taken in the battle.  Among the prisoners, he is astounded to see a man that looked exactly like his pa, a man with a light colored beard and blue eyes with his pa's "look" in them.  The man is his brother Bill, who has aged and looks "as old as pa looked a few years back".  John goes to his commander and asks if he can talk to "a reb prisner that (is his) own blood brother", and is granted permission to do so.  He finds Bill again, and, in a touching scene, the two "set together with thousands of sad men all around...and things...cold and foul everywhere but (they) was brothers agin and...talked like brothers ought to talk".

Bill is desperate to hear the news from home, and John tells him how Tom died at Pittsburg Landing, how Eb deserted, and how Jeth had written to the President and gotten an answer.  He relates how their father has been sick and how Shad was nearly killed at Gettysburg, and how Shad and Jenny are now married.  Bill listens intently to what John has to say, then, when it is time for John to go, the two shake hands "fer a long time like as if (their) fingers didn't want to let go".  Just before John leaves, Bill asks him to tell their Ma, in hopes that it will bring a little comfort to her at least, that he had not been at Pittsburg Landing; there is no way that the bullet that killed their brother Tom was fired by him (Chapter 11).

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