Chapter 113 Summary
On the first of January, 1863, Matilda flies to slave row with the news that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation “dat set us free!” Although at first the slaves celebrate with great joy within the privacy of their cabins, their happiness soon turns to despair when they realize that nothing changes within their daily lives. All the Emancipation Proclamation did was make the Confederacy (and the white plantation owners) more bitter toward Lincoln.
The North wins most major battles now, but the slaves don't allow themselves to rejoice anymore until the following year when news of General Sherman’s victories reaches their ears. Finally, Charleston, South Carolina falls. Then Richmond, Virginia. In the spring of 1865, Robert E. Lee surrenders. The North has won! The slaves are free!
The slaves’ jubilation only stops for a brief, sad moment when the news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination arrives. The Murrays offer some land to Tom and the former slaves to do sharecropping. The family has a huge debate. Some want to leave immediately. Some want to stay and split half of the crops with Murray. Matilda settles the argument with her insistence that the family stay together. Tom also makes a good point that the family isn’t ready to be on their own yet. Afterwards, Tom takes Irene by the hand and leads her through the plantation to the parcel of land they now own. It’s a great feeling.
Tom soon gets back to his blacksmith work when Major Cates bothers Tom again. It is just as Tom gets Major Cates a cup of water only “because I’d bring any thirsty man a drink” that Tom notices Chicken George riding up to the plantation! The Murray plantation is abuzz with excitement at Chicken George’s return and their newfound freedom. Chicken George also comes with the announcement that he is relocating his entire family to a brand new settlement that has plans to become the town of Henning, Tennessee.
After turning all of their buggies into covered wagons and inviting many other black families to come, the Murray family (no longer slaves) are ready to set out for their new home. After asking permission, even Ol’ George and Martha prefer to travel and live with their friends instead of staying on the plantation where they lost their first child.
Chicken George, Tom, and the whole mass of family and friends travel to “the promised land” of Henning, Tennessee.