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Across Five Aprils Essay, Research Paper
This story begins in mid-April in the year 1861 and centers on the Creighton family. Ellen Creighton, the matriarch of the family was a small woman, who had been a pretty girl in her youth when she married Matthew Creighton in the 1830’s. She had given birth to twelve children and Jethro, with whom this story follows, was the youngest of her children. He was born in 1852, the same year that she lost three of her children to the dreaded childhood disease known as “child paralysis”. Jethro had somehow managed to survive the illness and because of this, Ellen favored her youngest son and allowed him to get away with things that her older children would have surely been punished for. She saw special talents in Jethro and was sure that he had been marked by destiny and she looked after him very carefully. Jethro’s older sister, Jenny was 14 and she was a woman in most ways, she cooked meals and tended to the family as a woman would do. She was in love with the schoolmaster, Shadrach Yale, and he was a very close friend of the family. Shad was a largely built man of twenty. He had come from Pennsylvania in 1858 to study at McKendree College, where his uncle was a professor of Natural Philosophy, what we know now as Physics. He began teaching as a stepping stone to further education and it led him to the school where Matthew Creighton was a director. The first year that Shad was there he had come down with Typhoid fever, and Ellen Creighton had nursed him back to health. Because of this, she considered Shad as a part of her family and cared about him as if he were her own son. After he had been there for a few years he hired himself out as a farmhand to Matthew for the summer.
Jethro’s brothers and his cousin had been talking about going off to war and this thought really excited Jethro. His thoughts on war were, to say the least, seriously misconstrued. He thought war was all brass bands and shining horses and men in uniform. He knew that men had died during war, but all he had ever heard were stories of war by the men who had lived through it. These survivors were his great grandfather, who had survived the revolution, his father had survived the Mexican war, and his uncle had survived the War of 1812. Only men from distant lands had died in war, or so Jethro thought. No one, especially his brothers would parish in the war. They would return home with great stories to tell, that’s what Jethro wanted to believe. Talk of war and slavery found it’s way to the Creighton supper table one evening when a cousin, Wilse Graham, dropped in to see the Creighton’s. He had talked about Abraham Lincoln being “two- faced”. Wilse told his family that the south could fight for years if they needed to, but they just wanted to be left alone to live as they saw fit. John, one of Jethro’s brothers had asked Wilse if he thought that slavery was the cause of all of this trouble, but Wilse told him that it was greed and not slavery that had caused all of this.
They had all been waiting on Shadrach Yale to return from Newton with news about the war. When he finally returned that evening he had told everyone that a General Beauregard, a southern general, gave Anderson, at Fort Sumter, an hour’s warning, then opened fire on them. Shad said that Anderson and his men held out for more than thirty hours, but they were very hungry and tired and they ended up, giving up and losing the fort to the south. The papers had said that no one was killed in the fighting. Jenny asked Shad if this meant that they were going to go to war for sure, but Shad said that Congress was the only ones who could declare war and that, at the moment, congress was not in session, but he added that Abraham Lincoln had asked for 75,000 volunteers, from the militia of the states. Matthew Creighton believed that they would be at war, with or without congress. Bill, another of Jethro’s brothers, was also getting ready to go to war, but he would be fighting for the Southern Confederacy. Another of Jethro’s brother’s Tom, and his cousin Eb were already gone to war and were fighting for the North. They assumed that the boys were fighting with Grant’s Army, but they really had no way of knowing without written word from the boys themselves.
During the month of February in 1862 the bells rang twice in every city throughout the North. It was during this time that young Jethro had heard talk of Ulysses S. Grant, who was responsible for the fall of Fort Henry in Tennessee, which was very good news to everyone, since the upsetting news of the fall of the forts at Bull Run and Balls Bluff and Fort Sumter. Finally, they thought, some much needed good news from the North.
Grant then conquered Fort Donelson, things were beginning to look up. Matthew and Ellen Creighton were worried about Tom and Eb, and they finally received a letter from Tom saying that he and Eb were fine. He talked of young men dying in battle and of them freezing to death, because they wanted to lighten their load so they dropped their blankets and their coats, then they hit cold weather. He said to tell Jethro that being a soldier wasn’t so much. Shad and John were planning to leave soon to enlist, and Shad was upset by the fact that Matthew felt that Jenny was too young to get married, he loved her and wanted to marry her before he left, but Matthew wouldn’t hear of it. Before Shad left, he spent an evening with Jethro and drew a map for him to show him where the rivers and forts were and told him that while he was gone, he wanted Jethro to read the papers and look at the maps and continue to learn from the things going on around him.
In March in the year 1862, Jethro was trusted to take the team into Newton by himself. Newton was fifteen miles away and Jethro left before dawn that morning for his journey, he was excited about the trip and was pleased that his father had given him the responsibility of taking care of business for him. It was during this week that Jethro went from a protected boy to a responsible young adult. While he was in Newton, he ran into some unsavory people in the store and they began giving him a hard time about his brother Bill, who was fighting for the rebels. He was quick to stand up for his brother. Dave Burdow was in the store that day and he didn’t have much to say. His son was responsible for the death of Jethro’s sister, Mary several years earlier and Matthew had talked the townsfolk into sparing Burdow’s son, Travis’s life, as it would turn out, he would be in a position to return the favor. As Jethro was heading home that evening, he had to travel right by the Burdow farm, and he saw Dave Burdow waiting on him. When he reached the farm, Dave climbed into the wagon with him. He said he had heard talk at the store of an unsavory gentleman that would lie in wait of a young boy traveling alone. Dave had saved young Jethro from impending danger and then he simply went back home. During that same week, Matthew suffered a heart attack and could no longer take care of the farm and since Jethro’s brothers were off fighting in the war, it was up to Jethro to take care of the farm and the family.
Some men, who were disgruntled at Matthew because of his son, Bill and his choices, decided that Matthew needed to be punished for his son’s decision to go and fight for the Southern Confederacy. The men burned Matthew’s barn along with his farm equipment and hay and grain and polluted his well with coal oil. Neighbors and friends of the family offered to help out on the farm and were going to build him a new barn. One friend wrote a letter in the newspaper to the arsonists, scolding them for their cowardly behavior.
They had been getting letters from John and Shad about the war. They had gotten word, though, that young Tom died during a battle, but they hadn’t heard from Eb. Some men came looking for Eb because he had deserted the Army, and they told Jethro that if he saw him, to contact them immediately or the family would be in serious trouble. Eb did finally show up and he told Jethro that he wanted to go back, but that he couldn’t. He felt he would be on the run forever. This forced Jethro to write a letter to President Lincoln. When the president wrote back, he said that anyone who deserted could go back to their regimen by a certain date and they would be allowed to rejoin the fighting and that is what Eb did.
They continued to read the newspapers and heard the talk of the neighbors about various victories and losses of the Northern Army. They were optimistic of the future and continued to receive letters from Shad, but his letters were starting to sound like he was no longer optimistic about his future with jenny. He had already fought in three battles and he knew that there were many more. Not long after this the Creighton’s received word from Shad’s aunt that he had been seriously wounded and gangrene had set in and in his delirious state he had called for Jenny, his aunt asked in the letter if Jenny could come and be by his side and Matthew finally agreed. Once Jenny was there, Shad began to get well and he and Jenny wanted to marry. Matthew sent a letter stating that Jenny could marry him with a friend of the family as a witness. Jethro found it hard to believe that his sister, now 16 was married to Shad, but he was very happy for her, it put a bright spot in an otherwise dreary time for the Creighton family. Jethro was lonely without his sister to help him in the field and to make him laugh, but he was glad she was where she needed to be.
They had not heard from John in a while and when a letter finally came it was a long story of Chickamauga, it was something he didn’t want to discuss, and it was a dreary tale of life , as it was there. He said things were not going well.
Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation of amnesty , in December in which he promised pardons and full rights to any individual confederate who would swear to protect the Constitution and the Union of the States and to abide by the Government’s pronouncement against slavery.
Another letter had come from John and this one was different, on the second page he said he was walking around where they were holding rebel prisoners and he found his brother Bill, after asking permission to talk to him, they caught up on everything that had been going on with the family. Bill asked John to tell Ellen and Matthew that the bullet that was fired at Pittsburgh landing, the one that had killed Tom, was not fired by him, he wasn’t even there. Eb finally wrote a letter also and he was feeling bad because of his wild notions of war, he felt he had been foolish and he knows better, now.
One day, while Jethro had gone into town, he met up with Shad, it was a day he had dreamed about and he knew that things were finally going to be okay. He knew that things could be restored , maybe not exactly as they were, but restored none the less. He knew that John and Eb would be coming home and things would be fine and on that last April, this child who grew to a responsible young man, knew his life would forever be changed. He learned many lessons during the last four years, and he was a much better person. He had learned the value of responsibility and the true value of human life.
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