We open up to Jethro Creighton working on the family farm in southern Illinois with his mother, Ellen. Word on the dusty street is that war will be crashing the party any day now. A visit from cousin Wilse confirms the tension throughout the country and starts a small family rumble over which side is right. By the time autumn rolls around, Jethro's brother, Bill, decides to leave home and join forces with the South. This makes Jethro super bummed because he thinks Bill is all that and a bag of chips.
During March of the following year, Jethro gets his first solo ride with a trip to Newton. But one does not simply ride into Newton, and Jethro has the pleasure of meeting super jerk, Guy Wortman, who runs his mouth over Bill fighting for the Rebels. Oh, and he tries to jump Jethro on his ride home. Two months later, a midnight caper burns down the Creighton barn. We have our suspicions about who might be behind this blaze.
It goes from bad to worse for the Creighton family when news arrives that another of Jethro's brothers, Tom, was killed while fighting for the Union. Things aren't looking that great for the Union Army either after summer is over. Letters come from John (yes, another brother) and Shad (former school teacher and not-so secret admirer of Jethro's sister, Jenny) telling of all the crazy stuff they're seeing on the battlefield. Everyone is starting to lose hope for any sort of victory, and soldiers start bailing.
One of those deserters is Eb, Jethro's cousin. He risks getting caught and heads home to the farm where he stealthily discloses his presence to Jeth, like an 1863 ninja. Jethro's family could get into some major hot water so he keeps his lips sealed for the moment, and instead writes a letter to President Lincoln. That's right. Jethro goes straight to the top of the food chain. And get this—Lincoln writes back. But what's even more exciting is that the President says he's gonna give all war deserters a Get Out Of Jail Free card so they won't get in trouble when they return to the army. Dare we say things are starting to look up?
Maybe not so much, as battles keep slipping away from the Union armies. One battle that the North does manage to win is Gettysburg. But once again Jethro's family receives bad news, this time that Shad was hurt pretty badly. And just like that, Jenny is up and out of the house to see Shad and bring him back from the brink of death by the power of her undying love and affection. Apparently love is the best medicine, since Shad doesn't die (phew) and the two get hitched.
Big happenings go down in November of 1884. Lincoln gets re-elected to the presidency, while the Creightons receive a letter from John after some fighting in Tennessee. But this isn't just any old eye-witness-from-the-battlefield-and-it-stinks kind of letter. John writes how he bumped into a Confederate prisoner of war… and it was Bill. They have a touching bromance moment and John makes a point to tell Ellen that Bill wasn't at the battle that killed Tom.
Finally in 1865—April to be exact—a peace treaty is signed and the entire country joins in a collective sigh of relief. But hold your horses, because days later someone assassinates President Lincoln. Jethro is majorly upset that his favorite pen-pal was killed, but some comfort comes when Shad and Jenny return home and surprise Jeth with the news that he's going to be on the receiving end of a proper education.
It won't bring Tom, Bill, or Lincoln back, but it's something to look forward to.