In February 1862, the North has their first taste of victory with the taking of Fort Henry in Tennessee and then Fort Donelson.
Some people think that the rest of the war will be easy peasy and it will be over in no time—Matt Creighton is not one of these people.
Despite his skepticism though, he is honest enough to hope he's wrong.
One day a letter arrives from Tom, bringing news that both he and Eb are okay. But it also includes details of war Ellen isn't too keen on hearing.
She gives permission for Jethro to visit Shad later and stay the night with him, and to bring Tom's letter along for Shad to read.
This is Jethro's cue to get all his chores done in record time.
Eventually Jenny comes home and finds Jeth. She doesn't even try to not cry in front of him.
She brings up the topic of Shad and says how Ellen would let her marry him but Matt thinks she's too young.
Jenny pauses and remarks aloud how she doesn't really have a right to complain about everything—after all, Tom and Eb are out there fighting in the war.
Together with Ellen, Jenny helps Jethro get bundled up to visit Shad; after walking a mile to Shad's cabin, Jeth is able to thaw out by a fire.
It's not long before Jenny comes up in conversation and we see Shad get a little angry with Matt for not letting them get married.
Jeth sticks up for his dad a bit by agreeing that Jenny is still young.
Shad acknowledges this and says that war makes him a little panic-y and leaving her kind of freaks him out.
Jeth asks when he's leaving, and we learn that both Shad and John head out in a week—John to Chicago and Shad to Philadelphia.
Let's be very clear, though: Shad isn't happy about going to war.
Jethro offers that the war might be over soon, but Shad is quick to burst that bubble.
Jeth remembers the letter from Tom and gives it to Shad to read.
Shad is serious for a moment. When he sees Jeth affected at the thought of Tom's letter, he warns him that worse letters are to come.
Jethro questions why everyone made such a big deal over Forts Henry and Donelson if it didn't make a difference.
And now for a Lesson on War Strategy by Shadrach Yale.
Short story: Shad tells Jethro how important it is to control the rivers that go through both Union and Confederate territory in order to cut off supplies for the South; the Union's recent victories were great steps but they weren't big enough to win the war.
They continue to speak of the war, and how President Lincoln doesn't have many fans these days, and how Bill is fighting for the South but that doesn't necessarily mean he's wrong.
It's all awfully depressing.
So Shad lightens the mood by doing some impressions of people while getting supper ready.
As they eat, Shad tells Jethro how important it is that he read books and newspapers while he's at war.
And when they start to talk of Jenny, a slightly worried Shad makes Jethro promise to keep an eye on her and make sure she doesn't get interested in any other guys.
After cleaning up supper, Shad busts out his six-string and starts strumming some tunes for Jeth to sing along to.
A song that Shad refers to as "Seven Stars" doesn't have an official ending, and Jethro says how his mother said some old people thought it was a witch song, which Shad immediately dismisses.
But since they're on the subject of witches, Jethro questions how Shad doesn't believe in them when he once taught Jeth that without proof no one can be sure of anything.
After thinking on it for a bit, Shad admits that Jeth is right but elaborates about how he doesn't like anyone who vigorously believes something with no proof to the point where they'd kill for it.
Now there's some food for thought.
The two hang out for a little bit more until Jethro is ready for bed.
While Shad stays up to do some writing, Jethro's mind recycles everything that has happened throughout his day.