The first chapter begins by presenting Ellen Creighton with her son, Jethro, planting potatoes. Ellen has twelve children from which four died the year Jethro was born. Ellen and Jethro say goodbye to Jethro’s teacher, Shadrach who became almost a member of the family after Shadrach contacted typhoid fever. What is more, Jenny, one of Jethro’s sister was in love with Shadrach.
Ellen is worried that a war will break out and she anxiously awaits her husband to come back home bearing news. Jethro tries to distract his mother but doesn’t understand completely what a war means. Jethro then thinks about his older sister who was killed by a wagon.
Nancy, Ellen’s daughter in law and John’s wife and Jenny prepare dinner for the whole family. At dinner, they talk about Shadrach’s affection for Jenny but Jenny’s father, Matt Creighton thinks that Jenny is too young.
When Ellen and Jethro come home, Wilse Graham arrives as well and they begin to talk about the imminent war between the South and the North. Wilse and Matt begin to argue until Ellen point out that now it is not the time. When Shadrach comes home, he tells them that there has been firing not too far from where they live and even if the war was not official declared, it had already begun.
The summer goes by and news about battles taking place reaches the family. Tom and Eb leave their homes and they enroll into the army at the end of summer and Bill thinks about joint the army as well even though he considers the war to be pointless. Because of his different view, Bill enters into conflict with other farmers and ends up beaten.
In February 1862, the war continues to become more violent and the family worries about Eb and Tom. At the end of the month, a letter from Tom arrives home and there he describes the harsh conditions on the battlefront and how many soldiers have died because they froze to death.
Shadrach leaves for the service as well so Ellen visits him. That night, Shadrach confesses that he fears he will never get the chance to marry Ellen if he goes on the battlefield and Ellen feels the same. That night during dinner, they talk about war and how it will probably not end too soon. After diner, Shadrach tells Jenny that if he will return from the war, they will get married, take Jethro to live with them make sure that he will receive a proper education.
The fifth chapter describes Jethro’s visit into the town to buy supplies. In town, Jethro is accused of covering his brother Bill whom many believed he joined the ‘’rebs’’. Jethro behaves admirably and when he arrives home he tells his parents what happened in town.
The Union has lost many soldiers during a battle and Jethro feats for Eb’s and Tom’s safety. Jenny receives a letter from Shadrach telling them that he is fine.
Jethro’s family begins to be persecuted because Bill chose the side they thought to be wrong and even set the family’s barn on fire one night. After the attack, men from all over the country try to help the Creighton family with what they can.
When the news about the battle of Shiloh reaches the Craightons, they find that Tom died during the battle. After the news of Tom’s death spreads, Ross Milton publishes a letter aimed at those who attacked the Craightons and shamed them for persecuting the family of a loyal man who died for his country.
Later that summer, the man who attacked Jethro is wounded while he tried to rob a shop and he ceased to cause troubles after the incident.
Battles continue to be won by both sides and towards the end of the year 1862, many soldiers deserted. The general population is split into two while on the battlefield the generals are worshiped like gods. A few bad decisions made the troops to lose faith in their leaders and desert even more.
The men who deserted were still armed and they soon started to cause troubles. Eb is also rumored to have deserted and when men representing the Federal Registration come searching his father’s house, they are told to go searching at Point Prospect.
In spring, while Jethro is working in the fields, he discovers Eb hiding. He tells Jethro that Point Prospect is an awful place and that he regrets that he deserted but that now there is nothing he can do.
To solve his dilemma, Jethro decides to write a letter to President Lincoln and ask about the fate the deserters will have. A few weeks later, Jethro receives a response telling him that the deserters will not face any punishment if they decide to join again the army.
Shadrach remains safe on the battlefield and even though he takes part in battles, he remains unharmed. Eb joined the army as well and he sent letter home telling them that he was fine.
The battle of Gettysburg takes place and the Union wins. Shadrach is badly injured and they fear that will not survive. Jenny goes to visit him and despite his injuries, Shadrach leaves. A few months later, they send a letter asking Matt’s blessing and they get married.
The battle between the North and the South continues and it seems that the North is having the upper hand. That year in December, Lincoln announces that he will pardon every Confederate who promises to be a member of the Union. Lincoln is reelected president while the North continues to win battle after battle.
The last chapter of the novel presents the victory of the Union and the defeat of the south. The war ends in April and the sons they had on the battlefield returned home.
Their happiness is overshadowed by the news of Lincoln’s death and Jethro is affected by the event. Jethro recovers when Shadrach comes home with Jenny and promises to take Jethro to live with them. The book ends with Shadrach and Jethro returning from the fields to meet with Jenny.