"Across Five Aprils," Vocabulary from Chapters 7-9

"Across Five Aprils" is Irene Hunt's novel about one family being torn apart by The Civil War. As the brothers in the family take opposing sides in the conflict, they wonder if they will ever be able to be a family again.

Learn this word list that focuses on life and death. Here are links to all our lists for the novel: Chapters 1-2, Chapters 3-4, Chapters 5-6, Chapters 7-9, Chapters 10-12

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. subsequent
    following in time or order
    Dan Lawrence was not yet twenty; he was still weak from his wounds and loss of blood, still under the cloud of a horror that only subsequent horrors could make him forget.
  2. ruthless
    without mercy or pity
    The young soldier glanced up at the white faces watching him, and there was still in his eyes the look of wonder that life could have changed so suddenly and ruthlessly.
  3. casualty
    someone injured or killed in a military engagement
    People were going to the opera, to balls, to glittering dinners in the great hotels, in spite of casualty lists and the fact that the war showed no signs of ending.
  4. scarce
    deficient in quantity or number compared with the demand
    In Jasper County, however, laughter was a scarce luxury that summer, but as the weeks of 1862 marched on toward fall, an incident occurred that appealed to the rough humor of the times and to the satisfaction of many who saw justice finally finding a niche for itself.
  5. wary
    marked by keen caution and watchful prudence
    He was a marksman of no mean ability; he was, moreover, stubbornly tenacious under his mild manner—two facts well-enough known around town to make the night prowlers wary for several weeks.
  6. ruffian
    a cruel and brutal fellow
    On the third night the ruffians struck.
  7. embellish
    add details to
    Men all over the county roared at the story Ross Milton embellished with cutting sarcasm and published in his weekly paper, a story that caused Wortman to be demoted, even by his own lieutenants, from the role of a swaggering desperado to that of an inept and ridiculous figure, whining in his misery.
    Another definition of "embellish" is "make more attractive, as by adding ornament or color"--this could also fit the example sentence because the sarcasm would be the color added to a news article that should normally be black and white, without the opinion of the writer. Also, the sarcasm would make the article more attractive to its readers, who were saddened by all the war reports in other papers.
  8. remnant
    a small part remaining after the main part no longer exists
    The papers suggested that perhaps it was Beauregard who, by managing to save the remnants of his army, had won something approaching a victory.
    Another definition of "remnant" that can give a vivid image of the losses of soldiers in war is "a piece of cloth left over after the rest has been used" (you can change the verb "used" to a more actively destructive word).
  9. ineffectual
    producing no result
    McClellan, the most promising young officer in his class at West Point, was now the general who either didn’t move at all or moved ineffectually;
  10. bluster
    act in an arrogant, overly self-assured, or conceited manner
    There were stories of generals jealously eyeing one another, caring more for personal prestige than for defeating the Confederates; there were Pope and Sheridan, who blustered;
  11. persistent
    there was Grant and the persistent stories of his heavy drinking.
  12. inevitably
    in such a manner as could not be otherwise
    Jethro read the news in dismay, and for the rest of the war there was always a fear within him that disappointment and disaster inevitably followed hope.
  13. falter
    move hesitatingly, as if about to give way
    But work on the farm had to go on although armies faltered and leaders fell in disgrace.
    Notice how "faltered" and "fell" are both in the example sentence. Although the definition of "falter" suggests the armies are still standing, individual soldiers have fallen. And when soldiers fall and die, making armies falter, leaders fall in disgrace.
  14. intersperse
    place at intervals in or among
    The words of love that interspersed those of mental anguish were not ones that a silly girl blushed over and hoarded to herself.
  15. revile
    spread negative information about
    They will not believe that he has ever been anything but right; they revile the President when rumors of his impatience with their general get around.
  16. ghastly
    shockingly repellent; inspiring horror
    Jethro, in his manhood, would learn of the incompetence, the blindness, and the ghastly waste of life that followed a lost opportunity;
  17. obscurity
    an unimportant and not well known standing
    The career of General McClellan was almost over, too; it would rise with another spurt later on, but that fall the papers blazed with the news that the President had relieved the general of his command, and the name that had outshone all others now plummeted into near- obscurity.
    "Obscurity" also means "the state of being indistinct due to lack of light"--this definition is hinted at in the example sentence in the use of the contrasting word "outshone" for a general once described as "brilliant".
  18. appall
    strike with disgust or revulsion
    Fredericksburg had been undertaken with little probability of success, the papers claimed; nothing could have been expected under the shabby plans—if, indeed, they were plans—other than appalling slaughter.
  19. dissuade
    turn away from by persuasion
    Rumor was that this general, far back from the line of battle, had insisted that still more divisions be sent up the deadly hills, but that he was finally dissuaded by officers of lower rank and keener perception.
  20. foreboding
    a feeling of evil to come
    The family waited for days, during which Jethro’s waking thoughts were filled with foreboding and his dreams with troubled anxiety.
  21. gleaming
    bright with a steady but subdued shining
    There was drama here, I can tell them—thousands upon thousands of us crossing the Rappahannock with banners flying, drums rolling, and our instruments of death gleaming in the sunlight.
  22. futile
    producing no result or effect
    They could have seen those thousands scrambling up the innocent-looking wooded hills and falling like toy soldiers brushed over by a child’s hand; thousands of young men whose dreams and hopes were snuffed out in a second and who will be remembered only as simple soldiers who fell in a cruel, futile battle directed by men who can hardly be called less than murderers.
  23. prospect
    belief about the future
    There was, however, no reason why Hig Phillips should have avoided the draft except that he was a lazy bachelor much favored by his mother, that he was fond of good food and a comfortable bed, and had been known to adhere to the opinion that fools could do the fighting while men of intelligence and property might take pleasure in the prospect of a long and easy life.
  24. venture
    proceed somewhere despite the risk of possible dangers
    Jenny was no longer allowed to drive alone to Hidalgo for the mail; no one ventured far away from home after nightfall, and as in the days of the Wortman trouble the year before, no one ever went to bed with the full confidence of security.
  25. insistent
    repetitive and persistent
    Then the call came again, softly, insistently, from a clump of trees, one of which was a tremendous old oak—long since hollowed out, first by lightning and then by decay.
  26. credence
    the mental attitude that something is believable
    For a few seconds Jethro forgot the Federal Registrars and the fact that not only the word which preceded Eb, but his method of announcing himself gave credence to the suspicion that he was a deserter.
  27. skirmish
    a minor short-term fight
    We’d had another skirmish and there was dead boys that we had to bury the next day—and we’d bin licked agin.
  28. confront
    be face to face with
    But in his eleven years he had never been faced with the responsibility of making a fearful decision like the one confronting him.
  29. assent
    agree or express agreement
    Matt assented to the trip readily, and Jethro, with the letter in his pocket, drove off down the road, his heart pounding with excitement.
  30. interminable
    tiresomely long; seemingly without end
    The long wait for an answer was interminable.
  31. impudent
    improperly forward or bold
    Jethro tossed at night and wondered: had he done an impudent thing, had he laid himself open to trouble, had he been a fool to think that a boy of his age might act without the advice of his elders?
  32. reiterate
    to say, state, or perform again
    Eb’s often reiterated, “I’ll be goin’ on soon, Jeth; I won’t be a burden to you much longer,” became like the whippoorwill’s cry—always the same and never ending.
  33. magnitude
    the property of relative size or extent
    Jethro closed his ears to it, but the tensions within him mounted, and the necessity of providing for Eb’s needs in strictest secrecy became a task that seemed to grow in magnitude as the days went by.
  34. shun
    avoid and stay away from deliberately
    In the few seconds that passed before he opened the envelope, he wished with all his heart that he had not meddled in the affairs of a country at war, that he had let Eb work out his own problems, that he, Jethro, were still a sheltered young boy who did the tasks his father set for him and shunned the idea that he dare think for himself.
  35. remorse
    a feeling of deep regret, usually for some misdeed
    This information you may relay to the young man in question, and I pray that the remorse and despair which he has known since the time of his desertion will bring his better self to the cause for which so many of his young compatriots have laid down their lives.

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