I loved this section of the book. It's here that we really see what Scarlett is made of. The war is turning against the South and the Yankees are heading towards Atlanta. At first people can't believe it, but the army just keeps on coming closer and closer.
Then the shelling starts and the residents of Atlanta begin to flee. Melanie's baby is due any day and she can't be moved. Terrified and resentful, Scarlett stays with her. It is a horrific situation, the girls have heard such terrible rumours about the treatment meted out to Southern woman by the Yankee soldiers. Melly goes into agonising labour, with no doctor or medicines available. Nothing in Scarlett's life has prepared her for this. Somehow the baby is delivered and Melly survives, though she is very weak and ill.
Rhett manages to get them out of Atlanta, but leaves them halfway home because he is going off to join the army. This is puzzling. Why join the army now, when the war is just about lost and he had just been sneering at them as they retreated? It was the sight of a soldier carrying a young man who was too tired to walk which seemed to affect Rhett. He is very clear sighted about himself, and perhaps he felt shamed by that soldier.
The women and children make it to Tara. It is here that we see Scarlett's strength. Her mother is dead, her father is feeble, the slaves who worked the fields are all gone. There is no money and no food. She gets little support from anyone except Dilcey. Scarlett is exhausted and griefstricken but somehow she discovers that stubborn core of steel that will not allow her to give up, and she drags all the others with her. She does things she never could've imagined - she kills a man. Life is changed utterly and so is she. She is determined not to be one of the people who constantly hark back to the good old days before the war. She is determined to move forward.