Originally Posted by Ben Thornton
I found that pretty bizarre, too. It seems to me that despite the banter about the Yankees needing to look out if Scarlett was coming, she was in very real danger. Deserting her at that point didn't seem to square for me with his giving a damn about her at that point. Why not escort her home and then join up - a couple of days wasn't going to make a lot of difference.
I agree. I think it was unforgivable for Rhett to abandon them that way. If Scarlett had been alone, she could have unhitched the horse from the wagon and made a cross-country run for it. Instead, she's got to stay on the road through enemy-occupied territory in a slow-moving wagon with two basket cases and a newborn. Had she run into a Yankee patrol, she, Melanie, and Prissy would probably have been raped and killed and the baby would have died.
On the other hand, the situation made for great storytelling with Scarlett's slow, lonely, haunted ride through the devastated countryside, her joy at seeing Tara still standing, followed by finding her mother dead, her father mentally incapacitated, and no one else able to take charge. Far more poignant and it really sets the stage for next act of the melodrama.