Abraham Lincoln in The War Years
NARRATOR The Cavalcade of America, presented by du Pont.
NARRATOR Abraham Lincoln in The War Years, starring Raymond Massey.
NARRATOR An original radio play by Robert E. Sherwood, written especially for
tonight's Cavalcade of America.
NARRATOR Based upon Carl Sandburg's - Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.
NARRATOR Tonight we look backward to the one man who above all others
epitomizes the American character. Du Pont, in looking backward on the role it
has been privileged to play in the American scene, takes pride in the fact
that it has been able to add to the strength of the Union of the American
States that Lincoln re-welded. For du Pont and chemistry are doing their parts
in making America secure and self-sufficient within her own borders, no longer
dependent on foreign sources for the vital raw materials for factory and farm
that once came from the four corners of the earth.
At the time of the last world war, American life and industry were plunged
into a chaotic state through sudden stoppage of foreign imports. Rubber,
camphor, nitrates, dyestuffs - to mention a few of the necessary ingredients
of our daily living - rose to almost prohibitive prices as their scarcity
increased. The chemical industry, faced then with the gargantuan task of
developing domestic sources of supply has, in the past 20 years, emerged
triumphantly with man-made rubber, a native dyestuffs industry, fertilizers
made from air, yarn made from wood-pulp and from coal, air and water - to name
only several of chemistry's unending stream of developments.
Our liberation from dependence on an _undependable_ world is even now a saga
of American enterprise that we might well thrill with pride to hear. But of
more importance is the fact that these advances of chemistry and industry are
a guarantee that we may look confidently ahead. For once again, as she has in
the past, America has found a road, wide and straight, along which its
Cavalcade may roll.
NARRATOR No drama of Abraham Lincoln can have a finer introduction than the
words written by Carl Sandburg in the preface to his timeless biography of
(Music in and down)
VOICE In the story of a great struggle we meet gaps and discrepancies. . . .
Many men and women, now faded and gone, lived this drama before it could be
They do and say what they did and said in life - as seen and known to the eyes
and ears, the mind and spirit of themselves or other men and women of their
Some of them spoke with action, some with words, some with both action and
words. . . .
What they say by act or deed is often beyond fathoming, because it happened in
a time of great storm.
(Music up and down)
(Rainfall under following)
NARRATOR February 11th, 1861, eight o'clock in the morning. A cold, drizzle of
rain is falling over the Great Western Railway Station in Springfield,
Illinois. The prairie horizon is veiled in chilly, grey mist. (Puffing of
engine) A short, little locomotive with a flat-topped smokestack stands
puffing with a baggage car and special passenger car hitched on. Inside and
around the brick station a thousand people have taken off their hats and are
looking up at a tall, bearded man on the rear platform.
LINCOLN Friends... today I leave you. I go to assume a task more difficult
than that which devolved upon General Washington. Unless the great God who
assisted him shall be with me and aid me, I must fail. Permit me to ask that
with equal sincerity and faith you will all invoke His wisdom and guidance for
me. With these few words I must leave you - for how long I know not. Friends,
one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell!
CONDUCTOR (Off) 'Board! All aboard!
(Engine bell clangs)
VOICE (Off - not shouted) Good-bye, Abe.
(Voices take it up softly: "Good-bye" - "Good-bye, Abe")
(Bell - Train gathers momentum) (Singing)
(Music - Train under following)
NARRATOR At Decatur they watched from saddle horses.
FARMER All over now. He'll split the Union worse than he ever did a Sangamon
WOMAN Prince of Rails, indeed.
MAN Anybody but that Abolition Ape would be a better President. I say it still
should've been Judge Douglas.
(Effect up and down)
NARRATOR At Indianapolis they stood under darkening skies.
LITTLE BOY Mom - mommie! I seen him - I seen him!
MOTHER Well, he's not much to look at. Come, let's go home. Take your Pa's
PA C'mon, Sonny. Well, Martha, it's the worse thing that ever could've
happened. Big loon with flapping ears for a President! What's going to happen
(Effect up and down)
NARRATOR At Buffalo they watched - and some waited.
JACK Get a-going, now, with that saw, Jed. You just seen him on that train
PETE Hurry up! Can't wait around all night for you to pay off that election
bet. Next time maybe you'll pick a winner.
JED All right, all right - I'll pay my election bet. But you boys'll see I'm
right some day. (Music segue) The South will have something to say about Abe
Lincoln being President - wait and see - just wait. There's going to be
trouble - plenty of trouble.
(Music up and down)
NARRATOR February 21st, 1861. Philadelphia. In a hotel parlor.
JUDD Well, here you are, Abe. I'm mighty glad to see you.
LINCOLN Thank you, Norman. If my journey keeps going on at the slow rate it
has so far, it will be Resurrection Day before I reach the capital.
JUDD (Laughing) Well, anyway, in ten days' time, you'll be President. Abe -
the country wants to know how you're going to stop secession.
LINCOLN I can't answer 'em yet.
JUDD You got to, Abe.
LINCOLN Now, listen, I want to tell you something. Once, years ago, when I and
other lawyers were riding the circuit, there was a heavy spell of rainfall and
all the streams were flooded and we had great difficulty fording 'em. We
stopped at a little tavern and there we met a preacher who was accustomed to
riding over that region in all sorts of weather. We gathered about him for
advice as to how we could get over the Fox River. He told us he knew all about
that. "But," he said, "I have one fixed policy in regard to the Fox River: _I
never cross it_ till I come to it! "
JUDD Who's that?
SERVANT A man's outside. Wants to see you, Mr. Judd, and the President.
JUDD All right, Abe?
LINCOLN Yes - yes, let him come in.
JUDD Very well, boy.
SERVANT (Off) This way, sir.
PINKERTON (Off) Gentlemen (coming in), my name is Allan Pinkerton. I am a
detective in the employ of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore
Railroad. I have to tell you, Mr. Lincoln, that there is a serious plot to
assassinate you when you arrive in Baltimore. The ringleader is a man named
LINCOLN Probably just another one of those fanatics.
PINKERTON But he has a strong group of followers. They're well armed. They're
desperate, and - Mr. Lincoln - they're killers!
JUDD You're their enemy, Abe. You know that there are many who will do
anything to prevent you from -
LINCOLN Be quiet, gentlemen.
MARY LINCOLN Abe! Oh - I thought you were alone.
JUDD Good evening, Mrs. Lincoln.
LINCOLN It's just a little political discussion, Mary. That will be all
gentlemen. I'll give your suggestions my most serious consideration.
PINKERTON Very good, sir.
JUDD I'll see you later, Abe. Good-day, Mrs. Lincoln.
LINCOLN Good-day, gentlemen.
MARY Good-day. (Door closes) Abe - what were they talking about?
LINCOLN Oh - they were just talking about political appointments. Come here,
Mary - come over to the window. Now then, Mary, look down there. That's
Independence Hall where I'm speaking tomorrow.
MARY Oh, Abe - I'm frightened - I'm frightened.
LINCOLN Frightened of what?
MARY Of everything that may come to us. Civil war -
LINCOLN There's nothing to be scared of, Mary. We may have a pretty rough road
ahead of us, but we'll pull through.
(Train - Off)
PINKERTON Everything's working as we planned, Mr. Lincoln.
LINCOLN Fine - fine, Mr. Pinkerton.
PINKERTON Taking this special train will get us to Baltimore long before you
are scheduled to pass through. The town will be asleep. We'll be leaving any
(Engine chuffs off)
LINCOLN Thank you, Mr. Pinkerton. Guess I'll get some sleep. Goodnight, Sir.
(Train gathers momentum)
NARRATOR On the eve of his inauguration Abraham Lincoln escaped assassination
by secretly arriving in the national capital. They said it was degrading for a
President to come like a thief in the night and make the American people the
laughing stock of the entire world. But the incident was soon lost in the
swirl of ominous events that engulfed the new family in the White House.
(Laughter of children off)
MARY Abe, it's just as I keep telling you. You've got to take a stand.
LINCOLN What stand do you mean, Mary?
MARY You must show the country you're determined to keep the states united.
You'll have to do something about it. You'll have to - right away.
LINCOLN I know it, Mary. I know I will. Please, but don't let's talk about it
now. Here come the children. Well, Willie - what do you and Tad think of your
TAD We were just telling Robert we'd never seen such a big house. It's twice
as big as Uncle Ninian's in Springfield. Look, Willie - look at the paintings.
WILLIE John Adams - Thomas Jefferson -
TAD And Andrew Jackson - and Zachary Taylor - and, Maw, look - look here!
MARY Yes, I see it, Tad.
TAD George Washington. That's the picture Dolly Madison ran off with so the
British couldn't burn it. Hey, Paw -
LINCOLN Yes, Tad - what is it, son?
TAD D'you suppose they'll ever hang a picture of you here?
LINCOLN Well, I'll tell you, son. After reading the papers lately - I doubt
WILLIE Aw, don't believe 'em, Paw. Paw - now that you're President - can I
have a pony?
LINCOLN Tell you what, Willie - we'll have to ask Congress about that.
ROBERT Yes, Mother?
MARY Take the children out on the lawn. They can play there.
ROBERT Very well, Mother. Come on, you two.
WILLIE (Fading) Will you ask Congress about the pony, Paw?
TAD (Fading) Can't we go down to Congress right now?
LINCOLN We'll see about it later. Don't play too hard, now, so you'll be all
tuckered out. (Door closes) Well, Mary, I think that Willie is looking better.
Maybe we should buy him that pony.
MARY Abe! Abe - I tell you again - the situation is serious! What are you
going to do about Fort Sumter?
LINCOLN I don't know, Mary. It's hard to know what to do about it. I've got to
try to figure it out.
LINCOLN Gentlemen - I've called this meeting of the Cabinet to discuss the
serious situation in Charleston. As I have already indicated to you, it is
proposed that this government send relief to Fort Sumter. Do you think we
should do it, Mr. Seward?
SEWARD No! I do not. Such an action would provoke instant secession of the
South - and lead us directly into a civil war.
LINCOLN What about you, Mr. Chase?
CHASE If it means war, I agree with Mr. Seward.
LINCOLN You, Mr. Cameron?
CAMERON Let the people of South Carolina have Fort Sumter, and let us have
LINCOLN Mr. Blair, what is your opinion?
BLAIR If we fail to come to the defense of Fort Sumter, we may as well shut up
shop as a self-respecting government. We must send relief, even if it _does_
LINCOLN Mr. Welles?
WELLES I disagree heartily with Mr. Blair.
LINCOLN Mr. Smith?
SMITH I vote "no" on sending relief.
LINCOLN Mr. Bates?
BATES My vote is the same. Evacuate Fort Sumter! If the South wants to secede
and form a new nation, let them do it! There's room on this continent for as
many nations as there are in Europe.
SEWARD Our course is clear, Mr. President. The sentiment of this Cabinet is
virtually six to one in favor of evacuation of Fort Sumter.
LINCOLN Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you for giving me the benefit of your
opinions. But the final responsibility rests on me.
BATES Yes, Mr. President. And your first duty is to preserve peace.
LINCOLN My first duty is to preserve this Union. And my policy must be
governed by the dictates of my own conscience as to what is right. I shall
give orders at once to the Army and Navy to send relief to Fort Sumter.
SEWARD Mr. President! It won't be easy for you to justify this dangerous
action to the Congress and the people.
LINCOLN I know that, Mr. Seward. I know it won't be easy.
LINCOLN Fellow citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: Fort
Sumter has been attacked and bombarded and has fallen. This action has forced
upon the country the distinct issue, "immediate dissolution - or blood." This
issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the
whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic or
democracy - a government of the people - by the same people - can or cannot
maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It forces us
to ask: "Is there, in all republics, this inherent and fatal weakness?" Must a
government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people,
or too weak to maintain its own existence? Gentlemen, we cannot escape
history. We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in
spite of ourselves. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last, best hope of
(Voices ad lib)
["We're coming, Abe." "We're with you, Abe." "Count on me, Abe." -- et
(Into: "Oh We're Coming Father Abraham a Hundred Thousand Strong")
[We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more,
From Mississippi's winding stream and from New England's shore;
We leave our plows and workshops, our wives and children dear,
With hearts too full for utterance, with but a silent tear;
We dare not look behind us, ... et cetera.]
NARRATOR Abraham Lincoln was confronted with a divided nation rent asunder in
tragic, civil war. And as the months of fear and anxiety passed many
mistrusted Abraham Lincoln - scorned him - hated him - refused to fight under
his leadership. And as the clouds of war darkened a nation, a personal sorrow
was deepening in the heart of the gaunt figure in the White House.
WILLIE Paw -
LINCOLN Yes, Willie?
WILLIE I want to see my pony. When can I see him, Paw?
LINCOLN You'll see him soon, Willie.
WILLIE Soon, Paw?
LINCOLN Yes, son - but first you've got to get well. That's the main thing.
Just rest quietly, son -
WILLIE Stay with me awhile, will you, Paw?
LINCOLN Yes, I will. Close your eyes and go to sleep. . . . How is he, Doctor?
I want the _truth!_ How is he?
DOCTOR Come over here, Mr. President. (Ad libs) We're doing all we can -
LINCOLN (Low) You've got to save his life. Doctor, you've got to -
DOCTOR (Low) We're trying. That's all we can do now - try -, Mr. President.
LINCOLN (After a moment) I understand. Thank you, Doctor.
(Music up and down)
LINCOLN You mustn't give way, Mary. I know - I know how hard it is. Sometimes
- I feel I can never be glad again. But - we've got to keep our sorrow to
ourselves. There are many thousands of mothers and fathers, North and South,
who have had their own sons die on the field of battle. It's up to us to set
them an example in courage.
MARY (Bitterly) That's one thing to be thankful for. At least our little boy
died - an innocent child.
LINCOLN Mary -
MARY I'd rather have him go that way than have him killed in this horrible
war. It's so cruel. It's so senseless. Brother fighting against brother. My
own brothers are fighting on the Southern side, against us.
LINCOLN (In a low tone) Mary! I wish you would not speak of that.
MARY Why not, Abe? My brothers are fighting for the South because that's the
cause they believe in. Why shouldn't I speak of it? I'm proud of them - _Abe!_
Do _you_ believe what the gossips are saying - that I'm a traitor, because my
family came from Kentucky - that I'm really against you and the Northern
LINCOLN Mary - you don't have to ask me that.
CHAIRMAN OF SENATE COMMITTEE Gentlemen - this committee of the Senate has been
assembled in strictest secrecy to investigate a certain very grave matter. The
belief is spreading throughout the country that all our misfortunes can be
traced to one person - a spy in the White House! That person is Mrs. Lincoln.
FIRST MEMBER Gentlemen, I beg you not to be too hasty. This matter is of the
gravest importance to the nation.
SECOND MEMBER It certainly is. With what we all know I'm in favor of exposing
the whole presidential scandal. And I'd go as far as impeachment.
THIRD MEMBER Now wait a minute. We can't have any _public_ scandal. Not at
this time, anyway.
ARMY OFFICER (Off) Attention, gentlemen!
CHAIRMAN What is it?
OFFICER (Off) The President!
CHAIRMAN The President! How did he know we were meeting?
OFFICER (Off) Will you go in, Mr. President?
LINCOLN (Off) Thank you.
(Sound: Lincoln's footsteps)
LINCOLN (Very gravely - slowly) I wish to make a statement to you gentlemen.
It is as follows: "I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, appear
of my own volition before this Committee of the Senate to say that I, of my
own knowledge, know that it is untrue that any of my family hold treasonable
communication with the enemy."
(Lincoln's footsteps, retreating)
NARRATOR The Senate Committee was deeply moved - and the investigation was
dropped. But Lincoln's sadness was not relieved. On a chill, grey November day
in 1863, the President was sitting on a platform on Cemetery Hill, in
Gettysburg, listening to an oration by Edward Everett. It _was_ an oration. It
lasted two hours. But the crowd there loved it.
(Sound: Cheers, Music - "We'll Rally Round the Flag")
FIRST LISTENER Wonderful speech, wasn't it?
SECOND LISTENER That's the kind of speech I like. Big words and old Everett
sure knows how to say 'em.
LINCOLN (His voice from far off) Fourscore and seven years ago, etc.
(He goes through the Gettysburg Address during the following scene)
FIRST LISTENER Like to eat an apple?
SECOND LISTENER Thanks.
FIRST LISTENER Crop this year ain't so good.
(Noise of apple eating)
FIRST LISTENER Say - old Abe's talking now.
SECOND LISTENER Can't understand him. Can you?
FIRST LISTENER Don't make much difference if we do. Abe can't hold a candle to
Edward Everett as an orator. But come on. Let's try to get closer.
SECOND LISTENER Well, I tell you - old Abe ain't so bad, you know. But he
certainly picked the wrong time to be president.
FIRST LISTENER Say! Did you hear what he said just then?
SECOND LISTENER No - what was it?
FIRST LISTENER He said, - nobody'd remember what he's saying here.
SECOND LISTENER Well - he hit the nail on the head that time.
(They both laugh)
LINCOLN (Off) That the nation, shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom,
and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not
perish from the earth.
(There is silence, then perfunctory applause)
FIRST LISTENER Well, I guess he's finished.
SECOND LISTENER Yes, he's finished. Come on, let's go home.
NARRATOR There were many who did not understand and appreciate the meaning of
Lincoln's words at Gettysburg that day. But their portent and message have
outlived the tragedy and chaos of those four sorrowful years. But at last the
superior strength and wealth of the Northern States asserted themselves and
the tragic war came to an end. And on March 4th, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was
inaugurated for the second time.
LINCOLN (Coming in) With malice toward none; with charity for all; with
firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to
finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who
shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all
which may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all
NARRATOR April 14th, 1865, was Good Friday. It was a lovely Spring day in
Washington, and the President and Mrs. Lincoln went for a stroll.
VOICES (Off) Good-day, Mr. President - Good-day, sir! Good-day!
LINCOLN Good-day, there, boys. What's your regiment, son?
FIRST SOLDIER The 157th New York Volunteers, Mr. President.
LINCOLN Oh yes. Colonel Brown's Regiment. And you, sonny - what's yours?
SECOND SOLDIER The 5th Michigan Cavalry, Mr. President.
LINCOLN That's fine. Well, it's all over now, boys. You'll be going home soon
and there'll be a heap of work for all of us to do. (Ad libs: "That's right,
Mr. President") Good-bye, boys - good-bye.
SOLDIERS (Fading) Good-bye, - Good-day, Mr. President.
LINCOLN You know, Mary, it's been a hard time for the people.
MARY It's been a hard time for us, Abe.
LINCOLN And I tell you when my term of office is over, we'll go back to
Illinois and pass the rest of our lives in quiet. I'll take up law practice
again, just as if nothing had happened. It will be good to be among our own
MARY Oh, Abe, do you think people will ever feel really happy again?
LINCOLN Yes, Mary. People get over these things if they try - even when they
haven't much heart for it.
MARY Well, we can try - but I don't really feel like going to the theatre
LINCOLN We mustn't feel like that, Mary. It'll do us good. It's been a long
time since we've been able to sit back and enjoy a real good laugh.
NARRATOR The same night. The Presidential box in Ford's Opera House.
MRS. MOUNTCHESSINGTON (Off - echo) Mr. Trenchard, you will please recollect
you are addressing my daughter, and in my presence. Augusta, dear - to your
AUGUSTA (Off - echo) Yes, ma. The nasty beast.
MARY (On) Gracious Abe - what's everybody going to think - my hanging on to
LINCOLN (On) They won't think anything about it. Listen, Mary.
MRS. MOUNTCHESSINGTON (Off - echo) I am aware, Mr. Trenchard, you are not used
to the manners of good society - and that, alone, will excuse the impertinence
of which you have been guilty.
ASA TRENCHARD (Aside - off - echo) Don't know the manners of good society, eh?
Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal - you
sockdologizing old man-trap.
(Lincoln and theatre crowd laughing again)
BOOTH (Off - echo) Sic semper tyrannis!
(Then dirge music beginning far off - together with accentuated slow chuffing
of train at funeral pace - the effect builds under following)
NARRATOR There was a funeral.
It took long to pass its many given points.
Many millions of people saw it....
The line of march ran seventeen hundred miles.
Yes, there was a funeral.
From his White House in Washington - where it began - they carried his coffin,
and followed it nights and days for twelve days....
Bells tolling, bells sobbing the requiem, the salute guns, cannon rumbling
their inarticulate thunder.
To Springfield, Illinois, the old home town, the Sangamon nearby, the New
Salem hilltop nearby, for the final rest of the cherished dust.
And the night came with great quiet.
And there was rest.
The prairie years, the war years, were over.
(Music and chorus up and finish)
ANNOUNCER Thus in the closing words of Carl Sandburg's immortal testament to
the great Emancipator, the Cavalcade of America's dramatization of Abraham
Lincoln comes to a close.
ANNOUNCER To Raymond Massey, to Robert E. Sherwwood, and to Carl Sandburg, our
thanks. Du Pont, knowing that all Americans have a deep and sincere affection
for all things that touch upon Lincoln, is preparing a souvenir copy of
tonight's script as it came to you over the air. A copy may be obtained by
writing to du Pont, Wilmington, Delaware. And with it will go du Pont's
earnest wish that it may serve to remind those who receive it of the hope and
courage inspired by this simple man who takes his secure place in the small
company of the immortals.
ANNOUNCER Here is what Dr. Monaghan of Yale University, our historical
advisor, has to say about next week's program.
MONAGHAN In my opinion, next week's Cavalcade is truly an exciting scoop in
American history. The author, Bessie James, spent more than twelve years
researching thousands of documents and manuscripts. From her story material
Cavalcade makes live again one of the most unusual women in American history.
The role of that extraordinary woman will be played by Miss Ethel Barrymore.
Here is the question which her characterization will answer: "What important
woman pioneer in the field of 19th-century American journalism was formally
convicted of being a common scold and had her fine paid by the Secretary of
NARRATOR To Harcourt, Brace, the publishers of _Abraham Lincoln: The War
Years_, the sponsors of Cavalcade of America extend their grateful thanks for
the cooperation which made this broadcast possible. The orchestra and musical
effects were under the direction of Don Voorhees. This is Basil Ruysdael
saying: Good night and best wishes from du Pont, makers of "Better Things for
Better Living through Chemistry."
Originally broadcast: 13 February 1940