Today is the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the War Between the States. I had family who “fit” on both sides of the conflict — it has personal meaning in our family. I thought I’d mark the occasion by presenting a little sneak preview of my Civil War comedy A House Divided, written at the MacDowell Colony some years ago. I considered producing it in my recent slot at LaMaMa since it was so close to the anniversary, but opted for a different show instead. And now, without any further ado, A House Divided…
REMUS: (A Southern Quaker) Ah, Sergeant Anderson. How be every little thing in the…12th Brigade, was it?
SGT. ANDERSON: (A Reb) That’s right, Sir. The Mighty12th. I’m in R Company, 4th Battallion. Virginia Volunteers. Unit B. Section 8, Row 10, Orchestra, and I saved ya a seat! Hah! (winks, laughs, puffs on his cigar) Maybe you’ve heared of some of our doin’s out Manassas way?
REMUS: As sure as sure itself. Why, I know thy group, Brother! The ones who–
SGT. ANDERSON: The very ones!
The two men laugh.
REMUS: What brought thee in to town, Sergeant? I heard a large plug of Yankee popguns a while back. How be it thee ain’t way out yonder shootifyin’?
SGT ANDERSON: Well, Mr. LeGuerre, it’s like this: now, an army’s one big thing. You might say it’s like a animule. It’s got your head, your tail, a tongue for talkin’, a brain for thinkin’, and a arm for shootin’. But what it don’t got is a recruitin’ officer, and that’s me. (puffs his cigar proudly)
REMUS: I’m sorry, methought thee said ’twas LIKE an animal.
SGT. ANDERSON: See, that’s where you’re wrong. In a big ole army like this un’ here you got to keep a-growin’. An animule, he stops a-growin’ when he gets, when he gets…uh…growed. Otherwise…otherwise…he just kinda sets there and…dies. (pensive pause, scratches his head) So anyway Brother LeGuerre, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I can call you “brother”, can’t I? That’s what folks in these parts all seems to call you.
REMUS: “Brother” me if thee druther, brother. My adopted sons and I be members of an estranged arm of the Society of Friends. Thee know’m as the Quaker-folk.
SGT. ANDERSON: Quaker, eh? (stroking his chin–aside) Say, that’s too bad!
REMUS: Not strictly, Brother, not strictly. My sect of that group seceded off the main branch when the injunctions ‘gainst keepin’ slaves come in about a hundred year back.
SGT. ANDERSON: Seceded, eh? Slaves, eh? Brother LeGuerre, you sound like my kinda meat and potatoes. How’d you like to send them boys of yourn ’round to my office and volun us up a teer or two, eh?
REMUS: Thee has learned a heap about my house in a short time, it would seem. Thee knows all of its inhabitants.
SGT. ANDERSON: A recruiter in these small towns has to do his rootin’ around, brother. Fact is, we need men, and men of a eligible age or this Southern-fried goose is cooked from the get-go.
Sgt. Anderson spits out a plug of chaw and takes a puff on his cigar.
REMUS: Thee has my good wishes. But ’tis all that I can give.
SGT. ANDERSON: We can’t bloody well lie down and let the soulless varmints roll over our bodies like pie crust, can we?
REMUS: Brother, that is precisely what Christ Jesus begs us to do on earth.
SGT. ANDERSON: The time may come when the question will cease to be a “fr’instance”. Why, a man’s got to protect his home! Wake up, man! The Battle of Manassas Junction was close enough to rattle the tea cups in that Orphanage of yourn and knock the Bibles on the floor!
REMUS: That’s so, Brother. And we picked ’em up, we dusted ’em off, and we read ’em. And what we read said “Beat thy swords into plough-shares.”
SGT. ANDERSON Hey, you know, that’s a good idee! Why, I bet you could kill ten times as many Yankees if you just ran over ’em with a plough-share! Hah! Hah-hah! (spits out tobacco)