ATTACHMENT Script for “Civil War: Through the Eyes of Hoosier Women”
Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln*
Cast: Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln enters, wearing a simple white cap; she sits and spreads a black shawl over her lap. A picture of Abe Lincoln hangs on the wall. Dennis Hanks, a man wearing a wide brimmed hat, enters after knocking. (Note: Props and costumes in first persons are often kept very simple to maintain the focus on the BIG IDEAS presented rather than what one is wearing and handling. Also, a few colloquialisms have been inserted to maintain a semblance of pioneer speech but not so many to be distracting from the ideas being presented.)
Sarah: Come in, friend. The latchstring is out.
Dennis: (Enters, immediately kneels before Aunt Sarah and takes her hands in his.) Aunt Sairy, Abe’s dead.
Sarah: (Slowly she pulls the shawl over her hunched shoulders.) Yes, I know, Denny, I knowed they’d kill him. I bin awaitin’ fer it.
Dennis: Aunt Sairy, I just heard the news by telegraph an hour ago and came a-hurrin’ out here. How did you know?
Sarah: Denny, you must understand that Abe’s mind and mine, what little I had, always seemed to run together, move in the same channel. Even though I was only his stepmother, we always thought alike and knew what each other was thinking. Here, sit a spell and let me remember happier times, along with this saddest day of my life.
(Dennis takes a front row sheet with audience.)
Sarah: I was born Sarah Bush in backwoods Kentucky. In 1806, when just eighteen, I married Daniel Johnston. In them days girls had no opportunities for schooling. I never learnt to read or write my name. This is why I believe education is so important.
Sarah: My husband was called “a ne’er do well” by neighbors, and I guess he was. He died in 1816 and left me a widow with three children and debts. In that same year—1816—a neighbor family –Tom Lincoln, Nancy Hanks Lincoln and their two small children, Sarah and little Abe—moved away for a home in the brand new state of Indiana. Almost to the day, three years later, Thomas returned and asked me to marry him. Nancy and many others had died one year earlier of milk sickness caused by cows eating milkweed, and Thomas, Sarah and little Abe were terrible lonely in their frontier home without a mother.
Sarah: At first I refused, saying that I had debts. But Thomas was a good man. He paid my debts, and we were off in a covered wagon with a few belongings and my three children. To this day, I remember arriving with my new husband and my family to find a small cabin with dirt floor and leaky roof. The most shocking sight was the children who had to be scrubbed ‘fore they looked human. I quickly set about making the cabin tolerable comfortable for Thomas, our five children and you, Dennis.
Sarah: The girls and I cooked, cleaned, sewed, wove cloth and made all our clothing. I persuaded Thomas to clear more land for planting vegetables and corn, to put in wooden planks over the dirt floor and to fix the leaky roof so snow wouldn’t drift in on you boys sleeping in the loft. Some of our neighbors in Kentucky had slaves to do such tasks, but Indiana was called a free state where it was against the law to own slaves. Besides, Thomas was very much agin’ slavery, and we were too poor to own slaves; nor did we need them so much on a woodsy farm and five children to help with the chores.
Sarah: Abe once told me that one of his first memories, when he still lived in Kentucky, was seeing slaves being beaten by their masters and finding others hiding in the woods near the Lincoln cabin. Later he took a job on a raft going to New Orleans and saw fathers, mothers and children being auctioned separately. This hurt him deeply, and he never forgot.
Sarah: But the thing I remember most about Abe was how much he wanted to be educated. I couldn’t teach him, but I did bring three books--Webster’s Speller, Robinson Crusoe and Arabian Night--with me from Kentucky. I think I helped most by persuading Tom that it was more important for Abe to go to school than to split rails and plow corn.
Sarah: Abe became quite a student and speaker. He would stand on a tree stump and pretend to be a politician or a minister. As you know, he used these skills to become a very persuasive speaker in running for political office in Illinois, and all the way to becoming the 16th President of the United States in 1861, just before the start of the Civil War. You know, as much as I loved and respected Abe, I did not vote for him. No woman voted for him. To this day, women—white and black--still cannot vote. Now I will never be able to vote for Abe Lincoln.
Sarah: Long before the Lincolns moved into the White House in Washington, I was living in Illinois. Tom had passed on, so I was again a widow. During the war, I joined other women throughout the northern states by sewing uniforms, knitting gloves and weaving blankets, growing food and wrapping bandages to be sent to the South where many of our men and boys were fighting. President Lincoln issued call after call for soldiers and supplies, and I heared that Indiana sent more soldiers to fight than any other state.
Sarah: Some women actually went to the warfront to nurse where they were badly needed to treat wounds and disease. More soldiers died of disease—measles, smallpox, flu and such—than gunfire. Some women disguised themselves as men to fight, but most stayed on the homefront to nurse in hospitals where wounded soldiers were returned by train, to do their regular duties and sometimes to work in fields or factories to take men’s places. This was a time when some more educated women filled political jobs even though they could not hold public office by law. I often wonder when women will be given rights that make them equal to men. Many women are saying that they have proved themselves well able to take on men’s roles.
Sarah: After Abe moved to Washington, he still traveled out here to visit me. A few days before he went East to be inaugurated as President of the United States, he made the trip. He brought me a black wool dress and this woolen shawl. Abe took me in his arms and called me “Mother.” I cried and told him, “I will never see you again.” I knowed they’d kill him. I bin awaitin’ fir it ever since.
Printed Sources for Script Backgrounds: The following have been chosen as examples of a variety of sources and levels that can be useful in preparing first-person presentations.
Boomhower, Ray E. But I Do Clamor: May Wright Sewall, A Life 1844-1920. Zionsville, Indiana: Guild Press of Indiana, Inc., 2001, is the story of a remarkable leader for women’s rights in her state and around the world. (Teacher/Advanced Student)
Erbsen, Wayne. Rousing Songs and Tru Tales of the Civil War. Asheville, North Carolina: Native Ground Music, Inc., 1999, is a “must have” collection of Civil War songs, stories and slang to enrich first-person presentations. (Student)
Ferris, Jeri. Walking the Road to Freedom: A story about Sojurner Truth. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1988, tells the story of a slave who met insurmountable challenges to help her people. (Student)
Erdosh, George. Food and Recipes of the Civil War: Cooking throughout American History.
New York: The Rosen Publishing Group’s PowerKids Press, 1997, gives background, recipes, glossary and colorful illustrations for cooking in both North and South . (Student)
Howell, Donna Wyant (ed.). I was a Slave: Book 3: The Lives of Slave Women. Washington, DC: American Legacy Books, 1999, gives tru left stories dictated by former American slaves in the 1930s. (Student)
Kunhardt, Dorothy Meserve, and Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr. Twenty Days. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Incorporated, 1965 describes with timelines and narratives the last twenty days of Lincoln’s life, including a brief look at Sarah Bush Lincoln at the time of his death. (Teacher/Student)
Neely, Mark E., Jr. The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia. New York: McGraw Hill, 1984 provides brief biographies of people in Abe’s life. (Teacher/Student)
Rappaport, Doreen. Freedom River. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2000, in color and simple script, gives the story of John Parker, an ex-slave who bought his own freedom and helped other slaves escape across the Ohio River. (Student)
Rodgers, Thomas E. “Hoosier Women and the Civil War Home Front.” Indiana Magazine of History 42 (June 2001):105-128 reviews the roles of women at home with focus on party alliance. (Teacher)
Sieber, Ellen, and Cheryl Ann Munson. Looking at History: Indiana’s Hoosier National Forest Region, 1600 to 1950.Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service and Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1992 explores lives and material culture of south central Indiana history, including descriptions of African American communities. (Teacher/Advanced Student)
Thomas, Velma Maia. Freedom’s Children: The Journey from Emancipation into the Twentieth Century, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 2000, is a three-dimensional interactive book featuring historical photographs and removable documents.
Wisehart, Randall. Luke’s Summer Secret. Richmond, Indiana: Friends United Press, 1991, a story of a boy caught in the Underground Railroad events in Fountain City and Cincinnati, is an example of how a first-person presentation might be framed. (Student)
*Additional first-person scripts are available by contacting Claudia Crump, 309 Whippoorwill Hts., New Albany, IN 47150. Titles are “Aunt Katie Coffin at Home,” “Sarah Tittle Bolton, Indiana’s Pioneer Poet Laureate,” “Daisy Douglass Barr of Klan Fame,” “Rhoda Coffin on the Road,” “May Wright Sewall and 50 Clubs,” and many others.