A House Divided introduces the principal characters of the next two hours. Nathaniel Taylor and his brother Sam are pitted against each other as Sam leaves to fight on the side of the Confederates. Bill McEwan and his wife Sarah are separated as he goes to join the Union cause. And in the South, Captain Billy Pierce is determined to defend Virginia, his "country", at all costs.
Frederick Douglass enters and states that the main purpose of the war is not to keep the country together or to maintain freedom...it is to abolish slavery. He is joined by others in calling for true freedom...freedom for everyone. (Freedom's Child)
The two armies prepare to meet each other. The Union troops are led by Captain Emmett Lochran, while the Confederate troops rally behind Billy Pierce. Each leader proclaims, "Now with God on our side, let the truth be our guide as we fight for our country." Each side is sure of a quick victory. (By the Sword/Sons of Dixie)
In one of the first battles, Sam Taylor is fatally shot. Nathaniel arrives just in time to see a soldier standing over Sam, about to finish him off with a bayonet. Nathaniel runs over and stops him, but it is too late. Sam dies, and as his brother weeps over his body, Sam's spirit asks him to share his final thoughts with his father. (Tell My Father)
Slaves are being sold at an auction, and they wonder how much longer this can continue. (The Peculiar Instituion) A married couple, Clayton and Bessie Toler, are separated, but vow to find each other again someday. (If Prayin' Were Horses)
A man by the name of Autolycus Fell enters, with two young prostitutes, Mabel and Violet. He lures the Union soldiers over and makes a fair bit of money, or what he calls "Greenback". He also sells information to the Confederate side. Meanwhile, Bill McEwan receives a letter from his wife where she tells him of all the news at home, and how much she misses him. (Missing You (My Bill))
As the war continues, the two captains mull over the decisions they have to make, and wonder if they will ever be forgiven for all the lives they have lost. (Judgment Day) Clayton Toler expresses the thoughts of all the slaves, wondering how much longer both the war and the condition of slavery can last. (Father, How Long?) Bessie, his wife, is consoled by others around her, who reassure her that there *will* be an end. (Someday).
Henry Stewart prepares to leave his home, and wonders how he could have taken for granted all the things that now seem so dear. (I'll Never Pass This Way Again) The troops on the front are growing weary of the war, which seems to be going nowhere, and wonder how much longer they will have to go on. (How Many Devils?)
Billy Pierce reflects on why he is fighting the war, and what it's all for. (Virginia) Frederick Douglass goes to Washington to speak with President Lincoln, to try to convince him to allow black troops to join the Union army. Harriet Jackson speaks of her trust in the President. (Candle in the Window)
Autolycus Fell finds another way to make money, by selling liquor to the troops. The Union soldiers he finds are anxious for any kind of escape from the hardships they're suffering. (Oh, Be Joyful!)
The voice of Abraham Lincoln reads a letter to Mrs. Bixby, the mother of five sons who were all killed in battle. She shares her grief and pride (Five Boys), and then joins the other nurse in tending to the wounded. Clayton Toler enters and asks for directions, but the soldiers drive him away, telling him that "you people" are respondible for the war. (The Hospital) He is discouraged, but will not give up. (If Prayin' Were Horses - Reprise)
Bessie has tried to buy herself and go north to meet Clayton, but her master refused to let her go. Benjamin Reynolds comes to the plantation and tells the slaves there that he will take them north secretly, by the river. (River Jordan) Bessie and Clayton are reunited.
Bill McEwan is preparing to move off with his troops and he writes another letter home, reminiscing about the time he and his wife spent together, and how much he loves her. (Sarah) The scene shifts to Sarah, who has just received word that Bill was killed in battle. She is devestated, but determines to move on, to raise their son and to make Bill proud. (The Honour of Your Name)
Autolycus Fell comes across the battlefield where Bill lies, and begins taking money out of the pockets of the fallen soldiers. (Greenback - Reprise) Billy Pierce finds him occupied in this way, and shoots him. A Union soldier comes out to take away Bill's body, and the others who have been killed. A Confederate watchman on the other side starts up a conversation, and the two men discover that they are not so different as they thought. (Northbound Train)
The Confederate Army prepares to move north, to force the war. Captain Pierce tries to ready his men for the battle ahead. (Last Waltz for Dixie) A montage of battles passes. Black troops are finally allowed to join the Union side, which begins to gain the advantage. Finally the war is over, and the entire cast expresses the desire for a better nation to rise out of this tragedy. (The Glory)
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