The Witnesses

Reunion is told in first-person by actors drawing from accounts by scores of men and women who lived through the Civil War on the Union side. Here are some of the key “witnesses” whose accounts of the ordeal are used in the script. The final page contains a list of the nearly 70 others who are quoted in the play.

Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott

The beloved author of Little Women spent several months as a nurse to wounded soldiers in Washington and wrote a moving memoir of her experiences, Hospital Sketches.

John Wilkes Booth portrait

John Wilkes Booth

The dashing actor deserted his successful stage career to cast himself as the leading man in the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln.

Noah Brooks, courtesy of the Illinois State Historical Society

Noah Brooks

This somewhat stuffy newspaperman from Illinois was at the center of Lincoln’s White House and left an invaluable first-person account of the war’s effect on the president during its final months.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

The hero of Gettysburg survived his own obituary and was chosen personally by Grant to receive the formal surrender of Confederate troops at Appomattox.

Frederick Douglass

After making his escape from slavery in Maryland, Douglass first rose to prominence as a speaker for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, the start of a public career that would span decades and continents.

U.S. Grant portrait

Ulysses S. Grant

In the short span of four years, this plain-spoken westerner rose from disgraced soldier and failed businessman to become the most famous and admired man in America.

Photo of Harry Hawk in Our American Cousin

Harry Hawk

Relatively little is known about this journeyman actor who found himself accidentally at the center of events the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

John Hay portrait

John Hay

The irreverent young assistant secretary to the president had a unique perspective on the capital, Lincoln and the cast of characters who surrounded him, with a special gift for skewering anyone he saw as an opponent to the man he affectionately called “The Tycoon.”

Elizabeth Keckley portrait

Elizabeth Keckley

An enterprising former slave who rose to prominence through her skills as a dressmaker and designer, Elizabeth Keckley was practically the only friend Mary Todd Lincoln had during her troubled years as first lady.

Abraham Lincoln

After hearing the news of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, signaling an imminent end to the war, Lincoln had only 5 days to live before his assassination by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre.

Gen. George McClellan

One of the most controversial generals of the war, the flamboyantly theatrical leader called “Little Mac” by his soldiers was more popular in the North than Lincoln.

William Tecumseh Sherman

Still controversial after almost a century and a half, Sherman is often credited (or blamed) as the father of modern, “total” war–warfare that targets a belligerent’s homeland and population as military targets.

Harriet Tubman

If the leonine Frederick Douglass took a political approach to ending slavery, the woman called “Moses” by many black Americans was more interested in the practicalities of hitting slavery where it lived.

Union Soldiers

They came to save the Union, they came for the bounty, they came to get away from home, they came for the excitement, they came because they were drafted. Some, though far from most, came in the hopes of ending slavery.

Walt Whitman

America’s great poet spent the war in Washington, an obscure government clerk. This job gave him time and freedom not only to work on his constant revisions to “Leaves of Grass,” but also to serve as a devoted volunteer nurse for the hordes of wounded soldiers brought back from the battlefields.

More Witnesses

A listing of nearly 70 other original sources for the story in Reunion.

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