The scene opens on a woman sitting on the porch of a southern mansion that has been devastated by the Civil War. On the road in front of her home a stream of war veterans from both sides is limping along. A Confederate Sergeant asks the woman if he can have some water from her well and she graciously agrees. While he drinks the water, they talk about the war and its aftermath. He was wounded and has a serious leg injury. She has lost her husband in the war and was herself recently deathly ill with a fever. To cheer both of them he asks if he can play his guitar and she gladly agrees.
As we see more of the soldiers who are passing on the road it seems obvious that they are unbeknownst to themselves actually the dead. One Union officer who had helped the Sergeant when he was wounded is revealed to be an animated corpse that shows no meaningful effect when the woman shoots him with a gun. She does this at a point when being reminded of the pain of losing her husband she vows to take revenge on the Union soldiers. After this event the Sergeant knows he must reach the end of the road. But just as he is leaving the woman’s husband is heard approaching the house singing a song. The husband tells his wife that they are both dead and there is nothing left holding them to this world. He says he is headed to the end of the road and if she does not come with him now, he’ll wait for her at the end until she makes up her mind to come. The Sergeant heads off down the road and the woman’s husband soon after that. She unsuccessfully pleads with her husband to stay and then collapses on the road in front of the house in sorrow.
Just then Abraham Lincoln shows up walking down the road and tries to persuade her to proceed. He tells her he is the last man on the road because he is the final casualty of the Civil War. At first, she refuses but then changing her mind she runs down the road to catch up to her husband.
The story has a sort of melancholy grace to it and the characterization of the woman and the Sergeant are very affecting and natural. Serling uses Lincoln as a touchstone to represent the tragic consequences of war for both sides. Although I don’t think it describes the complexity of the psychic wounds that still stalk the land, I recognize that he wants to allow grace for both sides in the conflict and that is admirable. B.