Original Air Date: October 6, 1961
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Elliot Silverstein
“This road is the afterwards of the Civil War. It began at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, and ended at a place called Appomattox. It’s littered with the residue of broken battles and shattered dreams. [Enter the Sergeant who stumbles upon the home of Lavinia and sees her sitting on the porch in a rocking chair.] In just a moment, you will enter a strange province that knows neither North nor South, a place we call…the Twilight Zone.”Rod Serling
The year is April 1865. The Civil War has ended, the Confederacy has surrendered, and we see an endless line of veterans trudging home along a dark and misty path. One Confederate Sergeant (James Gregory) hobbles with a wounded leg while carrying a guitar. He stops at the home of a woman named Lavinia Godwin (played by Joanne Linville who just died this summer in June 2021) and asks her for a glass of water. She explains that she is waiting for her husband, a Confederate Captain, to return home from battle, though she fears he is dead. The Sergeant listens and plays guitar beneath the shade of a tree.
Soon, Lavinia spots a man she knows walking down the road with the rest of the veterans, but he is unresponsive and simply continues onward. Moments later a shadowy Union Lieutenant approaches the home on horseback. Lavinia runs into her house and returns brandishing a shotgun, but the Sergeant begs her not to fire because this man saved his life (though the Sergeant thought the Union man was killed). Ignoring his advice she fires the shotgun at point blank range but he is unfazed. When the Sergeant holds up a lantern, the Union Lieutenant’s face is revealed for the first time -and it has been shockingly mangled. The Union Lieutenant continues riding into the mist on his horse.
Then much to their surprise Lavinia’s husband, Jud, is spotted walking down the road. Lavinia runs to him in tears, thankful he is alive. However, he acknowledges that he did in fact die in the war. In fact, they are all dead and are bound to continue walking along the road into the afterlife. The Sergeant then joins Jud while Lavinia refuses to accept her fate. She stands at her gate shouting after Jud in fear. Time passes and the last man comes walking up the road: President Abraham Lincoln (played by lesser known television actor Austin Green). He is the last casualty of the Civil War. He quotes a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:
“Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”
(Julius Caesar, Act 5, Scene 2, 4–8)
When Lavinia sees Lincoln, she runs ahead to join her husband, disappearing into the mist on their journey through death together. While not the greatest episode of The Twilight Zone, cinematographer George T. Clemens delivers another cinematic triumph.
“Incident on a dirt road during the month of April, the year 1865. As we’ve already pointed out, it’s a road that won’t be found on a map. But it’s one of many that lead in and out…of the Twilight Zone.”Rod Serling
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This was the second Twilight Zone episode to feature the Civil War.
- “The Passersby” is a loosely recycled script Serling wrote for NBC’s Matinee Theatre in 1958 entitled “The Cause.”
- The traditional folk song “Black Is the Color (Of My True Love’s Hair)” is featured prominently throughout this episode.
- Jamie Farr makes a cameo in this episode. He later became the Corporal Maxwell Klinger of MAS*H (1972) is seen at the beginning. He is one of the soldiers with the bottom of his face covered.