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CBSRMT Episode Information
Title:
A Long Way from Home
('Ambrose Bierce story')
Plot:
Two buddies from Ohio enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War. They agree to stay together and look after each other in battle. But when the fighting gets hot and heavy, one cuts and runs while the other remains, mortally wounded. The consequence of that cowardice is dire.
Episode:
0848
Air Dates:
First Run - June 9, 1978
Repeat - November 30, 1978
Writer:
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Rating:
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18 Responses to Episode 0848


5 stars for this episode! The story of a broken mind and a troubled soul. Well performed by all cast members. Great adaptation by Arnold Moss. One of the best productions by CBS RMT.

Set during the Civil War, this program focuses on a couple of young men that entire the Union Army. One is killed in battle while the other is wounded while running from the fight. He enters the hospital but leaves on his on volition and is very confused.

Two buddies from Ohio enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War. they agree to stay together and look after each other in battle. But when thefighting gets hot and heavy, one cuts and runs while the other lie mortally wounded. The consequence of that cowardice is dire.

This is one of my all-time favorites and one that stuck with me through the years after hearing it when I was a kid.

It reminds me of the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War; in the final episode, it shows newsreel footage of veterans of the battle of Gettysburg meeting in 1933 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event. I am 38 so to me the Civil War seems like ancient history; so it is kind of odd to think that my grandparents were alive at the same time as some civil war veterans.

To our adult minds, the end might be a little predictable. But when I was 12 years old, I was completely blind-sided by the ending. I remember thinking about the story the entire next day and how powerful it was. I'm sure this was not the first episode I ever heard, but it was the most powerful I'd heard up until that time and it was THE episode that made me want to hear more. I hope you all like it.

Interesting thing...Bierce was missing and presumed dead after going to Mexico to fight alongside Pancho Villa (in another Bierce/RMT episode "The D-mned thing", E.G. says he disappeared mysteriously), so Mr. Bierce apparently believed there were some causes worth fighting and going to war for. There are at least two other RMT episodes based on his Civil War works, "Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge", and "One of the missing". I'm guessing that Bierce knew there were indeed some very good reasons for fighting the horrific "Civil War" (here in northwest Arkansas there were some particularly tragic battles, and (which not everyone's aware of) accompanying guerrilla campaigns that left their mark on the people of the Ozarks plateau). On listening to this again, it does convey the sadness of war's aftermath, but I'm not sure it's an antiwar story. Without being able to convey my thoughts in more accurate terms, the moral of this story to me was: "Young man...war, like life, will usually never unfold as you fantasize it will. Know what you're getting into, and be prepared."

I'm not sure it's an antiwar story. I didn't see it as anti-war, or even a cautionary tale. I saw it as a story about the sad consequences of war --- any war and every war.

The device the author used in turning it into some strange, over the top mystery is inferior to having our protagonist spend a conscious lifetime dealing with the same horrors we both recognize to be so destrucitve. I think the far out aspect dilutes the real horrors you described so well... I think you may be missing the point: The mysterious aspect that you see as sensationalism, I see, simply, as our protagonist's point of view---his mind is confused and forever lost. His life is unconscious. That's the whole point. It's not a concsious lifetime dealing with horrors. It's a life of confusion, of knowing you desperately need to be somewhere and never being able to get there. The author has used the best method possible for allowing us to understand this by making us see the world from the injured soldier's point of view---which, to us, is mysterious and confusing---no less so than it is to the soldier himself. Therein lies the horror, the drama, and the poignancy of the story. Yes, the narrative is designed to be eerie and mysterious, but I don't think it's all that over-the-top or far out. It is, in fact, a very creative and compelling way to tell a story. If it had been simply told straightforward as "the facts of war's horrors and how they destroyed a young man's life", I think the story would have been nothing more than a maudlin melodrama, a cliche. A USA Network TV movie. Guess we're just gonna have to agree to disagree on this one.

In the post Viet Nam-era I've gotten so used to stories that seem to be anti-military, etc. I get defensive, and did so when there was no need to here. I can understand how you feel. I feel the same way. I'm not anti-war and it is a touchy subject I'd just as soon avoid. There is so much romanticized about the Civil War, but as with any war, many people left that conflict with broken bodies and minds.

I found this tale to be a powerful and poignant sub-drama of the Civil War. The play explored the trauma suffered by a young soldier unable to cope with the stress of war. This may sound like a stretch but it reminded me of a section in a book by Dr. Oliver Sacks entitled, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat". In this book, Dr. Sacks relays the story of one of his patients who has lost his short term memory (alcohol related). He lived completely in the past and though he was introduced to new topics or new people, he was completely unable to remember them for more than a few minutes. As I said, this may be a bit of a stretch and I can't remember the fine details of the case study any more (ironic, huh?), but I recall how Dr. Sacks explained the look in the poor man's eyes as he peered into the mirror only to see the frightening sight of an old man staring back at him. I pictured the soldier in our radio drama experiencing a similarly frightening revelation as he was introduced to the reality the rest of the world sees.

I agree with your comments on romanticizing the Civil War (or any war, for that matter). The columnist George F. Will was the first person a couple of years back that I heard quote from "Cold Mountain" (?) the line (paraphrased) "In war, I learned how frail the human body is against things sharp and hard". That takes any romantic notions right out of the picture for me. How many other Bierce stories were RMT adapted besides "The d-mned thing", "One of the missing" and "Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge"? I do believe there were others...I believe he wrote a very interesting Civil War tale adapted into the RMT called "Loser take all". What was interesting also was that his stories were adapted around real battles: "Loser take all" - The battle of Shiloh "One of the missing" - The battle of Kennesaw Mountain

I thought the story had excellent potential but ended up so so. It does a good job in demonstrating sad horrors of war, but unfortunately in an entirely predictable manner. This predictabilty occurs when the story veers off and attemts to be mysterious! I'm torn about this one. The themes are important and disturbing. Somehow the presentation, for this listener, did not live up to the stories potential. EG asks us about courage and cowardice after the first act. I certainly don't think we can absolutely call our main character a coward, He was panic struck when involved in his first battle and seeing his friend shot. His reaction was to run. He, and his shot friend, recognized there was nothing to do for the injury. If the story is trying to place an indirect "curse" on him for running then I think this rather inapropriate. This was a person of conscientious character and would likely have suffered far more with awareness and guilt vs being brain dead for some 60 plus yr. So what's the point? I wonder. It was an incidental consequence-being shot, I realize this. However, the story is built on the result of being shot. THEREFORE I WONDER IF IT IS TRYING TO REPRESENT SOME FORM OF PUNISHMENT. Again, without this incidental consequence the awareness would have been a bigger self punishment. So, it seems to be done for the sake of telling a story, and therefore limits the stories true potential. Drama-3.

I don't believe the author is trying at all to represent a form of punishment in our protagonist's mental condition. (Perhaps self-punishment, in the form of guilt feelings.)Rather, I think it's a sad illustration of what often happened to (and does happen to) boys who are too young to be faced with such things. That's why I think the fishing scene is so brilliant, as I mentioned before. It's a perfect metaphor. A pastoral, innocent scene: Two happy, clueless friends fishing and excitedly discussing joining up, when one of the boys fishes up a horror from beneath the water. This is especially great foreshadowing, considering that we later deal with his mental state, and that water is often used as a metaphor for the unconscious mind. And what do they do? They push it back beneath the surface. Well, what else can they do? It terrifies them. There are marvelous layers of emotional, and thematic, depth in this scene. Plus, I do think it's obvous he feels guilt, despite the fact that he couldn't have done anything for his friend. People often feel such guilt when a loved one dies. Guilt and helplessness. It doesn't make sense, anymore than war does, but it happens. This is a finely crafted piece of fiction, delicate, sensitive, and insightful. It's about ordinary people placed in extraordinary and terrible circumstances. It is not, I think, a story meant to be analyzed in broad, simple sweeps. As in any truly great piece of fiction, there is more to it than first meets the eye.

Hi again! Don't you just love it when  it's one you've heard before? I do... it gives me a reason to listen again and re-analyze the tale in a new perspective. I really liked this one. It was simply and even a little predictable, but there was an alluring innocence about it that I enjoyed. The thing I would really like to point out though, is the production of this one. In most episodes, the ambiance is lit dimly beneath dialogue and mood. Often you'll hear doors close, birds chirping, or the range of car sound effects that are common on the RMT shows. But this one was especially gratifying. The production team paid special attention to the environment our character was put in. The sounds of the harmonica, the water splashing on the boat, dogs barking, the rushing and clopping of hooves, the rolling of the artillery cannons, the celebration with the band and all, and so on... Along with the rich narrative descriptions of the environment, this was one of the most immersible episodes I'd heard in a long time. Although the main character was someone I could somehow relate to, he was played a tad "over the top." But perhaps in the situation he was in (in the story), it was necessary to convey his inner struggle. Such a sad tale. Along with shows like, IN THE FOG, I can't help but feel such deep sorrow for those men and women who served their country only to be left with such horrible personal reminders of the wars and battles they fought. And though this may have been a fictional tale, the possibility that this actually could have occurred is what I found so becoming of the episode. 

One of the best RMT's I've ever heard. A very sad, haunting, and insightful tale about the moral ambiguities of war, and about loss of innocence---about how war destroys lives . . . one way or another. The fishing scene with the body is an especially brilliant piece of writing, an eerie and compelling piece of foreshadowing that encompasses the themes of the story in one beautifully simple stroke. This is a gem of a short story and makes a terrific Mystery Theater play. PS: I actually don't think the ending is supposed to be a big mystery. Maybe just a little bit at first. But the fact that it begins to dawn on us pretty quickly what's going on, I think, actually creates a certain tension as we move toward the end of the story, as well as evoking a terrible poignancy. A great and skillful piece of writing.

Being a Star Trek fan, I knew who Arnold Moss was, in fact, the picture of him here is taken from the episode he appeared in, I think (the Conscience Of The King). I heard this on my local radio station, over thirty years ago, and was delighted to find it again. Clearly, a story like this could not be told on television, for obvious reasons. CAUTION: SPOILERS BELOW . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . It seems the poor fellow (I\'m going to call him Bob, just to make things easier) in this story suffers from the same amnesia that Drew Barrymore\'s character did in 50 First Dates, namely his wound destroyed his ability to retain new memories. He remembers everything up to the point he was wounded in the back of the head, but can\'t keep memories of anything after. That fits what we see (or hear) in this story, in that he thinks only days have passed, instead of the 60+years that have really passed. I\'m guessing the doctor he meets works at, or as associated, with the hospital the fellow lived at. The doctor comments that Bob looks familiar to him, so he must have seen him at the hospital at some point. The doctor puts things together when he asks Bob his age, and Bob says he\'s nineteen. It\'s hinted that this is not the first time Bob has gotten out of the hospital. I wonder how many times he got out, looking to rejoin his unit in a war long over. Interesting that this time, when Bob gets out, he arrives at Nashville just as their commemorating the Civil War, with everyone in period clothing and such. It would have given away the ending had Bob seen modern (well 1920\'s era) clothes and technology (like automobiles). When Bob sees his reflection, an old man, and realizes the truth, he dies. I guess he had a heart attack from the shock (he was eighty-four years old, after all). The doctor says that Bob was the last of the Civil War veterans. That\'s not exactly true, there were some still around in 1938, when they attended the 75th Anniversary of the Battle Of Gettysburg. Reportedly, the last one died in 1959, he was over a century old, and had served in the Confederate Army. A good story.

From the "is this story anti - war?" comments above I get the impression that the life of Ambrose Bierce is as mysterious to some as was his disappearance. Bierce was a contentious man,cynical and misanthropic. He wasn't anti-war-he enlisted in the Union Army and served in the Civil War,seeing action at Rich Mountain,Shiloh,Pickett's Mill,Chickamunga and Kennesaw Mountain. He knew the horror of war firsthand and his stories ring with that grim knowledge and unsentimental experience. I don't believe those who served condemn or celebrate. They acknowledge,respect and survive.

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