A Question of Loyalty by Earl Halbe

Winner of the Illinois State Historical Society’s Certification of Excellence Award


Based on actual events, A Question of Loyalty is the story of circumstances surrounding the Charleston Riot of 1864 in Coles County, Illinois. Dennis Hanks, cousin, friend and tutor to Abraham Lincoln, has been asked to travel to Washington to petition President Lincoln for the release of prisoners being held for the murder of six Union soldiers. Meanwhile in a series of flashbacks, the first two men killed in the riot, Union soldier Oliver Sallee, and southern sympathizer and "Copperhead" Nelson Wells, try to come to terms with their obvious political differences, and the difficulties that come to light with being rivals for the affections of the same girl. These personal relationships, intertwined with the politics of the day, give the young people, their families, friends, fellow townsfolk, and even a President, something profoundly difficult to think about. Where do our loyalties lie? With ourselves, our country, our hearts, or our families?


Cast of Characters

(In order of appearance)

  • JUDGE CHARLES H. CONSTABLE: Democratic Judge, Coles County Illinois

  • ORLANDO B. FICKLIN:  Former Democratic Congressman Illinois, and lawyer

  • DENNIS HANKS:  Cousin, friend, and tutor to Abraham Lincoln

  • ELIZA DAUGHERTY:  Mother to Martha “Mattie” Daugherty

  • MARTHA “MATTIE” DAUGHERTY: 17, Daughter to John B. and Eliza Daugherty

  • 2 UNION SOLDIERS: (may be double cast with Orlando B. Ficklin and Judge Constable)

  • BEN DUKES: A farmer

  • NELSON WELLS: 23, Copperhead and suitor to Martha Daugherty.

  • ABRAHAM LINCOLN: 16th President of The United States

  • LUCINDA “MISS LUCY” SALLEE: (pronounced suh-LEE), Mother to Oliver Sallee

  • OLIVER SALLEE: 22, Union Soldier and suitor to Martha Daugherty.

  • EDWIN M. STANTON: Secretary of War for Abraham Lincoln

Minimum Set Requirementsstrong>
5 wooden chairs (3 in Scene 1; 2 in Scene 2; 2 in Scenes 4 & 8; 2 in Scenes 6 & 7).
1 small wooden bench large enough for two people to sit on. (Scenes 2, 5 & 9).
1 small wooden end table for the Sallee apartment in Scene 6.
1 small rectangular wooden table or writing desk. Must be a flat surface and must be made of wood. The table or desk becomes Judge Constable’s desk in the courthouse scene in Act 1, Lincoln’s desk in Scenes 4 & 8, & the table in the bar of the Union Hotel in Scene 7.


“Creative, compelling approach to a local history topic. Great juxtaposition of loyalty to country vs. loyalty to a lover, bringing new and insightful interpretations into the public discussion.”
~ Illinois State Historical Society, April 25, 2015


In the News

Also available from this Playwright

November 14, 2015

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A Question of Loyalty Original Cast

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