Friday, May 20, 2011

Researching the Play - Part II

I have the great fortune of being friends with Charles F. Price, a historical fiction novelist, who wrote a distinguished series of four novels set in Western North Carolina during the Civil War and Reconstruction. While his books are fiction, he researches meticulously, obsessively so that he is certain he has got it as close to right as possible. The dialog, the structure of the novel, and some of the characters are imagined, but the setting, the historical context, and locations are all grounded in solid research.

As not only a friend, but a mentor, there was no way I could look him in the eye if I wrote a play that grossly distorted the documented facts. So I needed to be sure I knew what those facts were. Fortunately, he was also a great resource and photocopied from his own personal library several passages that aided greatly in my research.

Two of the historians most helpful to me are well known in WNC region and in Yancey County: Dr. Lloyd Bailey (editor of the series Heritage of the Toe River Valley) and Michael Hardy (a reenactor for 28 years and author of a wealth of books on the Civil War). Plus Michael Hardy keeps up a fantastic blog full of information and musings that I found fascinating. Now whether these two actually approve of the play remains to be seen. I will not speak for them. I'm simply saying I read their work in an effort to be accurate and took inspiration from it.

I did confess to Michael that I'd written a romantic comedy about the Civil War, but I'd put no actual historical figures on stage. He deservedly called me "chicken." But I didn't want to misrepresent a real person. I simply wanted to take what I found as a fascinating chain of events and make the
history entertaining. I wanted it to come to life in an enjoyable, memorable way and for those strong women to live again, however briefly, even if it was just on stage. No one knows their names, but their blood still runs in these families here in Yancey County. Being a mother is tough work (if you're going to do it right), and I guess I hoped to prove to all of us here, we've got what it takes to do it.

Resources Used in Writing the Play:

“A Female Raid” Carolina Watchman (Salisbury, North Carolina), Monday, March 23, 1863. Accessed from Learn NC website. <>.

Audio Excerpts : The Homefront: Hardships of War” North Carolina Museum of History. 2005. Web. .

Bailey, Lloyd. The Heritage of the Toe River Valley: Volume II. Lloyd Richard Bailey, 1997.

Bumgarner, Matthew. Kirk’s Raiders: a notorious band of scoundrels and thieves. Piedmont Press, 2000.

Hardy, Michael C. The Ca. 1849 McElroy House: A Glimpse of Yancey County, North Carolina's History. Donning Company Publishers, 2004.

Kephart, Horace. Our Southern Highlanders. Outing Publishing Company, 1913.

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I. Vol. 53. Supplement. Serial No. 111. Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1995.

Trotter, William R. Bushwhackers: The Civil War in North Carolina (Volume II: The Mountains). John F. Blair, 1988.

Yearns, W. Buck. North Carolina Civil War Documentary. University of North Carolina Press, 1980.

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