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History plays starring role at WaynesboroFest

June 13, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A centerpiece of Waynesboro's upcoming week-long triennial WaynesboroFest celebration is a play about how Waynesboro fared during 15 days in 1863 when the town was taken over by Confederate soldiers on their way to Gettysburg, Pa.

It features local actors portraying 14 characters, real and fictitious, in one-person vignettes telling of their experiences during the 15 days.

Called "Waynesboro Under the Confederate Flag," it was researched, written and will be directed by Waynesboro resident Clayton Moyer, 77, retired pastor and founder of the Trinity Players, a local repertory theater group. Moyer mined the ranks of the theater group for actors for his Civil War play.

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WaynesboroFest runs June 28 through July 6. It's being held for the first time in conjunction with Summer Jubilee, Waynesboro's annual Fourth of July celebration.

The 15 days began June 23, 1863, when Confederate Gen. Jubal H. Early's troops showed up in town, coming simultaneously by way of Leitersburg along South Potomac Street and from Ringgold through what is now Memorial Park and Broad Street, Moyer said. Most of the Confederates crossed the Potomac River at Shepherdstown, W.Va., then through Boonsboro, he said.

Early put Waynesboro under martial law.

The dialogue of one of the Moyer's fictitious characters, a Confederate soldier, said, "It was known by everyone that the town now belonged to us. The doors of all the houses were locked ... and most of the townspeople stayed inside..."

The play runs July 2, 3, 5 and 6 beginning at 7:30 p.m. in Trinity United Church of Christ's Harbaugh Hall on 30 W. North St.

"I had no way of knowing I was about to embark on a fascinating six-month journey that would enable me to relive the summer of 1863 when the citizens of Waynesboro played an important role in those memorable days prior to the Battle of Gettysburg," Moyer said.

Moyer said his characters were created with poetic license and were fired by his imagination.

Among the vignettes is the story of a Rebel soldier from Louisiana, who tells how desperate his buddies were for clothes and how they took two local men into an alley, made them strip and stole their clothes.

Another character tells how women hid their valuables. One woman donned six dresses at one time with valuables in every pocket.

Other characters tell of hiding cattle from the hungry Rebels and of a local banker, one of three real characters in the play, who removed the money from the vault and took it to Selinsgrove, Pa., for safety.

"It was a bank on wheels for a couple of weeks," Moyer said.

He wrote all of the dialogue and selected the background music for each of the 14 acts.

In one, titled "Flag Lament," he wrote a five-stanza poem about a woman's feelings when she saw the Union flag replaced with the Stars and Bars.

In the first stanza, she says:

"On top of Town Hall's highest beam,

From roof and porch on house and barn,

In school and church and market place

This flag once spoke of a people's dream."

The fourth stanza reads:

"A useless flag, now here in my hands,

Replaced with new banners high in the sky,

Dividing a nation, families apart,

Once brothers, now soldiers, dead on the land."

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