Herndon historian, Civil War author and film producer Chuck Mauro now is adding the title of “playwright” to his name.
Mauro has written a one-act play that will be performed for the first time Nov. 10 at the eighth annual Fairfax County History Conference in Fairfax.
The play, “Chantilly … After the Storm,” is historically based on Fairfax County’s only major Civil War battle, the Battle of Chantilly — or Ox Hill as it was called by the Confederates — which took place on about 500 acres near the intersection of U.S. 50 and Interstate 66 on Sept. 1, 1862.
In total, about 1,500 soldiers were killed and wounded during the battle.
“The play is based on three real people: a Union soldier, a Confederate physician and a Virginia woman, and actual events that they were a part of,” Mauro said.
According to Civil War historian Ed Wenzel, the battle occurred when Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s corps of the Army of Northern Virginia tried to cut off the Union Army of Virginia and was attacked by two Union divisions. During the battle, both Union division commanders — Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny and Maj. Gen. Isaac I. Stevens — were killed, but the Union attack halted Jackson’s advance, ending the Second Manassas campaign. The Second Battle of Bull Run, or Second Manassas, was fought from Aug. 28 to Aug. 30, 1862, in nearby Manassas.
Two monuments — one for Kearny and one for Stevens —were erected in Fairfax in 1915, commemorating the battle near where they fell.
Mauro said the play took about six months to write and that rehearsals have been ongoing for about three weeks.
In 2006, Mauro helped produce a documentary of the battle based on the 2002 book he wrote on the subject, and said he got the idea for the play after attending many recent Civil War sesquicentennial seminars.
“There are always many ‘talking heads’ at those things who relate facts by just talking,” he said. “I wanted to try something different and make the battle more identifiable and relatable. I wanted people to understand that both soldiers and civilians involved in the Civil War were real human beings, and I wanted to tell their stories.”
Mauro said he researched the play’s three very real characters in a variety of ways.
Like “dog tags” issued by the U.S. military in World War II, Mauro said many soldiers in the Civil War wore “identification discs” that they engraved information into, including battles they participated in.
“Union soldier Peter Paul was a 23-year-old private in the Pennsylvania Infantry who had been a coal worker,” Mauro said. “He had an identification disc that said he was at the Battle of Chantilly. That disc has survived and that is how I came to choose him for the play.”
Likewise, Mauro said the play’s other two characters also were discovered through research.
“Dr. Spencer Glasgow Welch, 28, was a surgeon with the 13th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry,” he said.
The name of the play’s only female part, that of Nancy Worster, 62, was discovered in the rolls of the Southern Claims Commission, according to Mauro.
The commission was established by President Ulysses S. Grant after the war in an effort to allow Union sympathizers who had lived in the Southern states to apply for reimbursements for property losses due to U.S. Army confiscations during the war.
Paula Johnson of Warrenton plays the role of Worster in Mauro’s play.
“I can identify with her character,” Johnson said of the Virginia woman who found herself in the middle of the battle as it waged across her land. “Women found themselves thrust into these historical events and their stories should be told right alongside those of the soldiers.”
The play will premiere Nov. 10 at the Fairfax History Conference at the Stacy Sherwood Community Center in Fairfax. The conference takes place from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and admission is $20 per person. This year’s theme will be “Courage and Conflict in Fairfax County; sites and stories of the Civil War.”
Conference director Lynne Garvey-Hodge said she is excited about the play.
“It fits in perfectly with our theme,” she said. “The conference is a collective venue for history about Fairfax County, and Chuck’s play is a great opportunity for people to see a living part of our county’s Civil War history.”
Mauro said he is uncertain about the play’s future after the conference. “I am considering offering it to the drama department of a local high school, “ he said.