Arts & Culture

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Totem Pole and Majestic Theatre Present Historical Play in Gettysburg

Written by Cary Burkett, Arts & Culture Desk and witf Host | Jun 27, 2013 11:33 AM

 

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Nearly two years after the battle of Gettysburg, in April of 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was struggling to escape Union troops as they closed in on him. With desperately needed supplies captured, Lee’s ragged force of 28,000 men was finally cut off from retreat by Union troops 100,000 strong under General Ulysses S. Grant.  Lee had no choice but to surrender.

History has preserved a lot of details about the famous meeting when General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox. Lee wore an immaculate confederate uniform, while Grant was in a government-issue flannel shirt and muddy boots. With staff members from both sides present, Lee sat at a small marble-topped table while Grant sat at a small oval wooden table. Grant took his time getting to the point, until Lee finally brought him around to it.

But there was another meeting between Lee and Grant which history has all but forgotten. It happened the day after the surrender, out by a rail fence between the army lines, with no one present but the generals themselves. Very little is known about this meeting. Grant, as he noted briefly in his memoirs, initiated the meeting hoping to get Lee to use his influence to persuade other Confederate armies to surrender.

In 2009, playwright Richard Helleson was commissioned by Fords Theatre in Washington to write a one-act play about Lee’s surrender to Grant. He decided to base the play on this second meeting, a personal encounter between the two generals. The play is called The Road From Appomattox.

Totem Pole Playhouse, located in Caledonia just outside Gettysburg, is collaborating with the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg to present the play, running July 10-21.

Ray Ficca, Artistic Director of Totem Pole Playhouse, will direct the production which features Steven Carpenter as General Grant and John Dow as General Lee. You can find performance times listed at this special web link. The Majestic Theatre is at 25 Carlisle Street in Gettysburg.

 

Below, you can hear our feature with playwright Richard Helleson.

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