Monday, October 22, 2012

Local author to read letters of Civil War soldier


October 22, 2012
     The York County Historical Committee, in cooperation with the York County Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, is proud to present the seventh lecture in its York County Civil War Lecture Series. Local author and living historian, Jeff Toalson, will read letters of Civil War soldier Richard Watkins. Mr. Toalson will read in the character of Watkins. This free presentation will be held in the Board Room of York Hall, 301 Main Street, Yorktown, on Sunday, November 4, 2012 at 3 p.m., and is entitled,  "Send Me a Pair of Old Boots & Kiss My Little Girls - The Civil War Letters of Richard and Mary Watkins, 1861-1865." The presentation is a prelude to the play, "Kiss My Little Girls, 1861" that will be performed in the Freight Shed in Yorktown between November 9 and November 18. 
When local Williamsburg author Jeff Toalson found a treasure trove of Civil War letters, he was inspired not only to compile them into a book, but to don period attire and assume the character of the Confederate writer.  The book was written after Toalson discovered the previously unpublished letters held by the Virginia Historical Society.
     Richard Watkins, a Prince Edward County, Virginia lawyer and farmer, was a Captain of Co. K of the 3rd Virginia Cavalry during the Civil War. During the presentation, Toalson, portraying Richard, sits on his front porch in 1890 and recalls stories of the recent "great unpleasantness" from the 300 letters that he and Mary wrote to each other during the conflict. 
     Richard and Mary's letters chronicle both detailed information about the war, and its affects on those who lived through the time, and also paint a touching love story as the two endured hardship and separation. Mary remained in Meherrin, Virginia during the war, managing the family farm and raising their three daughters, while Richard fought in campaigns throughout Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
     Toalson, who also authored "No Soap, No Pay, Diarrhea, Dysentery & Desertion: A Composite Diary of the Last 16 Months of the Confederacy from 1864 to 1865," and, most recently "Mama, I Am Yet Still Alive: A Composite Diary of 1863 in the Confederacy," spent two years editing this remarkable piece of Virginia and American history.  Copies of Mr. Toalson's book will be available for signing.
     Only one more lecture remains in the series:
          ·         December 16, 2012 – "The Civil War - A Woman's Cause"
                 o       Local historian and historical interpreter, Sharleen Leigh West-Carr, will provide insights into the role of women during the war. Ms. West-Carr is currently the chairman of the North-South Skirmish Association Costume Committee and makes Civil War period clothing.
     If you would like more information about this Civil War lecture series or you would like information on how you can volunteer with the Historical Committee or the Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, please call (757) 890-3508 or visit

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