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Area's Civil War history on display for holidays
'Tis the season for Civil War events in Fredericksburg

 Re-enactors Dan Olson (left) and Jeffrey Kyer rehearse for 'My Friend the Enemy' at Cornerstone Baptist Church.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 12/1/2009

BY BRYNN BOYER

Christmas trees; creches; and Confederate soldiers?

In Fredericksburg, the holiday season allows many opportunities to brush up on Civil War history.

This year, several churches in the area are having Christmas programs that incorporate the area's role in the Civil War, and specifically the anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg fought on Dec. 11-13, 1862.

Joyce Smith, a parishioner at Cornerstone Baptist Church, has written a Christmas Civil War drama that will be performed at the Stafford County church Dec. 13 and 14 at 7 p.m.

The play, "My Friend the Enemy," is inspired by Mort Künstler's painting of the same name.

The painting, which Künstler released in 2008, depicts a Confederate and a Union soldier meeting at the Rappahannock River around Christmas Day in 1862.

"I studied the picture for months," Smith said. "And the story started forming in my mind."

Smith contacted Künstler in February to get permission to use the name of the painting for her play.

Four actors play the Confederate and Union soldiers, both in the painting's original setting and for the epilogue, which takes place 30 years later.

Smith said the play ends with the two soldiers meeting each other on Christmas Day, 30 years after the end of the war.

"Everybody gets to sing Christmas carols at the end," she said.

Though Smith has been a church music minister, professional costumer and author of one other drama, "My Friend the Enemy" was a challenge because of the research involved.

"Everything we're portraying would have actually happened," she said.

Smith and her husband read Civil War accounts, went to local museums and researched what soldiers would have talked about.

They even scouted the Rappahannock River during the winter to try to find the exact spot portrayed in the painting.

"It was really cold," Smith said with a laugh.

But, she said making the play as historically accurate as possible was her main focus.

"Christmas is not as emphasized as the historical part," she said. "It focuses on the two sides meeting on the river."

EVENTS THIS WEEKEND

White Oak Primitive Baptist Church, located across from the White Oak Civil War Museum, was a temporary home to a unit of New Jersey soldiers during the war.


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CIVIL WAR CHRISTMAS WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 5; 7 p.m. WHERE: White Oak Primitive Baptist Church; parking at the White Oak Museum and White Oak Fire Department in southern Stafford County

HOLIDAY MUSIC WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 6; 5:30 p.m. WHERE: Historic Salem Church; parking at adjacent Salem Baptist Church, State Route 3, Spotsylvania

CHRISTMAS DRAMA WHEN: Performances of "My Friend the Enemy" on Dec. 13 and 14; 7 p.m. WHERE: Cornerstone Baptist Church, 56 McWhirt Loop, Falmouth

PARK SERVICE EVENT WHEN: Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. WHERE: The 147th Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg commemorated with a 30-minute program at the Kirkland Monument adjacent to historic Sunken Road in Fredericksburg. Peter Carmichael, a professor of history at West Virginia University, is the keynote speaker.

COST: All events are free.