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SMALL TOWN WITH BIG HISTORY
Culpeper, in Civil War's vortex, brings history to life with stage show, sesquicentennial evening at Cedar Mountain, historians' symposium, barbecue at Kelly's Ford, more

 'Marching Through Culpeper,' presented by the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, is a multimedia musical production based on Virginia Morton's Civil War novel.
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Date published: 8/2/2012

BY CLINT SCHEMMER

CULPEPER.

OK, not so famous a name as Manassas or Antietam.

But its defenders have a compelling case that it ought to be.

And over the next two weeks, they're pulling out all the stops to make its Civil War past as alluring and inviting as they can.

Culpeper County's observance of the war's 150th anniversary will be robust, thanks to the work of many volunteers from every walk of life.

"We think Culpeper is doing some pretty unique events for such a small town," local author and Civil War tour guide Virginia Morton said.

On July 21, the county hosted a symposium and bus tour devoted to African- American experiences during the war.

On Friday, the story takes a romantic turn with the world premiere of a stage adaptation of "Marching Through Culpeper," Morton's popular novel. She calls it a story of "love across the battle lines."

There will be five more performances through Aug. 12. The organizers call it "performing for preservation," noting that all proceeds will aid battlefield heritage groups.

"I was motivated by the legal battles over the Brandy Station battlefield to focus on preservation and history, why they're important, and how they help to promote tourism, which enriches an entire community," Morton explained Wednesday about writing "Marching" years ago. "And the book has done just that."

Morton's novel, which has sold more than 10,000 copies since its first edition in 2000, features many of the colorful, real-life figures who put wartime Culpeper on the world stage--among them J.E.B. Stuart, John Pelham, A.P. Hill and George Armstrong Custer.

But the historical drama centers around four main characters:

Constance Armstrong, a headstrong Culpeper native courted by officers on both sides.

Frank Stringfellow, a wiry scout for J.E.B. Stuart who established a spy network linking Richmond with Confederate sympathizers in the War Department in Washington. Called "one of the most dangerous men in the Confederacy," he had a $10,000 price on his head by war's end. He was also Constance's childhood pal.

Aaron James, a handsome, Harvard-educated Union officer.

Sadie Jordan, a loyal Armstrong family servant.

Descendants of two of the novel's real-life characters--J.E.B. Stuart IV and Dr. Frank Stringfellow, great-grandson of the Confederate scout--will be on hand for the play's premiere on Friday night.


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AUG. 3 World premiere reception at Daniel Technology Center, Germanna Community College, Culpeper, 5 p.m. Purchase tickets at Stellar One Bank, Lake of the Woods branch, until Aug. 3. Limited number will be available at the door at 5 p.m. Friday. Premiere performance of "Marching Through Culpeper" 7:30 p.m. at Eastern View High School, 16332 Cyclone Way. AUG. 4

Walking tour of downtown Culpeper, 9:30-11:30 a.m. Luncheon lecture with James I. Robertson Jr. at the Inn at Kelly's Ford, 12:30 p.m. Tours and others activities at Salubria manor, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Performance of "Marching Through Culpeper," 7:30 p.m.

AUG. 5 Matinee performance of "Marching Through Culpeper," 2:30 p.m. AUG. 9

Battle of Cedar Mountain symposium, 8:45 a.m. Evening on the battlefield: 150th anniversary commemoration, 6:30 p.m.

AUG. 10 Performance of "Marching Through Culpeper," 7:30 p.m. AUG. 11 Walking tour of downtown Culpeper, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Performance of "Marching Through Culpeper," 7:30 p.m. Tour of Kelly's Ford and Stevensburg begins at 10 a.m. AUG. 12 Matinee performance of "Marching Through Culpeper," 2:30 p.m. AUG. 10-12 Living history on the battlefield, Cedar Mountain. Tours of Graffiti House and Brandy Station.

Tickets: marching throughculpeperonstage. com/tickets

Info: marchingthrough culpeper.com, friendsof cedarmountain.org