How it Came To Be…

Between 1861 and 1865, plantation owner, lawyer and Confederate Cavalryman Richard Watkins and his young wife Mary exchanged detailed and heartfelt letters.  Richard had enlisted with Company K of the 3rd Virginia Cavalry after Virginia seceded from the Union.  Mary remained living in Prince Edward County, VA raising their three daughters and managing the farm.  Sharing their letters with future generations was likely something they never envisioned.

Editor Jeff Toalson, however, discovered, transcribed and published this rare collection of more than 300 letters in his book Send Me a Pair of Old Boots & Kiss My Little Girls.  Lost in the Archives of the Virginia Historical Society, the letters convey richly detailed information about the war and daily life during a tumultuous time in our nation’s history.  Unlike dry military accounts of Civil War maneuvers and battles, the letters bring a poignant humanity to the conflict and those who struggled through the time.

Through the course of the War, Richard participated in many great and historic struggles.  He served in the Peninsula Campaign where he fought in the Battles of Yorktown, Williamsburg and Seven Pines.  Later, he served in the Battle of Chancellorsville, rode with JEB Stuart on his “great ride” around the Union Army, fought at the Battles of Gettysburg and Petersburg and rode over 600 miles during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign.  During his service, he rose from Private to Quartermaster to Captain.  A disabling wound from a Union saber signaled the end of his military career in 1864.

“I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.  Kiss my little girls.”
– Richard Watkins

Mary, a young and inexperienced bride, was forced to raise three children on her own while struggling to manage the family plantation.  During the course of her epic adventure, she navigated her way through famine, poverty, disease, death and a Yankee raid on her homestead.  As she learned the practical craft of plantation management, she grew into adulthood and became a fierce, confident and independent spirit.

“I began to think you have forgotten that you have a wife and children somewhere in these regions. We all wonder every day why you don’t write oftener. I thought you were a grand rascal‟. – Mary Watkins

Richard and Mary’s letters offer a heartfelt and eye opening glimpse into the War and the times, weaving both a love story and intense eye witness accounts of the battlefield.

Now, thanks to generous support from the Cook Foundation, playwright Robert Ruffin brings these letters to life in this world premiere theatrical event that features a professional ensemble of highly skilled theatre veterans.  The tale of Richard and Mary Watkins is one of epic triumph in which nothing can destroy the power of love.

“It is a firsthand look into the day-to-day lives of a very close family during a terrible time in our country’s history and also a real love story.”
– United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine

More comments from last years performance of 1861:

“It was a pleasure… everyone in our group enjoyed it immensely. I don’t believe that there were too many dry eyes in the crowd on Saturday night. We look forward to future plays.”

Mr. John Pelletier
Society of Civil War Surgeons

Norfolk, Virginia

Friday evening, my wife (Sam), two other members of the Committee, and I were honored to see “Kiss My Little Girls” in Gloucester. What a tremendously enjoyable experience! [Robert Ruffin's] performance, and that of Cynthia Janzen, was superb. From the very beginning, to the very end, we enjoyed every single moment.

David J. Meredith
Chairman, York County Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee

“…an enchanting and exceptionally intimate look at the minute details of life during these times”

Chesapeake Style