Friday, October 31, 2014

October Program Review - Annette Hubbell's "Witness to Gettysburg"

Annette Hubbell, in a mid-1800s period costume, wowed the 45 CVGS attendees in the 29 October program with her spellbinding enactment of "Witness to Gettysburg."  In two sessions, she brought Miss Hattie Elizabeth Turner to life as she relives the Battle of Gettysburg and a small town’s courageous efforts to care for 30,000 Union and Confederate casualties suddenly left in its aftermath, weaving into it stories of historic characters. 

She states "I remember everything as though it was yesterday" as she described the times before and during the early years of the Civil War.  Her husband was a Captain in the Pennsylvania 90th regiment of the Union Army, and she and two other women followed the regiment to help, sew, and pray for their men, who ended up in Gettysburg in June 1963.  On June 29th, Gettysburg was a lovely green town with rolling hills and orchards, with 90,000 Union soldiers and 70,000 Confederate soldiers lined up preparing for the fight.  The battle erupted, it's noisy, hot, bloody, and fearful for Hattie and others caught up in it.  She said "We are strong women, but no one is prepared for this."  Then she's notified that her husband is one of the dead.

By 4 July, the battle is over, and there were 8,000 wounded left on the battlefield.  There were 23,000 Union dead, and 28,000 Confederate dead, plus 5,000 dead horses, fouling the streams.  The stench of rotting corpses was pervasive.  What would the people of Gettysburg do?  They burned the horses, buried the dead where they lay, and set up temporary field hospitals in houses and barns within a 30 mile radius.  Those wounded soldiers that could walk went to the train station to recuperate at home.  Those with a hope for survival were treated, operated on, bandaged, and hoped to recover.  Those with no hope of survival were comforted until they died.  

By 22 July, there were 500 tents on 80 acres, and each person like Hattie had 50 to 80 persons to care for.  There were only 3,000 patients by 2 August, and only 100 by early November.  President Lincoln came to Gettysburg on 16 November, and Hattie was there.  She went home on the train, but was not the same person who came to Gettysburg.

After a break, Annette returned for her second presentation in dark clothing.  Set some years later, she noted that the Civil War tore the fabric of social and political America.  The people of Gettysburg did what they had to do and did it well.  Hattie described the 7 layers of dress that she wore, noted that the shackles of traditional activity for women had been reduced, and that, because of the work of women after the battle in Gettysburg, nurses were able to serve in the military after the war.  She discussed the mourning and burial traditions prevalent at the time - boiling and dyeing clothes black, wearing a black cockade, etc.  She told several stories of Gettysburg residents who helped the soldiers, and read several letters from soldiers about their experience.  

Hattie's final words were "We who survived are haunted by what we saw."  What a powerful story!

For more information about Annette and her program, visit

After the program, Annette answered numerous questions about Miss Hattie, the Civil War, and Annette's journey in presenting this one-woman dramatic presentation.

1 comment:

Annette Hubbell said...

Hello Randy,

I was looking for your review of my performance as Eleanor Roosevelt (Oct 2015) when I came across this again, and realized I had never commented on your review of my "Witness to Gettysburg." Thank you! As you know, acting and storytelling is all about connecting with the audience. And when I connect - well, that's what makes my heart sing.

Looking forward to your review of Eleanor, whatever it might bring. This is how I learn what impacts (good or bad) are made - how I grow.