As I arrived on, you guessed it, another unbearably hot afternoon, Meredith was outside of the house under the old trusty maple reading the actual history behind the Scene 13, "Mobberly Shoots Stewart" to about 15 costumed cast members. Everyone listened intently as the gunmetal sky behind them indicated an approaching storm. Meredith knew they must work quickly.
John Power, who plays Confederate renegade John Mobberly (and who enriched his character by growing a long beard for the part), climbed up on a ladder for the filming of the close ups of the gun shots. The real Mobberly was on horseback when he shot Stewart, but our horse isn't used to gunfire. Thanks to Meredith's brother, Lorenzo Bean, an attorney from Sterling, John held a reproduction 1860 Navy Cap and Ball Revolver rigged to fire felt caps and black powder. The crowd of actors and bystanders (like me) was cleared out of harm's way and the first shot was fired. Everyone jumped because we had been warned not to scream, and no matter how prepared we were for the eminent arrival, it was loud! Peter said, "I should have put this [camera] on a tripod!"
Abby Guthrie, production intern and aspiring film maker, then applied the oozing, clotting fake blood to the leg wound (the first of two wounds) for Sgt. Stewart, played by Dustin Lambert, and "Bean," the horse, arrived for the actual shooting sequence. The air grew turgid as the storm crept closer and the cast passed a roll of paper towels to sop up the unending sweat. Because this true story transpired in front of a group of Waterford women, all the women and girls ran out of the house to establish the source of the commotion. The horror and fear on their faces along with Mobberly's clenched jaw, squinting eyes and heartless gesture of stealing the injured man's boots, created an incipient sense of the evil that was often illuminated during this war.
A remorseless John Mobberly leaves Sgt. Stewart to die
Mobberly circled the wounded Stewart, who attempted to crawl away from him in terror, as the wind kicked up and the leaves on the trees overhead turned inside out and began dropping to the ground. Then he lowered his weapon, ready to reenact the shot the real Mobberly fired into the wounded Sergeant's face.
At the exact moment of the gunshot, a deafening crack of thunder boomed in the background. "Cut!" yelled Meredith and everyone stood there in awe. "Well, God is definitely on our side," she said. Just after the final take, the rain came in sheets and everyone ran into the house and began peeling off their costumes. After huddling under a portico until the rain subsided, we headed to Polecat Hill Road and Sunny Bank Farm in Middleburg to film the Sunken Road Scene. We drove down a gravel road and then through a very hilly cow field where the creatures stared and even followed our vehicles with dumbfounded curiosity: "Are YOU my mother?" The rain stopped, the sun came out and the air ultimately became even steamier. The mosquitoes began their affront, causing little red bumps to appear in increments of ten with a lot of smacking and scratching. This scene included two youths: Luke Le Sourd, who we barely pried away from the new Harry Potter book, and Mellie LeVay who endured many brambles in her bare feet while she walked the road without shoes for the segment.
"Savannah," Steve's trusty steed, waited patiently in the woods, tied to a tree until Peter was finished filming the entire scene.
While Peter shot a close-up, hand-held take, Meredith asked Mobberly to circle his horse around Steve, causing Peter to circle, causing all of the spectators to hit the deck to avoid being in the shot. Peter called "Cutí" and, laughing, said all he could see was a bunch of butts. The sun continued to sink, lengthening the shadows and Meredith pulled an Alfred Hitchcock with her silhouette on the dirt road.
Just as the light was at its filmable end, Meredith declared, "Wrap!"
Although we were all exhausted from the long weekend, we were also exhilarated. We moved a little deeper into the human connections that come when people work closely together in challenging circumstances.
TRUE STORY: "At Waterford on May 17 of 1864, Goodhart relates, just after the fight between some of White's cavalry and some Loudoun Rangers, Mobberly is supposed to have shot Stewart in the face while the man was already lying wounded on the ground, then riding his horse over the victim, and stopping to steal his boots. The incident was witnessed by a number of Quaker lades from that Union-sympathizing town [Waterford]..." p. 25, "Rough-Riding Scout": The Story of John W. Mobberly, by Richard E. Crouch, Elden Editions, Arlington, VA (1994). Editor's note: "Goodhart relates..." refers to The Independent Loudoun Rangers, by Briscoe Goodhart, Rare Books - Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, Virginia.