MILLBURY, Mass. - The Millbury Historical Society on Friday evening sponsored a benefit performance for the Grass Hill School House. Well known local actress and historical interpreter Lynn McKinney Lydick performed an interesting and entertaining one-woman show “Follow the Cannon, Clara Barton’s Civil War Letters.”
McKinney Lydick had the crowd riveted from the first moment as she transformed into Clara Barton and one felt as if it were Barton herself that was reading her own letters. At times funny, other times sad, the poignant letters that Barton wrote tell the horrors of front line duty in the Civil War. But the Civil War is no different than any other war in history in that the toll of human suffering is profound. Her letters could easily be from Afghanistan today.
McKinney Lydick/Barton also told some funny stories, especially when Barton first is given permission by the surgeon general to travel to the front. The men assigned to her and under her command had no clue how to relate to a woman in charge, something vastly different in 1861 than it is today. Barton's letters on how she wins the men's trust, respect and finally their friendship were both funny and moving.
Clara Barton was born in North Oxford. She was a teacher in both Millbury and Worcester but moved to Washington, D.C. where she became the first female employee of the federal government. During the Civil War, Ms. Barton received permission from the surgeon general to take medical supplies, food, and clothing to the battle fronts. She was fearless and spirited and earned the name Angel of the Battlefield.
After the war, she helped track down all of the missing men from both sides of the conflict and families would write her begging for information. Its estimated she wrote over 65,000 letters during her lifetime. She was instrumental in getting the United States in adopting the Red Cross and having our government sign the Geneva Conventions, which governed the treatment of prisoners and civilians during a time of war.
Lynne McKinney Lydick has performed throughout New England with lead roles in both dramas and musicals. Besides her one-woman play about Clara Barton, for the last eight-and-a-half years, she has performed, “Yours for Humanity – Abby”, an inspiring one-woman play about Worcester’s own nineteenth century radical abolitionist and woman’s rights activist, Abby Kelley Foster.
All proceeds will benefit the preservation of the historic Grass Hill School House in West Millbury. Built in 1861 this public school was in continuous use until 1968. McKinney Lydick will be returning to Millbury in June when she reprises her role as a 19th Century school teacher at the Grass Hill School House for elementary school students and gives them a taste on how times have changed in the education system.