The Making of Mosby's Combat Operations in Fairfax County, Virginia


Mosby Documentary being filmed in Fairfax County

Part I

Don Hakenson, Steve Sherman, and Chuck Mauro are producing a new documentary entitled “Mosby’s Combat Operations in Fairfax County, Virginia.”    

Six Civil War historians will narrate the stories of Mosby’s combat operations at forty-five locations within the county both on-site and in the studio.  They are Gregg Dudding, Tom Evans, Don Hakenson, Chuck Mauro, Stevan Meserve and Mayo Stuntz.

Chuck Mauro is directing the film and Bert Morgan, of BLM Productions is the Assistant Director.  The documentary is being filmed by Morgan who will also perform the post production editing.

On-site filming is scheduled through November.  Studio work incorporating historical images and an original soundtrack will continue until the Spring of 2010.  For further information contact Chuck at

OK, what's the story behind something like this?  Just how does one go about filming a documentary on John Singleton Mosby?

While attending the Fairfax County History Conference in November, where Tom Evans was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his research on the Gray Ghost, I was speaking to Bull Run Civil War Round Table President Nancy Anywell.  She asked what I was doing and I mentioned this project and she asked if I could write something for the Round Table’s newsletter Stone Wall on how we are making the documentary.  To do that, I have to go back to the beginning.

While working on A Southern Spy in Northern Virginia, The Civil War Album of Laura Ratcliffe in 2007, I asked Tom Evans and Don Hakenson to help me with my research on the men of John Singleton Mosby and JEB Stuart who signed the album that Stuart had given to Laura.  Graciously they agreed and we spent three full days traveling and photographing Mosby and Stuart sites throughout Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Fauquier counties as well as a trip to Richmond.

While we were traveling, it was Tom who suggested we should film the sites of Mosby's operations before they are gone.  Given the breadth of Mosby's Confederacy, he suggested we start in Fairfax County.  Don and I agreed.  

Don and I decided to produce the documentary, which means we pay for all the expenses.   Besides producing an educational movie, we hope to recover our expenses by selling copies of the forthcoming DVD.  The important thing is to get it done and get it done accurately.  

The first decision we made was to hire Bert Morgan of BLM Productions in Chantilly to do the filming and editing.  Bert and I had worked together on the movie The Battle of Chantilly (Ox Hill) which made it a natural that we work together again.  

The next step was trying to determine when we would all be available to begin.  As Don, Bert and I were all involved in our own projects at the time, we had to hold off on starting the filming until this summer.  But we also had to iron out the details of exactly how we were going to do all of this, what the format would be, and what exactly we would cover.  What we needed was a Production Meeting!

It turns out that Don and Tom meet every Saturday morning for breakfast at the McDonalds located at Fairfax Circle at Routes 29 & 50.  So I met them there a couple of times earlier this year.  Don actually had a list of Mosby's operations in Fairfax County so we started with that.  We reviewed each operation and decided which incidents we would film, and which we would include as information.  The initial list included 45 operations to film, some of which involved multiple locations.  We also decided to write an Intro and Outro, yes, that's what we call the "ending," to open and close the documentary.

We also decided that we would use multiple historians to cover the operations based on their expertise.  So we decided to ask Gregg Dudding, Stevan Meserve and the venerable Mayo Stuntz to join the three of us.  We also decided that we would each film the introduction to each operation on-site and then use historical pictures to show who was involved along with period pictures of each site as available.  We all went off to work developing the "script" for each of our segments.

Once we had reviewed all the material, it was time to bring Bert on-board to determine the details of how we were actually going to do the filming.  This meeting took place on May 3, 2009 at, you guessed it, McDonalds.  Here's what Bert, Don, Tom and I decided:

Bert came up with the idea to record these like a news story.  We introduce the story on-site and then do a voice over from the studio for all the visuals.  This way we would have fewer problems with the on-site sound, such as traffic, which is the most difficult thing to control.  The voiceovers in Bert’s studio would be audio only so we only have to read our scripts.  This will help this go faster as we would not have to memorize all of our material.  This was especially important to me, as memorization is definitely not my strong suit.

Each Intro will include a short description of the action, the date and the location.  Cue cards can be used if desired.  Bert will also film the site and then we’ll move on to the next location.

As to dress, no hats would be allowed to eliminate shadows on our faces.  Everyone is to wear a solid, medium colored shirt, collar preferred.  No wild prints or white or dark shirts.  We are to use hair spray or mousse to keep our hair from moving.  This would be less of a problem for some of us…

We will need make-up to keep the shine off our lovely foreheads!  I checked with make-up artist Jim Choate from The Battle of Chantilly (Ox Hill) to see what we would need.  We would also use reflectors to control the light if necessary.  

We decided to work on weekdays, preferably Fridays.  We would try to schedule one or two filming sessions each day, i.e., film one of us in the morning, have lunch, and film one of us in the afternoon.  

As for the historical pictures, we would need 8 x 10 prints of pictures to be used for each story.  This will allow Bert to move in and around to animate the pictures.  Don and Chuck will collect all the current prints or files and have the right sized prints made.  

The working title of the documentary will be Mosby’s Combat Operations in Fairfax County, Virginia.  As to the length, we decided to film everything and see how long it turns out to be.  Then we’ll make any decisions as to adjusting the length.

We also decided to contact David Rubenstein of Herndon to provide an original sound score.  David did the original music for The Battle of Chantilly (Ox Hill) and Spies in Crinoline.  We will use Stephen Wolfsberger to create a map showing the location of each operation and the graphics for the DVD cover.  Steve had created maps for my last two books and the DVD covers for Chantilly and Spies so again, we are working with people we have worked with in the past.

We finally decided we’ll need official production hats for everyone working on the documentary.  Very professional!

We were now ready to begin the on-site filming.