New Manchester Girl Study Guide

PDF pageEmail pagePrint page

by Cathy Kaemmerlen

Program Description 
The Walter Washington Stewart family were residents of New Manchester, Georgia, a mill town located about 25 miles west of Atlanta.  The father, Walter,was fighting with the Confederate Army when Union soldiers, under the orders of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, burned down the mill and surrounding buildings, charged the townspeople with treason for making cloth that supported the Confederate cause, shipped them to Louisville, KY where they were treated as prisoners of war.  This is a true story told by daughter Synthia Catherine Stewart, age 9 at the beginning of the story, of her family’s miraculous reunion with their father in Louisville, and after the war as they returned home to a deserted New Manchester.

About the artist:
Cathy Kaemmerlen, author, actress, historical interpreter, playwright, and storyteller, is known for her variety of characters, one-woman shows, and for bringing history to life.  A performer and “creator of shows” since she can remember, she has toured in schools coast to coast, since receiving a BA in English/elementary education from UNC-Charlotte, and a MFA in dance performance/choreography/theatre at the University of Wisconsin.  She tours some 20 current shows which she wrote, through the Georgia and South Carolina Touring Arts Rosters, Fulton County Teaching Museums, G.E.T. Programs in the Schools, and through her own production company, Tattlingtales Productions. She is the author of four books and many plays, including one commissioned by the DeKalb Historical Society. Most recently she was commissioned by the Plains Chautauqua Society to write and appear in the one-woman show:  The Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail.

Background of Art Form
Telling stories is an oral tradition, dating back to when mankind first developed a language or form of communication.  Storytelling is a universal way of passing down information to be saved and remembered for generations to come.  It is an interactive art form in which the storytellers’ passion for the story, material, and information is passed on to the audience, who sorts through, stores, and synthesizes what is heard.


Teachers, please read this to your students. 

Today we are going to see a program by actress/storyteller Cathy Kaemmerlen called New Manchester GirlShe is going to portray Synthia Catherine Stewart as a young girl, whose family worked at the New Manchester Mill in Sweetwater Creek, Georgia, making cloth for the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  When the Union Army came through, they were under orders by Gen. William T. Sherman to round up all the workers, set fire to the mill, and ship the mill workers across the Ohio River as prisoners of war.  Those who signed the oath of allegiance to the Union could be set free to find work up North.  The Stewart family, minus the father who was off fighting for the Confederate Army, were shipped toLouisville.  You will hear the true story of what happened to Synthia and her family and if they ever returned home.

Warm up Questions to set the stage for engaging students: 
.What were the historic events that led to the Civil War and to the arrest of the Georgia mill workers?
.What would it  have been like to have been a child working in the mills?
.What are the differences between growing up in the 1860’s and today?
.Why were cotton mills so important to the South?
.What do you think it would have been like to work in a textile mill?
.What would it have been like to have to go to work instead of going to school?
.How do you think you would feel when you were waiting for the enemy army to come to your town?

Vocabulary to review before the show:
Linthead: derogatory name millworkers were called to signify the lint from the cotton that would collect in their hair and on their clothes from working at the mill
Bluebellies:  term the southerners used in reference to the Yankees with their blue uniforms
Secesh:  term coined for those southerners who had seceded from the Union, causing the Civil War
Refugee:  someone who, by circumstances beyond their control, is taken from his home and placed in a shelter of some kind or other
Traitor:  one who betrays his allegiance to his country
Treason:  the act of being a traitor or conducting a traitorous deed
Osnaburg:  cotton cloth developed in Germany that is stronger and coarser than linen
Consumption:  often terminal illness if not treated by medication that affects the lungs, commonly called tuberculosis
Oath of allegiance:  pledge taken during the Civil War to switch allegiance or loyalty to the opposing side
Manna:  food miraculously supplied to the Israelites in the wilderness; hence, spiritual as well as physical nourishment

Warm Up Questions for meeting the Georgia Performance Standards for “Listening/Speaking/Viewing”:
.Describe the perfect audience.
.What are some of our class rules for being good listeners?
.How do we show someone we appreciate their visit to our school or classroom?
.How does being part of an audience help make you a good citizen?
.What are some examples of bad audience behavior or attitudes?
.How does a negative audience member effect your enjoyment of a show or performance?
.How would this make the performer feel?
.How do we want the performer to feel when they leave our school or classroom?

.What are the differences between growing up in the 1860’s and today?
.Brainstorm about what your family might do if you had to be torn apart and treated as refugees, living in a strange city.
.Draw parallels between what happened to the New Manchester mill workers and what has happened to other “innocent bystanders” who have become victims of war.  Is there such a thing as an innocent bystander in a civil war?
.Take a true to life incident from your family’s history and create a short monologue with it, as the actress/writer did to Scynthia Stewart’s story.
.Read the historic fiction book TURN HOMEWARD, HANNALEE about a Roswell millworker and compare the two stories.  Which one do you prefer and why?
.Visit Sweetwater Park and the mill ruins.  Arrange for a talk with Bill Cahill or Dan Emsweiller, Park historians.
.Become Friends of Sweetwater Park and help in their campaign to build a museum on the site.  Look up the web site that has much more information about the mills and workers.  Do a report on the Margaret White family or the Causey  or Humphries families or other families with known accounts or ties to New Manchester.

NEW MANCHESTER GIRL by Cathy Kaemmerlen
NORTH ACROSS THE RIVER by Ruth Beaumont Cook
“Walter Washington Stewart” by Dan Emsweller (check the friendsof sweetwatercreek site)
THE WOMEN WILL HOWL by Mary Deborah Petite (soon to be out in print)
DR. MARY WALKER by Charles McCool Snyder