Archived Stories for Union County Public Schools
Civil War re-enactors offer â€˜real lookâ€™ at history
Making history come alive seems to be a specialty for one Porter Ridge High School teacher, who even goes so far as to enlist the help of re-enactors to help teach his lessons.
Porter Ridge High School history teacher Dan Kornâ€™s students were treated to a Civil War Day recently, giving students a look back at life during the War Between the States. The activities coincide with his class titled Civil War History, an honors course at his school.
â€œItâ€™s a lot of talking about what the realities are as opposed to what the myths are,â€ Korn said. â€œWe attempt to correct some of those myths. I want students to have a better understanding about what it was all about. We want to give them a better understanding of where we came from, how we got here. These were living, breathing people and the things that happened were real.â€
Five re-enactors, dressed in full regalia of the period, spent the day giving the history books a little live action. Each re-enactor presents a different character for students to witness.
Korn and three others portray Confederate soldiers in the 13th North Carolina Company B, â€œthe Ranalburg Rifles,â€ which formed in the Steele Creek Church area of southwest Mecklenburg County. â€œWeâ€™re in North Carolina and the reality is, they were confederates,â€ he said.
The two other re-enactors are both women, offering a closer look at the female role during that time. Kathleen Domanski, a registered nurse at CMC-Union, portrays a mature woman of the Victorian era who is a widow and runs a womenâ€™s finishing school.
â€œI hope students learn that they are so lucky to be living in the time theyâ€™re living,â€ Domanski said. â€œWomen were not allowed to think. They were not supposed to be educated. They were intelligent, but couldnâ€™t do anything.â€
Allie Hines, who works in the private sector as a stage manager, portrays a young woman of â€œcourting ageâ€ and demonstrates to students the â€œlanguage of the fan.â€
â€œWe were not allowed to speak, necessarily,â€ Hines said. â€œIf a man asked to see her, she would tell him what time by the number of blades (folds) she would hold up. She could say â€˜yesâ€™ by putting the fan to her right eye, and â€˜noâ€™ by putting it to her left eye.â€
Brad Blackmon, an electrician by trade, portrays an early war character from North Carolina or what a Southern soldier would look like in the early days of fighting. Sean Dunham, an area firefighter, also depicts a soldier, but one who would have been seen during the later stages of the Civil War.
Bob Etzler, a groundskeeper for a local golf course, also portrays a character that would have been typical of Southern soldiers in the later stages of the war, where uniforms were not so shiny and new. Etzler is known for his ability to do the Rebel Yell, the battle cry of Confederate soldiers during attack.
â€œBob does the Rebel yell for the students, in full battle mode, with the rifle equipped with a bayonet,â€ Korn said. â€œHe marches toward me, screaming that yell. You should see the reaction of the students when he does that.â€
Korn said teaching Civil War history has significance in Union County because of the countyâ€™s own history. The harsh reality of the local history during the Civil War often surprises students.
â€œUnion County sent 1,400 men off to fight the Civil War,â€ Korn said. â€œOnly 200 came home. It decimated the male population of this county for 80 years. Regiments were formed literally from communities, so you went off to war with your father, your brother, your sisterâ€™s husband and your next door neighbor.â€
Ironically, several of the re-enactors have traced their ancestors to the Civil War. â€œIt makes it more personal,â€ Dunham said. â€œIâ€™ve traced my family all the way back to England. Iâ€™ve been to all the graves of my relatives who fought in the (Civil) War of Northern Aggression. Iâ€™ve been online and found documents as to where they were captured and where they were taken.â€
In the event there is a need to demonstrate Union soldiers, Korn said the re-enactors are equipped to â€œswitch sidesâ€ if necessary. When there is a need, they portray Union soldiers in the 136th New York State Volunteers (NYSV).
Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Feb 03, 2012 by Deb Coates Bledsoe