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History teacher, author relives Civil War battles

Members of The Living History Association of Mecklenburg pose with Diane Willard, associate director of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. From left: Rex Hovey; Daniel Korn, Porter Ridge High School's teacher of the year; Geary Shafer; Bob Ellet; Carl Howerton.

Daniel Korn not only teaches history, he relives it every chance he gets.

Porter Ridge High School's 2009 teacher of the year is a member of The Living History Association of Mecklenburg, which reenacts Civil War battles and provides educational programs for students and the public.

It may seem strange for a native New Yorker to portray a Confederate soldier of the 13th N.C., Company B. He confesses he was a little wary at first: "Some of the groups...are still fighting the war," he says.

But his fears were put to rest by people like Unit Commander Geary Shafer, Carl Howerton and Rex Hovey - and their love of history and devotion to historical accuracy.

Shafer, a nurse anesthetist who lives in Weddington, says the group works hard to dispel any notion that it is "a bunch of rowdy rednecks drinking beer on Saturdays." He emphasizes that members are serious historians knowledgeable about the smallest details of battles, uniforms, camp life and more. And sometimes the unit portrays Union soldiers.

Many members have ancestors who fought on the Confederate side. One - retired firefighter Rex Hovey of Mint Hill - has ancestors who fought on both. His great-great-grandfather Bleeker Hovey was a surgeon for the 136th N.Y., tending Union soldiers at Gettysburg. Another of Hovey's ancestors, Helum Hunt of Pickens County, S.C., was firing artillery shells their way.

Korn says his interest in the Civil War was piqued when, as a college student, he toured the Wilderness Battlefield in northern Virginia. "I had what ... I'm going to call an 'experience,'" he says. "It was quite scary for me at the time."

"When I got home and relayed the story to my parents, my father said, 'Make sure you tell your grandmother this.'"

His grandmother went through the family Bible and found an ancestor who had been killed in that battle, he says. "From that point on, I was hooked."

His interest in the Civil War led him to write a book, "Dawn's Gray Steel," a novel about the Battle of Shiloh published by AuthorHouse.

Korn, who describes himself as "very passionate in the classroom," tries to get his students hooked on history as well. He teaches U.S. history (including advance placement courses) and Civil War history.

His students, whom he encourages to join a living history group, "know I know what I'm talking about, because I do it!" he says.

Written by: Jane Duckwall for the Charlotte Observer
Posted: Dec 04, 2009 by

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