Editor’s note: Our recurring series Notes from the Classroom gives teachers in Union County schools the opportunity to talk about experiences in the classroom or projects their students are working on. This week, the Union County Public Schools communication department talks about a ‘Civil War Day’ held at Porter Ridge High School.
Making history come alive seems to be a specialty for one Porter Ridge High School teacher, who even went as far as to enlist the help of re-enactors to help teach his lessons.
History teacher Dan Korn’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.
“It’s a lot of talking about what the realities are as opposed to what the myths are,” Korn said. “We attempt to correct some of those myths. I want students to have a better understanding about what it was allabout. 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.”
Korn and three others portrayed Confederate soldiers in the 13th North Carolina Company B, “the Ranalburg Rifles,” which formed in the Steele Creek Church area of southwest Mecklenburg County. “We’re in North Carolina and the reality is, they were Confederates,” Korn said.
The two other re-enactors were both women, offering a closer look at the female role during that time. Kathleen Domanski, a registered nurse at CMC-Union, portrayed a mature woman of the Victorian era who is a widow and runs a women’s finishing school.
“I hope students learn that they are so lucky to be living in the time they’re living,” Domanski said. “Women were not allowed to think. They were not supposed to be educated. They were intelligent, but couldn’t do anything.”
Allie Hines, who works in the private sector as a stage manager, portrayed a young woman of “courting age” and demonstrates to students the “language of the fan.”
“We were not allowed to speak, necessarily,” Hines said. “If 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 ‘yes’ by putting the fan to her right eye, and ‘no’ by putting it to her left eye.”
Brad Blackmon, an electrician by trade, portrayed 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 depicted 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 portrayed 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.
“Bob does the Rebel yell for the students, in full battle mode, with the rifle equipped with a bayonet,” Korn said. “He marches toward me, screaming that yell. You should see the reaction of the students when he does that.”
Korn said teaching Civil War history has significance in Union County because of the county’s own history. The harsh reality of the local history during the Civil War often surprises students.
“Union County sent 1,400 men off to fight the Civil War,” Korn said. “Only 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 sister’s husband and your next door neighbor.”