For the Westminster Memorial Day Parade on May 25, Steve Carney, right, portrayed a Union soldier and accompanied Vickie Koslak, who was dressed in period mourning attire for the event. Both are residents of Harney. __- Original Credit:
For the Westminster Memorial Day Parade on May 25, Steve Carney, right, portrayed a Union soldier and accompanied Vickie Koslak, who was dressed in period mourning attire for the event. Both are residents of Harney. __- Original Credit: (Nancy McKenzie/correspondent photo)

Some people journey to other places, other lands. Steve Carney, of Harney, journeys through time.

Carney, 26, has spent much of his life studying American Civil War history and interpreting it for others.


"My dad always jokes that I was a little kid, barely talking, and I was talking to him about the Civil War," Carney said. "Living close to Gettysburg and having my dad's family in Virginia really brought it close to me early on."

Carney said his Civil War ancestors fought on opposite sides of the conflict — his father's folks for the Confederacy and his mother's folks for the Union.

"They were actually shooting at each other at some point," he said.

His interest caught fire during a Boy Scout hike in Gettysburg when he was 11. The town holds a huge Civil War parade on the Saturday closest to President Lincoln's appearance at the dedication of the national cemetery there in 1863.

"Remembrance Day has always been my absolute favorite event, because I've been doing it since I was a kid," Carney said. "I stumbled across the parade, when I was here on a Boy Scout hike ... that led me to want to do this kind of history."

This kind of history is living history, where an individual represents someone from another era, explaining and interpreting history in the first person.

"In seventh grade, I actually came into one of my classes and talked to them about the Civil War," he said. "I put on a uniform and took on the historian role — that was the first time — and I've been doing it ever since."

A graduate of Francis Scott Key High School, Carney attended McDaniel College, earning membership in Phi Beta Kappa and several other honor societies. College limited the time he could devote to the Civil War, but he graduated in 2011, just in time to participate in the 150th anniversary observances of the beginning of the war.

Carney doesn't just work solo as a living historian. In 2011 he formed his own re-enacting unit, the 15th Virginia Cavalry, Confederate States of America, or CSA. He describes it as gathering a group of friends together and starting a unit.

In 2012, Carney expanded his re-enacting horizons when he joined up with the 1st Maryland Artillery, CSA, a Westminster-based unit that fires a 12-pound field howitzer, a full-size replica of a Civil War cannon. These days, at re-enactments, if the 15th Virginia is not on the field, Carney will be working on or commanding the 1st Maryland's gun detachment.

Civil War re-enacting events can range from a living history situation in the middle of a residential area to a carefully managed combat scenario — without projectiles. Carney has participated in all types of re-enacting, from the Westminster Memorial Day Parade to the 150th Gettysburg battle re-enactment.

"I like aspects of most events, but I really like being around my people — my units," he said. "Being an only child, my family grows with my friends."

Although both units are traditionally on the gray side, in actual practice, they can appear at events as Union or Confederate troops.

"You have to have both sides represented in order to be able to play," said Ned Landis, of Westminster, leader of the 1st Maryland.


Carney became a member of the Civil War Historical Impressions group of living historians, based in Gettysburg, in 2013. His work has led to roles in historical programs for Fox News, the Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel, among others.

Carney is a member of Carroll County's Pipe Creek Civil War Round Table, and is a co-chairman for the upcoming Corbit's Charge living history event in 2016. In September 2015, he gave a presentation for 2,700 Boy Scouts, in groups of 600 at a time, for the Gettysburg Foundation.

Carney's ability to interpret history through stories helped him pay for college. After a job working with old documents in the Maryland State Archives fell through because of lack of funding, Carney started leading ghost tours in Gettysburg.

"I've worked for Mark Nesbitt of Ghosts of Gettysburg since 2008," Carney said. "My tours tend to focus more on the history than the ghosts, though. You learn human interest stuff that went on in the war — that's really what I care about."

Carney has another interest that comes from his family, but it doesn't have to do with the Civil War. Carney was literally born into The Dixie Highway Band as the son of two of the band's musicians — Ron Carney and Cheryl "Dusty" Springer Carney.

"I was born into a musical family — ever since I was a kid, my parents' band was always there," he said. "I've been playing harmonica with them since I was 8 or 9, and I picked up the guitar in high school."

No matter where the future leads him, Carney said, he plans to continue with his Civil War living history work.

"People tend to overlook history; I try to remind them of the sacrifices that people made during the war on both sides," he said. "There are lots of things that still echo, and people don't realize that."