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Book signing helps to promote WWI work

By Staff | Jul 21, 2017

Chronicle photo by Toni Milbourne James Horn stands ready to discuss his newly released book on World War I and Jefferson County during a signing at Four Seasons Books.

Four Seasons Books was the venue, as it often is, for newcomer James Horn to continue to promote his newly released book “World War I and Jefferson County West Virginia.” The inaugural promotion event was held Thursday evening, July 13 when several folks gathered in the upstairs room at Four Seasons to hear Horn detail the book and the journey to its publication.

Horn, 25, is a graduate of South Carrol High School in Carroll County, Maryland and a 2014 graduate of Shepherd University. His major at Shepherd was history with a focus on the Civil War; however, his first published work came after his interested was raised by a class on World War I.

He shared that after his high school history teacher spent a full week on World War I, Horn knew he had an interest in the topic.

“My teacher had hands-on activities as part of the study and he didn’t gloss over it,” Horn shared during his talk.

His interest continued at Shepherd when he enrolled in a class on World War I that included travel to Europe to World War I sites.

“It was a life altering trip,” Horn said.

He explained that as part of the class, he was to research a soldier from his home town who fought and died in World War I and then to give a five-minute talk at the soldier’s grave.

“I found William Joseph Henry Watters, III,” Horn said.

His research culminated in an emotional experience at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France where he spoke about that soldier at his grave marker.

“To stand over his grave after a semester of research about him-it was so emotional,” Horn told those gathered Thursday.

His interest in the Great War continued. Opportunities afforded him through work and volunteering at several National Historical Parks as well as a Century America Project led him to develop further ideas for what became his recently published book.

“I hope the book will encourage people to remember World War I a little bit more,” Horn said.

The book, he said, shares stories of local individuals and locations, from the battlefield to the home front.

The breakdown of the book, he shared, is in five chapters focusing on Shepherdstown, Shepherd University, Harpers Ferry, Storer College and Charles Town. He chose the three towns as the three main towns of the time and the colleges because the soldiers at the time were of college age and came from these institutions.

Each chapter then centers around a certain theme, the five of which Horn shared in some detail.

Shepherdstown’s theme focuses on the Red Cross where war efforts were strong in collecting any and all items necessary for supporting troops. The numbers of items gathered in Shepherdstown were exceptionally high and included, in the summer of 1918, 2,649 garments, 12,050 surgical dressings and 400 pairs of socks just to name a few.

Harpers Ferry, which Horn sees as a gateway of sorts, saw the introduction of Spanish influenza. As a transportation hub with the railroad, Horn said it is likely that the influenza which killed thousands, could easily have made its way to Jefferson County via the in and out transportation in Harpers Ferry.

Charles Town was the county seat and therefore, home of the local Draft Office. World War I saw the first draft since the Civil War. Overall more than U.S. 58,000 soldiers served. Of those, over 530 were from Jefferson County and over 300 from Shepherd and Storer colleges.

Storer College offered the African American experience and Horn used that as a lens into the country.

Horn shared several snippets of the book with those gathered at the kick-off book signing, but just enough to whet the appetite for more.

The book is available at Four Seasons Book Store and on Amazon.com.