Harpers Weekly

American Civil War Correspondent and Special Artist
James Allen Davis

 

Torin Finney

Torin Finney was born in New Jersey and grew up in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia in the shadows Torin Finney at the Bellagio in Las Vegas of our nation's hallowed Civil War battlefields. During his youth, he visited Fort Sumter, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Manassas, New Market, and many other historical sites. He attended his first Civil War reenactment in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the Bicentennial summer of 1976.

Much of his childhood was spent sketching historical scenes, writing novels and plays and designing games around the important events he had read and learned so much about in American history.

As a high school student, Torin moved to California to graduate from Millikan High School in Long Beach and receive his B.A. in American Studies from UC Santa Cruz. During his high school and college years he was involved in music, art, drama and dance, as well as travel and historical research.

Moving across this great land yet again, he earned an M.A. in American Civilization from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and a few years later an M.Div. from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California. He interned at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu and spent a year pastoring in Kansas before returning to California to work in the private sector for six years.

While in his thirties, Torin revived a childhood interest in genealogy. He soon discovered four Union Army ancestors in his family tree and obtained their service records from the National Archives. He inherited a collection of veteran medals belonging to his great-great-grandfather, Michael Schneider, who served throughout the War in Company G of the 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. It was this interest in his family history that eventually led him into Civil War reenacting in 1996.

Torin entered the teaching profession in 1998 (see Professional Resume), earning his teaching credential from the University of La Verne in 2000. He served as a classroom teacher for twenty years for grades 6-12 as well as at the college level, including courses in United States history, world history, geography, government, economics, humanities, comparative religions, and beginning journalism and drama. His portrayal of James Allen Davis has been featured in documentary films and television news stories.

Torin's book, Unsung Hero of The Great War: The Life and Witness of Ben Salmon, (Paulist Press, 1989) was the winner of the 1990 Pax Christi USA Book Award. Numerous articles, sketches and dispatches related to his James Allen Davis impression have been published in The Bakersfield Californian, Bakersfield Magazine, The Civil War News, The Civil War Courier, the Camp Chase Gazette, and The Los Angeles Times.

Torin met fellow Civil War reenactor Jill Forbath at an event in Moorpark, California in November 2002, where she was portraying a Union Army vivandiere. They began reenacting together in 2004 and participated regularly at living history events throughout California and Nevada until they retired from the hobby in 2011.

James Allen Davis and President Lincoln and Mary Willey

Mr. Davis with President Lincoln and the noted stage actress Mary Willey (Jill Forbath) at an event in 2005.


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