Ed Bearss, shown here at his 90th Birthday party, still gets around, leading tours of Civil War battlefields and speaking to various groups about Civil War history and battlefield preservation.
You may remember him from the Ken Burn’s Civil War series on PBS. This Monday night you have the chance to hear him in person as Ed Bearss, National Park Historian Emeritus, will speak on the topic “Sept. 19, 1863- Battle of Chickamauga” at the Eastman Employee Center, room 219 at 7 pm.
Bearss is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from World War II who was with the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion in the invasion of Guadalcanal and the Russell Islands and 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division, in New Britain. On January 2, 1944, Bearss was severely wounded at “Suicide Creek” by Japanese machine gun fire. He was evacuated to California where he spent 26 months recovering from his wounds.
After the war Bearss used his G.I. Bill benefits to finance his education at Georgetown University. He received his M.A. in history from Indiana University in 1955, writing his thesis on Confederate General Patrick Cleburne. As part of his research he visited the Western Theater battlefields on which Cleburne fought, telling friends, “You can’t describe a battle field unless you walk it.”
On the battlefield of Shiloh in 1954, he made a career decision inspired by the park historian he met, Charles E. (Pete) Shedd: interpretation of battles in the field was far more interesting than the academic study of history in an office. Although attracted to a National Park Service career, he first joined the Office of the Chief of Military History, U.S. Army, but soon took work as an historian at Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, Mississippi. At Vicksburg, Bearss did the research, leading him and two friends to the long-lost Union gunboat U.S.S. Cairo. He also located two forgotten forts at Grand Gulf, Mississippi. He was promoted in 1958 to Southeast Regional Historian, working out of Vicksburg, but he spent the majority of his time on the road, visiting virtually every battlefield in the country.
Now 90 years old, Bearss still gets around, leading tours of Civil War battlefields and speaking to various groups about Civil War history and battlefield preservation.
The Battle of Chickamauga, Bearss topic Monday night, was the biggest Confederate Victory in the Western Theater of the War but was one of the bloodiest battles of the war, second only to Gettysburg. Those who follow my series may remember the role played by the 19th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry during that battle and the heavy casualties they suffered.
The event is open to the public and is brought to you by the Tri Cities Civil War Round Table.