Ed Bearss has passed away at the age of 97


Apr 14, 2019
I was fortunate enough to spend a week touring battlefields with Ed in a small group some 20 years ago. I had been on a couple of weekend tours with larger groups prior to that one. The setting was so intimate and the opportunities to interact so abundant that I still have very vivid and detailed memories. Here are a few tidbits that have stuck with me.

Ed did not watch television or read nonfiction. He explained that he did not want to clutter his mind with nonessential facts.

He confirmed that he did go on the $64000 Question show to raise the balance of funds necessary to finish the raising and restoration of the Cairo.

Because he was a news hermit, he knew nothing of 9/11. As he was walking to the subway from his apartment to the Pentagon City Metro stop that morning, he was perplexed by the hordes of people rushing away. As he was puzzling the cause he saw American 77 as it flew into the Pentagon. The only time he was ever an eyewitness to history as opposed to a reporter of history.

One of the tour stops was on private property. Ed knew the owner -- or thought he did. When he went to the door for permission to take us to the site of a significant skirmish, he was met by a stranger. Seems the house had changed hands since his last tour. The new owner was a CW buff and recognized Ed as someone he sees on TV. Gushed over him like a rock star, to Ed's embarrassment.

He was very fond of Forrest and Lincoln's military attributes.

He gave one of the most eloquent and passionate extemporaneous orations I have ever heard about the effort in a small town to cover up regrettable actions that occurred there. It was to the effect that history is not pristine and both the good and the bad parts are an inextricable part of our culture and who we are as Americans. Plus the failure to acknowledge, much less understand, the seamy sides of history just makes a recurrence that much more likely.

And his encyclopedic memory of individual units and maneuvers down to the company level was staggering.

I hope this gives another glimpse into Ed's personality. This trip with Ed was very impactful to me. And I did leave with an inscription on my copy of Brice's Crossroads.

Later I signed up for one of his 2 week bus tours of the WW2 European battlefields but had to cancel because of work commitments. I will always regret that.

Godspeed, Mr. Bearss.

Michael W.

First Sergeant
Jun 19, 2015
The Hoosier State
The one and only time I got to meet Ed. He gave a fantastic lecture and a wonderful experience.


First Sergeant
Dec 16, 2011
Saint Joseph
I would like to add my Ed Bearss story, to show how kind a person he was. I wrote him a letter in 2012, asking about the fortifications at Vicksburg. He wrote back, said to call him, and he arranged a time as I remember it. At the appointed time we spoke on the phone. He was in a motel room in Gettysburg in between a tour I imagine. He answered my questions, for a complete stranger. He was a bit hard of hearing, but I learned a lot. I will always treasure that memory.
Also, I love to listen to the "Travel Brains" Guide to the Siege of Vicksburg. Ed provides much of the commentary. If you are interested in Vicksburg, it is a real gem. It is worth the entertainment value alone.


Sep 11, 2020
Man he was one of the best Historians out there for the Civil War.

https://civilwartalk.com/file:///Users/ron/Desktop/Special Order No. 1 - Edwin C Bearss.pdf#page=1

Microsoft Word - Special Order No. 1 - Edwin C Bearss.docx

Edward J. Norris Commander in Chief
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

91 Kelly Drive Lancaster, MA 01523 [email protected]

Edward J. Norris Commander in Chief Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War 91 Kelly Drive Lancaster, MA 01523 [email protected] Special Order #1 Series 2019-2020 17 September 2020 1.It is with great sadness that I’m reporting the passing of Edwin C. Bearss, 97, of Arlington County, Virginia on September 15, 2020. Many of you knew him and witnessed his contributions to our organization and to our understanding of the Civil War. 2.Brother Bearss was one of our four current Honorary Members. He became an Honorary Member at the 130th National Encampment (2011) held in Reston, Virginia and was associated with the Lincoln Cushing Camp in the Department of the Chesapeake. 3.Brother Bearss was the recipient of numerous awards in the fields of history and preservation. He wrote extensively, including a three-volume history of the Vicksburg Campaign, and was a regular guest on programs for the History Channel, A&E Networks and TLC, as well as appearing throughout Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War. On November 1, 1981, he was named Chief Historian of the National Park Service, a position he held until 1994. After his retirement in 1995, he received the title Chief Historian Emeritus, which he held until his passing 4.At the request of the Bearss Family, in lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Brother Bearss may be made to the American Battlefield Trust. Recognizing the special place that these battlefields held in his heart, such gifts will be used to secure additional land associated with the Vicksburg Campaign. Ordered this 17th Day of September, 2020 Edward J. Norris Commander-in-Chief Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Attested: Jonathan C. Davis, PDC National Secretary Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War