By now the word has gone forth that one of the greatest historians of modern times has left his earthly trials to spend eternity with those whose lives and times he brought to life in great detail to untold thousands of enthralled audiences on the battlefields, in the conference centers, on television and in print. Edwin Cole Bearss, historian emeritus of the National Park Service, died on Tuesday, September 15th.
Web pages, Facebook, Twitter and every other modern form of communication is rife with sad comments about Ed’s passing. And, as one might anticipate, there are no small number of “Ed Stories” that abound. No one who was privileged to listen to Ed’s programs…and certainly no one who has ever “roughed” a field tour with the man…can ever forget his encyclopedic knowledge, gravelly voice, sly wit and pointed critiques. Everyone who ever met Ed Bearss has their own favorite recollection!
The First Defenders were blessed to have Ed visit with us on eight occasions over the years (uncharacteristically, his ninth scheduled appearance had to be cancelled to his great dismay because he could not be released from the hospital in time!). His presentations were always the highlight of the year, and we could look forward to record crowds. In fact, Ed is the only speaker the Round Table has ever had who broke the 100 mark!
American history…especially of the Civil War era…has been much advanced and made more animated through the presence of this once-in-a-generation man. But, while he is gone, he has left us all with a treasure trove of research, character sketches, anecdotes and memories that we can share and enjoy until we meet Ed Bearss again! Godspeed, and Semper Fi!