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Monday, 4 June 2018

Recognizing Ed Bearss and More Heroes of Battlefield Preservation

Recognizing Ed Bearss and More Heroes of Battlefield Preservation

This week marked our first annual conference as the American Battlefield Trust, and we couldn’t imagine a more fitting way to commemorate the occasion than by honoring legendary historian and storyteller Edwin C. Bearss.

Ed accepted our re-dedicated Lifetime Achievement Award during an emotional ceremony in historic Newport News, Virginia. Ed also became the first inductee in our newly established Battlefield Preservation Hall of Fame. To represent his enduring contributions to history and preservation, the Trust will also be erecting a granite monument to Bearss on the Champion Hill battlefield in Mississippi.

I guess you could say we at the Trust think highly of Ed! Here are a few of his outstanding qualities that have led so many—myself included—to consider him a living national treasure.

A keen and curious mind. From his dynamic and detail-rich tours to his recovery of the lost U.S.S. Cairo gunboat, Ed's phenomenal memory and tenacious curiosity have made him a powerhouse of knowledge and discovery.

Singular charisma. As Smithsonian Magazine put it, “In Civil War circles, Bearss is nothing short of a rock star.” Known for his booming voice and theatrical delivery, Ed inspires audiences to brave all kinds of weather to learn about history.

Humility. In the words of friend and colleague Bill Vodra, a “Bearss groupie” who frequently travels with Ed on his history tours, “He's not pedantic and not a showoff. If he gets something wrong, he'll say, ‘Thank you for correcting me.’”

Relevant experience. Growing up hearing personal accounts of the war from a veteran in his hometown of Billings, Montana, Ed was immersed in Civil War history from a young age. Later, he experienced the pain and camaraderie of war firsthand while serving in the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion during World War II.

Respect. A common thread throughout Ed's career is his deep respect for people, land, and stories. This reverence has unified his diverse talents and interests, making him the exceptional historian and preservationist he is today.

Ed wasn’t the only preservation hero honored at our conference this week. The Trust presented its Shelby Foote Preservation Legacy Award to philanthropist and battlefield advocate Mark Perreault, a longtime member of the organization, in recognition for his years of extraordinary support for battlefield preservation in Virginia and throughout the nation. From his work at Fort Monroe to his generous contributions to the Richmond and Petersburg battlefields, Mark's commitment to our nation's heritage is total.

We also recognized two outstanding nonprofits with our Brian C. Pohanka Preservation Organization Awards: The Save Historic Antietam Foundation and Civil War Trails. These groups represent the best that the battlefield preservation movement has to offer – inspiring interest in the past by preserving hallowed ground and encouraging people to experience history in the places where it happened. Please join me in applauding their remarkable efforts.

Read our news release to learn more about the work of these extraordinary individuals and organizations.

You can also learn more about Ed Bearss on our website and join us in celebrating his legacy by supporting the bill to award him with a Congressional Gold Medal.

American Battlefield Trust