Edwin C. Bearss: Historian knows forest and trees of Civil War

Historians in the News

SHARPSBURG - A long-ago conflict came to life Monday for a dozen or so members of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who huddled around famed Civil War historian Edwin C. Bearss at Antietam National Battlefield.

Hanging on every word as Bearss described the opening clashes of what would be a long day of bitter battle and bloodshed, they were treated to the kind of detail one doesn't always get in history books.

Evoking, perhaps, an image of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Bearss waved a well-worn baton to show the direction from which the troops of either side advanced for the inevitable confrontation. But happily, the only advancing troops on this Labor Day were a few joggers and other tourists. And the closest thing to caissons were farm vehicles.

In the community of Civil War historians, Bearss is an icon. Chief Historian Emeritus for the National Park Service, he has conducted these battlefield tours as if it were a full-time job since retiring in the mid-1990s.

"I wouldn't do this 300 days a year if I didn't enjoy it," Bearss said.

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