Ed Bearss on
"Grant's Vicksburg Campaign"
Edwin C. Bearss speaks to the Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia on October 9, 2012, in preparation for his tour with the CWRTDC in late April 2013.  Photographs and audio recordings of his tour will be posted soon.

 Summary of Presentation:
The Siege of Vicksburg (May 18 to July 4, 1863) was the final major military action in the Vicksburg Campaign. In a series of maneuvers, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River and drove the Confederate army of Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton into the defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

When two major assaults (May 19 and May 22, 1863) against the Confederate fortifications were repulsed with heavy casualties, Grant decided to besiege the city beginning on May 25. With no reinforcement, supplies nearly gone, and after holding out for more than forty days, the garrison finally surrendered on July 4. This action (combined with the capitulation of Port Hudson on July 9) yielded command of the Mississippi River to the Union forces, who would hold it for the rest of the conflict.

The Confederate surrender following the siege at Vicksburg is sometimes considered, when combined with Gen. Robert E. Lee's defeat at Gettysburg the previous day, the turning point of the war. It also cut off communication with Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department for the remainder of the war.

Introduction and Biography:
Ed Bearss, an honorary lifetime member of the CWRTDC, is universally regarded as the unsurpassed tour guide of Civil War battlefields, no doubt in part because he has visited almost every battlefield in the country . . . and many multiple times.

Ed is the author or editor of numerous books and articles, including the definitive three volume series, The Vicksburg Campaign, and has been featured in many documentaries and television programs. He is a tireless advocate of Civil War preservation, donating his time to many organizations and activities involved with that mission including his service on the board of the Civil War Trust. Among his countless accolades and honors are the Bruce Catton Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of Interior, and a Commendation from the Secretary of the Army. Since 2005, our Round Table has recognized Ed’s contributions by making an annual "Ed Bearss Award" to a preservation cause of his choosing.

Ed has worked as a historian at Vicksburg National Military Park where he co-conducted research that found the long-lost Union gunboat, U.S.S. Cairo. He also located two forgotten forts at Grand Gulf, Mississippi. Ed rose within the National Park Service (NPS) to the post of regional historian and was recognized as more knowledgeable on the Civil War battlefields than virtually anyone else. During his time with the NPS, Ed led efforts to research, preserve, and interpret Pea Ridge, Wilson’s Creek, Fort Smith, Stones River, Fort Donelson, the battlefields around Richmond, Fort Moultrie and Fort Point among many others.

Ed was named Chief Historian of the National Park Service in 1981, a position he held until 1994. He also served as special assistant to the NPS director from 1994 to 1995. After his retirement in 1995, he received the title Chief Historian Emeritus, which he holds to this day.

Ed, who turns 90 next year, continues to lead tours traveling around the United States, the Pacific, and Europe. I can personally attest to the report that " he routinely outpaces his much younger guests in charging over rough terrain, recreating the color of famous infantry and cavalry attacks." Ed indeed demonstrates his conviction that "You can't describe a battlefield unless you walk it!"


For additional information about his presentation, download CWRTDC's October 2012 newsletter available by clicking here: cwrtdc-newsletters.  For information about the Round Table and to apply for membership, visit http://www.cwrtdc.org/ 

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