ED BEARSS


 
Ed Bearss speaks to the
Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia
about
"Custer at Little Bighorn"
on October 11, 2016
at the Fort McNair Officers' Club in Washington D.C.

Questions and answers follow the presentation.
A copy of the maps used during his presentation are available at http://files.cwrtdc.org/Bearss10-11-2016.pdf
 
About the Topic: At age 23, George Armstrong Custer became one of the youngest generals in the Union Army, and he was victorious in many cavalry battles of the Civil War. He stood out for flamboyant uniforms and aggressive tactics. At the conclusion of the Appomattox Campaign, in which he and his troops played a decisive role, Custer was present at General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.

After the War, Custer remained a major general in the United States Volunteers until they were mustered out in February 1866. He reverted to his permanent rank of captain and was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment in July 1866. He was dispatched to the west in 1867 to fight in the American Indian Wars.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, commonly referred to as Custer's Last Stand, was an armed engagement between the 7th Cavalry Regiment and the combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes.  The battle, which occurred June 25–26, 1876, near the Little Bighorn River in eastern Montana Territory, was the most prominent action of the Great Sioux War of 1876.
The fight was an overwhelming victory for the members of the tribes who fought against the U.S. troops and who were led by several major leaders, including Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull. The 7th Cavalry, including the Custer Battalion, a force of 700 men led by Custer, suffered a major defeat.  Five of the 7th Cavalry's twelve companies were annihilated; they lost 16 officers, 242 troopers, and 10 scouts. Among the dead were Custer, all of the personnel in the companies under his immediate command, including two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law, and 18 men who fought in the southern part of the battlefield (i.e., the valley and hilltop engagements in the Reno-Benteen Battlefield).
Our speaker, Ed Bearss, grew up on a ranch adjacent to the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana and like very few others knows of the battle, the landscape, the personalities, and the controversies that have been passed down over the years.  Why didn’t Custer wait for the other U.S. Army columns under Terry and Gibbon before attacking?  How large was the tribal village that Custer attacked?  Did Crook's defeat at the Battle of Rosebud the week before seal Custer’s fate? Why did Custer divide his regiment into three battalions that were too distant to support each other?  Could the Reno and Benteen battalions have rode to the rescue?  Why were Custer’s tactics effective against the Confederates in the Civil War but not members of the tribes on the high plains?  Join us to hear Ed’s opinion on these questions and more!
About Our Speaker:  Edwin Cole (Ed) Bearss needs no introduction to this Round Table or to most Civil War enthusiasts. He is a world-renowned military historian, author, and tour guide recognized for his work on the history of the Civil War and World War II.  We are gratified to have Ed as one of our Round Table's lifetime honorary member, yearly speaker, and frequent leader for our field trips and tours.
Ed is the author of numerous books including the definitive three volume series, “The Vicksburg Campaign.” He is a tireless advocate of Civil War preservation, donating his time to many organizations and activities involved with that mission, including serving on the board of the Civil War Trust. Among his many honors, Ed was named by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of its “35 Who Made A Difference.” Since 2005, the Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia has recognized Ed’s contributions by making an annual “Ed Bearss Award” to a preservation cause of his choosing. To date, the Ed Bearss Award has provided more than $10,000 to worthy--many times little known--Civil War preservation efforts.
Ed has worked as a historian at the Vicksburg National Military Park, where he conducted research leading him and two friends to the long-lost Union gunboat the U.S.S. Cairo. He also located two forgotten forts at Grand Gulf, Mississippi. Ed rose in the National Park Service (NPS) to the post of regional historian and is acclaimed as more knowledgeable on the Civil War battlefields than virtually anyone else.

During his time with the National Park Service, Ed led efforts for researching, preserving, and interpreting among others: Pea Ridge; Wilson’s Creek; Fort Smith; Stones River, Fort Donelson; the battlefields around Richmond, Fort Moultrie, and Fort Point. Ed was named Chief Historian of the NPS 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, Ed received the title "Chief Historian Emeritus," which he holds to this day.
Ed’s abundance of awards and honors are too numerous to mention. Some of the more recent include: the 2014 DAR Medal of Honor; the Douglas Southall Freeman Award for 2014 in honor of his book entitled “The Petersburg Campaign,” recognized as the best published book of high merit in the field of Southern history; and the Lincoln Forum’s Richard Nelson Current Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.  In addition, the Civil War Trust has established its annual lifetime achievement award in Ed’s name.
Currently, there is a bill pending in Congress (H.R. 2059) sponsored by Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA), to recognize Ed, and he may soon receive a new accolade to add to an already lengthy resume: Congressional Gold Medal recipient. For more information about that effort, click HERE or visit http://www.cwrtdc.org/p/ed-bearss.html

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