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Legendary historian shines in 'Fields of Honor' page 2
Memorable battlefield talks by Ed Bearss are now available in book form. By Dane Hartgrove

Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 12/2/2006


Since his retirement from government service, Bearss has continued to lead tours of Civil War battlefields for a variety of groups, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Blue and Gray Education Society. His tours have many repeat attendees, who call themselves the Bearss Brigade. Not unlike a rock star, Bearss has his own band of groupies. Some of the latter have taped his battlefield lectures, some of which have been edited and published here as "Fields of Honor."

The book opens with Bearss' account of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859, then proceeds to Fort Sumter and First Manassas in 1861. For 1862, we have Shiloh and Antietam (Sharpsburg). The omission of Fredericksburg will be seen by some as a major flaw in the book, although others might regard this decision as a nod in the direction of historians Bob Krick and Frank O'Reilly, who have that subject well covered.

For 1863, Bearss gives us his takes on Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Chattanooga. For 1864, we have the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. For the war's last gasp, we have Sherman's Carolinas campaign and Lee's retreat from Five Forks to Appomattox. There is also an epilogue on the salvaging of the USS Cairo.

Each chapter bears the Bearss imprint, that ability to present the essence of a given situation with a minimum of truly descriptive words. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Maybe so, but being on a battlefield with Ed Bearss there to tell you what happened raises historical description to a new art form. "Fields of Honor" may give its readers some sense of this experience.

The National Geographic Society has produced a volume truly worthy of its author. Maps and illustrations are well placed, although a list of the maps and their page locations would have made their use more convenient for the reader. But this is a minor criticism. Those of us who know Ed Bearss' abilities can only hope that this volume of major gems will be followed by others recounting what happened on lesser-known battlefields. "Fields of Honor" deserves a place in the library of everyone interested in America's great civil conflict.

DANE HARTGROVE formerly of Stafford County, is a freelance writer living in Salisbury, N.C. Send e-mail to his attention to
Email: gwoolf@freelancestar.com.

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