Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ed Bearss

Today I had the pleasure to join a group of other volunteers for a hike with Ed Bearss, the legendary Civil War interpreter and walker extraordinaire. For me, he is a national treasure. If you aren't familiar with Ed, take a look at his bio on Wikipedia.

We started off at 9 a.m. at the Visitor's Center where Ed gave a quick orientation to the landscape and events leading to the start of the battle. As he spoke a fire broke out in the distance reminding folks of the Mumma Farm conflagration the morning of the battle.

We then boarded a yellow school bus NPS had rented for the day.

First stop was the Line Farm where the XII Corps bedded down late on the 16th about a mile and a half northeast of the I Corps bivouac.

Ed with the Line Farm in the distance. Barely visible through the trees beyond the Winnebago is the original farmhouse. It was in an outbuilding on this farmstead that XII Corps commander William Mansfield died having been wounded in the East Woods early in the morning.

Next stop was the Cornfield. We started south from Mansfield Avenue along the cornfield trail.

Along the way, we ran into a SHAF volunteer crew (Save Historic Antietam Foundation) replanting the East Woods.

Ed holds the group's undivided attention. His encyclopedic knowledge of Corps, Division, Brigade, Regiment movements is astounding. But his stories that weave a narrative of drama, bravery, failings, and humor are what makes touring the field with Ed so special.

While surveying the field from near Cornfield Avenue, we were flanked by a brigade of youngsters from a middle school in Colorado.

Every year they make this trip East to walk the battlefield. This is what history should be about--walking history as well as reading it.

Since they had strayed into a plowed field, Jim Rosebrock and I were detailed to tell them to get back on the trail. After some further prodding they eventually got back on track. A very enthusiastic and friendly group!

Passing through the Roulette Farmstead, the group paused to look for frogs--one of the few times we left the 19th Century all day.

Past the Roulette Farmstead and onto the trail leading to the Sunken Road (just to the left of this photo). Ed is going to be 87 soon but he has the stamina of a 17 year old. He did not sit once during the entire 8 hour hike. II Corps Commander Edwin Vose Sumner's troops complained that he ran them like a horse cavalry. Now I really know what they were talking about.

From the Sunken Road, we hiked parts of the Final Attack Trail which is a beautiful rolling trail. In the winter, with snow on the ground, it is a great cross country ski route.

After 8 hours, the hike concluded at Burnside's Bridge.

If you ever get an opportunity to walk a battlefield with Ed Bearss, do it.

Next post, back to the West Woods.

1 comment:

Jim Rosebrock said...

Great summary of a great tour Jim. Your are right. Ed is a national treasure. I think we all hope that we have his health and stamina when we reach our 86th year!!