Pivotal Battles of the Civil War by Edwin C Bearss Published by National Geographic
Review by: Ken Grant-Coker
This is the first book culled from the recordings of Ed Bearss battlefield tours.
The book covers the civil war from John Brown at Harpers Ferry and covering the pivotal events year by year to the final campaigns in 1865. The book would not be possible without the assistance of the Blue and Gray Society and a team of volunteers to transcribe over 300 hours of tapes.
The book tells the story of the Civil War in a manner that is unique to Ed Bearss complete with small vignettes that personalise the generals, politicians and army personnel in a way that other tour guides cannot match.
Whether you are what has been described as "Bearss groupies" or new to the subject one cannot fail to be impressed with the book. It reads as if one is following Ed on one of his tours and one can dip in and out of the book either during "a tour" or from chapter to chapter to check and if necessary to read around the tour subject.
Each chapter begins with a review of the situation and events leading up to the battle and then the tour begins with an explanation of where the Confederates are and the damn Yankees. There are descriptions of particular units and persons who will participate in the battle as the tour develops. With comments that describe the participants and a brief history of their lives and how they interact with the battle and their contribution whether resulting in a quick and glorious death, a sharp exit or a major impact on the result of the battle.
Ever since I first met him at the ACWRT (UK) 50th anniversary I have been impressed with Ed and his mastery of the subject and have been on a couple of his tours in America. If you cannot make any of Ed's tours then buy the book. It will not be the same but you will get a flavour of the man. There is nothing quite like him.