Tag Archives: Ed Bearss tour

Civil War Tour

2015: A Year in Review

We had one of our best years yet hosting Civil War Tours following the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War!

We kicked off 2015 with our Ed Bearss Symposium in April with a bus and walking tour of Little Round Top and Devil’s Den with Ed Bearss. We heard from fantastic speakers about leadership and combat in the Civil War including Dennis Frye, Wayne Motts, Perry Jamieson, George Franks III, Dr. Richard Sommers, and others. We had a great time and a full house at the Hampton Inn in Chambersburg. To read the reviews from some of our attendees, click here.

Civil War Tours

Stop at the Antietam National Battlefield Visitors Center.

May was dedicated to following the footsteps of those Damn Blackhats with the Iron Brigade led by Lance Herdegen. We toured Gettysburg, South Mountain and Antietam with Lance. Sessions also included talks about the Iron Brigade by Tom Clemens, Dan Welch, Joe Mieczkowski, and others. Our participants had a great time on this Civil War tour – we were glad to see so many new faces at this event!

Civil War Conference

Visiting with General Grant at Appomattox.

One of our absolute favorite seminars (it may have been logistically challenging for Lark) was our trip to Richmond to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the End of the War: Richmond, Petersburg and Appomattox. We had a completely full house and heard from amazing speakers, had excellent guides and could not have asked for a better Civil War tour. Lt. Col. Ralph Peters and Dr. Bud Robertson spoke, Dr. Richard Sommers and Ed Bearss led bus tours, and we had a fantastic week in Richmond. Thank you to everyone for coming – we couldn’t ask for better guests!

Ed Bearss, Bob Allen and the group at what's left of the Garrett Farm.

Ed Bearss, Bob Allen and the group at what’s left of the Garrett Farm.

Our final 2015 Civil War seminar was focused on Lincoln. Specifically, we focused on Mr. Lincoln’s army at Gettysburg and the John Wilkes Booth Escape Tour. Guides and speakers included Ed Bearss, Bob Allen, Dan Vermilya, Ed Steers, Wayne Motts, and others. We had the opportunity to tour Gettysburg as well as Ford’s Theatre, Surratt Tavern, view Dr. Mudd House and stand on the ground of the Garrett Farm.

Now as our 27th year of tours approaches, we are working hard to finalize the 2016 itinerary and update our branding. Specifically, we have redesigned our website to make it easier for our guests to navigate and learn more about our tours. If you’re interested in the Civil War and would like to be updated about our events, please sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. If you have specific questions, please contact Lark directly at lplessinger@chambersburg.org or call 717-264-7101.

We can’t wait for our 2016 Civil War Tours! Click here for the latest updates.

Best,

Ted Alexander, Lark Plessinger

After Action Report: July Seminar

by Craig Swain, Guest Blogger

Over the last couple of days, I had the pleasure of attending, as a guest, “Terror on the Border” hosted by Chambersburg Civil War Seminars and Tours. I do hope you were able to catch some of the tweets and Facebook posts, but if not, let me offer a quick “catching up” in review.

Wilson College

Friday’s sessions held at Wilson College in Chambersburg, included eight speakers: Jeffry Wert, Richard Sommers, Steve Bockmiller, Ted Alexander, Mark Neely, Jr., Steve French, Daniel Carol Toomey, and Gail Stephens. That’s quite a lineup. The topics focused on activities in the summer months of 1864, though mostly narrowed to the events connected to Confederate General Jubal Early’s Raid that July and associated activities into August. The exception was Neely’s discussion of the Democratic Party’s 1864 presidential campaign. And I’d argue Neely’s topic fit in well alongside the others, reflecting the ultimate output from the military campaigns through those critical months of the war.

On Saturday we were afield for a tour. And not just a “get on the bus and we’ll drive around” tour. We did a lot of “stepping out” to see the sites. Ed Bearss, Ted Alexander, and Ranger Brian Dankmeyer were our guides as we traced the advance of Early’s Confederates from Hagerstown to Frederick and then on to the Monocacy battlefield. I offered up several photos on social media yesterday, so forgive me if these are redundant to those who followed along there:

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A couple of structures on the Monocacy Battlefield which we visited caught my attention. Even during the 150th tour of Monocacy a few weeks ago, we had not visited the buildings of the Thomas Farm, as we focused more so on the actions across the field. So it was a treat to step out around the buildings. A stone building, which was recently restored, was a slave quarters next to the house:

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The Thomas house itself witnessed the fighting on July 9, 1864.

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What’s more, it was the setting of a very important meeting in which General U.S. Grant laid out the operations to follow in the fall of 1864. And we are coming up on the anniversary of that event.

Let me offer up in closing and overall review of the programs, some overall thoughts on the programs. I’ve attended over the years a lot of seminars and tours. I found those offered by Chambersburg Civil War Seminars and Tours are a lot more focused than most. None of the speakers waded the audience through excessive high level overviews. Instead, we moved directly into discussions about the events in focus. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes those broad overviews are needed, and certainly welcome. But if the speaker has a finite amount of time to cover a subject, and the audience is sharp and attentive, as is the case for these seminars, we get more bang for the buck. In addition, the seminars and tours are structured to complement each other (as the speakers are constantly referring back to material covered earlier in the programs). These are blended, somewhat seamlessly, by Ted Alexander’s commentary throughout the sessions. These are “full course” meals, not “fast food” deals. So at the end of the series, the audience leaves with a full, robust appreciation of many facets of the topic.

I highly recommend these programs. Please visit the Seminars and Tours website and consider future events on their schedule. And… keep in mind the objective of the organization with these programs – battlefield preservation. It’s a win-win across the board.

With Bearss in the Woods

Greg Bayne has kindly allowed us to publish this article he wrote about attending our 2012 seminar – “The Battles of South Mountain.” Greg is from the UK and is a member of the American Civil War Roundtable: www.acwrt.org.uk.

Enjoy! – Lark Plessinger, Program Coordinator

“We have all made that list. You know, the 100 things to do before you go up to Valhalla to talk to Massa Robert about what really happened at Gettysburg. I won’t detail my complete list out, but number 86 was recently fulfilled in an unexpected manner.

This tale also involves the “life sometimes throws up a surprise or two” trick. I had to make an unplanned trip to Virginia in October. My schedule was all over the place so I emailed all my US Contacts to say I was coming and I just might (emphasise might) be in their neck of the woods. Tom Clemens, who obviously hadn’t heard about my nocturnal snoring habit, insisted that I break my journey to Clifton Forge and stay with him and Angela and their dog Bomber. Plus if I could stay the next day, he had a very pleasant surprise for me.

That weekend the Chambersburg Civil War Seminars had organised a conference around the battles of the gaps during the Antietam campaign. A variety of speakers were on show including Ed Bearss. Ed was on the main coach and I was on the mini bus with Tom as we pulled into our first stop. It was the Schaffer House where the Union 9th Corps stopped for breakfast and lunch and I think if Franklin could have had his way, high tea as well, just below the mountain ridge. Ed skipped out of the bus and I immediately went over to say hi. “Ed,” I felt I could call him Ed, “I don’t suppose you recall the last time we met?” There was a slight twitch of his moustache as he was trying to decipher first the audacity of the approach and then the strange accent. Sensing a complete loss of face I blurted, “Oxford 2003″. An awkward moment of silence then “Ah, yes”. With a slight twinkle in his eye he was off.

Slightly crestfallen I went back to my place with the troops. The general idea of the tour was to have the whole South Mountain campaign explained by the Antietam experts, John Hoptak on most things, Joe Stahl on Fox’s Gap and Tom Clemens on Turners Gap. I say general idea because you could see Ed bubbling and bursting minute by minute until he could barely restrain himself with an impromptu running narrative. Whenever a speaker paused for breath, he was in there. We just stood and listened in awe.

We demolished the rebs on the extreme right then pursued them up to Crampton’s gap. At Crampton’s, Ed had a few moments berating some (but not all) of the previous Antietam park commissioners. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about most of time, but it was highly amusing all the same. Then his gaze focused on me. I was completely alone having wandered off to take a few photos. He marched over on an intercept course. Catching me at the War Correspondent monument (note the irony here folks) he said, “You know, I had a very good time in England with your Round Table. Very knowledgeable group, good questions, nice people. Give my regards to them.” I smiled and mumbled “Thanks”. Before I could get my next comment in, he was off, explaining the sighting of the Confederate guns at the top of the road junction to another member of the group. Wonderful, just wonderful.

After a church hall lunch of roast chicken and Burkittsville cole slaw (a very secret recipe) went up to the Old Mountain Inn at Turners gap.  We hiked across part of the Appalachian Trail to Fox’s Gap, shadowing the Confederate defence line. Most of us trod carefully, mindful of the mud, deadfall, ticks and the odd slithery thing. Not our Ed, he was off yomping at the front. Thankfully he wore a red cap so we could keep him in sight. A short way in was a modern toilet block. Ed stopped “If any of you need to use the head, this is your last chance.” Seconds later he was off. At one point I thought I heard a voice behind me whisper. “For goodness sake tell him to slow down.” At Fox’s gap he was in good form then decided to route march to an undetermined place deeper in the forest where Haye’s was wounded. Thankfully a no trespass sign plus a large fallen tree barred our way or else he may have got there on his own, such was the rate of stragglers. Undeterred we bushwhacked back to the new North Carolina monument. I am pretty certain that we left no one behind but I couldn’t be 100% sure.

Back at the Reno monument we were treated to one of Ed’s favourite games where the participants were press ganged into Union and Confederate Regiments, “You sir,” he gravelled, “are the 3rd SC, and you are the 50th. You will oblique right and then be surprised by the Union forces in the road and take more than 50% casualties in less than five minutes.” You could almost smell the smoke as Drayton’s Brigade was destroyed piece by piece. Thankfully I was left guarding the supply train.

A traipse back to Turners gap and we had Tom Clemens wrap things up with a view of the evening assault. As darkness fell both sides lay down where they were amongst the rocks and trees. No campfires were lit such was the fear of being shot at from the darkness. Lee ordered a retreat. The Confederates slipped away quietly. The Battle of South Mountain was over.

So number 86 “Go on a Civil War tour with Ed Bearss” has been ticked off. There are three more CW related items still to tick off but let’s leave those for now. Many thanks to Tom Clemens and the Antietam team for what was a brilliant and totally unexpected day. If you ever get the chance to do number 86 for yourself, please make sure you take it.”

Just days away!

Hi Folks,

Time is flying, but there is still time to sign up for our Ed Bearss weekend. This is going to be a really great event. Ed will be 91 this June. Yet he can still out hike most people. On Friday, April 4, we begin this special weekend with Ed talking about his service and wounding by the Japanese in the Pacific in WWII.  A talk on Ed’s books will follow. Terry Winschell, retired Chief Historian of Vicksburg, N.M.P. has read everything that Ed has ever written. His talk, “Reading Bearss” will provide an excellent introduction to Ed’s many published works. Next is a panel of scholars with Richard Sommers, Dennis Frye and others as we look at the man and his contributions to the history field.

After dinner Ed will present a power point program on one of his greatest preservation accomplishments, the raising and stabilization of the U.S.S. Cairo.

On Saturday, April 5  will be a walking tour of the final attack trail at Antietam.There Ed will tell the story of Burnside’s attack as only he can do. Next, the bus will go to Gettysburg for a bountiful lunch at the historic Dobbin’s House. Afterward, Ed will lead a tour of the fighting on July 1, 1863. Here is your chance to walk in the footsteps of Buford’s dismounted troopers, the Iron Brigade and Heth’s gray clad soldiers, with Americas’ premier battlefield guide. That evening we will have dinner and testimonials from many of Ed’s friends. Let us know if you would like to say something.

 

We will wrap up Sunday morning with a talk by Dennis Frye on his work with Ed over the years in the National Park Service. Ed will give two talks. Ed is the leading authority on the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads and his book, FORREST AT BRICE’S CROSSROADS is the definitive work on the subject. Accordingly, we could not let this weekend pass without having him give a talk on the subject. The event will conclude with Ed discussing his several meetings with President Lyndon B. Johnson and the acquisition of the LBJ Ranch by the National Park Service.

 

I sure hope that you can make it to this truly unique event.

 

Best Wishes,

 

Ted Alexander

Co-Founder, Chambersburg Civil War Seminars and Tours