Walking the Ground: Making American History. A Memoir of Edwin Cole Bearss


Edwin Cole Bearss
U.S. Marine in World War II, Chief Historian, Emeritus, National Park Service, Arlington, VA, USA

Series: Homeland Security and Safety
BISAC: POL040000
DOI: 10.52305/JKFQ4120

This second book of the Edwin Cole Bearss memoir begins with his first days in a 40-year career in the National Park Service. Beginning as the Park Historian at the Vicksburg National Military Park in September, 1955, the book covers his rise to Chief Historian, now Emeritus. He has always professed the importance of walking the ground to understand the outcomes of all battles, but particularly those that created, and then consecrated, the United States of America. Said to know more about Civil War battlefields than any other historian of his time, this book describes how he helped create and interpret much of our American history.

He first learned the importance of “walking the ground” when in combat on the Pacific island of New Britain. There, a few inches of earth saved his life after having four Japanese bullets tear into him at what Marines would soon dub “Suicide Creek.” His early years in Montana, the account of this action on New Britain, his chance meeting with the actor and fellow Montanan Gary Cooper, and his 27 months in hospitals is published in the book Walking the Ground: From Big Sky to Semper Fi also by NOVA.

His Government career created National Parks and Presidential Historic Parks, including his direct relationships with President Lyndon B. Johnson and President Jimmy Carter. He created and improved many parks, and thus, made the history that Americans see and read when they experience these important American lands, battlefields and buildings. Ed Bearss has made indelible marks on the American landscape, and in so doing, defined much of the historical culture of the United States.

His contribution to our understanding of American history is immense. He is the author of 140 National Park Service reports, more than any other person to work for the National Park Service. The quality and popularity of his tours and books are rare among present-day historians. He has mentored generations of younger historians who now teach American history, and continue along the path he has pioneered. He has frequently testified before Congress, was interviewed by television reporters and guided senior-level Government officials in critical events in American history.

Ed Bearss became a television celebrity following his appearance to mass television audiences who watched the Ken Burns Civil War Series on PBS, leading to great demand in Bearss-led battlefield history tours. For those many U.S. history adventurers who have experienced his history tours, Ed Bearss’ words and mannerisms leap from the page as we follow him walking Pickett’s Charge at the Gettysburg; track John Wilkes Booth’s escape route after assassinating President Abraham Lincoln; recount George Armstrong Custer’s battlefield defeat by Native Americans whose families he had attacked along the Little Big Horn River; and words describing the WWI American sacrifice at Belleau Wood of U.S. Marine mythology.

This book will explain Ed Bearss’ unsurpassed contribution to the making of American history and the strengthening our collective culture.

Table of Contents


Editor’s Note

Foreword by Harry Butowsky

Foreword by Jerome Greene

Foreword by Bill Vodra

Preface: Making American History


Chapter 1. Unvexed to the Sea

Chapter 2. Raising Cairo from the Yazoo

Chapter 3. Advancing on Washington

Chapter 4. Working with Presidents

Chapter 5. Chief Historian

Chapter 6. Creating New Parks

Chapter 7. Back to the Pacific

Chapter 8. How We Make History

Chapter 9. Relationships That Made History

Chapter 10. Helped Out

Chapter 11. The Bearss in History

Chapter 12. Becoming History’s Pied Piper

Chapter 12. Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign Tour

Chapter 14. Gettysburg: The Third Day

Chapter 15. John Wilkes Booth Escape Tour

Chapter 16. Sioux Indian Wars

Chapter 17. The Great War


About the Editor and Contributors


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