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Noted Civil War historian Edwin Bearss to speak at West Virginia Independence Hall Museum


Well-known history guide and Civil War scholar Edwin C. Bearss will present a talk “Western Virginia: McClellan’s Springboard to Command of the Army of the Potomac” at the West Virginia Independence Hall Museum in Wheeling on Monday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. The lecture is sponsored by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, the Ohio Valley Civil War Roundtable and the Ohio Valley Medical Center. A donation of $10 per person will be accepted at the door, with all proceeds going to the Civil War Preservation Trust, a national organization working to save America’s Civil War battlefields.

Bearss is an independent scholar and historian whose public career began at the National Park Service in 1955 in Vicksburg, Miss. His research there led to the recovery of the long-lost Union gunboat Cairo. He also located two forgotten forts at Grand Gulf, Miss., and was instrumental in having Grand Gulf named a state military monument.

In 1991, Bearss became the National Park Service’s chief historian for military sites. He received the Harry S Truman Award for Meritorious Service in the field of Civil War History and the Department of Interior’s Distinguished Service Award. In addition, he was a featured commentator for Ken Burns’ PBS series The Civil War and also appeared on the Arts & Entertainment Channel’s Civil War Journal.

Bearss is the author of many works about the Civil War, including Smithsonian’s Great Battles & Battlefields of the Civil War, Nine Months to Gettysburg and A War of the People, among others. Since retiring, he continues to serve as a Civil War consultant and conducts detailed battlefield site tours and seminars for the Smithsonian Study Tours program.

Bearss’ lecture will explain how the early Union victories in western Virginia at Philippi and Rich Mountain made Gen. George B. McClellan famous, even though most of the credit for those successful battles belongs to his subordinates. McClellan was appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac after the Union’s disastrous defeat at the first Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861.

For more information about the Sept. 15 lecture, call Gerry Reilly, director of West Virginia Independence Hall, at (304) 238-1300.

West Virginia Independence Hall, originally built as a federal custom house in 1859, served as the home of the pro-Union state conventions of Virginia during the spring and summer of 1861 and as the capitol of loyal Virginia from June 1861 to June 1863. It also was the site of the first constitutional convention for West Virginia. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, the museum is owned and operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, with the cooperation and assistance of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the exception of major holidays, and is located on the corner of 16th and Market Streets in Wheeling. The facility is closed on Sundays in January and February.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Visit the Division’s website at for more information about programs of the Division. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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Ginny Painter
Director of Public Information
West Virginia Division of Culture and History
The Cultural Center
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, WV 25305-0300
Phone (304) 558-0220
Fax (304) 558-2779