Monday, June 15, 2009

Putting one's money where one's mouth is. . .

Ed Bearss, left, and Brian Pohanka (photo by Rudy Perini)
On this day, four years ago, we lost one of the best and most devoted historians of the American Civil War, Brian Pohanka (seen at right, above, with legendary Civil War historian and guide, Edwin C. Bearss). Brian was merely 50-years-old, and at the height of his powers, with myriad projects in the works and untold numbers of them yet to begin. His storied career is recounted in this Washington Post obituary. For all of Brian's work on Civil War subjects, I was most fascinated and excited by his research, and his comprehensive grasp of events along the Greasy Grass in 1876. I love the book, Where Custer Fell, and selfishly regret that I never got to visit the Little Bighorn in company with Brian. Several people and Igood friends of Brian's like Paula Gidjunis and Keith Younghad spoken of hiring Brian for a private trip to Montana.

I was fortunate to get to know Brian first through his writing for
Civil War Regiments quarterly, when we published one of his pieces on the 5th New York, and later through his participation in the Civil War Forum, when he attended some of our annual get-togethers. The photo at top was the 4th CWF gathering, 2000, with Ed and Brian on the Mississippi River at Vicksburg (photo by Rudy Perini). Brian was also a mover and a shaker in the area of battlefield preservation. A 2006 press release from the Civil War Preservation Trustthe preeminent preservation organization for Civil War sites (see the previous blog entry discussing CWPT's new website)details Pohanka's all-but-anonymous, and stunning generosity:

From the very beginnings of the Civil War battlefield preservation movement, Brian Pohanka led the charge. He not only gave of his time and talents, but frequently and generously reached into his wallet as well. We at Civil War Preservation Trust are proud to carry on the work he began nearly two decades ago.’
Pohanka’s generosity to battlefield preservation was unequalled. In addition to the $1 million bequest, he and his wife Cricket quietly donated an equal amount to CWPT in 2004. Over the years, Pohanka gave generously to both CWPT and countless other local battlefield preservation groupsin his will, he also set aside money for the Central Virginia Battlegrounds Trust ($500,000), the Richmond Battlefields Association ($500,000), and the Save Historic Antietam Foundation ($200,000).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I have a photo of Brian and Cricket at a dinner with my son when he graduated from GWU that sits on my end table. It is hard to believe that this occurred 5 years ago. In addition to how generous they both were to me with their historical knowledge and friendship; they were always very kind to my son. While my son was away in DC, I felt a little better knowing that he had friends close by if he needed help.