On April 25, 2019, BGES celebrates 25 fantastic years of fronting Civil War education and preservation. In that time, we’ve scoured related sites both large and small with our premier study tours, and branched off into other important areas of American history as well. We’ve launched some important legacy preservation projects, grown our Wounded Warrior tours for America’s heroes, and published books and monographs. And through it all, we’ve been honored to engage with some of history’s and the military’s greatest minds. To commemorate our 25th anniversary, in the days leading up to the Big Day some of our members will be sharing their favorite BGES stories on these pages. Be sure to return to the website often to relive some poignant memories.
In the late 2000s, Confederate Memorial Hall Museum in New Orleans was struggling with multiple challenges that threatened its 110-year existence. An expensive dispute over a claim of ownership of the building by the University of New Orleans had just been repelled in court, and then the museum was forced to close for over a year due to construction by an adjacent museum. A few years earlier, Hurricane Katrina had ravaged New Orleans tourism, and museum visitation had plummeted. The BGES was on an Ed Bearss-led tour of New Orleans area historical sites, and the itinerary included a visit to Memorial Hall. As the visit concluded and the group was leaving, we paused outside the portico, and Len volunteered to be doused with a bucket of water if any individuals in the group would make a donation to the museum. The group of course could not pass up such an attractive offer, and $500 was quickly raised. Len removed his BGES cap and took the dousing with the toughness that would be expected from an old VMI alumnus.
Ed was so impressed with the entertaining and lucrative (for the museum) event that he looked over at Patricia Ricci, the iron angel who has served as museum director for 25 years, then turned to Len and said “Give the museum half of my [week’s] fee.” I was at the time president of the museum board of directors, and was so smitten by Ed’s generosity that I spoke up: “Ed, I’ll match your donation.” Ed looked at me, smiled, turned to Len, and said, “Heck, give the museum all my fee!”; Ed then turned to me with his trademark grin and twinkling eyes and said, “What say you, General Hood?” I of course consented to match Ed’s donation to my beloved little museum.
Another motivated BGES member spoke up and donated $500. All told, Len and Ed’s generosity and affection for the precious Memorial Hall Museum raised $3,000.00, and helped keep the doors open…and they are open today.