Brian first came to my attention as one of the “talking heads” on the History Channel’s Civil War shows back in the mid 1990s. He brought a knowledge of his subject to the small screen, and infused youth and all his youthful exuberance into a Civil War awareness movement that was just emerging from the stodginess of the mid-twentieth century. Indeed, at that time most of the world’s awareness of the American Civil War was still based on the histories that grew from the Lost Cause mythologies. But the timing was right for things to start happening when that mythology was exposed as such, and the more realistic histories of the American Civil War began to be written. And Brian was right there, helping to lead the way.
Unknown to me, at the time, was the fact that by 1995, Brian had already put many years into the Civil War preservation effort, geared at preserving Civil War battlefields and their surroundings. Brian was a quiet leader in that field. He did not seek the limelight, but worked quietly, yet successfully, in the background, building coalitions, starting preservation societies, and getting people organized and started on the road to fund-raising.
Brian was a leader among leaders, who grasped life by the horns and lived it his way. Intelligent, kind, and gentlemanly, he was what so many of us aspire to be: a true hero in all he did. He is gone from us far, far too soon.
I will remember him as I saw him last, standing in full uniform at the Dobbin House in Gettysburg, his arm clasping Cricket close to him, and his other arm raised as he proposed a toast to his beloved 5th New York Volunteer Infantry, “…To Duryea’s Zouaves! Huzzah!”.
Ladies and Gentlemen, charge your glasses, please. To Brian Pohanka! Huzzah!