GUEST BLOG / By The American Battlefield Trust--The U.S. Civil War [1861-65] helped transform the game of baseball from a regional pastime in America's northeast into a national obsession that endures to this day. During frequent periods of downtime soldiers already familiar with the finer points of the game introduced their comrades to the sport.
Baseball at Fort Pulaski, 1863
As Company H of the 48th New York Regiment posed for a photograph at Fort Pulaski in 1863, some of their comrades played baseball behind them. This is among the earliest photographs of baseball ever taken.
Union prisoners pass the time
This Civil War-era lithograph depicts Union prisoners held at Camp Salisbury, North Carolina playing a game of baseball. Casual baseball games in army camps and prisons helped spread the game's popularity throughout the country.
The Dreaded Atlantics. The first dated baseball card, according to the Library of Congress is an 1865 team photo of the (unidentified) Brooklyn Atlantics. Unlike baseball cards of today, this one is an original picture mounted on a card. The Baseball historians say the Brooklyn team created the card as a promotional stunt and because it was a frequent league champion.
In the decades after the Civil War, baseball was sometimes portrayed as force for national unity, bring together North and South in mutual love for the game. This illustration from a 1913 volume of "Puck" shows two Civil War veterans preparing to attend a double-header.
|Baseball’s Adam & Eve. Insists a well known myth, Abner Doubleday, who would serve as Robert Anderson's second-in-command at Fort Sumter and go on to command a division in the Army of the Potomac, invented baseball during an 1839 visit to Cooperstown, New York. In fact, the game of baseball evolved from various eighteenth and early-nineteenth bat-and-ball games, including the British game of "rounders." The Doubleday myth originated in the early 20th century through the work of the Mills Commission, which was set up by Major League Baseball leaders to discover (or invent) a purely American origin for baseball. Posed next to Adam is Eve a.k.a. Mary Hewitt Doubleday.|
During the first year of the Civil War, Frank Bancroft enlisted as a musician in a New Hampshire Regiment. During his time in the army Bancroft, who served under a false name due to his young age, was wounded in action. After the war, he made a name for himself as one of the most successful managers in baseball. In 1884 he managed the Providence Grays to victory over the New York Metropolitans in a three-game series that was the first championship series known as the "World Series."
Who was Octavius V. Catto
Born in 1839, Octavius V. Catto was an educator, civil rights activist, and baseball pioneer. During the Civil War, he helped recruit African Americans for the Union army. After the war, he helped lead a successful effort to desegregate public transportation in Pennsylvania, making use of civil disobedience tactics more than half-a-century before the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. In 1866 Catto helped found the Pythian Base Ball Club in Philadelphia when African Americans were denied membership in all-white organizations such as the Excelsior Base Bale Club. Tragically, on October 10, 1871, Catto fell victim to a white supremacist assassin.
Baseball as a political metaphor
Even before the war, Americans used terms and imagery from baseball to explain and describe events in other arenas of life. This 1860 political cartoon depicts that year's four presidential candidates as baseball players, with Lincoln emerging victorious.
The August 28 issue of the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran an article “Celebrating 150 years of Baseball in Richmond,” and mentioned the role of Richmond ice dealer Alexander G. Babcock as president of the 1866 Richmond “Pastime” baseball club. A year earlier, Babcock (pictured above) had been a member of another kind of club: Col. John Singleton Mosby’s 43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, known better as “Mosby’s Rangers.”
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