Discussion Civil War Baseball... Was it Responsible for the game becoming our National Pastime?

Joined
Jan 29, 2019
One of the things that I enjoy reading about are the various aspects of camp life during the Civil War which took place inbetween the fighting. So when I came across the article linked below, it quickly grabbed my attention. According to sources used in the article, Baseball, during the Civil War, was primarily a northern game and over the duration of the war was introduced to some southerners and westerners with whom northern soldiers came into contact from 1861 - 1865. Apparently the game, even during the war, was played quite often, be it in camp, while taking a break from campaigning and even in the Prisoner of War Camps of the south. Upon returning home the game spread to friends and neighbors and soon the sport was played in every region of the country, solidifying its title as “The National Pastime." Or so the article would suggest.

To read the article follow the link below:

https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/2012/08/civil-war-baseball.html
According to Wikipedia, by the early 1830s, there were reports of a variety of uncodified bat-and-ball games recognizable as early forms of baseball being played around North America. The first officially recorded baseball game on the American continent was played in Beachville, Ontario, Canada on June 4, 1838. In 1845, Alexander Cartwright, a member of New York City's Knickerbocker Club, led the codification of the so-called Knickerbocker rules. While there are reports that the New York Nickerbockers played games in 1845, the contest long recognized as the first officially recorded baseball game in U.S. history took place on June 19, 1846, in Hoboken, New Jersey: which resulted in the "New York Nine" defeating the Knickerbockers, 23–1, in four innings. With the Knickerbocker code as the basis, the rules of modern baseball continued to evolve over the next half-century. In relation to Baseball, as we understand it today, the indigenous peoples of the American continent (First Nations / American Indians) also had a game of stick ball, long before the first European landed on the shores of the American continent, which would have been known to the people in the southern states during the ACW.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baseball
I found the following journal entry from Frank L. Church, who was part of Admiral Porter's Red River flotilla and commanded the Marine Guard on the U. S. Flag Ship Black Hawk while participating in the Red River Campaign in March 1864, which demonstrates the game being played elsewhere during the ACW:

"Red River, March 3; Went on shore at 10 1/2 o'clock this morning and played base ball for about 3 hours. At 3 p.m. practiced with the revolver. Several Secesh ladies from a plantation in the neighborhood came up on horseback to see the ship. Two of them were really beautiful and rode splendidly. Wrote a letter to Alice."

Below I have attached an image of one such game, which was played at the Salisbury Confederate Prison in North Carolina, during the late spring or summer of 1862. It is one of the earliest images of baseball being played, which is a hand colored lithograph of Union prisoners at Salisbury Confederate Prison playing the game. It is part of the Harry T. Peters “America on Stone” Lithography Collection at the National Museum of American History. The artist of the original watercolor sketch (1862), used to create the lithograph below in 1863, was Otto Botticher (1811-1886), a Prussian immigrant who held the rank of a Union captain when he was captured on March 29, 1862 around Manassas, Virginia and sent to the Salisbury Confederate Prison as a Prisoner of War. The lithographic firm was Sarony, Major & Knapp of 449 Broadway, New York City.

Baseball game, Union Prisoners, Salisbury Prison, N.C. 1862.jpg
 
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byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
Anecdotal evidence in my area, birthplace of Albert G. Spalding who was a fine pitcher on one of the first national teams by 1870. He specifically recalls his soldier cousin coming home on leave during the CW and waxing on, and instructing him (young Albert) in base-ball as it was played among Army units. Soldiers of various units had grown up with their own town rules for the game and were forced to come up with a game of common rules in order to play units from other sections of the country.

With the war over and soldiers returning home, they brought with them a passion for the game and incentive to form up town "first 9's" for regional competitions, and soon quasi-professional competitions between major urban centers of the country were taking place (at that time being professional meant having a day job provided at some local firm).

Spalding, after playing professionally with the Forest Citys in 1869 (Rockford, IL), and then with the Red Stockings (Boston) and back in Illinois with the White Stockings (Chicago, what became the Cubs) was to become one of the co-founders of the National League, with his company (Spalding Sporting Goods) producing a standard ball for League play (donated to each team in the League, but of course the company also sold other equipment and became profitable).

btw Spalding was one who perpetuated the CW General Abner Doubleday / Cooperstown origin of baseball myth, an attempt to distract that base-ball games had been played in England and elsewhere for some time, and to promote that it was an All-American game.

Anyway, the point is that soldiers who came back from the CW brought back their enthusiasm and experience to the game, taught it to their little brothers (sisters if interested) and filled the stadiums with their families. Does that make the Civil War responsible for baseball becoming our national pastime? The case could be made.
 
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Joined
Jan 29, 2019
I suggest you read my article on Civil War baseball, which can be found at www.protoball.org. I've found over 380 verified instances of CW soldiers playing baseball. See also Protoball's "Chronology," section, which details all 380 instances.

Thanks for posting... I was going to ask if there were any examples of Confederates playing baseball during the war? But following the link that you gave above, I soon found my answer; "About 10% of the references to ballplaying involved Confederate troops, and this includes their play while held in northern prisons" and "Florida and Virginia units led the Confederate states with 3 reports of ballplaying. Five other southern states give us a total of 6 cases." There are some very interesting articles and other information found at the protoball site that you referenced above. As a lifetime Baseball fan, I was delighted to find all of this information. It all goes well beyond what I thought I knew about the game before. Knowing that it was played during the war in various camps to include prisoner of war camps, and then popularized to a limited degree because of the ACW makes it that more interesting to me.
 
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
btw Spalding was one who perpetuated the CW General Abner Doubleday / Cooperstown origin of baseball myth, an attempt to distract that base-ball games had been played in England and elsewhere for some time, and to promote that it was an All-American game...
Does that make the Civil War responsible for baseball becoming our national pastime? The case could be made.

I was well aware of Cricket being played in England for quite a long time, and I knew its influence on the creation of American baseball. However, I have never been a Cricket fan... The thing that has always drawn me to baseball was the chess match between the pitcher and each hitter at bat. The pitcher creating the illusion of a fast ball down the middle of the plate, but delivering the curve ball or slider instead, low and inside or away, to catch the hitter unaware who swings for the fence, but finds himself struck out. Or the home run sluggers who figure the pitchers out and take the ball out of the park with nearly every at bat. Or the endless contest between the pitcher, catcher and base runners regarding stealing bases or getting caught off base. it`s an amazing game with much for a fan to like.

Regarding the Civil War being responsible for baseball becoming our national pastime or not... as you stated, that case could be made. But one thing seems to be certain, at the very least, it did introduce the game to an area of the country where it was not previously well known, and then was popularized in the south and out west soon after the close of the Civil War, which eventually did lead to it becoming our national pastime.
 
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Robin Lesjovitch

Sergeant
Joined
Dec 16, 2018
I was well aware of Cricket being played in England for quite a long time, and I knew its influence on the creation of American baseball. However, I have never been a Cricket fan... The thing that has always drawn me to baseball was the chess match between the pitcher and each hitter at bat. The pitcher creating the illusion of a fast ball down the middle of the plate, but delivering the curve ball or slider instead, low and inside or away, to catch the hitter unaware who swings for the fence, but finds himself struck out. Or the home run sluggers who figure the pitchers out and take the ball out of the park with nearly every at bat. Or the endless contest between the pitcher, catcher and base runners regarding stealing bases or getting caught off base. it`s an amazing game with much for a fan to like.

Regarding the Civil War being responsible for baseball becoming our national pastime or not... as you stated, that case could be made. But one thing seems to be certain, at the very least, it did introduce the game to an area of the country where it was not previously well known, and then was popularized in the south and out west soon after the close of the Civil War, which eventually did lead to it becoming our national pastime.
Cricket was not a real progenitor of American Baseball. The game now called Rounders was the granddaddy.
200 years ago that game had a lot of names, including "Baseball". That name stuck in the US.
I'm sure that the CW propagated baseball in the US, and under that name. As it developed, US baseball has become very American.
 

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
I was well aware of Cricket being played in England for quite a long time, and I knew its influence on the creation of American baseball...

The sidebar here is that the national teams in the post-war, at least those Spalding played for, were prepared to play and did play Cricket as well, which was still popular at some venues in the U.S., and in special overseas tours, before the turn of the century. Another aside is to realize that professional pitching was primarily underhand (sort of like fast-pitch softball today) most of the 19th century. Pitching arms lasted longer, so some early professional pitchers built impressive career stats.
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
In relation to Baseball, as we understand it today, the indigenous peoples of the American continent (First Nations / American Indians) also had a game of stick ball, long before the first European landed on the shores of the American continent, which would have been known to the people in the southern states during the ACW.

Native American stickball games are the origin of modern lacrosse and unrelated to baseball.

I do find it interesting that bat games (rounders, cricket, and town ball - precursors to baseball) became popular before soccer did. Some form of soccer or rugby seems like the more "natural" ball sport but probably the inherent roughness of the game probably limited its popularity.

Trying to hit a thrown ball with a stick so you can then run in a square seems a rather contrived idea. Football, soccer, rugby, lacrosse, hockey, and basketball are all psuedo-military games where you are trying to drive into enemy territory and essentially occupy an objective.

Modern soccer started to take form in England around the same time as baseball in the USA. Baseball seemed determined to distance itself from all its predecessor games. It would make sense that it would be difficult for the foreign sport of soccer to gain acceptance until it had been Americanized as football.
 
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Sbc

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 18, 2015
Location
Easley, South Carolina
One of the things that I enjoy reading about are the various aspects of camp life during the Civil War which took place inbetween the fighting. So when I came across the article linked below, it quickly grabbed my attention. According to sources used in the article, Baseball, during the Civil War, was primarily a northern game and over the duration of the war was introduced to some southerners and westerners with whom northern soldiers came into contact from 1861 - 1865. Apparently the game, even during the war, was played quite often, be it in camp, while taking a break from campaigning and even in the Prisoner of War Camps of the south. Upon returning home the game spread to friends and neighbors and soon the sport was played in every region of the country, solidifying its title as “The National Pastime." Or so the article would suggest.

To read the article follow the link below:

https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/2012/08/civil-war-baseball.html
According to Wikipedia, by the early 1830s, there were reports of a variety of uncodified bat-and-ball games recognizable as early forms of baseball being played around North America. The first officially recorded baseball game on the American continent was played in Beachville, Ontario, Canada on June 4, 1838. In 1845, Alexander Cartwright, a member of New York City's Knickerbocker Club, led the codification of the so-called Knickerbocker rules. While there are reports that the New York Nickerbockers played games in 1845, the contest long recognized as the first officially recorded baseball game in U.S. history took place on June 19, 1846, in Hoboken, New Jersey: which resulted in the "New York Nine" defeating the Knickerbockers, 23–1, in four innings. With the Knickerbocker code as the basis, the rules of modern baseball continued to evolve over the next half-century. In relation to Baseball, as we understand it today, the indigenous peoples of the American continent (First Nations / American Indians) also had a game of stick ball, long before the first European landed on the shores of the American continent, which would have been known to the people in the southern states during the ACW.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baseball
I found the following journal entry from Frank L. Church, who was part of Admiral Porter's Red River flotilla and commanded the Marine Guard on the U. S. Flag Ship Black Hawk while participating in the Red River Campaign in March 1864, which demonstrates the game being played elsewhere during the ACW:

"Red River, March 3; Went on shore at 10 1/2 o'clock this morning and played base ball for about 3 hours. At 3 p.m. practiced with the revolver. Several Secesh ladies from a plantation in the neighborhood came up on horseback to see the ship. Two of them were really beautiful and rode splendidly. Wrote a letter to Alice."

Below I have attached an image of one such game, which was played at the Salisbury Confederate Prison in North Carolina, during the late spring or summer of 1862. It is one of the earliest images of baseball being played, which is a hand colored lithograph of Union prisoners at Salisbury Confederate Prison playing the game. It is part of the Harry T. Peters “America on Stone” Lithography Collection at the National Museum of American History. The artist of the original watercolor sketch (1862), used to create the lithograph below in 1863, was Otto Botticher (1811-1886), a Prussian immigrant who held the rank of a Union captain when he was captured on March 29, 1862 around Manassas, Virginia and sent to the Salisbury Confederate Prison as a Prisoner of War. The lithographic firm was Sarony, Major & Knapp of 449 Broadway, New York City.

View attachment 342297
The first professional team was fielded in May 1869; the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
 

KianGaf

First Sergeant
Joined
May 29, 2019
Location
Dublin, Ireland
I have the Ken Burns series on Baseball on DVD I must give it a look. It will be interesting to see what the documentary says on the games origins. Id love to visit the museum in Cooperstown.
 
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