New Jersey firm trying to auction off print depicting baseball at Salisbury Confederate Prison


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Mar 16, 2016
New Jersey firm trying to auction off print depicting baseball at Salisbury Confederate Prison

By Mark Wineka

SALISBURY — A New Jersey auction house has placed on the selling block a notable print related to the Salisbury Confederate Prison.

Robert Edward Auctions of Chester, New Jersey, places the value of the 1863 lithograph by Otto Boetticher at $10,000. The company said in a news release Thursday that bidding for the print is currently at $5,700, inclusive of the 20 percent auction premium.

The sale concludes May 6.

The color lithograph, thought to be one of the earliest artistic depictions of baseball, shows Union soldiers playing a spirited game while under Confederate guard in Salisbury. The prison, burned by Union Gen. George Stoneman in April 1865, was located in an area off East Bank Street, not far from today’s downtown.

The auction company describes the lithograph as “one of fewer than a dozen prints of this scene known to exist.”

Rowan Museum has one of the originals, on loan from a local individual, in its Civil War exhibit at 202 N. Main St. The museum also has a copy of the print hanging near the front entrance, and it sells copies of the baseball print.

Another original is said to be at Reynolda House in Winston-Salem. Two other known prints are housed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the New York Public Library.

“The piece has long been considered by historians and collectors to be one of the most impressive and important images of early baseball,” the company said. “The Civil War was largely responsible for the game of baseball spreading throughout the country.

“Thousands of soldiers learned to play baseball during the Civil War, and upon returning home, they introduced the game to friends and neighbors in their hometowns.”

Boetticher was a captain in the 68th New York Volunteer Regiment. He drew the piece from observations while a prisoner at the Salisbury camp in 1862. After his release in September 1862, which came during a prisoner exchange, a print of the drawing was made available by a New York publisher.

“This newly documented example has been in the same family for generations,” the auction house said.

Robert Edward Auctions describes itself as one of the world’s largest specialty auction houses devoted to the sale of sports cards, memorabilia and Americana. It has sold more than $100 million worth of collectibles in the past decade, according to the news release.

More information about the Salisbury Confederate Prison baseball print can be found at

Excerpts from article found here -


In August 1861, painter and lithographer Otto Boetticher mustered in as a captain in the Sixty-Eighth New York Volunteer Regiment of Infantry. His military experience as an officer in the Prussian army before his immigration to America might explain the rank conferred on him in his new unit. Just seven months later, he was captured by Confederate forces and sent to the military prison in Salisbury, North Carolina. [1] One may assume that he passed time during his incarceration sketching and drawing, but only one image from this period was reproduced in lithographic form after his release: this unusual depiction of prisoners of war playing baseball. The inscription on the print notes that the artist drew the scene from nature, or as he observed it personally.

Historians have documented extensively the popularity of baseball during the Civil War. In fact, it was the movement of soldiers from New York and New England, where the sport had spread rapidly in the 1850s, into other parts of the country that was in part responsible for its rise in popularity. To exercise and combat boredom, soldiers played baseball in camp, on the edges of battlefields, and even in prison camps.

Baseball historian George B. Kirsch notes that the camp at Salisbury was known for the frequency of its games. In an 1862 diary entry, Salisbury prisoner Dr. Charles Carroll Gray recorded that the Fourth of July was “celebrated with music, reading of the Declaration of Independence, and sack and foot races in the afternoon, and also a baseball game.” [2] Other prisoners at Salisbury detailed the rivalries between different teams in the camp.

Boetticher’s print shows a wide view of the prison yard. The game takes place in the center of the composition. The batter stands at right. In the middle, the pitcher is frozen in his wind-up, while a runner behind him attempts to steal second base. Groups of officers and soldiers are arranged around them watching the game. Their expressions are grave but engaged. Boetticher makes an effort to depict different physical types and distinctive details of hair, features, and clothing. Some are formally attired in their uniforms, while others sport a more casual style of dress. Around the game, other prisoners rest, converse, read newspapers, or play jacks; some perform labors such as feeding hogs, carrying benches and buckets, or tending fires. Several high-ranking men in the right foreground stand apart and show little interest in the game; these may be an attempt at portraiture. The tents and buildings of the prison camp are visible in the background, as is the fence that runs the perimeter of the yard. The main prison building, an abandoned cotton factory identifiable by a domed cupola, is visible in the distance at left. [3] In the middle distance, troops march in formation. The flag of the Confederacy flies over the camp. Despite the bleak realities of imprisonment, there is a sense of ease and contentment in the image, conveyed in part by pleasures of the game, the glowing sky and sunlight, and the well-ordered composition. The birds flying free overhead perhaps hint at Boetticher’s hopes for liberation.

The artist did not have long to wait, as he was exchanged for a Confederate soldier on September 30, 1862. [4] This practice of prisoner exchange early in the war helped to keep prison populations down in both Union and Confederate prisons and may help to explain the comfortable conditions the artist depicted in his lithograph. Unfortunately, those conditions would not last throughout the war’s duration. By 1864, the population in the camp at Salisbury had swelled from 5,000 to 10,000. Overcrowding and reduced rations led to disease and death; the true number of prisoners who died at Salisbury may never be known. [5] Today, the site is a national cemetery, and northern states such as Maine and Pennsylvania have erected monuments on the grounds to commemorate their war dead.

[1] Natalie Spassky, American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art vol. 2 (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in association with Princeton University Press, 1985), 3.
[2] George B. Kirsch, Baseball in Blue and Gray: The National Pastime During the Civil War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 43.
[3] Louis A. Brown, The Salisbury Prison: A Case Study of Confederate Military Prisons, 1861–1865 (Wendell, NC: Avera Press and Broadfoot’s Bookmark, 1980), xvi.
[4] Spassky, American Paintings, 3.

Excerpts from article found here -



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