In our last newsletter we began a conversation about baseball during the War Between the States. Early forms of baseball had already become High Society's pastime years before the first shots of The War were fired at Fort Sumter, but it was the mass participation of everyday soldiers that helped spread the game's popularity across the nation.
During the War Between the States, countless baseball games were organized in Army Camps and prisons on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line. Very little documentation exists on these games and most information has been derived from letters written by both officers and enlisted men to their families on the home front. For the hundreds of pictures taken during The War there is only one photo in the National Archives that clearly captured a baseball game underway. Several newspaper artists also depicted primitive ballgames and other forms of recreation devised to help boost troop morale and maintain physical fitness. Regardless of the lack of "media coverage", military historians have proved that baseball was a common ground in a country divided, and helped both Union and Confederate soldiers temporarily escape the horror of war.
Some soldiers, both Northern and Southern, actually took baseball equipment to war with them. When proper equipment was not available the soldiers often improvised with fence posts, barrel staves or tree branches for bats & yarn or rag-wrapped walnuts or lumps of cork for balls.
In 1863 the 24th Alabama records playing daily baseball games while awaiting the advancing Federal Army led by General William Tecumseh Sherman.
In 1864, as the war was winding down, POW's from the 11th Mississippi played a game against their guards at the Union Prison Camp in Sandusky, Ohio. They played 9 innings and beat their captors 19-11.
On the same day Yankee POW's played their guards at the Confederate Prison Camp in Salisbury, North Carolina. The Yankees won.
Following Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, soldiers from both sides played a series of baseball games. Was the first "World Series," or at least the first national championship series, a contest between The Army of the Potomac "Invaders" and The Army of Northern Virginia "Defenders"? The "Invaders" won the war. But the "Defenders" went home with the baseball's first pennant.
BLACKS AND BASEBALL
All "negro" teams began to form in the 1840's in Manhattan and Brooklyn and then spread, during the 1850s across the nation so that when The War Between the States began there were dozens of all-negro ball clubs playing organized baseball from New York to New Orleans.
The start of The War disrupted ball playing by both whites and blacks, but 1862 brought a baseball revival. And while Northern military units were segregated, Confederate units were not. This meant that amongst Southerners, whites and blacks played baseball together, on the same teams. But amongst Northerners, the teams were segregated. And often Northern teams would not play Southern teams if the Southern team had any blacks on it. So it seems that the Jackie Robinson story started long before Jackie Robinson. As many of you remember, in 1947, Jackie Robinson broke professional baseball's "color barrier" when he started as a 1st baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The next ten years of our nation's history were very difficult because of it. Had the South won the War Between the States its very possible that professional baseball would not have been a segregated sport. Even though Robinson was playing for a northern team, The Dodgers, the Dodgers had just hired a new General Manager, a Southerner from Missouri, Branch Rickey. It was Branch Rickey who wanted to hire Robinson and the majority of the opposition for having a "colored" person playing in the Major Leagues was coming from northern clubs, owners, and players, NOT from Southern clubs and fans as was depicted in the movie 42.
Newspaper reporters in the north used used racist stereotypes to describe blacks playing baseball in the 1950's. They also did so during the War Between the States. On October 17, 1862 The Brooklyn Daily Eagle published a brief account of a match between an unknown southern team and a team of Yankee soldiers. Its headline introduced the contest as: "A New Sensation in Baseball Circles - Sambo as a Ball-Player and Dinah as an Emulator." The reporter observed that everyone in the large crowd was "as black as the ace of spades."
By the end of The War, baseball had become one of the top entertainment attractions for black populations throughout the country. But in the North won the war and "reconstruction" was imposed upon the South. Basically "reconstruction" was a 20-year military occupation of the South by the North. "Segregation" as we think of it, really began during reconstruction and it was something imposed upon the Southerners by their Yankee occupiers. You guessed it, during reconstruction, the Yankees segregated baseball. It was already segregated in the North. They segregated it in the South too.
So the blacks formed their own "negro leagues" which grew in popularity despite great and numerous financial pressures. The Negro Southern League, the Negro American League, the Negro National League, and numerous other leagues became a strong part of our nation's culture, both Northern and Southern, and produced hundreds of the nation's greatest baseball players.
BASEBALL CARDS - A "SOUTHERN INVENTION"
Pictured below is one of the very first baseball cards. It was printed shortly after The War.
This summer we are offering an online course on the History of Baseball. Would you like to receive all of the course materials, lectures, textbook, etc. on an interactive CD-Rom? I'd be happy to mail the course CD for just $10 and I'll pay postage. Just click the button below or send a paypal payment to: firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW VIDEO UPLOADED TO YOUTUBE
It is the Dixie Heritage Tribute to 1860's baseball. It includes footage from two reenactments where I was able to watch and participate in the play as reenactors recreated soldiers playing the game by playing a game by 1860's rules.
THIS WEEK IN THE WBTS
John Mitchell, editor of the Richmond Examiner newspaper was arrested by Federal authorities on charges of treason.
The first 700 of 2,400 Confederate prisoners were transported from Camp Chase, Ohio and headed home. The prisoners were released at the rate of 700 per day for six days and transported at government expense. They were said to be in a destitute condition but cheerful at the prospects of returning home.
FREE SUTTLERY TENT TO A GOOD HOME
If you are in central Florida and can pick up a wall tent, poles, stakes, ropes,canvas, etc. please eMail me. Just hit reply to this eMail.
Refer your friends (or enemies) to our Dixie Heritage website so that they can receive a FREE copy of The Truth About the Confederate Battle Flag.
Until next week,