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  • Civil War Baseball

    I am aware of baseball games played between Union and Confederate troops in Civil War prisons, but I have heard that there were also Union vs. CSA baseball games played under far more unusual circumstances. On occasion, Union and CSA troops would sneak out of camp on moonlit nights and play against each other on fields that would turn into battlefields during the day. Does ANYONE have further knowledge of the specifics of these unusual pickup games?

  • #2
    Where did you hear this story?
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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    • #3
      If true that is pretty interesting.
      "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

      "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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      • #4
        I've not heard anything of that nature, and I read Civil War magazines fairly regularly. There are stories of both sides drinking from the same spring at the same time during battle down time, but those stories have pretty much been just that. Stories. I would think the baseball stories are from the same fabric. Something of this nature would be huge if in fact true.
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        • #5
          The closest I found was when Union soldiers were playing baseball in Texas and were attacked during the game. From the Ken Burns Baseball book.



          Civil War baseball 1.JPG
          Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

          Comment


          • #6
            There was a screenplay making the rounds in Hollywood back in the 90s about these supposed blue-gray baseball games during battle down time. That's how I heard about it, but have yet to find any historical confirmation. There was a great battle of the bands between Union and Confederates around the Battle of Murfreesboro (TN) in Dec. of 1862 which ended when both bands struck up "Home Sweet Home," the favorite song so both Yankee and rebel troops.

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            • #7
              I have read accounts of Federal and Confederate pickets conversing back and forth from opposite banks of a river or creek during nighttime lulls in the fighting, but organizing and playing a baseball game? I'm going to need to see proof of that, because I just don't believe it happened, at least outside of prison camps.
              They call me Mr. Baseball. Not because of my love for the game; because of all the stitches in my head.

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              • #8
                Thorn's Baseball in The Garden of Eden, a dry read, goes in depth with the origins of baseball. Not just the National Association, Knickerbockers, and 1869 Cincinnati club, but also its transition as an English ball-and-bat activity to the Americas. Around the time the Knickerbockers and subsequent organizations were developing (1850s), baseball's influence remained mostly a New England game (primarily New York). The Civil War, for all of its atrocities, may have helped the game reach the further portions of the nation. The game was probably reported through newspapers and word-of-mouth beyond New England, to which people would regard it as a variant of cricket. Actually seeing Union soldiers play would theoretically materialize Southerners' familiarity (if any) with the rules.

                In the Civil War's beginnings, POWs received rather decent treatment as captives. As war politics/propaganda began stirring emotions and the bloody tolls grew on people, prison camps on both sides became nothing short of a concentration camp. Rampant disease obliterated thousands of POWs existing in subhuman conditions. Each side became very hostile towards each other, so I don't see games occurring between sides (outside of a POW camp) after the Battle of Gettysburg when camps started transforming to very miserable places. In fact, the documented games trail of significantly after April 1863. The only post-1863 "inter-army" game I found came immediately after the surrender at Appomatox, where both weary sides came together for a game. It wasn't a secret that the South was losing, so both sides probably had a sense of the war ending for some time.

                Before this time, POWs didn't have it so bad. In fact, they occasionally left the camps for limited town trips. This would enable Confederate POWs being held by Northerners (many from NY) to learn baseball. Prison guards encouraged games be played to keep everyone, guards and prisoners, in higher spirits. In a war full of divisions such as rich and poor, North and South, soldier and officer, brother vs brother, baseball relieved the tensions for a short while and brought upon these men the very thing the Civil War has been recognized for: equality. This lithograph, created by a Union captain, depicts Union and Confederate POWs playing baseball

                civil_war_baseball_1863_poster-ra991c18d2e314d2792713abbc0a75168_aisrs_400.jpg

                Southerners also witnessed games from marching Union soldiers or armies that overtook their lands. However, documentation shows that baseball remained mostly a Northern sport in the Civil War, though the war definitely planted its seeds in the South. As I mentioned, however, I did not find any specific events of sides playing before battles. Each side kept to itself, and maybe organized games before battles WITHIN themselves (i.e. Union battery vs. Union regiment). The only place I know where you could find details on your belief of "moonlight battles" would be this book. However, one of my sources quotes the book and there's no mention of such a notion.

                As for rules, mesozoic baseball rules can be found through Google.

                My sources:
                Smithsonian Blog
                Baseball Almanac
                Baseball in The Garden of Eden by John Thorne
                Missouri Civil War Museum
                Old Time Baseball by Harvey Frommer
                SABR
                My knowledge of baseball, The Civil War, and how both interacted
                Last edited by Tyrus4189Cobb; 01-30-2013, 09:51 AM.
                "Allen Sutton Sothoron pitched his initials off today."--1920s article

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Tyrus4189Cobb View Post
                  Thorn's Baseball in The Garden of Eden, a dry read, goes in depth with the origins of baseball. Not just the National Association, Knickerbockers, and 1869 Cincinnati club, but also its transition as an English ball-and-bat activity to the Americas. Around the time the Knickerbockers and subsequent organizations were developing (1850s), baseball's influence remained mostly a New England game (primarily New York). The Civil War, for all of its atrocities, may have helped the game reach the further portions of the nation. The game was probably reported through newspapers and word-of-mouth beyond New England, to which people would see it as a variant of cricket. Actually seeing Union soldiers play would theoretically materialize Southerners' familiarity (if any) with the rules.

                  In the Civil War's beginnings, POWs received rather decent treatment as captives. As war politics/propaganda began stirring emotions and the bloody tolls grew on people, prison camps on both sides became nothing short of a concentration camp. Rampant disease obliterated thousands of POWs existing in subhuman conditions. Each side became very hostile towards each other, so I don't see games occurring between sides (outside of a POW camp) after the Battle of Gettysburg when camps started transforming to very miserable places. In fact, the documented games trail of significantly after April 1863. The only post-1863 "inter-army" game I found came immediately after the surrender at Appomatox, where both weary sides came together for a game. It wasn't a secret that the South was losing, so both sides probably had a sense of the war ending for some time.

                  Before this time, POWs didn't have it so bad. In fact, they occasionally left the camps for limited town trips. This would enable Confederate POWs being held by Northerners (many from NY) to learn baseball. Prison guards encouraged games be played to keep everyone, guards and prisoners, in higher spirits. In a war full of divisions such as rich and poor, North and South, soldier and officer, brother vs brother, baseball relieved the tensions for a short while and brought upon these men the very thing the Civil War has been recognized for: equality. This lithograph, created by a Union captain, depicts Union and Confederate POWs playing baseball

                  [ATTACH=CONFIG]119591[/ATTACH]

                  Southerners also witnessed games from marching Union soldiers or armies that overtook their lands. However, documentation shows that baseball remained mostly a Northern sport in the Civil War, though the war definitely planted its seeds in the South. As I mentioned, however, I did not find any specific events of sides playing before battles. Each side kept to itself, and maybe organized games before battles WITHIN themselves (i.e. Union battery vs. Union regiment). The only place I know where you could find details on your belief of "moonlight battles" would be this book. However, one of my sources quotes the book and there's no mention of such a notion.

                  As for rules, mesozoic baseball rules can be found through Google.

                  My sources:
                  Smithsonian Blog
                  Baseball Almanac
                  Baseball in The Garden of Eden by John Thorne
                  Missouri Civil War Museum
                  Old Time Baseball by Harvey Frommer
                  SABR
                  My knowledge of baseball, The Civil War, and how both interacted
                  The lithograph is from Salisbury, North Carolina, if I'm not mistaken. They have one hanging up at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus.

                  Excellent research. Thanks.
                  Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
                  Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
                  Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
                  Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
                  Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Captain Cold Nose View Post
                    The lithograph is from Salisbury, North Carolina, if I'm not mistaken. They have one hanging up at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus.

                    Excellent research. Thanks.
                    You're quite welcome. Yes it is from the Salisbury Confederate Prison in NC, orginally created by Captain Otto Botticher. I don't know where the original is now (from your context the one in Columbus is only a copy?)

                    Not to veer too far from baseball, but I think camps equated to modern day white-collar prisons in the war's beginning because POWs were seen as merely doing their duty. It wasn't until people became bitter through bloody campaigns, propaganda, and general prejudices of the day that POWs were regarded as part of the fault for the other side's injustices. Just a hyptothesis.

                    Anyway, the bitterness halted baseball between the sides, leaving negative feelings that would continue North vs. South animosity in baseball into the late 1910s (see 1912 Red Sox).
                    Last edited by Tyrus4189Cobb; 01-30-2013, 09:58 AM.
                    "Allen Sutton Sothoron pitched his initials off today."--1920s article

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Tyrus4189Cobb View Post
                      You're quite welcome. Yes it is from the Salisbury Confederate Prison in NC, orginally created by Captain Otto Botticher. I don't know where the original is now (from your context the one in Columbus is only a copy?)
                      To be honest with you I'm not quite sure, but it likely is. There is a decent permanent Civil War exhibit there, mostly consisting of flags. There's a ongoing major flag restoration project. I'll look closer at whether the litohgraph is denoted as original or a copy the next time I visit.
                      Dave Bill Tom George Mark Bob Ernie Soupy Dick Alex Sparky
                      Joe Gary MCA Emanuel Sonny Dave Earl Stan
                      Jonathan Neil Roger Anthony Ray Thomas Art Don
                      Gates Philip John Warrior Rik Casey Tony Horace
                      Robin Bill Ernie JEDI

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        As far as I am aware there was no ballplaying between Johnny Rebs and Billy Yanks during the war, even in prison camps.

                        I know of one account where a couple of Union soldiers in uniform from a PA unit were playing ball in Baltimore. I believe they were members of the Philadelphia Athletics. Don't have the specifics at this moment but it's here: baseballhistoryblog.com

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                        • #13
                          Thanks much for the post and the Baseball in the Blue and Gray referral. Re fraternizing Yanks and rebels there was a great Union vs. Confederate battle of the bands one night (Dec. 30, 1862) before the Battle of Murfreesboro (Tenn.) which ended with both bands joining in to play "Home Sweet Home."

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                          • #14

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                            • #15
                              ^ I can't believe anyone fell for Bill Stern's story about Lincoln telling Doubleday that on his death bead [and thus being conscious]. Lincoln got shot with a .44 derringer point blank. You don't come back from that.
                              "No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” - W. A. Phelon in Baseball Magazine in 1915. “Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.”

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