Letter From Fort Monroe

Fortress Monroe, Old Point Comfort, & Hygeia Hotel, Va. in 1861 & 1862, Library of Congress

I found this letter below published on May 5, 1861 in the Boston Daily Advertiser. As it notes, it was originally published in the New Bedford Standard. Unfortunately, the author of the letter as well as the recipient was not published. The letter writer describes passing time at the fort and in the last paragraph he talks about the playing of baseball. It is clear that he is familiar with the game, most likely having played himself or had seen the Ironsides or one of the many other clubs playing in New Bedford before the war.

[Correspondence of the New Bedford Standard.]

Fort Monroe, Tuesday Eve., April 30. [1861]

Friend N–  : I am now resting from the labors of the day smoking my pipe, and having an opportunity to directly mail a letter, I address to you. Today I have been very busy in taking account of Massachusetts stores sent to our Regiment from Philadelphia, and I have just now finished making out the invoices and receipts for the stores. Everything is kept by double entry here, inasmuch as we have to make two invoices and tow receipts for every item that passes through our hands. It stands me in hand to do it correctly for am personally responsible for everything I handle.

Not much is going on here since Sunday, except Sunday night, when an alarm was given from the “Cumberland,” and the Regulars were aroused and stationed at the guns. The Volunteers were not called up. Last evening, about 10 o’clock, a brass field piece, stationed at the gate, was discharged, which was a signal for every one to be at his post. A grand rush was made. The Guards were the first company in line – beating the Regulars. At an alarm like this, our Regiment take a position to command the north gate of the fort, while the Fourth Regiment are stationed at the south gate, and the regulars man the guns on the parapet. The excitement was high for a few moments, but soon subsided, and the men returned to quarters. Every man jumped to his equipments and gun, and there were no laggards I assure you. It was a good liking to try the spirit of the men, and it afforded additional proof of the desire to stand by the glorious Stars and Stripes. I almost forgot to say that the alarm was caused by the appearance in the offing of a large steamer, which acted rater queer for a while and then sailed away.

The men are employed in rather queer business sometimes, when not on guard, for instance this afternoon while I was on the wharf with my gang of men, George Sears came down driving a donkey cart, carting ammunition, and fresh beef. T. C. Allen, jr., was employed the same way, while A. Upjohn was bore teamer. Sometimes they roll beef and port, and then you will see them attached under some shade tree, devouring an Evening Standard two weeks old, or washing their clothes and drying them in the sun, of which we have a plenty, and we are all turning as black as Creoles. Mornings a portion of the Braintree company, Fourth Regiment, may be seen playing base ball, and a mighty smart game they play, it would do you good to see them. The band here is some – 25 members with any quantity of drummers. Every morning they come out at the parade of the guard for the day. This morning they made the air ring with the well known notes of Dixie.

Fort Monroe is located in Hampton Virginia and during the Civil War was still controlled by the Union despite Virginia’s succession from the U.S. I believe I have been able to identify the men he describes carting the ammunition and fresh beef. They were all enlisted in Company L, Massachusetts 3rd Infantry Regiment.

On April 13, 1861, two days after the battle at Fort Sumtner, the 3rd regiment was summoned to Boston. The regiment left Boston on April 18 and arrived at Fort Monroe on the 20th. The regiment returned to Boston on July 19. Company L may not have joined the regiment until after April 23 as that is the date the three men noted in the account above enlisted in the company.

George Sears was listed as being employed as a clerk at the time of his enlistment and a druggist in the 1860 federal census. He reenlisted in Company E of the 3rd Regiment in September of 1862. He was married to a woman named Caroline and had a daughter about three years old named Carrie at the time of his enlistment with Company L.

T. C. Allen, Jr. was most likely Thomas C. Allen, Jr. employed as a merchant/trader. He was living at home at the time of his enlistment. He mustered out on July 22, 1861. I’m not sure what his fate is after that. I did find a Thomas Allen about the same age that died of Brights disease in 1880.

A. Upjohn may have been Aaron Upjohn, Jr. He was a clerk with Buckminster & Macy, a dry goods business on Pleasant Street. Upjohn reenlisted in the navy twice after his time with Company L. Mr. Upjohn has a baseball connection as well. He played on the Bristol County Base Ball Club in 1858 and played right field as a member of the Wamsutta Base Ball Club in 1866.

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Lowell vs. Wamsutta

John Lowell, ca. 1861

John Lowell, ca. 1861

One hundred forty years ago this week the Wamsutta Base Ball Club took on the mighty Lowell Club of Boston. The Lowell Club was one of the more talented baseball clubs in the area during that time. It was formed in 1861 by students of various Boston secondary schools at the suggestion of John A. Lowell and the Bowdoin Base Ball Club to play the New York game. The New York game was played in New England but it was facing competition from the Massachusetts game. In honor of Mr. Lowell, the club was named after him.

The Tri-Mountain Base Ball Club is widely considered to be the first club in New England formed to play the New York game. Formed in 1857, they didn’t play their first match against another club until early September of 1858 when they beat a club from Portland Maine. It remains a mystery as to why the Tri-Mountain club did not play the Ironsides Club of New Bedford which had been formed to play the New York game at that time.

The Lowell club quickly established their talent by winning their first game against Medford 17-10. Lowell played its second match in May of 1863 against the established Tri-Mountain club. Lowell won 37-1. In 1866 the Lowell club’s first nine would win every match they played.

In 1868 the Lowell Base Ball Club set out on tour of New England cities in an effort to reach out and be “neighborly”. While the tour lasted only during the month of June the Lowell club made a trip to New Bedford in August where they faced the Wamsutta club. The game lasted 3 hours and 25 minutes. It was painful 3 hours in 25 minutes for the Wamsuttas losing to the Lowells 62-6 in 7 innings.

New Bedford Republican Standard
August 20, 1868

Base Ball. – The game between the Lowell and Wamsutta clubs at Myrick’s on Friday was concluded at the end of the 7th inning, with the following score:

Lowell. Wamsutta.

O.  R.                                      O.  R.

Lovett, p.,            1    9   N. E. Howland, 2. b.,    3    0
Alline, 3. b.,         3    7   J. H. Tallman, r. f..,      3    0
Dennison, 1. b.,   0    8   O. N. Pierce, p.,           1    1
Sumner, 2. b.,      6    4   Walter Clifford, s. s.,   3    0
Bradbury, c.,         1   8   G. D. Gifford, c.,          2    1
Rogers, c. f.,         1   8   C. Almy, Jr., c. f.,         3    0
Newton, l. f.,        4   6   M. M. Howland, l. f.     2    2
Hawes, r. f.,          3   6   F. W. Knowlton, 1. b.,  2    1
Dillingham, s. s.,  2   6   W. C. Gooding, 3. b.,   2    1

62                                            6

Runs in each Inning.

1st.   2d.   3d.   4th.   5th.   6th.   7th.
Lowell,       5        9      1      10     6     11     20
Wamsutta, 1         0     2         1     1      0        1

Childhood Ball Playing Clippings

Boy & Girl with dog and batHere are a couple of news clippings that mention ball playing. The first is children’s poetry from the New Bedford Mecury 200 years ago this month. The second (not local but fun anyway) is commentary from the Cleveland Daily Herald in 1841 on the fun of playing ball.

 

New Bedford Mercury

 

May 13,1808

 

SELECTED POETRY.

 

CHILDHOOD.

 

CHILDHOOD! happiest stage of life,

Free from care and free from strife,

Free from memory’s ruthless reign,

Fraught with scenes of former pain;

Free from fancy’s cruel skill,

Fabricating future ill;

Time, when all that meets the view,

All can charm, for all is new;

How thy long-lost hours I mourn,

Never, never to return!

 

Then to toss the circling ball,

Caught rebounding from the wall;

Then the mimic ship to guide

Down the kennel’s dirty tide;

Then the hoop’s revolving pace

Through the dusty street to chase;

O what joy! – it once was mine,

Childhood, matchless boon of thine!

How thy long-lost hours I mourn,

Never, never to return!

 

Childhood Poetry, 1808

 

Cleveland Daily Herald

 

April 15, 1841

 

Playing Ball, is among the very first of the ’sports’ of our early years. Who has not teased his grandmother for a ball, until the ‘old stockings’ have been transformed into one that would bound well? Who has not played ‘barn ball’ in his boyhood, ‘base’ in his youth, and ‘wicket’ in this manhood? – There is fun, and sport, and healthy exercise, in a game of ‘ball.’ We like it; for with it is associated recollections of our earlier days. And we trust we shall never be too old to feel and to ‘take delight’ in the amusements which interested us in our boyhood.

            If ‘Edith’ wishes to see ‘a great strike’ and ‘lots of fun,’ let her walk down Water Street some pleasant afternoon towards ‘set of sun’ and see the ‘Bachelors’ make the ball fly.

 

100730. New York Public Library

New Bedford High School Baseball, 150 Years Ago

Not only is this year the 150th anniversary of the first known baseball team in New Bedford (predating the Wamsutta Club’s claim by 8 years), it is also an anniversary year for the New Bedford high school team. In 1858 the New Bedford High School fielded a team making them the first high school or secondary school in the country to do so.

To verify this I have been searching for published works about the history of high school baseball but I haven’t had much luck. The only references to early high school baseball teams that I have found have been in the Illinois High School Association’s website which states “Worcester High School in Massachusetts has been traditionally recognized as the first secondary institution to form a team that competed against teams outside of the school.” It notes that their first game was against a club called the Eaglets which Worcester beat on October 12, 1859. Harold Seymour’s brilliant work Baseball: The People’s Game also notes Worcester High School as having the first high school baseball club. My source of New Bedford superseding the Worcester club comes from one line in the October 18, 1858 New Bedford Evening Standard:

The Old Hickory Base Ball Club have challenged the High School Base Ball Club to play the Massachusetts game.

The Massachusetts game was a competing form of baseball in Massachusetts with the New York game. It is important to note that the Massachusetts game is considered to be baseball and not a different bat and ball game such as rounders. Some differences in the games were:

   Massachusetts Game                                              New York Game

First club to score 100 wins                                   Club ahead after 9 innings wins

Square shaped field, bases at 4 corners            Diamond shaped field

Pitcher threw overhand                                         Pitcher pitched underhand

Fielder can strike runner with ball for out       Fielder must tag runner or base

Ball must be caught in air for an out                  Ball can be caught on a bound

A look back New Bedford’s history of public education in the early 1800s shows hostility to funding public schools even though state law required localities to fund public education. Instead of public education for all of its citizens, New Bedford voted to fund their public school “to school the poor children in this town”. Presumably the rich hired private tutors or sent their children off to private schools. In 1827 a state law went in to effect requiring all towns in the Commonwealth with at least 500 families to open a high school. But in 1829 the town voted to close its high school. They were able to do this because the law was changed to give the towns the option to operate a high school. Although children under six years old could still attend the public school, the high school remained closed until 1837 when it reopened on a permanent basis. By 1858 the high school was operating as a four year course of study, preparing students admitted at age 12, for college.

Although sports teams may not have become the norm for high schools and colleges until later in the 19th century it is safe to say that school aged kids were playing ball in New Bedford in the first half of the century. An 1822 bylaw levied a fine to anyone who would “play at ball, fly a kite or run down hill upon a sled… in any street of that part of the town commonly called the Village of New-Bedford”. Thomas Rodman wrote about being “initiated into the mysteries of Foot-ball, Base and every game boys pursue” when he was a student at Friends Academy in the mid-1830s. When it became fashionable to form social clubs based on sports in the mid 1800s, young adults formed their own clubs as well.

But let’s get back to the high school club. The New Bedford game appears not to have taken place until the following month when the New Bedford Republican Standard reported that the High School club beat Charles Clifford’s Old Hickory club 100-73:

The New Bedford Republican Standard

November 18, 1858

Base Ball. – The match game we noticed a few days ago, took place on Saturday afternoon between the High School and Old Hickory Clubs. After playing about two hours and a half, the High School boys, the challenged party, were declared the victors, having scored 100. The Old Hickory Club scored 73. During the first half of the game the latter Club took the lead. Considerable interest was manifested by a large number of spectators. At the close the vanquished gave three cheers and the victors responded.

Those appear to be the only references to high school baseball in the 1858 New Bedford newspapers.  It is not clear if this club was sanctioned by the high school as an extracurricular activity or if it was made up of high school students calling themselves the High School Base Ball Club. Harold Seymour notes that the Worcester club in 1859 was formed by students on their own. School officials at first protested calling the club a high school club before warming up to the idea of a high school baseball club and supporting it. If New Bedford high school officials had issues with the High School Base Ball Club it wasn’t reported on in the papers. It is hard to judge how long the 1858 edition of the high school team lasted. There were just a few mentions of baseball in the 1859 and 1860 New Bedford papers but nothing on the high school club. In fact there is no mention of baseball in the newspapers again until 1866. In that year, in addition to the Wamsutta and other clubs, the Howland Grammar School Association formed the Acushnet Base Ball Club. This association was formed by a Middle Street Grammar School student for the “prevention of profanity and vulgarity”.

High school baseball appears again in the New Bedford papers in 1867 when the High School club beat Friend’s Academy 33-17, presumably playing the New York rules which the Ironsides Base Ball Club may have first introduced to New Bedford in 1858.

Here is to another 150 years of baseball in New Bedford and throughout the south coast of Massachusetts (and maybe high schools will go back to wood bats).

 

Thanksgiving Baseball

The Standard Times recently did a story about Thanksgiving traditions. One of those traditions began 22 years ago when SouthCoast football officials met for breakfast before the Thanksgiving Day games. It seems that football has become part of the Thanksgiving ritual for many people. For the record, I am not one of them and I do not know much about the history of football with Thanksgiving.

According to the Detroit Lions website they have been playing Thanksgiving football since 1934. In 1890 Harvard proposed to Yale that football be played between the two schools on Thanksgiving. In 1855, William Sumner of Milton, Massachusetts had to withdraw from a game of football on Thanksgiving due to injuries he received from an assault the week before. Football was known on the south coast in the nineteenth century. Thomas Rodman, son of abolitionist Samuel Rodman of New Bedford, learned to play football at Friends Academy in the 1830s. In early December 1859 the staff of two newspapers, the Republican Standard and the Mercury played a best of five series. According to James D’Wolf Lovett, football at this time was a much different game. Play was continuous (unless the ball went out of bounds) until one team got the ball over their opponent’s boundary line. One goal ended the game. With the series tied at two games apiece both teams decided not to play the deciding game because as the Republican Standard noted, “the best of feeling prevailed”.

It was baseball, not football that was the traditional Thanksgiving Day sport of choice as long as 150 years ago. On Thanksgiving Day 1858 the Union and Bristol County baseball clubs of New Bedford met on the City Common for a game. The Evening Standard began their report of the game “From time immemorial Thanksgiving and Fast days have been set apart for ball playing…” suggesting that perhaps baseball had long been established as a tradition on Thanksgiving in New Bedford. The report noted that “The regular Ball season is considered to close with Thanksgiving”.

On Thanksgiving Day 1859 and 1860 the Franklin Base Ball Club played an inter-squad game at a location on the southern end of County Street. Both teams celebrated after the games with dinners of turkey and oysters.The Civil War most likely interrupted this ball playing tradition (or at least the local newspapers understandably decided it wasn’t important enough to report). By 1866 baseball was once again played in New Bedford in November and in 1867 Thanksgiving Day baseball games featured the New Bedford Boot and Shoe Manufactory, the Annawan Base Ball Club, the National Base Ball Club and the Wamsutta Base Ball Club.

I am not sure when the tradition of football replaced baseball as the Thanksgiving Day sport. Perhaps it gradually made the transformation as the ball became harder and wintry weather made play difficult as the rules evolved. Softball made its introduction in the 1880s in Chicago as in indoor sport at Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day 1887 a game of baseball was played on the Polo Grounds, presumably by these softball rules. Most likely people wanted a sporting diversion on Thanksgiving that could be played in rain or snow and football offered that diversion.

Early Days of Baseball in New Bedford, ca. 1858

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baseball in New Bedford seems to have a longer past than once believed. According to a May 2006 Standard Times article, the Wamsutta Base Ball Club was the first baseball club in the city in 1866. The source of that information may have come from the obituary of Charles W. Clifford which appeared in the September 13, 1923 New Bedford Evening Standard:

The part that recreation plays in wholesome physical and mental life apparently always appealed to him; for in 1865 he introduced the new New York game of baseball into this city… He was a Harvard student when he saw and became enthusiastic over the “New Yorkgame” of baseball. In the summer and fall of 1865, he took the initiative in playing ball according to the new rules, forming a team and playing scrub games; and the following winter the Wamsutta Baseball Club was organized, with Charles W. Clifford at third base.

By 1865-1866 the New York game was not new. The New York rules were standardized in 1857 by sixteen New York baseball clubs when they formed the National Association of Base Ball Players. The New York game is the direct ancestor of modern baseball. In 1858 several clubs in Massachusetts formed the Massachusetts Association of Base Ball Players and standardized the Massachusetts game rules. The rules included 10-14 players per side on a field that was square shaped, “soaking” or throwing the ball at the runner to record an out and a 100 run requirement to win the ball game. The batter, or striker as he was known stood half way between the first and fourth base. Bases were 4-foot wooden stakes set 60 feet apart. The pitcher was known as the thrower and threw to the striker overhand at a distance of 35 feet away.

It may seem that Mr. Clifford introduced the New York game to New Bedford in 1866 due to a lack of baseball activity during the Civil War. However, the New York game was in existence in New England by 1857. On June 16thof that year the Tri-Mountain Base Ball Club was formed in Boston and there is a possibility that the Aurora Base Ball Club was playing the New York game in Providence in the spring of 1857.In 1858 the New York game had spread to New Bedford. The New Bedford Evening Standard first made a specific mention of the New York game on September 13:

Yet Another. – A number of seamen, now in port, have formed a Club entitled the “Sons of the Ocean Base Ball Club.” They play on the City common, on Thursdays, and we are requested to state that the members challenge any of the other clubs in the city to a trial either of the New York or Massachusetts game. The officers of the Club are Albert Brown, President, D. Davids, Vice President, Harvey Hudson, Secretary, S.M. Thompson, Treasurer.

The Evening Standard mentions six baseball clubs in existence in the city during the 1858 season. The Ironsides Base Ball Club may have been the first in the city to play by the New York rules. The Ironsides formed on August 10. However, it was not until October 18 that the Evening Standard noted while reporting on a game between the Ironsides and the Bristol County Base Ball Club that the Ironsides was a New York rules club:

The game played was that known as the “Massachusetts,” which is the one usually played by the Bristol County Club, while the Ironsides play the one known as the “New York,” which differs from the Massachusetts game in several particulars. These Clubs will probably play the New York game at their next trial, which may take place on Friday next.

The Ironsides soon issued a challenge to the Bristol County Club to play a game on Thanksgiving Day by the New York rules. The Bristol County Club declined to play the Ironsides by the New York rules saying that to do so would be unpatriotic:

We would say that having, as a Club, chosen the Massachusetts game as the proper one to be played on Massachusetts soil, we deem it inconsistent in a Match Game to play any other than the one governed by the rules and regulations adopted by the duly organized association of Base Ball players, established in Dedham, May 13th, 1858… we are prepared to accept any Challenge from the Ironsides Club which may be presented between now and the Thank giving of 1858, to play a Match Game of Base Ball, in accordance with the fashion of the Old Bay State.

Several of the clubs in New Bedford including the Ironsides, Sons of the Ocean and the Union Base Ball Club were reported to be New York Clubs or at least willing to play the New York game. But by the time of the Ironsides/Bristol County match the other clubs may have switched to the Massachusetts game. The Bristol County Club went on to suggest in their reply to the Ironsides that the New York game was not a popular game to be played in New Bedford:

Fearing however that the public may draw a wrong inference from the reading of the Challenge as it appeared in your columns, and suppose that the arrangements were in through perfected for a trial of skill, permit on to state that nay manner of playing which has been adopted has met the approval of but one Club, and that the one which sends the Challenge, seeming to us rather unusual proceedings, considering us as the challenged party.

I haven’t found any evidence to suggest that the New York game was played between two different clubs in New Bedford during the 1858 season. I have found that the Ironsides played an inter-club match of what appears to have been the New York game. Some members of the BristolCounty club played in this game as reported by the Daily Mercury on October 25:

Base Ball – The Ironsides Club met on the Common on Friday afternoon, and engaged in one of the most exciting games of the season. Andrew Hayes, jr. and James D. Allen were appointed leaders. The two sides were equally divided. A few members of the Bristol County Club joined in the game, which resulted in Hayes’ side scoring 33 runs, and Allen’s 29. Two of the players had their fingers dislocated by the ball striking them. – The challenge that the Ironsides Club sent the Bristol County Club has been declined.

The New York game was in New Bedford seven years before Charles Clifford returned from Harvard and began playing the game in his home town. According to the H Book of Harvard Athletics, 1852-1922 the New York game was brought to Harvard from incoming students that had attended PhillipsExeterAcademy in New Hampshire. In December of 1862 they formed the ’66 Base Ball Club. A club known as the “Cricket and Base Ball Club” had been formed by the class of 1864 in 1860 but it did not last long. Before Clifford left Harvard he most likely would have been exposed to ball playing at Harvard. He notes that he was the secretary of the Harvard Cricket Club but he makes no mention of being affiliated with the baseball club. It is interesting to note that Clifford does not appear to have taken part in baseball while a student at Harvard. He may have been aware of baseball activity while a student and may have even learned the New York rules while attending Harvard but it is most likely that he became aware of the New York game and may have even seen in played in New Bedford before leaving to study in Cambridge. It is not surprising that Clifford wanted to organize a baseball club in New Bedford after returning from Harvard in 1865. Baseball after the Civil War saw a growth in popularity in the New York version of the game as it spread around the country. It is likely Clifford was swept up in this baseball fever. After all he had been president of a New Bedford baseball club in 1858 as reported by the Evening Standard in September of that year:

“Old Hickory.” – A correspondent informs us that the name of the Bay State Base Ball Club has been changed to Old Hickory Base Ball Club. The members are all young men under 18 years of age… The President of the club is Charles Clifford, son of Hon. J.H. Clifford. They meet for practice for the first time to-morrow morning at 5 o’clock, on the corner of Hawthorn and Cottage streets.

At a latter date the Evening Standard noted that the Old Hickory Club played the Massachusetts game. The Ironsides were still playing in 1859 although it is not clear if they were still playing the New York game. Not much is known about why the Massachusetts game died out in favor of the New York game. In New Bedford, baseball playing seemed to have come to a stop during the Civil War. A search of the Evening Standard did not note any ball playing during the war years and very few references to ball playing in 1859 and 1860.By 1866 baseball was back in business in New Bedford. On July 4 the Wamsutta Club played a game of baseball matching the club’s married men against its single men. A couple of weeks later the New Bedford Republican Standard noted:

The organization of the Wamsutta Base Ball Club seems to have remarkably aroused the spirit of ball playing in the city and three more clubs are now under way.

Soon baseball clubs spread throughout the city with names like the North Star Club, the New England Club, the Young America Club, the Massasoit Base Ball Club and the O.K. Base Ball Club.

Baseball would continue to grow in New Bedford thanks to the re-introduction of the game by the Wamsutta Base Ball Club. The city would host professional franchises in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Wamsutta Club still exist today strictly as a social club. The club has recently opened a baseball themed club known as the 1866 Rounders Club. A recent Standard Times article notes that the Wamsutta Club formed the club as a way to generate more interest in the Wamsutta Club by focusing on its rich baseball history. It is odd that the club is named after an entirely different bat and ball game known as rounders. A one time hypothesis considered that baseball evolved from the English game of rounders which no doubt the Wamsutta Club is referring to. David Block explains the baseball from rounders myth in his book Baseball Before We Knew It.

Clearly baseball in New Bedford existed before the founding of the Wamsutta Club in 1866. It is not clear how the New York game came to be in New Bedford. Since the city had a major whaling port, it is possible that the game entered in to the city before 1858. The willingness of the Sons of the Ocean Base Ball Club to play the New York game suggests that one possibility is seamen could have learned the game while in New York or near by ports and brought the game to New Bedford.