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CSA Prisoners Said to Learn Base Ball from “New Orleans Boys”

Salience Peripheral
Tags Civil War, Military

“The New Orleans boys also carried base balls in their knapsacks. A few of them found themselves in a Federal prison stockade on the Mississippi. The formed a club. Confederate prisoners from Georgia and South Carolina watched them, got the hang of it and organized for rivalry. In the East and West Series that followed the West won triumphantly by unrecorded scores.”

Will Irwin, Collier’s Weekly, May 8, 1909, as attributed in A. G. Spalding, America’s National Game (American Sports Publishing, 1911), pp. 96-97. Kirsch also cites the Irwin source. Note: can we deduce what prison is described, and obtain an original source? Were the New Orleans soldiers prisoners [and the “West” team?] or prison guards? Are there clues [or other stories] to be found in the original Collier’s piece?


Note: the two Federal POW camps along the MS River were at Alton and Rock Island, IL. From the context, it sounds like what they actually referred to was the "east-west" game at Johnson's Island, which is not on the MS River but rather in Lake Erie.

Note 2: The Sacramento Daily Union, April 14, 1864 prints a letter from a POW on Johnson's Island mentioning "The out-door exercises consist in leap-frog, bull-pen, town-ball, base-ball, foot-ball, snow-ball, bat-ball, and ball."

External Number 147



705 days ago
Score 0
This would appear to be a corrupted version of what actually happened at the Johnson Island POW Camp in Lake Erie, near Sandusky, Ohio. Confederate POWs there played several east-west games in 1864, a match spearheaded by LA POWs who'd played the game in pre-war New Orleans. See my article on the Spread of Baseball in the South, in Base Ball.

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