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Ewing Reports Playing "At Base" and Wicket at Valley Forge - with the Father of his Country

Salience Noteworthy
Tags Famous, Military
City/State/Country: Valley Forge, PA, United States
Game Wicket, Base
Immediacy of Report Contemporary
Age of Players Adult

[A] George Ewing, a Revolutionary War soldier, tells of playing a game of "Base" at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: "Exercisd in the afternoon in the intervals playd at base."

Ewing also wrote: "[May 2d] in the afternoon playd a game at Wicket with a number of Gent of the Arty . . . ." And later . . .  "This day [May 4, 1778] His Excellency dined with G Nox and after dinner did us the honor to play at Wicket with us."



"Q. What did soldiers do for recreation?

"A: During the winter months the soldiers were mostly concerned with their survival, so recreation was probably not on their minds. As spring came, activities other than drills and marches took place. "Games" would have included a game of bowls played with cannon balls and called "Long Bullets." "Base" was also a game - the ancestor of baseball, so you can imagine how it might be played; and cricket/wicket. George Washington himself was said to have took up the bat in a game of wicket in early May after a dinner with General Knox! . . . Other games included cards and dice . . . gambling in general, although that was frowned upon."

Valley Forge is about 20 miles NE of Philadelphia.




[A] Ewing, G., The Military Journal of George Ewing (1754-1824), A Soldier of Valley Forge [Private Printing, Yonkers, 1928], pp 35 ["base"] and 47 [wicket]. Also found at John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. Volume: 11. [U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1931]. page 348.  The text of Ewing's diary is unavailable at Google Books as of 11/17/2008.

[B] From the website of Historic Valley Forge;

see http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/youasked/067.htm, accessed 10/25/02. Note: it is possible that the source of this material is the Ewing entry above, but we're hoping for more details from the Rangers at Valley Forge. In 2013, we're still hoping, but not as avidly.

See also Thomas L. Altherr, “A Place Leavel Enough to Play Ball: Baseball and Baseball-Type Games in the Colonial Era, Revolutionary War, and Early American Republic.." Nine, Volume 8, number 2 (2000)\, p. 15-49.  Reprinted in David Block, Baseball before We Knew It – see page 236.



Caveat: It is unknown whether this was a ball game, rather than prisoner's base, a form of tag played by two teams, and resembling the game "Capture the Flag."

Note:  "Long Bullets" evidently involved a competition to throw a ball down a road, seeing who could send the ball furthest along with a given number of throws.  Another reference to long bullets is found at http://protoball.org/1830s.20.



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Is Ewing's diary available now?

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Submitted by John Thorn
Submission Note Submitted 10/12/2004.


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