Tag Archives: Civil War


DECEMBER 25, 1862 | HILTON HEAD, SOUTH CAROLINA – Sports was not yet a popular pastime, let alone a spectator event in the mid-19th century, when, according to several sources, 40,000 people showed up on Christmas Day in 1862 in Hilton Head, South Carolina during the Civil War to watch a baseball game. The 165th New York Volunteer Regiment played a game against a team of men from other Union regiments. It was an unheard of gathering of spectators for any event, and hyperbole cannot be ruled out. But did 40,000 really attend a game 1862?

University of California-Berkley history professor Gunther Barth wrote in his book City People in 1980 that the report of 40,000 fans attending a game during the Civil War came from A. G. Mills who was a big part of creating the myth of Abner Doubleday. A committee chaired by Mills agreed upon the Doubleday myth after “studying” the issue. Mills went on to become president of the National League in 1907.

While the number of spectators at that Christmas Day game is debatable, even Barth agrees Civil War contests spread the popularity of baseball beyond the Northeast. Is 40,000 people attending a game in 1862 for real?

Contributing sources:
City People: The rise of modern city culture in 19th century America, by Gunther Barth, 1980, Oxford University Press
Civil War baseball

Abe, Civil War, Baseball

FEBRUARY 12TH | UNITED STATES OF AMERICA • On his 208th birthday, let’s talk Abraham Lincoln and baseball.

“Abraham Lincoln’s rise to political prominence… occurred during the years when [base-ball] was achieving increasing popularity in all regions.”

There are those who believe the Civil War, of which President Lincoln was the Commander-in-Chief of the Union Army, helped spread the game of baseball because it served to bring men from all over the country together and, in their leisure, took up the game.

Others, such as Patricia Millen, author of From Pastime to Passion, say the war more likely served to slow down the spread of the game, which had already become quite popular in the Northeast in the decades before the war, and spread like wildfire after the war ended.

According to George B. Kirsch, author of Baseball in Blue and Gray,
“Abraham Lincoln’s rise to political prominence… occurred during the years when the game was achieving increasing popularity in all regions. The earliest association between Lincoln and baseball appeared in a Currier & Ives political cartoon published in November 1860, shortly after Lincoln defeated three rivals to claim the presidency.

In the cartoon, each has a bat in his hands. Lincoln also has the ball and is saying, “Gentleman, if ever you should take a hand in another match at this game, remember that you must have a good bat to strike a fair ball and make a clean score and a home run.”

Additional reading:

Baseball and American Culture: Across the Diamond, by Edward J. Rielly