The Civil War helped facilitate the spread of the “New York game” as soldiers idled away time in camp, prisons, and even the front lines. Just as other social organizations, such as fireman units, enlisted together, so to did some baseball clubs. On April 5, 1861 the Jefferson Base Ball Club demonstrated their dedication to the Union by erecting a flag pole at their regular Franklin Square playing grounds at 14th and I Streets NW.
Amongst the thousands of New York troops arriving in Washington in 1861 were baseball players who brought their New York game with them. Naturally, matches between regiments soon ensued. An item in the Washington National Republican on June 28, 1861 announced a game to be played between New York units and hinted at the future NY Yankees/Giants-Brooklyn Dodgers rivalries:
“BASE BALL MATCH- There will be a match played at Camp Wool on tomorrow afternoon at 4 o’clock, between the first nine of the Baldwin B.B. Club (Co. D) and the first nine of the Steers B.B. Club (Co. E). Those interested in the noble game of base ball are invited to witness the contest. As the above clubs are composed of some of the best players of Brooklyn and New York, it is expected that the game will be very interesting.”
There were also matches between various New York units and the local Washington clubs The New Yorkers usually won these matches by lopsided scores such as when members of the New York 71st Regiment beat the Nationals 42 to 13 on July 12, 1861. However, the Nationals got revenge a year later, defeating the 71st 28-13 on August 7, 1862. The rematch brought out a large number of spectators, including a number of women, and guards from the regiment were posted to keep the crowds from encroaching on the playing field.
For civilians, watching a base ball match in the capital had the added advantage of being a wee bit safer than holding a picnic during the fireworks at Bull Run!
H/T Sarah S.
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