Thursday, May 31, 2012

The 1884 Maroons: Burying The Lede

The fourth and last game of the home series between the Kansas City and St. louis Unions was played at Union Park yesterday afternoon in the presence of about 7,000 spectators.  There was a high wind blowing, which made the outfielders' work doubly difficult, but otherwise the weather was very pleasant.  The home team was short of Dunlap's services, that player being laid up with a sore hand.  The home battery were Sweeny and Baker, and it was evident that the crowd was deeply interested in the work of the former.  Black, who was announced to pitch for the visitors, failed to arrived, and Cruthers, a local amateur, was presented, with Baldwin behind the bat.  Sweeny's work created a very favorable impression.  He held the Kansas City's down to four hits, and retired nine of them on strikes.  For the first six innings he took matters very leisurely and pitched a moderate pace, occasionally delivering a slow drop, but in the last three, when the game became doubtful, he settled down to earnest work, and the speed he displayed was indeed terrific.  At the same time his command of the ball was well nigh perfect.  Baker was not in his best form, and his support was only fair.  He was quite ill on Saturday, and therefore could hardly be expected to be up to his usual standard.  He had no passed balls, however.
Opposed By Local Talent.
The audience expected to see Cruthers quickly knocked out of position, and was surprised when, in the first six innings, the heavy hitters scored only six scattering hits off his delivery.  As the game progressed he became a decided favorite with the crowd.  Baldwin's catching was a treat, and was greatly enjoyed by the spectators.  He is a prize for the Kansas Citys.  He made two low throws to second, one on an occasion when it would have been judicious for him to have held the ball, but otherwise his work was simply grand, and was repeatedly applauded.  The fielding of both sides was loose.  Gleason was conspicuously off, andd had three errors charged to his account.  Ryder let two hits to left get by him, Rowe muffed a hot line hit from Davis' bat, and Whitehead made a fumble.  Turbidy, of the visiting nine, carried off the fielding honors, some of his stops being surprisingly brilliant.  The game bristled with fine plays, and was exciting throughout.  When the St. Louis nine went to bat the last half of the ninth inning the score stood 3 to 3.  Then Rowe led off with a three-base hit to center, and was quickly brought home by Gleason's drive to left.  Geo. Seward umpired to the satisfaction of all concerned.  
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 4, 1883

I'm not a newspaperman or anything but don't you lead with it was a tied game in the bottom of the ninth and the home team won the game in their last at-bat?  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


W.H. Lickey, while umpiring a game of base ball at Denison, O., August 2, had his left eye knocked out by a ball thrown by the pitcher.  Lickey had hardly been removed when W.A. McConnell, catcher, was hit in the eye by the same pitcher, and had to be carried off the field.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 4, 1884

I repeat: Yikes!

I know this has nothing even remotely to do with St. Louis baseball but I had to pass it along.  It's not everyday that you hear about an umpire losing an eye during a game.

According to Game of Inches, the catcher's mask was invented in the mid-1870s and was being used by players in the major leagues by 1878.  However, Morris writes that, although this rather useful piece of equipment was catching on (no pun intended), there was still resistance to its use in the 1880s.  I'm thinking that Mr. Lickey and Mr. McConnell were not wearing a protective mask in 1884.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Was That So Hard?

A large crowd witnessed the game at Compton Avenue Park yesterday afternoon, between the Eclipse and Black Sox, the two leading colored nines.  The Eclipse team won by a score of 7 to 5.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 4, 1884

See how easy that was?  Just give us the clubs, the score and a little information about the crowd.  That's all I want.  That and the box score.  How about a box score next time?

Monday, May 28, 2012

The 1884 Maroons: The Scorpion And The Frog

Yesterday's game between St. Louis and Kansas City Unions, with the first inning left out, was one of the prettiest contests of the year.  The visitors presented Barney McLaughlin as their pitcher.  He had ridden all the way from Reading, Pa., and when he appeared on the field he was feeling stiff and tired.  When he began pitching he showed great speed and in and out-curves of no ordinary degree, but did not have good command of the ball.  In addition, he was harshly dealt with by Umpire Devinney, who called balls that were delivered directly over the plate.  McLaughlin protested at first and then good naturedly stood in the box and laughed at the deal he was getting.  At the same time the crowd hissed vehemently.  After the visitors had retired in the first inning without scoring Dunlap led off for the St. Louis with one of his patent drives to center.  A moment later he was clearly caught napping by McLaughlin's throw to Cudworth, but Devinney decided "not out."  The crowd hissed Devinney for declaring him safe.  This seemed to rattle Devinney, and he commenced calling balls rapidly.  Shafer was the first to go to his base on balls.  Then Rowe hit safe to right, filling the bases.  Gleason, who came next, stood up without attempting to strike, and Devinney called seven balls in succession, Gleason went to first, while Dunlap walked home, the crowd in the meanwhile hissing Devinney, and calling to him to step down and out.  Quinn, the next batsman, hit to Davis, who picked up the ball, 
Touched Third Base,
and then threw home to head Shafer off at the plate.  Devinney, to the surprise of all, declared Rowe safe at third and Shaffer out at home, when without doubt both men were retired.  Boyle then hit safe to center, and McLaughlin threw home to catch Rowe.  Baldwin jumped high and caught the ball, but Rowe scored.  Boyle then hit safe to center, and McLaughlin threw home to catch Rowe.  Baldwin jumped high and caught the ball, but Rowe scored.  Brennan, like Gleason, made no attempt to strike, and was sent to his base on balls, Gleason scoring on the decision, and the crowd hissing Devinney again.  Ryder, the next man, also stood still until sent to first on balls, and Quinn walked home.  Werder hit to Strief and was fielded out at first, while Boyle scored.  Dunlap hit safe to left and Brennan tallied, but Ryder, who tried to follow him home,
Slipped And Fell
after passing third and was caught between the plate and the bag.  Here were 6 runs, not one of which should have been scored.  The crowd, which had hissed Devinney all through the inning, called for his removal.  Manager Sullivan, getting excited, asked President Lucas to change Devinney at once and substitute Seward, who was in attendance, or he would take his men off the field.  The request was granted and Devinney retired without a word.  The 6 runs, however, took the life out of the game, and although the fielding was sharp on both sides during the balance of the contest, the visitors played with less spirit then they would otherwise have done.  But pretty plays on both sides partially made up for the one-sidedness of the contest...The play of the Kansas Citys warranted the good opinion already formed of them.  They play ball all the time, and, with a good pitcher like Black, whom they expect to-day, they will be able to make the pace warm for any club in the Union Association...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 3, 1884

P.H. Devinney was as crooked as the day is long and I was surprised when I first saw that the UA had hired him to umpire games.  I'm surprised that anybody would give the guy a job in baseball after the 1877 scandals.  The folks in St. Louis were well aware of what Devinney had done in the past and, as their reaction in this game shows, they had little patience for his nonsense.

There are two great sentences in this piece.  The first: "Manager Sullivan, getting excited, asked President Lucas to change Devinney at once..."  I think that "getting excited" is a euphemism for "was really and completely pissed off."  The second sentence that I like is "...Devinney retired without a word."  Sure, why not?  His work was already done, the game was firmly decided for the Maroons in the first inning and the gamblers were assured of their money.

By the way, I think that, in what was a rather uninteresting season, this may be the most interesting game the Maroons played all season.  That's kind of sad because it wasn't interesting because of anything the players did on the field but, rather, the game stands out because of the crookedness of the umpire.

And if you didn't pick up on the reference in the post title, you might want to go back and reread Aesop.  Devinney is the scorpion and baseball is the frog.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Two Leading Local Colored Base Ball Organizations

The Black Sox and Eclipse nines, representing the two leading local colored base ball organizations, will play at Compton Avenue Park this afternoon, beginning at 4 o'clock.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 3, 1884

I've probably mentioned this before but I'm disappointed in the Globe's 1884 coverage of black baseball in St. Louis.  I know that, in general, their coverage of black baseball was poor, at best, but I expected much more than I've found.  My thinking was that, whenever baseball grew in popularity in St. Louis, the Globe expanded their baseball coverage and you'd have more coverage of the amateur clubs, the minor professional clubs and the black clubs.  Now, generally speaking, this is true and there is a great deal of information about the St. Louis amateur and minor professional clubs in the paper in 1884.  They just didn't cover the black clubs beyond the occasional blurb mentioning that a game was scheduled to be played.  There is hardly nothing on games themselves.  There are no game accounts and no box scores.  It's disappointing.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

That Was Fairly Painless...

...and could have gone much, much, much worse than it did.

So the template is changed and the links are updated, with a vastly expanded research section.  I'm reasonably pleased with how things look.  It's clean.  It's crisp.  It's simple.  I like it.  Should have done this a year ago.

There are a few bugs to work out, I imagine, and if you guys notice anything wonky, please let me know.

Hope you like the new layout and enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.


I'm updating the links at the moment.  If you have anything you think I should link or see something obvious that I've forgotten, let me know.  

And it's amazing how many dead links I had in the sidebar.  Okay, I probably haven't updated them in a few years and some folks have fallen by the wayside but still.  

I should probably do this stuff more often.

Also, I should warn you, the research link section is about to get big.   

Working On The Template

So I've finally decided to update the template to the website.  Bear with me because this is a work in progress and may take a few days.  Hopefully, when I'm done, things will be all right.

Change is good?

The 1884 Maroons: I Want To Ride My Bicycle

Besides the ball game there will be bicycle racing at the Union Grounds to-day for gold and silver medals, the gift of the Union Club.  The first heat of the bicycle race will take place at 3:15 sharp, and the final at 3:40.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 2, 1884

I thought this was pretty neat.  Lucas not only was putting a bicycle race before a Maroons' game but he was also putting up the medals.  It must have been a fun day at the ballpark.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sweeney Got A Two-Year Contract

Charles Sweeny yesterday closed a contract with President Lucas by which his services go to the St. Louis Unions until the close of the season of 1885.  This makes three men signed by Mr. Lucas for next year.  They are Dunlap, Shafer and Sweeny.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 2, 1884

Thursday, May 24, 2012

John Kirby Is No Jack Kirby-

Among all ML pitcher who have worked 600-plus innings, Jack Kirby has the worst winning percentage, with the exception of John Coleman, who did most of his work for the woebegone 1883 Philadelphia NL club that won only 17 games all season.  Kirby earned his mark pitching for a succession of wretched clubs over five years and losing 50 of 68 career decisions.  He would not have lasted long enough to achieve this unenviable record, however, had he lacked talent.  By some accounts Kirby was loaded with it actually, and the explanation for his failure to take advantage of it is not readily apparent.  Some contended he was too stubborn ever to take coaching, yet there are also indications that his prospects were damaged when inept managers handled him poorly.  His drastic 1887 falloff was due in large measure to arm trouble and also perhaps to difficulty adjusting to major revisions in the pitching rules.. 
Like many pitchers of that day, Kirby's career was finished by the time he reached his midtwenties.  He had married Jessie Hooper, a native of England, in 1885 when she was only about 17.  They had three daughters.  To support his family after his playing career was over, Kirby first walked a beat in St. Louis and later served as a prison guard and as police property custodian in St. Louis for forty years.  He died of diabetes in St. Louis in 1931.
-Major League Baseball Profiles, 1871-1900, Volume 1

Kirby was born and raised in St. Louis and was a native of the city for his entire life.  He also played for the Maroons in 1885 and 1886.

David Nemec wrote a fantastic piece on him for Major League Baseball Profiles, a portion of which I quoted above.  If you'd like to read the whole thing, pick up the book.  Seriously, you can get both volumes of Major League Baseball Profiles at a great price and, while you're treating yourself, you should pick up The Rank and File of 19th Century Baseball, which is, essentially, volume three of this project.

Now, David mentioned that John Kirby was also known as Jack but, let's be honest here, there is only one Jack Kirby.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, Jack Kirby is this guy:

When you think of Marvel Comics, you're probably thinking of something that Kirby came up with.  That Avengers movie you all just saw, those characters were all pretty much invented by Kirby (and Stan Lee, of course).  Kirby helped come up with the original, Golden Age Captain America.  Thor- that was Kirby.  The Hulk - that was Kirby.  Iron Man - Jack Kirby.  The Avengers - Kirby.  As if that wasn't enough, he also came up with the Fantastic Four and the Kirby/Lee run on FF may be the greatest comic book run of all-time.  If it's not that, I'd argue for the Lee/Ditko run on Spiderman, a character which Kirby had a hand in coming up with.

And this:

Yeah, that's Jack Kirby's artwork.  And he also came up with the X-Men.  And the New Gods.  And Doctor Doom and Magneto and the Silver Surfer and Galactus and hundreds of other characters that I don't have time to name.

On top of all of that, he was an extraordinary artist who had a major impact on how comics are drawn.  Kirby's artwork is unbelievably fantastic and, for the time, it was unique and radical.  The man came up with a completely new way of visually telling a story.  Just google Jack Kirby and check it out.  He's arguably the most influential comic book artist of all-time and probably my favorite (although I have a soft spot in my heart for Mike Mignola, John Romita, Sr., Mark Bagley and, of course, Steve Ditko).  When I was really getting into comics in the late seventies and early eighties, Marvel was reissuing all those old comic runs and I grew up reading Kirby's work on the X-Men and the Avengers.  While I had always read comics as a kid, Kirby is one of the major reasons that I've been a lifelong comic fan and I'm sure that there is a lot of people out there that can say the same thing.

So, John Kirby may be an interesting fellow but he's no Jack Kirby.        

And to all may comic book geek friends, I love you guys but please don't bother commenting and trying to correct my brief, short-hand history of Marvel Comics.  I know how muddled the history is and how complicated it is trying to figure out who gets credit for coming up with what.  Let's just leave it at the fact that Kirby had a major hand in creating all the characters I mentioned.  But I am willing to debate the fact that Lee/Ditko's Spiderman is better than Lee/Kirby's FF or Claremont/Byrne's X-Men or Gaiman's Sandman or anything else you want to name.     


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The 1884 Maroons: A Battery Equal To Any In The Country

The second game at Union Park between the St. Louis and Kansas City Unions resulted in a victory for the home nine in a very pretty game.  Sweeny made his first appearance with the Unions and pitched in great form, not a hit being made off his delivery in the first five innings.  In the sixth Oberbeck scored a safe one to center.  In the eighth Shafer sent a slow one toward third, and by good running beat the ball to first, scoring the second hit.  The third was made in the same inning by Kirby.  In the ninth Davis made a single and Turbidy a two-bagger.  His effectiveness is shown by the fact that he struck out ten men.  The ease with which Baker handled his delivery was pleasing to behold and the general verdict is that no catcher is doing better work.  That the Unions now have a battery equal to any in the country can hardly be denied.  The Kansas Citys were short of a pitcher, McLaughlin having failed to arrive, and they secured the services of Kirby, of the Wedge House nine.  The latter was quite a surprise to all but his immediate friends, for he not only held the sluggers down below anything that was anticipated, but showed good qualities as a batsman, facing Sweeny like a veteran, and making one of the hits credited to the visitors.  The fielding was sharp on both sides, Strief carrying off the honors with five put-outs and six assists.  Baker and Quinn put out twenty-one of the visitors, and Baldwin, Cudworth and Strief put out twenty of the twenty-four of the local players that were retired.  Oberbeck made a fine catch of a long fly by Dunlap, taking the ball close to the left field fence.  Boyle led at the bat, scoring two two-base hits, one a drive to the screen over the left fence.  Sweeny made a single and a two-bagger, and Geo. Shafer made two singles. 
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 2, 1884

So Sweeney's finally in the fold and pitching for the Black Diamonds.  But, to me, the most interesting thing here is the major league debut of John Kirby.  David Nemec has a nice right-up on Kirby in Major League Baseball Profiles and I'll pass that along in the next day or so.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The 1884 Maroons: Unmerciful

It's been awhile since we last checked in with the 1884 Maroons and it's time we got back to it:

The Kansas City Unions made their first appearance in this city yesterday afternoon, and were unmercifully beaten by the St. Louis Unions.  They were short of a pitcher, both Black of Quincy and McLaughn of Reading, recently engaged, having failed to report, and Oberbeck was put in the box.  The way the home team pounded his delivery is reflected by a total of twenty-two hits and thirty-four total bases.  George Strief covered second for the visitors and was cheered whenever he made a good play in that position and as often as he stepped in the plate.  with the exceptions of Turbidy, Davis and Wyman, the visitors showed excellent form in the field.  It was an off day for Turbidy, who is usually an excellent short stop.  Wyman made two brilliant catches in the first two innings, but after that, with the sun in his eyes, was unable to see most of the flies that were sent out to left.  He was given plenty of work fielding safe hits.  "Kid" Baldwin behind the bat is a tower of strength to the team.  His work yesterday was earnest, neat and reliable and was greatly admired.  Werden and Brennan were the home battery, and while the former held the opposing batsmen down to four hits, the latter gave him the excellent support.  A wild throw to third marred his record.  Rowe made two splendid catches at center.  An error is charged to him for failing to get to a fly that both he and Boyle ran for at first and then each stopped to let the other take it.  Rowe was called, hence the error.  Shafer took in two flies at right with ease.  Quinn at first and Whitehead at short played perfectly.  Dunlap had little to do.  Gleason got an error on his only chance.  At the bat, however, he was remarkably strong.  
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 1, 1884

Strief, by the way, had played with the Browns in 1883, which explains why he was so popular with the crowd.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tom Oran In 1862

At a match game of Base Ball played Friday, May 30th, between the Empire, Jr. and Imperial, which resulted in a defeat of the former, the score was [36-18.]
-Missouri Republican, May 31, 1862

The important thing about this game is that the box score lists Tom Oran as the captain and catcher of the Empire, Jr.  Previously, we had traced Oran's earliest game in St. Louis to 1863 and his time with the Commercial, Jr.  Now we can state that the first Native American to play major league baseball was playing in St. Louis in 1862 and that the teenage Oran was a prominent St. Louis ballplayer during the Civil War.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Base Ball Challenge

Base Ball Challenge - The Empire Club desires a friendly match for a ball, with any nine players selected from the city.  This challenge is open for one month.  Any communications respecting the above will be directed to the secretary of the club.  L.P. Fuller President. 
John W. Williams, Secretary E.B.B. Club.
-Missouri Republican, August 13, 1861

It appears that this challenge was accepted because on August 21, the Republican noted that "A Match game of base ball will be played upon Gamble Lawn, on Thursday afternoon, at 3 o'clock, between the first nine of the Empire Club, and a selected nine from the various ball-players in St. Louis."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Civil War Reminiscences Of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.: Part Nine

Camp Jackson, May 1861

Early next morning I was awakened by a noisy and angry colloquy going on in the saloon, just in front of my door.  Some one was fiercely threatening the guard for refusing him entrance to my room.  I thought I recognized the voice, and on looking out, found that I was not mistaken.  The angry man was Doctor Leonard, a friend of mine, who lived in New Madrid, but frequently visited St. Louis.  I had inquired for him immediately on reaching the place, and learned that he was absent on business.  He was also a member of the vigilance committee, and having gotten home that morning, was told what had been done with me.  His indignation was extreme, and he expressed a strong desire to shoot the chairman, which would have been, of course, out of order.  he started instantly for the wharf-boat to offer me aid and consolation.  I was very glad to see him, but had some difficulty in reducing him to a quite state of mind and pacific disposition.  He said that he had not "helped to organize the ------- committee for the purpose of hanging his own friends." 
I finally persuaded him not to attempt my rescue y force, but to propose to the committee that I should be released upon his becoming responsible for my return to custody if it should be necessary.  He easily effected such an arrangement, and I was permitted to go at large in his company.  Late that afternoon the Swan arrived, and I lost no time in getting aboard her.
The Swan had already lost some time, and her captain was determined to make it up, appreciating as thoroughly as Greene and I did, that events were moving too rapidly to permit of his boat going slow.  He entered heartily into the spirit of the enterprise, for he was a gallant man and his sympathies were cordially with us.  Even the crew, although, of course, not informed of the nature of the cargo on board, and the necessity of getting it to port as speedily as possible, seemed to realize that something unusual was to be done, and shared our excitement as the big boat, with her furnaces crammed full, the smoke roaring out of her funnels, and the steam hissing and snapping from her escape pipes, flew along at a racing rate.  We reached Cairo about ten o'clock at night, but did not venture to run past without landing.  The inspection, as I had anticipated, was careless, and nothing was detected. 
We reached St. Louis on the morning of May 9th and turned over the guns and munitions to Major Shaler, sent by General Frost to receive and take them to Camp Jackson.  Blair and Lyon were doubtless almost immediately informed in some way of their arrival and the disposition made of them, for the latter promptly prepared to seize them. 
On the evening of the 9th the board of police commissioners became convinced, by a report of the chief of police, that a movement against the camp was imminent.  The chief reported that the regiments into which the Wide Awake companies had been organized were mustering at their respective points of rendezvous, and that ammunition had been distributed to them; also, that a number of horses had been taken into the arsenal for the purpose, he thought, of moving artillery.  I went to the camp that night, notified General Frost of this information, and urged him to prepare for an attack, which I believed would be delivered early the next morning.  He, however, did not apprehend such danger or was unwilling to make any disposition to meet it.  I saw him again about seven o'clock in the morning, but could learn nothing whatever of his intentions.  As my rank in the state guard was only that of captain, he felt, perhaps, that there was no reason why he would inform me of his plans.  But I was also a police commissioner, and had been deputed y the board to confer with him on their behalf.  I soon became convinced that he had not decided on any line of action. 
Greene and I, therefore, determined to proceed at once to Jefferson City, whether we had to go, at any rate, to make our report to the governor...While we were discussing [the situation in St. Louis with the governor,] news was received that Lyon had delivered his blow and that Frost's entire command had been surrendered.
-The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.

With Union forces in control of St. Louis after Camp Jackson and it becoming evident that Missouri was not going to secede from the Union, Duke made plans to return to Kentucky, where he would take up with John Hunt Morgan.  However, before returning to Kentucky, Duke wanted to return to St. Louis to put his affairs in order.  Upon learning that he had been indicted for treason, due to the Swan affair, he wisely decided against returning to the city.  To the best of my knowledge, Basil Duke, pioneer baseball player and a member of the first club in St. Louis to play the New York game, never again set foot in St. Louis.

And thus endeth the excerpts from The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.  I hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

July 4, 1863

There will be an interesting game of Base Ball during the afternoon of the 4th, on the grounds of the Commercial Club, in Lafayette Park.  We understand the game is to be composed of representatives from the various Clubs of the city, and will undoubtedly be an exciting one.  
-Missouri Democrat, July 3, 1863

I looked high and low for more information about this game but, sadly, couldn't find anything.  I really want the box score from this game.  I want to know who played in the game and what clubs were represented.  I want to know how big the crowd was.  I want to know everything there is to know about this game.

Because this game took place on one of the most extraordinary days in the history of the United States.  Gettysburg ended with a Union victory the day before and Vicksburg surrendered that day.  Two days earlier, the outcome of the Civil War was still in doubt.  But, by the Fourth of July, 1863, as St. Louis celebrated the holiday by watching a baseball game in Lafayette Park, the war had reached its turning point and the Union would move surely, although slowly and with great cost, onward to victory.

What continues to amaze me about baseball in St. Louis during the Civil War is that these great and terrible events transpire in parallel to the commonplace.  It's things like this game taking place the day after Pickett's Charge and the day of the fall of Vicksburg.  It's the Empire Club having to postpone their anniversary game in 1865 because of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  It's a game being played in St. Louis the day Stonewall Jackson died.  You study the Civil War and ready the histories and spend decades of your life trying to learn about and understand the events of the era but it's almost impossible to understand what life was truly like for the people who lived through it.  You can read the diaries and memoirs and still never come close to understanding what life was like during the Civil War.

For me, that's why the study of 19th century baseball is so important.  It's the common, everyday stuff of life that we can all relate to and understand.  We use baseball, something that we love and understand, as a conduit into the lives of people that are so far removed from us.  Baseball is the common ground and the common language that we can use to try, just a bit, to understand what life was like in 1863.  We really can't understand what people felt upon hearing the news about Gettysburg and Vicksburg but I know what it's like to play in a baseball game on the Fourth of July.  I know what it's like to watch a game on the Fourth.  And in that sense, I can put myself in the place of the people who played in and watched the game at Lafayette Park on July 4, 1863.  In that sense, I can get a bit closer in understanding what their life was like.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Praying The Privilege

Lafayette Park

The Special Committee to whom was referred the petition of the Commercial Base Ball Club praying the privilege of erecting a building at Lafayette Park reported the same back and recommended that it be referred to the Board of Improvements of Lafayette Park.  Report adopted.
-Missouri Republican, June 27, 1863

Not only was the Commercial Club active during the war but they were in a position to attempt to make improvements to their grounds at Lafayette Park.  I think this speaks to the possibility that not only was a great deal of baseball being played in St. Louis during the Civil War but it was thriving and growing to the point were the Commercials wanted to build a permanent clubhouse on their grounds.  Also, the environment in St. Louis was such that this was possible.

I think it's interesting to compare this petition to the Common Council to the ones in 1861, when both the Cyclones and Commercials were presenting petitions for the use of Lafayette Park as a baseball ground and for permission to improve the grounds.  That was just before the war broke out.  Here we see pretty much the exact same process taking place at the height of the war.  This report was adopted a few days before Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg.  So, at a moment when the war was raging and still in doubt, the Commercials were looking to make improvements to the grounds at Lafayette Park.

Also, it should be noted that I thought Lafayette Park was not being used for baseball during the war.  The secondary sources stated that the park was seized by the military and used as an encampment for troops.  Now that did happen and the Union army was using the park by the summer of 1861.  But it also appears that the Commercials were also using the park in 1862 and 1863.  If you're looking for evidence that soldiers, unfamiliar with the Regulation game, was exposed to baseball during the war, here's a place you should look.  It seems very possible that both the army and the Commercials were using Lafayette Park at the same time.  If that's true, the Commercials must have been getting great crowds for their games, as I'm sure the soldiers, bored with camp life, were looking for any form of entertainment and wandered over to see some baseball.  While I'm still not particularly convinced that the war helped to spread the game (and by not particularly convinced, I mean not convinced at all), I can see the possibility here to gather evidence in support of that argument.    

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Second Nine Of The Baltic Club

Local Editor Missouri Republican - Sir:  A match game of base ball came off yesterday on the old Commercial grounds, between the Baltic (second nine,) and the Independent Base Ball Clubs, which resulted in the defeat of the latter [by a score of 33-14.]
-Missouri Republican, June 5, 1863

Again, I'm talking about the fact that there was more baseball going on in St. Louis during the Civil War than I previously believed.  Here we see the Baltics, who were one of the antebellum clubs, still playing in 1863 and fielding two active nines.  In fact, just above this notice was a report of another game played between the two clubs that resulted in a victory for the Independents.  I haven't sat down and put a list together but, if I did, I'm reasonably certain that the number of clubs, adult and junior, that were active during the 1861-1864 period exceeded the number that were active during 1859-1860 period.  Not all of those clubs were active during the entire period but there were a substantial number of clubs and a substantial number of games being played as the war was going on.

Also of interest here is that the above notice was sent to the paper by the secretary of the Baltic Club, Shepard Barclay.  Barclay also was the field captain and pitcher for the Baltic's second nine that day.  After the war, Barclay would play for the St. Louis University and Union clubs but at this point he was a fifteen year old kid.  It probably says something about the nature of baseball in Civil War St. Louis that a fifteen year old held such a prominent position in what was, at that time, one of the oldest active baseball clubs in the city.

Note:  I see that I posted the box score to this game earlier this year, when I was first going through the Civil War era papers, but I think it's worth noting again, in light of the fact that I'm drawing different conclusions based on the evidence.  After almost two thousand posts and six years of blogging, it gets tough to remember sometimes what I've posted what I've not posted.            

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Civil War Reminiscences Of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.: Part Eight

Basil Duke in 1875

I at once realized that I was in the hands of a vigilance committee and, in the phrase of that day, "suspected of being a suspicious character."  It was by no means a pleasant situation; my hair bristled and I was fairly chilled. It was fortunate, perhaps, that I had left my revolver in the state-room, for in the excitement and consternation I felt, I might have attempted to use it, in which event I would certainly have been killed.  The committee, six or seven in number, were seated just in front of the bar.  I was not invited to take a seat and remained standing.
There was perfect silence for perhaps a minute, by which time I had recovered my composure.
"I understand, gentlemen," I said, "that you sent for me to pass a social evening with you, but you evidently had some other reason.  I shall be glad to know what you wish and your purpose." 
The chairman was an elderly man, rather deaf.  I heartily wished before he stopped talking that he had been born dumb. 
"Mr. Duke," he said, "you came here from Cairo, which is occupied by Yankee soldiers.  You have told three or four different stories to account for your presence here, and they can't all be true.  We think that you are a Yankee spy, and if we become satisfied that you are one we are going to hand you." 
I frankly admitted that none of the explanations of my visit to New Madrid, previously given, were correct; and then gave them the real reason, telling them of the instructions I had received from Governor Jackson and how far they had already been carried into effect.  I further told them that I was hourly expecting the arrival of the Swan
"Now, gentlemen," I said, "you can readily understand why in previous conversations I was unwilling to make this statement.  If my real business had transpired the object of my mission might have been defeated.  I would not be thus frank with you now if my life were not threatened, and also if I did not believe you to be Southern men.  But if you are really Southern men, as you claim to be, you will help instead of hanging me." 
The chairman remarked that this was very pretty talk, but that he did not credit a word of it.  "A fellow will say almost anything to save his life, and you acknowledge that you have already lied to us."  He repeated his belief that I was a spy. 
I answered, rather indignantly, that there was nothing at New Madrid to inivite the visit of a spy.  "I have already told you," I said, "that the Swan will soon be here.  You know her captain.  If he doesn't verify what I have told you, why hand me.  You can easily guard me and prevent my escape.  Even if I should get free I couldn't reach Cairo if you tried to prevent me.  At least give me twenty-four hours to prove the truth of my story.  If the Swan does not reach here by that time, act as you please." 
The chairman was still obdurate.  He insisted that they could not afford to take any risk and that I ought to be put out of the way.  So far no other member of the committee had uttered a word, but all had remained, in appearance, as stolid as statues.  Now, however, one of them spoke up very emphatically.  His name, I think, was Louis Walters.  He was about thirty years of age, a very handsome man, and six feet two or three inches in height.  During my brief stay in town I had seen more of him than any one else.  He suddenly sprang to his feet, with blazing eyes and his grip on a revolver, and delivered what I thought to be the finest speech I had ever heard.  "I believe," he said, "everything this young fellow now tells us.  I can perfectly comprehend why he at first attempted to deceive us.  He would have been a fool and false to his trust if he had dropped an intimation why he came here or said anything which might induce suspicion of his real purpose.  At any rate, it would be plain murder to hang a man who offers to furnish, in a few hours, proof of his innocence - evidence which we will be compelled to believe.  He must have the twenty-four hours he asks, and more, if necessary.  No one is more determined than myself to execute the proper work of this committee, but before you shall hang a man without giving him a chance you must first kill me." 
It was perhaps imprudent and not in the best taste, but I could not refrain from expressing my hearty approval of these remarks.  There was an immediate and general endorsement - with the exception of the chairman - of the position taken by Walters; and it was determined that I should be kept under, guard, but treated kindly, pending the arrival of the Swan.  The committee remained on the wharf-boat about an hour longer, but that time was devoted to convivial enjoyment, and even the chairman tried to be agreeable.  I returned to my quarters, but the two men who had acted as guards while my examination was being conducted, were detailed to watch each door of the state-room.  They remained outside, however, in order not to disturb my sleep.
-The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Union Club Organizes For 1862

The Union Base Ball club has now commenced its regular playing season.  The practicing days are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, in the afternoon, and Saturdays at 10 o'clock.  The following are its officers: F.C. Billion, President; W.E. Greenleaf, Vice President; R.P. Renick, Treasurer; J.P. Carr, Secretary' S.D. Barlow, Jr., Jos. H. Holliday, Jos. C. Cabanne, Directors; E.F. Finney, W.E. Greenleaf, Field Captains.
-Missouri Republican, April 8, 1862

The study of history is always an ongoing process.  You can never know enough about a given subject and you can never know everything that there is to know.  One must take the best evidence available at any given moment and reach conclusions based upon that but, at the same time, one must always be looking for more evidence.

When I wrote the St. Louis chapter for the Base Ball Pioneers book, my knowledge of what was happening in St. Louis during the Civil War was limited and I've been lucky enough, since then, to find more and better sources that have helped me flesh out my understanding of what was happening in the St. Louis baseball world at that time.  This article about the Unions organizing for the 1862 season is an example of that.

My previous belief, based upon secondary sources, was that the Unions disbanded during the war, only to reorganize after the conflict was over.  That belief was wrong and I have plenty of evidence now to show that the Unions were active during the war.  I believe that is a significant fact.

In general, we need to reevaluate what was happening in Civil War St. Louis.  The old idea that there was little baseball being played is wrong and there is enough evidence to support the idea that there was an active baseball scene in St. Louis during the war.  A lot of the clubs playing at the time were junior nines but there were also plenty of adult nines playing baseball throughout the war years.  I still believe that the war had a detrimental effect on St. Louis baseball but not to the extent that I previously believed.  There was plenty of baseball being played in St. Louis during the Civil War and the war did not kill the young baseball scene that started in 1859.

At some point, I hope to post a long piece on baseball in St. Louis during the war and flesh out my thinking.  But the research is still ongoing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Civil War Reminiscences Of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.: Part Seven

Cairo, Illinois during the Civil War, looking across the Ohio towards Kentucky

The first man I saw as I stepped into the hotel was a particular friend from St. Louis-Mr. James Casey-one of the truest, warmest-hearted men I ever knew.  He was a brother-in-law, by the way, of Gen. Ulysses Grant.  Grant, when President, appointed him Surveyor of the Port at new Orleans, but at this date "Jim" was a strong secessionist.  His look of amazement and dismay, when he caught sight of me, was almost too much for my gravity.  Although I knew him to be both shrewd and cautious, I was apprehensive that he might say something imprudent; so I approached him and said: "You don't remember me, Mr. Casey, but I am John White.  I live in your native town in Union County, Kentucky."  "I'm very glad to see you, Mr. White," he responded.  "Come up stairs to my room."  We went to is room; he locked the door and asked me why in the name of heaven I had come to Cairo.  He said that the rumour was current in St. Louis that Greene and I had gone South on some embassy, and that Blair would be on the lookout for us.  "Well," I said, "he won't be looking for me here."  Casey replied that among the officers in Cairo were a number of St. Louisians, some of whom would probably recognize me.  I said I would get away as soon as possible, but must first ascertain what sort of inspection was made of north-bound boats, and also write or telegraph Frost.  "You will be arrested," he said, "if you either attempt to write or wire."  "Then you must send a letter for me," I said.  He assured me that he would do so, by a friend who was a river pilot just about to leave for St. Louis.  I subsequently learned that the letter was duly delivered.  I then went to the wharf-boat and witnessed an inspection of one or two cargoes.  The careless and imperfect manner in which it was conducted convinced me that there would be little risk of detection, and that the Swan and her freight could pass in safety. 
I therefore promptly departed for New Madrid, the point at which it had been agreed that I should meet the Swan as she came up the river.  Here I came near being involved in quite serious trouble.  I had to remain at this little place two or three days before the boat arrived, and was, of course, the object of much curiosity, as a stranger always is in a very small town.  I did not realize, as I should have done, the importance of returning consistent answers to the questions propounded me, but whenever any one expressed a desire to know my reason for coming, I gave an explanation, the first that came to me, ingenious enough, perhaps, but generally totally at variance with other responses.  Indeed, discretion is something which the majority of mankind only acquire by experience.  I subsequently had occasion to regret very much my lack of caution and fertility of invention. 
On the second night that I was at New Madrid, fearing that the Swan might arrive during the night and that I might fail to learn it, I concluded to change my quarters from the small hotel at which I had stopped, to the wharf-boat.  I should say in explanation, that in ante-bellum days, old, dismantled steam-boats were frequently used as wharf-boats and the former state-rooms were rudely fitted up for the accommodation of guests, although meals were not furnished.  Quite a large old boat was used for this purpose at New Madrid at the date that I made this visit.  I engaged one of the state-rooms and, instructing the wharf master to awaken me if the Swan came, slipped off my coat and shoes and laid down.  I could not, however, go to sleep, and was pleased when a man came to my room about ten o'clock.  He said that some of my acquaintances were in the bar-room and wished to see me.  I, of course, suspected no danger, and immediately arose, put on my shoes, and leaving my revolver where I had placed it, under the pillow, proceeded to join my friends, as I supposed them to be.  When I passed the door which opened from the saloon into the barroom I saw a man standing by it with a cocked pistol in his hand.  Glancing toward the other door I saw a man, similarly armed, there also.
-The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.

The above photo comes from a website about the 42nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, which was stationed in Cairo during the Civil War.  The website has a great page about Cairo at the beginning of the war and I recommend that you go take a look at it.  It's good stuff.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Tantalizing 1859 Reference To Baseball In The St. Louis Papers

 The Buffalo Courier avers that there has been organized in Lockport a base ball club, composed wholly of fat men-none weighing less than three hundred being admitted.  The name of the association is the "Paunches Pilate" B.B. Club.
-Missouri Republican, August 30, 1859

This doesn't seem like a big deal but, after checking my notes, I'm pretty sure this is the earliest reference to baseball I've ever seen in the St. Louis papers.  I think the earliest reference I've seen previous to this comes from May 1860, although there is a September 1859 reference to baseball in St. Louis in Spirit of the Times and the 1858 references in the Alton papers.  But as far as the St. Louis papers are concerned, this is the earliest reference to the game that I've seen.

I've been scouring the 1859 issues of the Missouri Republican, looking for baseball references in general and a reference to the Cyclones specifically with little to show for it.  I do, however, know a lot about what was going on in St. Louis that year.  Without going too much into it, I'll just say that antebellum St. Louis was a rough, dirty and violent place.  But they did have hot-air balloons, which is pretty cool.

The true significance of this piece from the Republican is in what the paper leaves out.  They forwarded information to their readers about a baseball club without explaining to them what a baseball club was, leaving us to assume that people in St. Louis were very familiar with baseball clubs in 1859.  Now we know that there was baseball and baseball clubs in St. Louis in 1859 but we haven't found any contemporary evidence to support these beliefs.  This is really the first piece of contemporary evidence from 1859 St. Louis that I've found, scant as it is.        

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Civil War Reminiscences Of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.: Part Six

The Levee at New Orleans (Harper's Weekly, March 30, 1861)

We started on April 6th and proceeded via Cairo to Memphis, thence via Chattanooga to Montgomery.  I remember that as we stood on the platform at Corinth, where our train had stopped for a few minutes, and gazed on the dense forest and thick undergrowth which fringed the railroad-it has since been almost entirely cleared away-I remarked, "If we ever get the Yankees down here, we'll pepper them."  "If the Yankees ever get this far down," responded Greene, "we may as well quit.".  Neither of us had the faintest premonition of the future.  In less than one year from that date I passed in the immediate vicinity of Corinth, en route to the field of Shiloh, and the war lasted three years longer. 
When we reached Montgomery we sent our credentials to President Davis and he received us at a meeting of his cabinet.  We were questioned very closely about the conditions in St. Louis and Missouri, but only Mr. Benjamin, who, if I remember correctly, was then secretary of war, seemed to consider the matter serious or at all difficult.  The others were inclined to entertain a roseate view of the situation, not only in our region, but everywhere else.  The President very cheerfully granted Governor Jackson's request, and gave us an order on the commandant of the arsenal at Baton Rouge for the guns specified in the list prepared by General Frost.  We proceeded immediately to New Orleans and then to Baton Rouge.  I shall never forget the scenes I witnessed in Louisiana while on that mission.  Every one anticipated war but believed it would be brief, and there seemed to be a universal feeling of confidence and elation.  A great number of military companies had been recruited, but regimental and brigade organizations not yet been completed, and each company wore its own peculiar garb.  The streets of New Orleans were thronged during the day and the theatres crowded at night with a multitude of young fellows clad in an infinite variety of brilliant uniforms; and as we ascended the river to Baton Rouge we could see everywhere along the coast squads of volunteers drilling among the orange trees.  The first sight that met our eyes, when we landed at Baton Rouge, was a company of "chasseurs" habited in vivid green, no member of which spoke English or appeared to care a continental what was going to happen. 
Having procured, on our order to the commandant of the arsenal, two twelve-pound howitzers, two thirty-two pound siege guns, some five hundred muskets, and a quantity of ammunition, we returned to New Orleans to make arrangements for their transportation to St. Louis, and for that purpose chartered the steam-boat Swan.  The guns and ammunition, packed in such wise as to conceal, as much as possible their real character, were taken on at Baton Rouge.  Greene took charge of the boat, while I went in advance by rail to Cairo, which in the meantime had been occupied by Federal troops, to reconnoitre and ascertain what would be the danger of detection or delay.  I found a large force of soldiers at Cairo; but they were not so vigilant or suspicious of visitors within their lines as the troops on both sides became at a later period.
-The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.

Getting the guns was the easy part.  Getting them back to St. Louis was a bit trickier, as Duke was about to find out.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Seizure Of Ed Bredell's Property

I, Joseph G. Easton, United States Marshal for the Eastern District of Missouri, do hereby give public notice that I have seized, and now detain in my custody, in the suit of the United States against the property, moneys, credits and effects of Edward Bredell, junior, under a warrant issued by the United States District Court of said District, and effects alleged to belong to said Edward Bredell, junior... 
Also, all the property, moneys, credits and effects in the hands of Edward Bredell, in which said Edward Bredell, junior, had any right or interest. 
And I hereby give notice that an information has been filled in said Court against said property, moneys, credits and effects, in the case of forfeiture and confiscation, under the act of Congress approved July seventeenth, which information it is alleged that said Edwards Bredell, junior, since the 17th day of June, 1862, or before, departed from his home in the State of Missouri, and joined himself with persons engaged in armed rebellion against the Government of the United States, and has, since said 17th day of July, 1862, aided and abetted said rebellion...
-Missouri Republican, June 20, 1864

All of this legal maneuvering became irrelevant after Bredell was killed in action in November 1864.  But the important thing here is that this reference gives us specific information about when Bredell left St. Louis to join the Confederate Army.  Also, it should be noted that the choices our pioneer ballplayers made during the Civil War had real consequences.  Bredell had all of his substantial property seized and then lost his life in battle.  He literally gave everything he had to the cause he believed in.

Tomorrow, I promise to get back to the memoirs of Basil Duke and finish up his story.  And then it's back to the 1884 Maroons for awhile.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Final Statement Of John Lapsley

One of the Cyclone Club members that I was unable to identify for the Base Ball Pioneer book was John Lapsley.  I knew that Lapsley was living in St. Louis in 1860, living at the Planter's Hotel and working as a salesman for Woods, Christy & Co.  However, I was unable to nail down a date of birth or death for Lapsley and didn't feel I had enough to write even the briefest of biographies.  There was a reference in the 1860 census for a John Lapsley, who was living in St. Louis and born in 1827, but I was a little uncomfortable with that because it would have made him thirty-something during his time with the Cyclones and that's a bit old for a ballplayer of that era.  It's not impossible that Lapsley was born in 1827 but I would have been more comfortable if I had another source confirming the date of birth.

Anyway, I did, just this week, find Lapsley's date of death.  It appears that, in 1862, Lapsley joined a Missouri light artillery company, known as Farris' Battery, fighting on the side of the Confederacy.  According to the document that I found, Lapsley served as a farrier and "died" sometime "about" December 1, 1864.  Now there was a section on the document that gave the option of noting whether Lapsley died, was killed in action or had been discharged so it appears that Lapsley was not killed in action but died while a member of the unit, most likely of disease.  Twice as many soldiers died during the Civil War of diseases such as dysentery or measles so this was not uncommon.

The significance of this document is twofold.  First, it gives us a date of death.  Secondly, it identifies another member of the Cyclone Club who was serving with the Confederate army during the Civil War.  Lapsley, like Basil Duke, Ed Bredell and several other of his fellow club members, was a Confederate sympathizer who fought against the Union during the war.

Also, it's interesting to note that the document stated that Lapsley hadn't been paid since August of 1863.  This, I imagine, speaks to the financial difficulties that the C.S.A had as the war went along.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Questions Of Loyalty

This may be one of the coolest things I've ever found.  Pictured above is a copy of a loyalty oath signed by Cyclone Club member Ferdinand Garesche.  Garesche was captured at Camp Jackson in May of 1861 and was forced to sign a loyalty oath at that time before he was paroled.  This particular document appears to be dated April 1, 1867 and Garesche needed to sign it in order to comply with provisions of the new Missouri constitution that had been adopted in 1865.  I also found a copy of a loyalty oath signed by Edward Farish, another member of the Cyclone Club, that was dated October of 1865.

Interestingly, there are references in the papers of the St. Louis Provost Marshall dating to May and June of 1863 with regards to the loyalty of Garesche and Farish's clubmate, Charles Kearney.  It appears that Kearney was accused of being "disloyal" in May 1863 and the next month it appears that Kearney refused to sign a loyalty oath.

The fact that Farish and Kearney were not particularly pro-Union is important information.  We already knew that, among the Cyclone Club, Basil Duke, Ed Bredell, Gratz Moses and Ferdinand Garesche either served in the Confederate army or had pro-Confederate sympathies.  We also know that Merritt Griswold, Orville Matthews, Frederick Benteen, Joseph Fullerton, John Riggin, Alexander Crossman, Griff Prather and Willie Walker either served in the Union army or had pro-Union sympathies.  This division within the club is important because we have several sources stating that it was these specific political divisions that led to the breakup of the club in 1861.

If you've been reading the parts of Duke's memoir that I've been posting, you can get a feeling for the political stresses that these gentlemen were living under.  It's almost impossible to imagine Duke and Orville Matthews, a United States naval officer, sitting together in the same room in the spring of 1861.  It's almost impossible to imagine Griswold and Bredell being friends.  But, prior to the outbreak of the war, these men were friends and clubmates.  These men enjoyed each others company and played together on the baseball field.  But, by the summer of 1861, the stress and the pressure of the war was too much and, just as the nation had torn itself apart, the Cyclone Club splintered along political lines and dissolved.

Again, this is all about context.  It's about putting these men, this club and this era of baseball history in the proper context.  I think that it's easy to think of the Civil War as an abstraction, as something remote and removed.  But it was the reality of men like Ferdinand Garesche, who claimed, after Camp Jackson, that he was not pro-secession and that he was only visiting the camp when the attack took place.  Regardless of the fact that he was most likely a conditional Unionist and never took up arms against the United States, he was forced, twice, to sign a loyalty oath and forever lived with the stigma of being disloyal.  This was the man who turned the first unassisted triple play in St. Louis baseball history.  He was a pioneer of the game in St. Louis and a member of the city's first baseball club.  But the loyalty oath at the top of this post is tangible evidence of the effect the Civil War had on his life.        

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Civil War Reminiscences Of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.: Part Five

The St. Louis Arsenal
This fatal policy of irresolution and delay continued until Mr. Lincoln issued his proclamation calling for troops to suppress the rebellion; and although our people were then, at last awakened, it was too late to recover from the effects of previous procrastination.  The legislature...passed high-sounding resolutions, but did little else, and even refused to permit the governor to call out the militia.  Bills were introduced providing for the better organization and armament of the state guard, but were not pressed to passage.  On March 23d, however, a bill was passed to create a Board of Police Commissioners for St. Louis, by which the control of the police force was taken from the mayor, who was a Republican.  It authorized the governor to appoint four commissioners, who, with the mayor-ex officio a member of the board-should have absolute control of the police of the city, of the sheriff's officers and of all conservators of the peace, both in the city and the county.  The passage of this bill two months earlier might have shaped the political situation very differently; but at so late a date it had little effect. 
When it became a law the governor appointed as commissioners: Charles McLaren, John A. Brownlee, James H. Carlisle, and myself.  All were Southern in sentiment.  My appointment was severely censured, ostensibly because of my youth, but really because of my connection with the Minute Men, which made it peculiarly offensive to Unionists of all shades of opinions... 
It finally became apparent that the Southern party must either adopt and promptly execute decisive and practically effective measures, or publicly abandon all purpose or pretence of maintaining the authority of the state in matters wherein Blair and Lyon had determined to interfere.  Before the capture of Fort Sumter by the Confederates and Mr. Lincoln's call for troops to suppress the rebellion, Governor Jackson made up his mind that the seizure of the arsenal should be attempted at the earliest possible date.  During all this delay, however, the garrison of the arsenal had been considerably strengthened, and the number of the Wide Awakes very greatly increased.  Lyon's efforts had also resulted in their better organization and in furnishing them with excellent rifles issued from the arsenal.  The Union leaders estimated that they could, at this date put six or seven thousand well-armed and equipped troops in the field, as against less than one thousand two hundred on the other side. 
Governor Jackson had never been a soldier, and was totally devoid of military experience.  He relied for advice in such matters on General Frost, who was a graduate of West Point, and had served for several years in the regular army.  General Frost was well versed in his profession, had much technical knowledge, and was undoubtedly a man of personal courage.  He advised a course, however, which, under the circumstances, rendered success almost impossible.  Although he must have known that he could not possible muster an armed and organized force one fifth as strong as that which opposed him, he advised the governor to order a formal encampment of the state guard in the environs of St. Louis, send South for heavy guns, and proceed to attempt the capture of the arsenal by slow and regular approaches; by siege operations, indeed.  It seems almost incredible that any one could have supposed it to be possible to capture the arsenal, defended as it was, and considering the disparity of forces, except by a sudden coup de main, and unexpected reckless rush.  Yet the plan I have described was the one resolved on.  The governor, therefore, directed that the state guard should assemble on May 3d at a designated spot near the city limits and remain in encampment for a week.  He dispatched Capt. Cotton Greene and myself to Montgomery, Ala., with letters to President Davis requesting him to furnish us with the sort of cannon described in another paper prepared by General Frost.
-The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.

This is all set up for the best part of the story: Duke's mission to the South to obtain arms for the Missouri militia.  But I also think it's important to note that Duke was a state official.  As a member of the Minute Men, he was technically an officer in the state militia and he had been appointed to the Board of Police Commissioners.  So here was a state official in a treasonous conspiracy with the Governor of Missouri and others to seize the United States Arsenal in St. Louis.

It's also interesting to note Duke's opinion of the Camp Jackson plan.  As a man who rose to become a general and a commander of Confederate cavalry, his opinion is to be respected.  Before I read this I never really thought about how idiotic the Camp Jackson plan was and how it was doomed from the beginning.  But it was not a good plan, especially when you were going up against a man like Nathaniel Lyons.

Tomorrow, our pioneer ballplayer heads to Alabama to meet Jefferson Davis.        

Sunday, May 6, 2012

In The Flag Line

The Berthold Mansion Flag
Image by Rob Raeside

Our citizens displayed much taste yesterday in the flag line.  Quite a spirited competition was kept up during the day between different parties, whose only ambition seemed to be to hang out the oldest piece of cloth.  The Union men, who have the State Convention under their especial charge, flung to the breeze the time-worn Star-Spangled Banner, across the Mercantile Library Hall to the opposite side of the street.  It wafted proudly and gloriously, and thrilled the heart of every true lover of his country that gazed upon it.  Other American flags were displayed at different points in the city by patriotic citizens. 
The Missouri Minute-Men flaunted from their Headquarters, corner of Fifth and Pine streets, a singular piece of patch-work, which excited much interest.  It reminded one very strikingly of a fancy patch-work quilt, manufactured by a young miss of thirteen summers for the premium at a County Fair.  This quilt, however, we judge, would not even be entered as a competitor for the second premium.  If it was intended as a burlesque on  the Palmetto flay, it was a good one; but if the author and finisher of this cloth supposed he was making a genuine States-rights-Palmetto-Southern-Confederacy flag, he is vastly mistaken.  The ground work of the flag was nearly black; on one corner was a crescent, in the centre a cross turned upside down, and in the other corner a single star-a bad looking star-in fact the whole thing was ill-starred.  Whether admirable or not, this singular looking flag drew a very large crowd of persons around it, some of whom wanted to pull it down, but no one seemed to have the audacity to attempt it. 
Another flag was seen floating from the Courthouse dome at a very early hour, which some of the Republican officials seeing, supposed to be a secession banner.  Mr. James Quigley, the accomplished keeper of the Courthouse, was immediately ordered to go up and pull it down.  He did as commanded, but the flag turned out to be a very innocent affair after all-nothing but the coat-of-arms of the State of Missouri pinned to a piece of yellow muslin...
-Missouri Republican, March 5, 1861

The Republican's account of the flag affair makes it seem like a whole lot of nothing, although they were not privy to the overall plan of Duke and the Minute Men.  Still, it's very possible that Duke may have overstated the nature of the affair.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Civil War Reminiscences Of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.: Part Four

3rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry
Mayor Oliver Dwight Filley is in the back row at the far left.

General Frost came to the headquarters and said that he thought we had been imprudent, but that he would advise no concession to the demands of the mob.  He also said that the militia would endeavour to keep the peace and prevent aggression by either side.  Soon afterward I was visited by a deputation composed of the Hon. O.D. Filley, the mayor, Col. Samuel Churchill, and Messrs. Thomas S. Snead, James Lucas, and Ferdinand Kennett.  I knew these gentlemen well and held them in the highest respect, as did all the community.  Mr. Snead, afterward chief of staff to General Price, and Colonel Churchill did not seem to be especially desirous that the flag should be removed, although they advised it.  Mr. Kennett, perhaps to the surprise of his colleagues, offered what might have been termed a minority report, or dissenting opinion.  "Duke," he said, "I rather think you acted like a fool when you hung out that flag, but you'll act like a coward if you take it down."  The mayor and Mr. Lucas very earnestly requested me to have it taken down.  They called my attention, although I had already observed it, to the violent excitement and resentment which its display had occasioned, urged that the feelings of the Union men ought to be respected, and that nothing should be done, during a period of such political passion, to offend or anger any class of citizens.  I temperately and respectfully represented that the Union men ought not to be so sensitive.  I pointed out that a convention was, at that very hour, sitting in St. Louis to discuss and decide whether Missouri should remain in the Union or secede.  I suggested that the question, therefore, was one on which a citizen had a right to take either side; and that each side had an equal right to exhibit its insignia, and in any way or by any device define its contention.  "There is not a man among us, Mr. Mayor," I said, "who would think of protesting against the display of the stars and stripes; why, therefore, should the Union men object to our floating a Southern banner?" 
He said he couldn't explain it, but that the Union men certainly were objecting, and that he would be greatly pleased if I would remove the objection and permit the crowd, which was constantly growing larger and more noisy, to disperse.  Champion then suggested that the major should call on his fire department and turn out the engines to throw water on the crowd, which he, Champion, thought would certainly cause it to disperse; but for some reason the mayor would not consent to do that.  I finally said that I would very gladly do anything-except the specific thing asked-to help him allay the tumult, and suggested that if he or Mr. Lucas would make a speech to the crowd much might be accomplished.  Mr. Lucas accordingly climbed into a small donkey cart belonging to an Italian fruit seller, which had somehow become wedged into the press, and began an impressive address, imploring the people to be calm and to go home.  But the donkey, suddenly taking fright either at the eloquence of the orator or at the shouts of the crowd, kicked and plunged violently and tried to run away, so that Mr. Lucas was prevented from fully presenting his case. 
Several abortive rushes were afterward made by the mob, and one or two more serious demonstrations, easily repulsed, however, and with little damage to either faction; and then our friends began to rapidly assemble.  After some rough and tumble fighting in the streets it became apparent that our side was the stronger. 
But the opportunity we had hoped and striven for did not occur; and we could not afford to attack the arsenal without having been ourselves assailed.  Our instructions were explicit to commit no aggressive act.  On more than one other occasion it became manifest that in the event of actual collision the Southern sentiment would be thoroughly aroused and would predominate; but as time wore on our opponents made more complete preparation, while we made little, if any.
-The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.

And thus the flag affair ended with a bit of a whimper rather than the bang that Duke had hoped for.  The ironic thing here is that Duke's actions in March of 1861 led directly to Federal forces breaking up an Empire Club game in August of that year, when the club was suspected of flying a secessionist banner over their refreshment tent.  I don't think Federal forces would have been so sensitive about the Empire Club's banner if not for the events of March 4.

The James Lucas that Duke mentions, by the way, was the father of Robert Lucas, who played for the Union Club, J.B.C. Lucas, who would become the president of the Brown Stockings, and Henry Lucas, founder of the Union Association and president of the Maroons.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Civil War Reminiscences Of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.: Part Three

The Berthold Mansion in 1859

No opportunity for such demonstration as we wished to make was afforded until the convention, having first assembled at Jefferson City, adjourned to meet in St. Louis on the 4th of March.  We resolved to utilize that occasion in such wise as to bring matters, if possible, to a crisis and incite the popular outbreak during which we might find means to execute our project.  We wished also to act before the Republican national administration-just about to be inaugurated-might interfere.

The measures taken seem almost ludicrous in the narration, but they were the only kind we could employ, and were really better calculated, in the then excited condition of the public mind, than any others to precipitate the collision we desired without becoming ourselves actually the aggressors.  By virtue of my position as chairman of the "Military Committee of the Minute Men," I had charge of the headquarters, which were established in the old Berthold mansion, one of the early Creole houses of St. Louis; I was also empowered-so far as the Minute Men could give me authority-to inaugurate and direct such enterprises as that which I am about to describe.  I called the committee together on the night of the 3d of March, and, after a brief consultation, we decided to display on the succeeding day such unmistakable symbols of secession and evidence of an actively rebellious disposition as would be a plain defiance to the Union sentiment and challenge the Wide Awakes.  We accordingly improvised two secession flags.  The South had not then adopted a banner, so we were obliged to exercise our imaginations to a rather painful extent in order to devise a fit emblem.  We knew, however, that nothing which floated over the Minute Men's headquarters could be possibly misconstrued, and we blazoned on both flags every conceivable thing that was suggestive of a Southern meaning.  Champion and Quinlan undertook to place one of these flags on the very summit of the court-house dome, and did so at great risk to neck and limb. 
I summoned fifty or sixty of our most determined and reckless followers, put the muskets in their hands-they were also provided with revolvers-and told them they would be required to remain on duty no only that night, but as long as might be necessary.  They were more than willing to do so.  I, of course, stayed with them in command.  Among other implements of defence, we had a small swivel, which, loaded with a number of musket balls and a double handful of ten-penny nails, was planted to command the front door, and was to fired only in the event that the door was forced.  Early the next morning, when our ensigns were observed, an extraordinary commotion began in the immediate neighbourhood and soon extended over the entire city.  The flag on the court-house was at once removed.  We had expected this and could not have prevented it. 
Then a large and angry crowd collected in front of the headquarters and demanded the removal of the flag there.  When no response was made, some of the boldest climbed up on the back porch with threats of tearing it down.  They were thrown back on the pavement beneath, but none were seriously injured, although much discouraged.  I cautioned my men not to fire unless they themselves were fired on. 
The Wide Awakes sprang to arms, but showed no haste to attack.  We received notice that they had assembled and formed and were coming.  Their drums were loudly in evidence.  While unwilling to fire on the mob without the amplest provocation, we were determined to fire on the Wide Awakes so soon as they were in sight; for after the repeated threats they had uttered, their appearance at such a time would have been an unmistakable demonstration of hostility.  Frost's brigade of state militia, as fine a body of the kind as I ever saw and exceedingly well armed, drilled, and disciplined, was ordered under arms to assist the police in keeping the peace.  This force was about seven hundred strong, and would have cheerfully sided with us had the Wide Awakes and the mob attacked.  With such other aid as would have been rendered under the excitement of conflict, we could certainly have taken the arsenal in the melee and before the affair ended.
-The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil Duke, C.S.A.

So we have the Minute Men, the Wide Awakes, the Missouri state militia, the St. Louis police and an angry mob all gathered together at the Berthold mansion, with things spiraling out of control and violence in the air.  What happened next?  Join us tomorrow to find out.

The above picture of the Minute Men's headquarters came from the Missouri History Museum's website and they provide the following information about the mansion:

This stately brick mansion was the home of Bartholomew Berthold, a prominent merchant and fur trader in St. Louis. Berthold passed away before this photograph was taken, but members of his family, including his wife and children, are shown standing in front of the house. Located on the northwest corner of Fifth and Pine streets, the home later served as the headquarters of the Minute Men, a secessionist paramilitary group established in St. Louis in January 1861. The formation of the Minute Men countered the Unionist, and predominantly German, Wide Awakes organized by Col. Frank Blair Jr., and provided support for a vocal minority advocating secession. A secessionist flag proudly flew from the mansion’s front porch. Various descriptions of the flag exist, but the Missouri Republican reported at the time that it was a black flag with a crescent in one corner, an upside down flag in the center, and a single star in the other corner.

I'm going to check the Missouri Republican and see if I can find anything interesting on the whole affair.

Also of interest is the strong possibility that Merritt Griswold was in the crowd that day, serving with the Wide Awakes.  We know he was at Camp Jackson and, as an officer, I think that it's likely that he was there, in opposition to his friend and clubmate.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Civil War Reminiscences Of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.: Part Two

Basil Wilson Duke
It is almost impossible to estimate how vastly the chances of Southern success would have been augmented had Missouri been permitted to take her place in the Southern column...But important as was the acquisition of Missouri to the Confederacy, the possession of St. Louis was scarcely less so.  There were in the city abundant supplies of all kinds necessary to the conduct of military operations.  To hold St. Louis was well-nigh equivalent to the complete control of the immense shipping of the great river, at least to the fleet of steam-boats which habitually harboured there; and this would not only have enabled supplies to be distributed at all points of the South where they were most needed, but would have effectually prevented the occupation and control of the lower Mississippi waters by the Federal gunboats. 
But if the possession of Missouri and the city of St. Louis was important to ultimate Confederate success, the seizure of the St. Louis arsenal was a matter of vital and immediate necessity.  The arsenal contained sixty thousand stand of small arms, thirty-five or forty pieces of artillery, and a vast store of ammunition and military equipments.  An almost invincible force could have been promptly armed from this source, and such a force would have been at once recruited; for with the capture of the arsenal by the secessionists all doubt and vacillation would have disappeared from their ranks.  It would have assured the most timid and hesitant, and have been the signal for an instant and overwhelming uprising, both in St. Louis and the state, in behalf of the Southern cause  Such an evidence of purpose and of capacity to deal practically with the situation would have settled in advance the questions which the convention had been called to determine.  The earnest and resolute men on both sides thoroughly realized this, and to seize or defend the arsenal became the watchwords of all who really "meant business." 
Unfortunately for the hopes of the Southern men in St. Louis, however salutary such policy may have proven for the future of the country, their leaders temporized  They admitted the extreme importance of capturing the arsenal, but insisted that it ought not to be attempted until after the convention had acted.  This counsel seemed fatuous to the younger men, who thought that something should be done to influence the election of the delegates and the decision of the convention, and believed that, as matters were being handled, the game was going against them.  They resolved, therefore, to make an organization of their own, with a view to prompt and decisive measures, and also as an offset to Blair's "Wide Awakes," who soon became exceedingly insolent and aggressive.  This movement was inaugurated, as I remember, by Colton Greene, James R. Shaler, Rock Champion, Overton W. Barrett, Samuel Farrington, James Quinlan, Arthur McCoy, and myself.  Greene was subsequently a brigadier-general in the Confederate service.  Shaler was one of the bravest and most efficient colonels whom Missouri gave to the South.  Barrett served gallantly and with distinction, and Champion, Farrington, and McCoy, after winning the highest reputation for courage and fidelity, died under the Southern flag. 
This organization was designated the "Minute Men," and was of a semi-political and military character.  We made no secret of the organization or of our purpose, but openly proclaimed both.  It grew to be about four hundred strong, and was divided into five companies, commanded by Greene, Shaler, Barrett, Hubbard, and myself, which subsequently composed a battalion of the state guard, of which Shaler was elected major.  The chief and primary object of this organization was the capture of the arsenal.  We were handicapped, however, not only by the scruples and remonstrances of the older and more conservative men, but by the difficulty of procuring arms.  The muster-roll of the Minute Men could have been increased to a much larger number, but we wished to enlist only the kind of material which could be relied on for any service and in any emergency, and no more than we could arm in some fashion.  We had no funds with which to purchase arms, and those fitted for the use of soldiers were not to be easily gotten even with money.  During February we secured some sixty or seventy old muskets, but armed the greater number with revolvers and shot-guns, which were indeed better weapons for street fighting.
-The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.

The period that Duke was writing about was January and February of 1861, after the convention called by Governor Jackson had decided against secession but a couple of months before Fort Sumter.

I've read this section of Duke's memoirs numerous times and it never fails to shock me.  I find it very difficult to put myself into his mind and to understand things from his perspective.  The steps that he and his friends were taking and the actions that he was proposing are so alien to me that I just find it impossible to relate to what he's talking about.  And what he was talking about was armed insurrection against the dully constituted government of the United States.  Duke, in early 1861, was formenting rebellion in St. Louis.  He was, to be honest, a traitor.  We can sit here all day and debate the rights of a given state to succeed from the Union but I believe that Duke's actions in early 1861 were treasonous.  It's one thing to take political action to effect succession but it's another to put together an armed militia and plot to seize the United States armory in St. Louis.

I'm not condemning Duke here.  I couldn't tell you what I would have done if I was alive in 1861 and, in his writings, he comes off as a man of honor and integrity.  I have no doubt that Duke was acting on principle and that he believed the Federal government was oppressive and illegitimate.  But that doesn't change the fact that his actions were treasonous.  He was putting together an army and was planning on attacking a government military installation.  That's crazy.  That's John Brown crazy.

The thing is I don't think Duke was particularly a unique individual in 1861 St. Louis.  There were plenty of other men who actively supported what the Minute Men were doing and the other side was also actively organizing during this period.  Duke's Cyclone Club teammate, Merritt Griswold, was a member of the pro-Union Wide Awake militia that Duke mentions above.  The city was divided and I think that any chance of civil discourse was gone.  Both sides were arming themselves and looking for a fight.  The country, and St. Louis, was tearing itself apart and the normal rules and laws were out the window.

And in the middle of all of this craziness, baseball was being played in St. Louis.  It has to be remembered that the men who were playing baseball in St. Louis were not just names in a box score.  They were living, breathing human beings who were personally involved in this great crisis.  Baseball was simply just one part of their lives.  Duke was one of the pioneers of baseball in St. Louis but he was much more than that.  It's important, I think, to put both pioneer baseball and Basil Duke in the context of their times and that's what I'm trying to do here.