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Historically Speaking

Historically Speaking: The Man Who Didn’t Invent Baseball

By Tom Morrow

He’s a historical figure who is remembered for something he didn’t do, and is obscure to history for what he actually did.

Abner Doubleday was many things, but he didn’t invent baseball. That myth was perpetuated in the late 1800s by sports equipment magnet, A.C. Spaulding. In 1839, the time when Spaulding claimed Doubleday was inventing baseball in Cooperstown, N.Y., the young man was a cadet at West Point.

Abner Doubleday, born June 26, 1819, was a career U. S. Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War. He fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the war, and had a pivotal role in the early fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. abner

After the war, n San Francisco, after the war, he obtained a patent on the cable car railway that still runs there – one of the symbols of the city by the Bay. In his final years in New Jersey, he was a prominent member and later president of the Theosophical Society.

Doubleday initially served in coastal garrisons and then in the Mexican–American War from 1846 to 1848 and the Seminole Wars from 1856 to 1858. In 1858 he was transferred to Fort Moultrie in Charleston Harbor. By the start of the Civil War, he was a captain and second in command in the garrison at Fort Sumter. He aimed the cannon that fired the first return shot in answer to the Confederate bombardment on April 12, 1861. Doubleday subsequently referred to himself as the “hero of Sumter” for this role.

At the start of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, Doubleday’s division was the second infantry division. Doubleday found himself in command. It was his finest performance during the war, five hours leading 9,500 men against ten Confederate brigades that numbered more than 16,000.

After the war, Doubleday assumed administrative duties in the defenses of Washington, D.C., where he was in charge of courts martial, which gave him legal experience that he used after the war. While in Washington, Doubleday remained a loyal Republican and staunch supporter of President Abraham Lincoln. Doubleday rode with Lincoln on the train to Gettysburg for the Gettysburg Address and Col. and Mrs. Doubleday attended events with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln in Washington.

Doubleday was reverted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1871 he commanded the 24th U.S. Infantry, an all African-American regiment with headquarters at Fort McKavett, Texas. He retired in 1873
Doubleday spent much of his time writing. He published two important works on the Civil War: “Reminiscences of Forts Sumter and Moultrie” (1876), and “Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, (1882), the latter being a volume of the series “Campaigns of the Civil War.”

Doubleday died of heart disease Jan. 26, 1893, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. There is a seven-foot obelisk monument at Arlington National Cemetery where he is buried, located about 130 feet behind the Robert E. Lee Mansion.

Although Doubleday became widely known as the inventor of the game of baseball, in Elihu Phinney’s cow pasture in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. Baseball historian George B. Kirsch has described the results of an investigative commission as a “myth.” He wrote, “ … scholars have There is a seven-foot obelisk monument at Arlington National Cemetery where he is buried, located about 130 feet behind the Robert E. Lee Mansion. the Doubleday-Cooperstown myth, which nonetheless remains powerful in the American imagination because of the efforts of Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.”

Despite the lack of any evidence linking Doubleday to the origins of baseball, in 1937, Doubleday’s small hometown of Cooperstown, N.Y., became the site of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

There is a monument to Doubleday at Gettysburg erected by his men, admirers, and the state of New York. In 2011, the postmaster general was petitioned to issue a U.S. postage stamp for Doubleday commemorating the 150th anniversary of Fort Sumter.

Doubleday (baseball) Field at the United States Military Academy at West Point is named in his honor. In World War II, the United States liberty ship SS Abner Doubleday was named in his honor.
Spaulding published the falsehood in his magazine designed to promote baseball and sell equipment. If you tell a falsehood enough times, it can become truth.