Historian to discuss baseball in the Civil War

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Civil War historian Jerry Desmond, the Executive Director of Pamplin Historical Park and National Museum, will discuss the history of baseball Thursday, June 3, at 7 p.m. in a presentation titled, “It Will Repair Our Losses and be a Blessing: Baseball in the Civil War.”

Baseball is believed to have evolved from an older bat-and-ball game in Great Britain and Ireland known as rounders in the mid-1700s. By the 1830s, variants of baseball began to be played in North America. It was not until June 19, 1846, the first recognized baseball game was played in the United States between the New York Knickerbockers and the New York Nine. The Knickerbocker Rules would form the basis of modern baseball continuing to change over the next half a century.

Soon journalists were referring to baseball as the “national pastime” before the storm clouds of Civil War emerged on the horizon. Civil War soldiers on both sides would play baseball when in camp or during breaks on the march. Early in the war, even prisoners-of-war would play the game while incarcerated to pass the time. The game was a little different then, being played with either two or four bases and a runner was only considered out when “hit” with the pitcher’s ball.

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Desmond’s career includes 22 years of professional museum experience in the areas of education, curation and administration. He has written numerous historical articles and multiple books including “Turning the Tide at Gettysburg: How Maine Saved the Union.” Since his time at La Paglia and Associates, he has served as a consultant leading the development and expansion of new and existing museums. Desmond was involved with over 20 mostly Civil War-related museum projects while serving with La Paglia and Associates.