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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 448

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This is the grave of Abner Doubleday.

Born in 1819 in Ballston Spa, New York, Doubleday grew up in Auburn, the son of a 4-term Congressman. He was sent to Cooperstown to live with an uncle and receive a high school education. He worked as a surveyor for a couple of years before receiving entrance into West Point. He did fairly well there, graduating 24th in his class in 1842. He was assigned to some coastal garrisons, then saw action in the war to steal half of Mexico to expand slavery. He also saw action in the Seminole Wars of the 1850s.

In 1861, Doubleday was a captain assigned to Fort Sumter. He was second in command to Major Robert Anderson and went South Carolina traitors shelled the fort in response to Lincoln resupplying it, Sumter fired the first shot in response, making him, briefly, a national hero. He was wounded in Antietam, where he did an alright job it seems. At Gettysburg however, where he found himself in command of troops when General John Reynolds was killed early in battle, he led 9,500 men against 16,000 Confederates. He took great losses, but so did the Confederates attacking his lines. However, the next day, he was replaced as commander by a more junior officer because George Meade thought he was an incompetent dolt. He already felt that, thinking that Doubleday was indecisive, but O.O. Howard reported to Meade that Doubleday’s lines broke and caused the Union lines to collapse, which was flat out not true. He never forgave Meade, but fought for the rest of the battle. But when his subsequent request to be given a command was denied, he transferred to Washington to handle court martial cases. He also testified before Congress about Meade’s performance at Gettysburg, excoriating him and getting his revenge. Meade of course was soon replaced by Ulysses S. Grant. Doubleday also became close friends with Lincoln and accompanied him to the Gettysburg Address.

After the war, Doubleday was stationed mostly in the West, was involved in the development of San Francisco’s cable cars while stationed there, and then led a troop of Buffalo Soldiers in Texas. He retired from the military in 1873. He worked as a lawyer in the aftermath, joined the hordes of other officers writing Civil War memoirs, and was involved in the American Theosophical Society.

But honestly, Doubleday wouldn’t be all that memorable to us today if not for the spurious claim that he invented baseball back in 1839 while living in Cooperstown. This is certainly not true. Doubleday himself never made any such claim, even as the game gained greater popularity later in his life. It was the Mills Commission, led by National League president Abraham Miills, to determine the origins of the game who came up with this malarkey. It’s at least possible that Doubleday did play a role in expanding the game, as he is said to have provided gear for his troops. But who knows. It’s a nice but ridiculous story. And that’s why we know Abner Doubleday. He died in 1893.

Abner Doubleday is buried on the confiscated grounds of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

If you would like this series to visit other figures of early baseball, maybe ones who actually did have something to do with the game, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Abraham Mills is buried in Washington, D.C. and Old Hoss Radbourn is in Bloomington, Illinois. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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