Monday, July 23, 2012

Missing In Action

                     Bat Toss at 2011 Gettysburg Tournament
The Neshanock were in Gettysburg this past weekend for the 3rd annual Gettysburg vintage base ball festival, but regrettably a death in the family kept me at home.  Playing four teams from the Midwest, the Neshanock went 1-3 in this rapidly growing event.  From six more or less local teams in 2010, the festival has grown to 14 teams this year with supposedly some 25 teams on the waiting list.  I look forward to being there in 2013 which is also the 150th anniversary of the battle.

Part of the plan was that I as going to conduct a battlefield tour on Friday night.  I did this last year and although I'm certainly no expert on Gettysburg, I was looking forward to sharing what I do know with members of the Neshanock. 

My knowledge of New Jersey's role at Gettysburg has been greatly enhanced by the New Jersey Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee's latest publication - "New Jersey at Gettysburg Guidebook," by David Martin.  David has been a leader in the effort to preserve, teach and commemorate New Jersey's role in the war and this publication is the result of a life time of study of this crucial battle in a crucial era of American history.  Available at for $15 plus postage, this book is essential for any one from New Jersey planning a visit to Gettysburg.

During last year's tour we were able to visit two important New Jersey sites in the battle.  First we visited the 11th New Jersey's monument which is on the Emmitsburg Road just south of the Klingel House.  Here on July 2nd the regiment served severe losses when the crumbling of the Union line at the Peach Orchard led to an overwhelming Confederate attack.  All told the 11th New Jersey suffered 153 casualties including losing three commanding officers in the space of 30 minutes.  Not surprisingly the 11th suffered the highest casualties of any New Jersey regiment engaged at Gettysburg. 

11th New Jersey Monument

The second New Jersey site on last year's tour was the 12th New Jersey's monument which is located a short distance from the high water mark of the Confederacy.  After being heavily engaged at the Bliss barn on July 2nd and 3rd, the regiment helped to repulse Pickett's Charge on the afternoon of the 3rd.  Although it's casualty totals weren't as high as the 11th's, the 12th suffered 115 casualties a loss rate of just over 26% of their total strength.  In the course of the action the 12th captured not one, but two Confederate battle flags, both from North Carolina regiments.  

12th New Jersey Monument

In an earlier post ("Him Who Shall Have Borne the Battle,"), I wrote about the two New Jersey base ball players known to have been killed in the Civil War, Horace Smith and James Conklin).  I don't know about any players who were killed at Gettysburg, but it seems pretty certain that some of them were at least there.  The 2nd New Jersey (Smith and Conklin's regiment) played a lot of base ball to the extent they formed their own club called the Excelsior.  Looking at the names in a box score, one that leaps out is John W. Collins who played for the Eureka Club of Newark (the premier New Jersey team of the 1860's) both before and after the war.  The 2nd which was part of the New Jersey brigade was minimally engaged at Gettysburg suffering only six wounded over the three days. 

                                     First New Jersey Brigade Monument

Thinking about all of this has revived my interest in learning to what extent members of the leading New Jersey base ball clubs served in the Union military.  I'm going to try to identify (no small feat) about 50 members of the prominent ante-bellum clubs - the Lone Star and Hamilton of Jersey City, the Eureka, Newark and Adriatic of Newark, the Liberty of New Brunswick and perhaps one or two from Bloomfield and Orange and then see what percentage served and the nature of that service.  In at least some cases, players served one tour with a nine month regiment that saw little or no combat.  The northern home front is reportedly a vastly under studied area and looking at this in more detail will at least give a better sense of the war's impact on the "new" national game.


  1. Richard HershbergerJuly 24, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    I was sorry to miss you, and for your loss. I had a good time watching the matches anyway.

  2. Thanks for the condolences and I'm also sorry we didnt' connect. Glad you enjoyed the matches, I understand next year there will be 16 teams with a long waiting list.