Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Weekend in Gettysburg

Photo by Mark Granieri 

This past weekend, the Flemington Neshanock participated in the fourth annual Gettysburg Vintage Base Ball Festival.  The event has grown from a six team tournament to a festival where 17 vintage clubs play four games over the course of two days.  For 2013,  the festival was moved to Schroders Farm, a much larger venue where five games could be played simultaneously.  Part of the festival's attraction, of course, is the opportunity to visit the Gettysburg battlefield, which was especially timely this year since it's the Sesquicentennial of those three historic days in July in 1863.

Photo by Mark Granieri

On Saturday, the Neshanock took on two new foes, the Milford Club from Delaware and the Bay City Independents from Michigan.  I missed most of the Milford match, arriving in time to watch the Delaware team close out a 14-6 victory.  The Bay City match was a well played, closely contested game which was tied 11-11 after seven innings.  In the 8th, Bay City broke through with five tallies and held off a last ditch ninth inning Neshanock comeback to prevail 16-14.  As in the Hoboken match of two weeks ago, Flemington had the tying runs on second and third with two out, but "Jersey" Jim Nunn's hit to right field bounced just high enough and just long enough for the right fielder to grab it.  Thanks to Richard Hershberger who joined us for the match and shared some insights about base ball history which were enjoyed by the Neshanock, not to mention the umpire.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Sunday, the Neshanock were back at it, opening play with the Capital City All Stars from Washington, D.C.  After Capital City tallied twice in the top of the first, Flemington took a lead it would never relinquish, breaking the game open with a six run eighth inning for an 18-6 victory.  Mark "Peaches" Rubini recorded a clear score, batting six times without making an out, including five hits.  Dave "Illinois" Harris also chipped in with five hits and Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw added three more.  On the defensive side, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri recorded nine put outs on foul tips, two of which were the front end of double plays.

Photo by Mark Granieri 

In what was probably the final match of the festival, Flemington played a new (and very young) Union Hills Club from Maryland.  With every member of the Neshanock contributing at least one hit, Flemington took an early 5-1 lead and was in control all the way for a 10-4 win.  With the 2-2 Festival record, the Neshanock left Gettysburg with an overall 15-11 record and glad once again to have participated in this fine event.  Next Saturday, Flemington makes a brief return to New Jersey, visiting the Elizabeth Resolutes at Rahway River Park.

New Jersey Gettysburg Battlefield Monument Re-dedication 

I missed most of the first game on Saturday because in addition to my base ball responsibilities, I also had Civil War commitments as the New Jersey State Assembly had designated July 20th as New Jersey Day at Gettysburg.  In order to honor the  New Jersey men and woman who served at Gettysburg during July of 1863, the New Jersey Civil War Heritage Association and the New Jersey Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee (I chair the latter group) hosted a ceremony to re-dedicate the New Jersey monuments on the battlefield, followed by an afternoon tour of the places where New Jersey troops were engaged.  It was an honor to make some brief comments at the ceremony and very moving to do so right on a spot where New Jersey men "gave the last full measure of devotion."

Box Score from Thomas Marbaker's History of the Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers

Not surprisingly my dual role, led me to think about whether any New Jersey base ball players, that is members of the leading New Jersey clubs,  fought at Gettysburg.  While  a number of New Jersey regiments played base ball during the war, the most active unit appears to be the 2nd New Jersey which actually formed its own team, named the Excelsior Club.  Game accounts and even box scores of matches were reported in the Newark newspapers and there are recognizable names in the line ups, such as John Collins of the Newark Eureka.  However the 2nd New Jersey was only marginally engaged at Gettysburg by virtue of the fact that they and the rest of the Sixth Corps had such a long march just to get there.  Long march may be an understatement, as the 2nd New Jersey and the rest of the New Jersey brigade left Manchester, Maryland at 10 P.M. on July 1st and reached Gettysburg at 4 P.M. the next day, a march of 35 miles in 18 hours with only one break along the way.

Captain Luther Martin - KIA at Gettysburg, 7/2/1863 - Photo courtesy of John Kuhl 

A New Jersey regiment which was heavily engaged at Gettysburg was the 11th New Jersey, a unit formed in 1862 from seven different counties including Essex and Hudson, the two New Jersey counties with the most antebellum base ball activity.  Long after the war, in 1898, Sergeant Thomas Marbaker wrote and published a history of the 11th New Jersey.  In discussing the regiment's activities in winter quarters during 1863, Marbaker makes mention of a base ball game played around the middle of April.  There's nothing unusual in this, but what is interesting is that Marbaker, or someone else, kept a box score of the match for 35 years before it appeared in his book.

Captain Dorastus Logan - KIA at Gettysburg, 7/2/1863, photo courtesy of John Kuhl 

Also interesting is that unlike box scores for other regimental base ball games, the box score doesn't list positions, but rather the ranks of the players.  The two teams were made up of officers and senior NCO's, with one side headed by Captain Luther Martin and the other by Captain Dorastus Logan.  About 6 weeks later, on July 2, 1863, these same officers and the rest of the 11th New Jersey were on the Emmitsburg Road at Gettsyburg, just north of the Peach Orchard.  When Union defenses in the Peach Orchard began to break down, the 11th New Jersey came under Confederate attack simultaneously from the south and the west.

Captain Andrew Ackerman - KIA at Gettysburg, 7/2/1863

The carnage was terrible, all told 153 officers and men were killed or wounded, a casualty rate of over 55%, the highest of any New Jersey regiment at Gettysburg.  Reportedly every officer above the rank of Lieutenant was either killed or wounded.  Among the dead were the aforementioned Captains Martin and Logan, the leaders of the two base ball teams plus Andrew Ackerman, who had been promoted to Captain by the time of the battle.  In addition, Lieutenant Edwin Good was wounded three times and the Adjutant, John Schoonover, was wounded twice.  Both survived, indeed, Schoonover apparently recovered enough to be on the battlefield the next day where he had a horse shot out from under him.

Resolution of officers of 11th NJ mourning their dead, Newark Daily Advertiser - August 18, 1863

I'm not surprised Marbaker included the box score in his book because to some degree, the book is a compilation of facts and stories.  Since the book was published more than 30 years after the war, it's doubtful many of the players were still alive to read about that long ago base ball game.  My guess is that at most, modern readers take brief note of this base ball match of no special significance and go on to the more important accounts of the regiment's sacrifices at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

11th New Jersey, right flank marker - photo by Mark Granieri 

Perhaps, however, the image of these young men playing an April base ball game 150 years ago, can help us to see them as something more than just cogs in  a vast military machine.  All of us who love base ball know the feeling of excitement of the year's first game on an early spring day.  Regardless of their level of base ball proficiency, it's not too much of a reach to believe at least some of these soldiers were excited in the same way.  Shared experiences like these may help us to better recognize their hopes, dreams and, even fears about what lay ahead.  If so, we will have a better understanding and appreciation of the magnitude of their commitment and their sacrifices.

The 11th New Jersey monument is in front of the tree, on the Emmitsburg Road - photo by Mark Granieri

Pulitzer Prize winning author, Rick Atkinson has written that great stories are bottomless so there is no end to what can and should be written about them.  Without question, the Civil War is such a story and understandably much of that writing will focus on the generals and politicians who made the big decisions.  However it is equally important to remember the ordinary (ordinary because there were so many of them) men and women.  Once all the  political decisions were made and the military strategies set, it was their willingness to stay the course and perhaps die in the process which saved the Union.  For that we should be truly grateful.

No comments:

Post a Comment