Sunday, August 28, 2011

Baseball in Washington During the Civil War

Depressed about the current state of professional baseball in our nation's capital, I decided to devote this posting to the topic of baseball in Washington during the 60's, the 1860s that is.  In the decade before the Civil War, the evolving sport of "base ball"-- then generally spelled as two words and derived from cricket and townball-- began to gain a following as at least 50 amateur clubs sprouted up, mostly in the North.  The New York City area was the vanguard of the sport's evolution under rules devised by Alexander Cartwright and the New York Knickerbocker Club.

By 1859, Washington, D.C. had at least two baseball clubs: the Washington Potomacs and the Washington Nationals.  The original nucleus of both teams was a group of government clerks. (One of the Nationals' founders, Arthur Gorman, was a Senate staffer and later a U.S. Senator from Maryland.)   The Nationals generally played on ground near the Capitol while the Potomacs frequented he public grounds just south of the White House known as the White Lot, today's Ellipse.  The first match between the Nationals and the Potomacs was played on the White Lot on May 5, 1860 and resulted in a Nationals' victory of 35-15.  The Washington Star wrote approvingly that "it is good to see health-promoting exercises taking the place of insipid enervating amusements."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Giesboro Point Cavalry Depot, Parking for 30,000 Horses

The area once known as Giesboro Point is now occupied by the Department of Defense's Joint Base Bolling-Anacostia.  The installation's major tenant organization, the Defense Intelligence Agency, is observing its 50th anniversary this year.  However, nearly 150 years ago, this parcel of land was not a military intelligence headquarters, but the logistics hub of the Union Army's cavalry in the Eastern Theater.  By providing a ready supply of mounts to the Army of the Potomac, Giesboro Cavalry Depot made an important contribution as the army slugged it out in Virginia.  Over 200,000 horses were received, issued, died or sold at Giesboro during the war.

Wartime photo of stables at the Giesboro Cavalry Depot.  (Library of Congress)