The Rewind: Abner Doubleday

Why is he famous?

Doubleday’s name is most commonly known due to its association with the origins of baseball. In 1907, a panel of baseball experts headed by A. G. Spalding conducted a highly-publicized investigation into the origins of the game, and concluded that Doubleday had written the rules for baseball in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York. But it has become moderately clear throughout the years that Abner Doubleday did not create baseball. Because Doubleday himself never claimed to have invented or even played baseball, and never mentioned the sport in his diaries, letters, or papers.

Then Who Is Abner Doubleday?

Born at Ballston Spa, NY on June 26, 1819, Abner Doubleday was the son of Representative Ulysses F. Doubleday. Educated locally, Doubleday trained as a surveyor and civil engineer. He was a career United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War. He fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the war, and had a pivotal role in the early fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. Gettysburg was his finest hour, but his relief by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade caused lasting enmity between the two men.

Military Course

His military career began in the Mexican and Seminole Indian Wars. He served at Rinconada Pass during the Battle of Buena Vista. On March 3, 1847, shortly after the battle, Doubleday was promoted to first lieutenant. Returning home, Doubleday was promoted to captain on March 3, 1855. On the morning of April 12, 1861, Confederate forces in Charleston opened fire on Fort Sumter. He was second in command at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Doubleday himself gave the order to fire the first Union cannon shot in that war.

Following the fort’s surrender, Doubleday returned north and was quickly promoted to major on May 14, 1861, and assigned to the 17th Infantry in Major General Robert Patterson’s command in the Shenandoah Valley. He was appointed brigadier general of volunteers on February 3, 1862, and was assigned to duty in northern Virginia while the Army of the Potomac conducted the Peninsula Campaign. His first combat assignment was to lead the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, III Corps of the Army of Virginia during the Northern Virginia Campaign he played a key role at Brawner’s Farm during the opening actions of the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Being promoted to Major General in November of 1962, he was present at the battles of Fredericksburg on 13th of December 1862and Chancellorsville on May 1-5 1863, and he commanded the 3rd Division, I Corps at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1-3 1863. As an officer he was noted for methodical planning and calm demeanor in the chaos of battle.

Doubleday departed the army and rode to Washington. Assigned to administrative duties in the city, he served on courts martial and commanded part of the defenses when Lieutenant General Jubal Early threatened to attack in 1864. Abner was promoted to colonel in September 1867, he was given command of the 35th Infantry.

Down The Line

After the Civil War, He was stationed in San Francisco from 1869 through 1871 and he took out a patent for the cable car railway that still runs there, receiving a charter for its operation, but signing away his rights when he was reassigned. In 1871 he commanded the 24th U.S. Infantry, an all African-American regiment with headquarters at Fort McKavett Texas.

He retired in 1873 and settled in Mendham, NJ, he became involved with Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott. The founders of the Theosophical Society, they converted Doubleday to the tenets of Theosophy and Spiritualism. When the pair moved to India to continue their studies, Doubleday was named the president of the American chapter. He continued to live in Mendham until his death on January 26, 1893.

Furthermore, even though he did not invent baseball, he did invent the cable car railway, which many people know still operates in San Francisco today. And despite this, Doubleday’s name remains deeply linked to the game’s history.

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