Abner Doubleday was born on June 26th 1819 in Ballston Spa, New York. He was a staunch Union loyalist from New York, he served in many of the most famous battles during the Civil War.
In 1860 he was Captain of Company E of the First United States Artillery stationed at Fort Moultrie in South Carolina. Tensions between South Carolina and the Union began to rapidly rise as 1860 progressed. Mobs gathered in Charleston threatening to attack the forts around the harbor and remove all Union troops from the state.
The last straw came with the election of President Abraham Lincoln in November 1860. On December 20th 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union and declared themselves an independent nation.
As it became more evident that conflict between the southern and northern states was about to erupt into war Doubleday and his men under overall command of Major Robert Anderson were transferred out of Fort Moultrie across Charleston Harbor and into Fort Sumter which was a much more defensible fort.
If you’d like to learn more about Abner Doubleday his Reminiscences of Forts Sumter and Moultrie in 1860-’61 takes a look at the things he did at the beginning of the war, in his own words.
Abner Doubleday Fires First Union Shots of the Civil War
On April 12th 1861 South Carolina troops opened fire on Fort Sumter. In response to this assault Abner Doubleday divided his company into three details to return fire, the first shot against the rebellion was fired by Abner Doubleday and his men.
This shot was not very impressive. It bounced off of the sloped roof of the rebel battery they were firing at causing no damage. After several more shots at this enemy battery he was able to eventually silence the rebel gun.
Abner Doubleday’s Other Notable Actions
Abner Doubleday is most famous for his actions at Fort Sumter. He did however participate in the fighting at Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, and Gettysburg. He was at the Battle of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville although his unit saw limited action at Fredericksburg and his unit did not participate at all during Chancellorsville being held back from the battle.
He was briefly brevetted (promoted) to the rank of Major General after the Battle of Antietam in 1862. After the Battle of Gettysburg, (in which he performed well holding off the initial Confederate attack on the first day for several hours before being forced to withdraw) he was sent to Washington DC and put into an administrative position.
The only field command he had after this was in 1864 when he was put in charge of Washington’s defenses after Jubal Early threatened to attack the city. In 1865 he was reassigned to the rank of Colonel.
Abner Doubleday was not a great military commander but he wasn’t a bad one either, he was pretty average. He is most famous for his actions at Fort Sumter, stubbornly defending against the Confederates on the first day of Gettysburg, and the story that he invented baseball.
The Myth that Abner Doubleday Invented Baseball
This claim is simply an Abner Doubleday myth. Abner Doubleday is not the person who invented baseball. In the early 1900’s a baseball commission proclaimed that Abner Doubleday invented baseball while he was in Cooperstown New York in 1839, it has been proved that he was not anywhere near Cooperstown during 1839, so it is just a myth. The game was most likely invented by the British long before Abner Doubleday.
Regardless of whoever invented baseball the myth stuck and today the baseball hall of fame is still located in Cooperstown New York in honor of Abner Doubleday. The fact that America’s pastime was most likely invented by a foreign country makes no difference at all. It is still a great American game.
Abner Doubleday Death
Abner Doubleday died at the age of 73 on January 26th 1893 in Mendham New Jersey. His body was taken to Arlington National Cemetery where he was buried.