Heritage Auctions: Civil War Baseball Makes its Auction Debut in Platinum Night

Long Beach and White Plains Shows Headline Heritage Sports January Travel ScheduleHeritage Auctions is proud to present the most thoroughly documented Civil War soldier’s baseball in the hobby, and it will be featured in our upcoming February Platinum Night Auction. The headline of the included news clipping from the February 18, 1911 edition of the Los Angeles Express reads “Famous War-Time Baseball Will Be Shown at Banquet,” and continues on to state, “Members of Loyal Legion Will Fondle Old Sphere and Hear Story of the Part It Took in Army Sport During the Stirring Days of ’64.” The article’s text tells the story best.

“Captain France was a member of the Seventeenth New York zouaves, who were attached to the Sixteenth corps under the command of N.S. Granger. There were a number of good ballplayers in the Seventeenth and when, in May ’64, the corps was encamped at Decatur, Ala., the baseball enthusiasts conceived the plan of sending to Nashville, 130 miles north, for a ball and bat.

The Most Thoroughly Documented Civil War Soldiers' Game Used Baseball in the HobbyThe plan was executed and many a hot game of baseball was played on the parade grounds. When the call for dress parade came and a game was in progress, it was customary for the man having the ball in his hand at the time to keep it until the next game was played.

In this manner the ball was carried on Sherman’s march to the sea, through the Atlanta campaign, its siege and capture, then through the Carolinas campaign to Raleigh, Richmond and finally to Washington. At Washington, while the soldiers were waiting to be mustered out, the last game of ball was played. When it was over Lieutenant Barnett was walking off the field with Captain France. ‘Here, France,’ he called, and gave the ball an underhand toss into France’s waiting hands.”

The Most Thoroughly Documented Civil War Soldiers’ Game Used Baseball in the Hobby The trail of the provenance picks up shortly after the printing of the newspaper article with an undated but clearly very old handwritten letter from Charles H. Pease, a Captain with the 17th New York Veteran Volunteers (Zouaves) who served with France. He writes:

“This ball was used by the Officers of the 17th N.Y. at Decatur, Ala in ’62 during the ocupation (sic) by Federal troops and when the 17th received marching orders to go to the front at Atlanta Ga it was in possession of Capt. James S. France who kept it long after the war and finally gave it to my son Harry France Pease in 1915.” Pease signs below. The close relationship between these former brothers in arms is apparent in the middle name of Pease’s son.

The ball itself is crafted in the lemon peel style typical of the Civil War-era and bears vintage handwritten block-lettered text that reads, “Zouave B.B.C.” and “Officers 17th N.Y.V.V.I.” The ball is deeply toned but text remains bold and the structural integrity of the sphere is strong with no loose stitching or major defects to the leather. Also in the lot is a modern printed transcript of many of Captain Pease’s letters home from the war and a 2011 letter of appraisal from noted Civil War historian Will Gorges. The ball is consigned by the great-great grandson of Capt. Charles H. Pease, with his letter of provenance. Click here to view the auction preview.

Heritage Platinum Night Auction Launches On HA.com This Month

Now that the holiday dust has finally settled, and the Super Bowl and MLB training camp is right around the corner, we would like to announce that the highly anticipated Platinum Night Sports Auction is set to open for bidding next week. Once again, the auction will take place at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion in New York City, and the Live portion will feature approximately 150 lots consisting some of the most significant sports artifacts in the hobby.  Preview items here.

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