There is no doubt that the data is incomplete and we don't have all of the references to baseball in 1863 that exist in the contemporary source material. I absolutely believe that to be true and I accept that. But it's the nature of historical inquiry to deal with the facts that we have and hope that more information will surface at some point. In this series of posts on St. Louis Civil War baseball, I'm dealing with references that I've found in the Missouri Republican and all analysis and conclusions are based on that data, as well as my own understanding of the war and baseball during the era. With that said, let's look at the data and compare it to the early war years.
We find 20 references to baseball in the Republican in 1863. In 1861, we found twenty-seven and, in 1862, only seven. Obviously, there was a sharp decline in baseball coverage during the 1862 season, which suggests a decline in baseball activity or, at the very least, a decline in interest in the game. However, in 1863, we have a sharp increase in references to the game. While we don't have as many references as in 1861, the 1863 references were more than we found in the 1860 Daily Bulletin, as well as in the 1862 Republican. I think that this shows a growth in interest in the game from 1862 to 1863, as well as a general growth in baseball activity during the same period.
The Republican has references to twelve specific clubs in 1863, as well as a picked nine. Seven senior clubs, four junior clubs, a second nine, and the picked nine were mentioned. We have eight references to clubs in 1860, ten in 1861, and eight in 1862. We see, in 1863, more active clubs than at any point in the history of St. Louis baseball, up to that point. This is a significant find. Even if we only look at senior clubs, the number of clubs active in 1863 is similar to the number active in 1860 and 1861, when there were seven and eight active senior clubs, respectively. In 1862, we're only aware of four active senior clubs. So, at the very least, we see a rebound in the number of active clubs back to the level that was the historical norm prior to 1862. If we include the active junior clubs and the second nine, there were more active clubs in 1863 than in any previous year. This has to be seen as a sign of the health of the game in St. Louis in 1863 and of an increase in baseball activity.
We find, in the Republican, references to twelve games played in 1863 and, more specifically, references to eight matches games played between two distinct clubs. In 1860, we have references to eight games; in 1861, we have references to fifteen games; and, in 1862, we have references to five games. If we only include the number of games played between two distinct clubs in 1861, there were only seven known match games played that year. So, again, we see a significant increase in the number of matches games played in 1863 when compared to 1862 and a return to the historical norms established in 1860 and 1861.
The Republican, in 1863, mentions three different places where baseball games were played: Gamble Lawn, Lafayette Park, and the Laclede Grounds. In both 1860 and 1861, we have references to three different baseball grounds while, in 1862, we only have references to Gamble Lawn. Again, this is a rebound from 1862 and return to the number seen in 1860 and 1861. It is important to note that Lafayette Park was once again being used as a baseball grounds after having been occupied by Union troops in August of 1861. While it is unknown, it is entirely possible that the increase in the number of places available to play baseball resulted in an increase in the number of clubs and games played. If you want to play baseball, you have to have somewhere to play.
Obviously, we're seeing growth from 1862 to 1863. We have more references to the game, more clubs, more games played, and more baseball grounds in use. We're also seeing, at the very least, a return to the levels of baseball activity that were seen in 1860 and 1861, before the war negatively impacted baseball activity in 1862. In some instances, such as the number of active clubs, we're seeing levels of baseball activity that St. Louis had never experienced in the past.
I think what we're seeing here is the fact that St. Louis baseball was weathering the storm of the Civil War. The game must have been very popular in the city and it must have placed deep roots during the antebellum era. You had a war raging, a significant percentage of the male population was off fighting that war, the city was under martial law, and a number of citizens of St. Louis were actively working against its government. But, at the same time, the number of baseball clubs in St. Louis was growing. We saw, in 1862, what I believe was clear evidence of the war negatively impacting the game in St. Louis, with an obvious decrease in the amount of baseball activity when compared to previous season. But, in 1863, we see the game recover from the impact of the war and continue its growth and evolution in St. Louis. The game could have died in St. Louis in 1862 and 1863 but it didn't. It survived and continued on, growing and increasing in popularity. I think that is both remarkable and significant.
One thing that we should consider is the fact that Missouri was rather quiet in 1863. The Battle of Pea Ridge, in March of 1862, drove the regular Confederate army out of Missouri and Sterling Price's Raid didn't take place until 1864. You had Quantrill operating in the western part of the state, as well as the boat burners and the mail ring operating in St. Louis, but maybe things had settled down enough were baseball had the room or the breathing space to continue its earlier growth. The reintroduction of Lafayette Park as a baseball ground may be evidence of that. I'm not altogether certain but I think it's something that must be considered.
Regardless, I think it's absolutely certain that there was an increase in baseball activity in St. Louis between 1862 and 1863. It appears that the game had returned to the level of activity that was seen in 1860 and 1861. St. Louis baseball was surviving the Civil War and was going to be in a position, during the post-war era, to experience a tremendous growth in popularity. The baseball fever of the post-war era would not have been possible if it wasn't for clubs like the Hope and the Eclipse, who carried on during some of the darkest days of our nation's history.