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Diarist in 8th Minnesota Mentions Ballplaying 4 Times – Maybe 5 Times

Salience Peripheral
Tags Civil War
Location North Dakota
City/State/Country: ND, United States

Lewis C. Paxson left Pennsylvania in 1862 to teach school in Lake City MN, joining the 8th MN in August of that year.

He very briefly refers to “playing ball four times: on March 16th 1863, September 16, 1863, September 22, 1863, and March 2, 1864. His most expansive entries were his first, “There was ball playing upon the west camp” [p. 113], and that for September 22, “Played leap frog. Played ball.” He called the game “baseball” in the 1864 entry.

Paxson also referred to wicket: On April 30 he wrote “We were mustered. Cronin hurt in playing wicket by being run against.” His entry for the next day was “The mail did not come. Cronin dies.” Caution: It is unconfirmed that “playing wicket” in this case referred to ballplaying. It seems plausible that wicket was played in the 1850s-1860s in MN, but it hardly seems a mortally risky game, and it seems possible that “playing wicket” has a military meaning here. Input from readers on this issue is most welcome.

Source: Collections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, Part II – Volume II (Tribune, Bismarck ND, 1908), pages 113, 115, 123, 132. It appears that Paxson’s service time from 1862 to 1865 was spent at Fort Abercrombie, ND, about 30 miles S of Fargo. The Fort, evidently meant to protect Minnesota territory, had been attacked by the Sioux in the Dakota War of 1862.

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