January 26: Abner Doubleday (1893)

In January of 1852 at a temporary foundry built on the ellipse, sculptor Clark Mills was completing his castings for the Andrew Jackson statue to be placed in Lafayette Square. Three blocks east at the Church of the Epiphany on G Street, Captain Abner Doubleday (U.S.A.) and Mary Hewitt were getting married. Doubleday was destined to become a career army officer. His grandfather had fought in the American Revolution and his father had fought in the War of 1812. Following graduation from West Point in the Class of 1842, Doubleday saw action in the Mexican and Seminole Wars.


The Civil War brought Doubleday some of his finest moments. When Fort Sumter came under Confederate attack, Doubleday gave the order to fire the first Union cannon shot in its defense – the beginning of the Civil War. He also played a pivotal role in the early fighting at Gettysburg. Later, Doubleday rode with President Lincoln on the train to Gettysburg to dedicate the cemetery there. After the war, Doubleday obtained a patent on the cable car railway in San Francisco that still runs there today. His role in the invention of baseball is questionable at best. A January 1864 entry in Epiphany’s register records that “Mrs. General Doubleday” stood as a sponsor at the baptism of the son of General George Sykes. Sykes and Doubleday had been classmates at West Point a quarter of a century earlier.

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