On Saturday, August 20, the Portsmouth Athenaeum will transport you back to the years immediately following the American Civil War. Once again, the Athenaeum has partnered with the Essex Base Ball Association to bring vintage base ball to Portsmouth, NH. The Portsmouth Rockingham’s will host the Whipple Base Ball Club of Kittery for a double-header at historic Leary Field in downtown Portsmouth.
The Rockingham’s and the Whipple Club are members of the Essex Base Ball Organization, an group dedicated to presenting base ball as it was played in its formative years. Both teams are named after actual teams that played in coastal New Hampshire and Maine in the 1860s. The teams play in period uniforms and utilize 1864 rules. The double-header starts at noon.
Adding to the civil war period theme for the day, the 12th New Hampshire Regiment Serenade Band will perform a concert of period music before the game. The band recreates a typical small brass band that was a standard part of a civil war regiment and will be performing period music on period instruments. The band will appear in the typical Union Army uniform and dress of the day. The original 12th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry Regiment had a distinguished record of service during the Civil War, including during the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. A monument to the 12th New Hampshire was erected in Gettysburg in 1888.
The repertoire of the current Serenade Band includes waltzes, polkas, gallops, quicksteps and love songs of the time. The program also include commentary on the instruments and the many roles bandsmen played during the war including providing entertainment for the troops, playing for the wounded in hospitals and providing music for various military functions.
Further adding to the period theme, on display throughout the day at Leary Field will be the recently restored Kearsarge Steam Fire Engine No. 3, a coal-fired, horse-drawn engine that served the City of Portsmouth for nearly a half-century beginning in 1870. The Kearsarge is famous for its role in fighting the Great Boston Fire of 1872 when it was loaded on a train and transported to Boston. It is credited with saving the South Meeting House. After its retirement from service, the Kearsrage, which was manufactured by the Amoskeag Machine Company in Manchester, went into hibernation. For years it sat on a farm in Stratham. It was then moved to Manchester, then bought by a collector and, finally, reacquired by the City in 2012. For the last four years, it has undergone a painstaking restoration in Maine. It returned to Portsmouth less than one month ago.
The appearance of the Kearsarge on August 20th will be its first public event since returning to Portsmouth. Portsmouth Fire Chief, Steven Achilles, author of the book “Portsmouth Fire Fighting,” will be on hand throughout the day to answer questions about the fire engine.
The schedule of events begins at 10:00 am with the concert by the 12th New Hampshire Regiment Serenade Band. It will be followed by a children’s demonstration and an explanation of the 1864 rules at 11:30 am with the double-headed to commence at noon. Following the games, members of the public are invited to join the players at a reception at Federal Cigar Bar at 36 Market Street in Portsmouth.
The August 20th program is made possible by the generous support of Federal Cigar Bar.