SHILOH NATIONAL MILITARY PARK — A baseball found in the 19th century at the site of the Battle of Shiloh has been unveiled prior to the opening of a new baseball museum and archive on Opening Day.
The ball was found in 1862 in Shiloh, Tenn., at the site of one of the Civil War's bloodiest battles. Nearly 10,700 Confederate soldiers and more than 13,000 Union soldiers died in the battle, fought April 6–7, 1862.
The ball is inscribed with the phrase "Picked Up on the Battle Field at Shiloh by G.F. Hellum." Hellum was an African-American who worked for the Union Army as an orderly before enlisting as a soldier in the 69th Colored Infantry, according to Slate.
The ball is a "lemon peel ball," softer and looser than baseballs today, and stitched with twine in a figure-eight pattern.
Baseball was a common pastime among Civil War soldiers on both sides, sometimes uniting Confederate and Union soldiers who would rather have been playing ball than fighting one another. Prisoners of war sometimes formed teams and played their captors.
Although baseball was well-established in New York by the time of the Civil War, the soldiers' return home at the end of the war helped it become popular throughout the newly reunited nation.
The lemon peel ball, along with other baseball-related artifacts, will be on display beginning April 1.