Doubleday, Abner (1819–1893)

By: Paul H. Carlson

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Abner Doubleday, military officer, son of Ulysses F. and Hester (Donnelly) Doubleday, was born at Ballston Spa, New York, on June 26, 1819. He attended school at Auburn and Cooperstown, where he prepared for a career in civil engineering. A long-standing tradition claimed that he originated the game of baseball, but recent scholarship has established that he played no role in the history of the sport. He worked as a surveyor from 1836 to 1838 and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1842. He served under Gen. Zachary Taylor in the Mexican War. In 1852 he married Mary Hewitt of Baltimore.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Doubleday fired the first Union gun in defense of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861. He was promoted later to major general of volunteers and fought in many battles, including the second battle of Manassas, Sharpsburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, before a transfer took him to Washington, D.C. After the war he was promoted to colonel in the regular army and transferred to California, where he obtained the charter for the first San Francisco cable street railway. By December 1869, before any significant construction got under way, he had sold his interests and become colonel of the all-black Twenty-fourth United States Infantry regiment in Texas.

Doubleday did not assume his new duties until April 1871. At that time headquarters of the Twenty-fourth Infantry was at Fort McKavett, on the San Saba River in what is now Menard County. Regiments in Texas at the time rarely assembled but were scattered among the western frontier posts. In 1871 companies of Doubleday's Twenty-fourth were stationed in several of the more remote posts in West Texas, including forts Bliss, Clark, Davis, Duncan, McKavett, Quitman, and Stockton. They did little fighting, but Doubleday kept busy traveling between posts and overseeing general police duties. He ordered repairs, supervised the improvement of sanitary conditions, and inspected facilities. In August 1872, acting on orders, he transferred his headquarters to Fort Brown in the Rio Grande valley. From there he scattered his troops by companies among forts along the river.

After he became seriously ill of a stomach disorder Doubleday applied for and received an extended medical leave. He left Texas in June 1873, and because his condition did not improve, in December he retired from the army; he then made his home in Mendham, New Jersey. He died in 1893 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Paul H. Carlson, "Baseball's Abner Doubleday on the Texas Frontier, 1871–1873," Military History of Texas and the Southwest 12 (1974).
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Sports (Baseball)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Paul H. Carlson, “Doubleday, Abner,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994