American History: October ’97 Letters

8/11/1997 • American History Archives, Jackie Robinson


Mark Dunkelman’s article on Sergeant Amos Humiston in your May/June 1997 issue has an interesting sidebar. While it is true that the monument to Humiston is “the only one on the battlefield to an individual enlisted man” who fought at Gettysburg, there is another statue of an enlisted man, a seated bronze of a drummer-boy private, located outside the Visitors’ Center.

Albert Woolson served with Companies “C” and “D” of the First Minnesota Heavy Artillery from the fall of 1864 until the end of the war in 1865. When Woolson died at age 109 on August 2, 1956, he was the last Union veteran of the Civil War.

Patrick J. Ripley
Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan


I would like to add an extra bit to the first-rate article on Vinnie Ream and her Lincoln statue in your July/August 1997 issue.

Mark Twain, in his 1873 book The Gilded Age (co-authored with Charles Dudley Warner), described the statue as “. . . Mr. Lincoln, as petrified by a young lady artist . . . .” Twain added that “you might take his marble emancipation proclamation, which he holds out in his hand and contemplates, for a folded napkin . . . .”

That hand was empty for many years, for the “napkin” went missing about the turn of the twentieth century, perhaps from theft or vandalism. A new marble copy of the proclamation was put in its place at a ceremony on April 16, 1962, the one-hundredth anniversary of slavery’s abolition in the District of Columbia.

John Lockwood
Washington, D.C.


I thoroughly enjoyed William Kashatus’s article on Jackie Robinson [March/April 1997 issue]. However, it should be pointed out that Branch Rickey had nothing to do with the trading of Robinson’s contract to the New York Giants in 1956 (it was more than talk, Robinson was dealt, for a pitcher named Dick Littlefield). By that time, Rickey was running the Pittsburgh Pirates, Walter O’Malley having bought out Rickey’s stock in the Dodgers following the 1950 season. With Robinson’s career obviously on the downside, O’Malley felt safe in trading the aging star, whom he disliked. Nevertheless, O’Malley and his general manager, Emil “Buzzy” Bavasi, took plenty of heat from both fans and the New York press when the trade was announced in December 1956.

Vincent Esposito
East Northport, New York


Bryan Ethier’s interview with Henry Aaron was very interesting. Both “Hammering Hank” and Jackie Robinson were great ball players. Yet, Babe Ruth still sets the standard, so far as home run hitters are concerned. It is highly probable that neither Henry Aaron nor Roger Maris would have surpassed the Babe’s numbers had the same rules applied today, as when Ruth played.

For some reason, sports writers have not emphasized that until some time in the 1930s, a baseball hit over the fence, inside the foul pole (fair), which then sliced to the foul side of the foul pole before it hit the seats, was a foul ball. Unfortunately, no records were ever kept of Ruth’s long fair, then foul balls. So, as I said, he is still the standard.

Robert L. Wichterman
Lancaster, Pennsylvania