The cricketer who fell in the American Civil War

Kevin E. Boller recounts the life and untimely death of Walter S. Newhall, the first international cricketer to be killed in time of war

Kevin E. Boller recounts the life and untimely death of Walter S. Newhall, who had the dubious distinction of being the first international cricketer to be killed in time of war

Walter S. Newhall, © The Cricketer
It was a cold blustery afternoon on Friday, December 18, 1863, when Captain Walter S. Newhall of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry urged his mount forward into a small stream swollen by recent rain near the Rappahannock River in northern Virginia. Seconds later the animal became mired and began to struggle. Sensing danger, Newhall attempted to dismount but the horse reared up and tossed him into the fast flowing water where he unfortunately drowned.

Some 30 minutes later the lifeless body of Captain Newhall was recovered from the turbulent stream. The incident was a minor affair in a bloody civil war that claimed the lives of 617,528 men, but it marked the death of the first international cricketer in time of war.

Walter Symonds Newhall was born at Philadelphia on October 31, 1841 and from an early age he displayed outstand- ing prowess at the sport of cricket. During the summer of 1859 he showed the stuff of which he was made by scoring 549 runs for the Young America Cricket Club in the Philadelphia competition and set local tongues wagging when he scored 105 against the Delphian Cricket Club.

As a result, at the age of 18 he was chosen to play for the United States against Canada at Toronto on August 3-4, 1859 but he failed to get going and was dismissed for one and nought. He was also included in the American line-up for the match of 1860, which was played at Hoboken, NJ, and fared better, scoring 11 and 27 as the US won by five wickets.

Newhall also turned out on October 3-5, 1859 for 22 Gentlemen of the United States of America at Hoboken against the famous English touring side led by Nottingham professional George Parr, He made modest scores of five and six but was selected for the 22 Gentlemen of Philadelphia who played the tourists on October 10-14. He again found the going difficult and was dismissed for three and nought. His fielding in this match was considered top class and the Englishmen were most impressed. In 1860 several prominent baseball players challenged him to a throwing contest and their best man lost badly when Newhall hurled the ball for a distance of 113 yards.

When the American Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861, Walter S. Newhall answered the call to arms and joined the bodyguard of Major-General John C. Fremont USA with the rank of Second Lieutenant on August 5,186 1. He took part in the Missouri campaigns against Major-General Sterling Price CSA and was promoted to First Lieutenant on September 10, 1861.

Major-General Fremont's bodyguard was disbanded in December 1861 and Newhall joined the Army of the Potomac, led by Major-General George B. McClellan USA, on January 13, 1862 with the rank of Second Lieutenant in the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry.

He took part in the Battle of Williams- burg on May 5, which was fought between the armies of McClellan and the famous Confederate officer Major-General J. E. B. (Jeb) Stuart CSA. He also participated in the Battle of Fair Oakes, which took place on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia on May 31 to June 1 between the armies of McClellan and General Joseph E. Johnston CSA. During this battle Johnston was severely wounded and the President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, appointed General Robert E. Lee CSA to take over the command of the army of northern Virginia.

The action came thick and fast for Newhall around this time. He fought under Brigadier-General William W. Averell USA at the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 4, 1862 which was contested between the armies of Lee and McClellan. During this period the Union Army in Virginia was being harassed by Lieutenant-

General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson CSA and Newhall stated in letters to his parents that Jackson was by far the most feared of the Confederate generals.

On September 5,1862 he was promoted to the rank of captain but spent several weeks back home in Philadelphia re- covering from a virus. Upon his return to duty the months passed quietly with routine army patrols.

General Robert E. Lee CSA invaded Maryland in mid-1863 and in early June he entered Pennsylvania. He was pursued by Major-General George G. Meade of the Union Army and the two forces met at the famous Battle of Gettysburg on June 1-3,1863. Newhall was present as the historic encounter unfolded.

On the first two days of the battle he played little part but on the third day he led a cavalry charge and was severely wounded when struck in the face by the lance of a Confederate standard bearer.

Following the Battle of Gettysburg, he spent some time at home recuperating and returned to camp at the end of August. He then took part in some minor skirmishes until his tragic death by drowning not far from the town of Warrenton in northern Virginia on December 18, 1863. The following article apeared on the front page of The New York Times on Sunday, December 20, 1863.

Capt. Newhall, formerly of the Third Pennsylvania cavalry, but at the time of his death Acting Adjutant-General, on Gen. Gregg's Staff, was drowned last night, while crossing a small creek this side of the Rappahannock. He had just been to headquarters to have his leave of absence signed, and wasreturningto his quarters when the sad accident occurred.

In later years the Newhall family emerged as one of the most prominent cricket playing families in the history of the sport. No less than six members represented the United States of America against Canada, England, Ireland and Australia between 1859 and 1912. During the match between the United States and Canada at Nicetown, Pennsylvania on September 13-14, 1880 cricket history , was made when four Newhall brothers (George, Daniel, Robert and Charles) appeared for the US.