Native Philadelphian Cherokee Fisher: From Andersonville Prison to Major League Baseball

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William C. “Cherokee” Fisher was born in Philadelphia in November 1844. As a young man he desired an opportunity to defend his country in the American Civil War, so he enlisted for a three-year term on October 11, 1862, as a private in Company A of the 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, also known as the 152nd Pennsylvania Volunteers. This company was recruited in his hometown of Philadelphia. His name is listed in the Register of Pennsylvania Volunteers, held in the Pennsylvania State Archives (Record Group 19, Series 65).

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While serving in the Union Army along the East Coast, Fisher was captured on April 20, 1864, by Confederate forces at Plymouth, North Carolina, with 20 other members of his company including his captain. The prisoners were sent to Georgia and interned at Andersonville Prison. Many of the captives from his company died under the harsh conditions they experienced at Andersonville. Fisher, however, endured and survived and was eventually exchanged on December 8, 1864. Thereafter, he returned to his regiment and was mustered out of service along with the remainder of his company at Fort Monroe, Virginia, on July 11, 1865.

After the war, Fisher began playing baseball at various levels during the game’s formative years. He played for the West Philadelphias (1867), the Cincinnati Buckeyes (1868), the Troy Haymakers (1869–1870) and the Chicago Dreadnaughts (1870).

Noted for the speed of his fastball in a period of baseball history that required pitchers to throw underhand, Fisher had progressed to the highest level of the game – the major leagues – by 1871, when he started with the Rockford Forest Citys. After that, he was with the Baltimore Canaries (1872), the Athletics of Philadelphia (1873) and the Hartford Dark Blues (1874). In 1875 he was back in Philadelphia playing for the city’s White Stockings. In the first year of the National League, 1876, he was with the Cincinnati Reds. Then he played for the Chicago White Stockings in 1877 and the Providence Grays in 1878.

Fisher was primarily a right-handed pitcher with an unimpressive won-lost record of 56-84. He is credited with giving up the first home run in National League history to Ross Barnes of the Chicago White Stockings on May 2, 1876. He also played in numerous games as an outfielder and in a couple dozen as a third baseman. He compiled a career major league batting average of .236.

Fisher was reported to be a frequent imbiber of alcohol during his playing days, and one has to wonder if the horrors he endured in Andersonville Prison were the cause of his dissipation. He applied for an invalid pension related to his Civil War service, first in 1873 and again in 1910.

Fisher was ignominiously accused of throwing baseball games for money. He admitted to doing so at least once. In early 1877 he confessed that he accepted a $100 bribe to throw a game on September 18, 1876, while playing for the semiprofessional Milwaukee club. He played in only two additional major league games over the span of the next two years following the scandal. After his baseball career was over, Fisher became a fireman with the Chicago Fire Department in Illinois for several decades. He died on a trip to New York on September 26, 1912.


Richard C. Saylor is an archivist for the Pennsylvania State Archives and author of the national award-winning book Soldiers to Governors: Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans Who Became State Leaders.