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Oct 15

William E “Bill” Stearns

Born 26 June 1871, in the District. Stearns went on to play five seasons in the National Association, the predecessor to the National League. Although his major league statistics are marginal, 13-64 with an ERA of 4.28, he was the youngest player in the association in 1871 and played on some bad teams.

In 1871 he was 2-0 with the Washington Olympics. One year later with the Washington Nationals he was 0-11. He improved to 7-25 in 1873 with the Washington Blue Legs. Futility returned in 1874 when he was 3-14 with the Hartford Dark Blues. At this point Stearns began to see more playing time in the outfield. His major league career ended with the 1875 Washington Nationals. His record was 1-14 and he was just 22 years old.

After his major league career was over he remained active in local baseball and even took a turn in the box for the 1877 Washington Nationals. Stearns also umpired and was a respected and impartial arbitrator.

In the late 1800s the District was home to a Light infantry militia unit. Stearns probably served in that unit. Following the outbreak of the Spanish American War Stearns joined the 1st DC Volunteers. The 1st District of Columbia Volunteer Infantry was mustered into service in May 1898 in Washington, DC.

The regiment was sent to Cuba as part of the reinforcements sent to support US soldiers already in Cuba. The unit left the US on 6 July 1898 arriving in Cuba on 9 July 1898. This six days after the decisive Naval Battle of Santiago. The unit remained in Cuba until 23 August 1898 returning to the US on 28 August 1898.

Stearns died on active duty and is buried at Arlington Cemetery. This is the posting from Arlington Cemetery reference Stearns and seventeen others, “Interspersed among the graves of the soldiers of the Civil War are the tombs of eighteen young heroes, who enlisted in the First District of Columbia Volunteers, and went to Santiago as part of the reinforcements for Shafter’s army. Some of them died in Cuba, others at Camp Wikoff, and still others lingered to pass away in their homes at Washington.”The duty roster for the 1st DC Volunteers shows that all casualties were from yellow fever. Stearns died, 30 December 1898. US forces suffered horribly from Yellow Fever and some including military leaders including Theodore Roosevelt requested the removal of the army because of it.