To CBS Sunday Morning and Ken Burns,
I am a long-time fan of CBS Sunday Morning and Ken Burns. Given his typical thoroughness with history, I was surprised at an oversight in his “Baseball is a Mirror of our Country” piece that aired on your show.
“The first real progress in civil rights since the Civil War took place… on a baseball diamond…” The oversight here is that marksmanship programs started just after the Civil War to better train up to the capabilities rifled small arms offered provided equal opportunities for competitors decades before this.
The U.S. Army began the Excellence-in-Competition (EIC) program in 1884, first creating Distinguished Rifleman and then Distinguished Pistol Shot gold badges to award competitors finishing in the top ten percent at EIC events. Buffalo Soldiers were equal participants and noteworthy competitors.
The first shooter to become Double Distinguished, earning both badges, was Cpt. Horace Wayman Bivins, earning the distinction in 1903. A member of the 10th Cavalry Regiment and decorated for valor for his actions at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba, accounts of his history “reads like fiction from the imagination of a pulp magazine writer” as one newspaper described him. The Army Reserve Postal Match has an event named in his honor.
The EIC program was managed by the U.S. Army Department of Civilian Marksmanship and then the Civilian Marksmanship Program and has been an open competition for military and civilian shooters. It is the only sport mandated by federal law, per Public Law Title 36, U.S. Code § 40727.
This is history worthy of your attention. I’ve sent articles on the history of Captain Horace Wayman Bivins and the Army’s marksmanship Equal Opportunities.
John M. Buol Jr.
USARCMP Public Affairs/Postal Match Program