We're talking about the battle where Bowie, Crockett and other gallant men fell and not the automobile rental firm. Here's one Mexican's account of the battle:
“These men were defiant to the last. From the windows and parapets of the low building, when taunted by Mexican troops, they shouted back their defiance in the liveliest terms. A tall man, with flowing hair, was seen firing from the same place on the parapet during the entire siege. He wore a buckskin suit and a cap all of a pattern entirely different from those worn by his comrades. This man would kneel or lie down behind a low parapet, rest his long gun and fire, and we all learned to keep at a good distance when he was seen to make ready to shoot. He rarely missed his mark and when he fired he always rose to his feet and calmly reloaded his gun seemingly indifferent to the shots fired at him by our men... This man I later learned was known as ‘Kwokey’ (Crockett).”
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September 15, 2006, 01:21 AM
Hello Mattie. Please don't feed your younger brother syrup of snail. The recipe was posted in Rambling Anecdotes (TFL) for historical purposes and is intended to increase our appreciation for advances in medical science.
A friend who has written a book has finally received feedback from a publisher after 6 months of waiting. The publisher (a major university press) delayed responding because one reviewer hasn't finished writing the review. The other reviewer did and acclaimed the book a highly readable and academic work destined to become a classic (see what good company I keep?). I'm delighted as this friend has been very supportive and has graciously given me access to a private library of over 2,000 volumes. Many of the volumes are distinct from the volumes of my modeset Civil War library (over four filled six-shelf bookcases). Enough talk. Time for your bedtime story.
It's been said that no single bullet has won a battle, yet alone a war. However, a well placed bullet certainly contributes to success as it did during this one siege.
“They confessed that since the opening of the third parallel our small-arms fire alone cost them between three and four hundred killed and wounded and that they could never open their embrasures without losses. The reason why they threw so few shells during the latter part of the siege was that their best bombardier, a major of the artillery, was killed and that they had no one who could make good fuses, of which they were in need. It was because of this that most of their shells failed to explode.”
October 4, 2006, 09:11 PM
Well, I was in The Old Dominion State (if you don't know what state that is, check out the song, The Bonnie Blue flag) last week and did quite a bit of reading and visited some battlefields. Because of Thursday's rain last week, I missed out on a talk on Confederate Emancipation. However, I did visit Petersburg which, while known for the Civil War Siege, was also the scene of Revolutionary War activity and there are plenty of markers in the area. Instead of "Washington slept here" you have "Tarleton wuz here." Tarleton is the British officer who the Tarlington character of the colour talkie, The Patriot, is loosely based on. BTW, there's a great coffee shop in Petersburg, Java Mio. Their apple strudel is outstanding and try their pecan tart while you're at it. You can never be too fat. :p Enough rambling. Here's some hystery.
Now, everyone here knows who Patrick Ferguson is, right? He's the fellow who invented a breech-loading rifle used in limited numbers during the American Revolution and was mentioned by others in this thread (thank you guys). Reputed to be the best shot in the British Army, he died at King's Mountain, South Carolina leading his loyalist troops against the backwoods men of the Carolinas. Anywhere, here's something from a British officer who boasted to be a superior to Ferguson in marksmanship.
“The great skill which, from years of practice, (even from a lad when educated in Germany,) I had acquired in the knowledge of a rifle-gun, and the precision and perfection to which I had brought the art of shooting with a rifle, was well known to the army, and Sir Guy had been informed of it. At dinner, he said to me, sitting opposite to him, ‘Major, I have been told that you are a most skillful marksman with a rifle-gun - I have heard of astonishing feats that you have performed in shooting.’ Thanking him for the compliment, I told his Excellency, that ‘I was vain enough to say, with truth, that many officers in the army had witnessed my adroitness.’ I then began to inform Sir Guy how my deceased friend, Colonel Ferguson, and myself, had practiced together, who, for skill and knowledge of that weapon, had been so celebrated, and that Ferguson had ever acknowledged the superiority of my skill to his, after one particular day’s practice, when I shot three balls into one hole.”
You'll learn his identity in Chapter 2. BTW, on Saturday I'll be leaving for Fishers, Indiana. Conner Prairie is hosting its Arms Making Workshop. I'm taking a powder horn making class from Lee Larkin. Lee wrote a couple of books on the scrimshawed powder horn and while I've made several horns already, I'm always interested in learning more techniques. Will be off-line and hanging out with the flintlock crowd all week so behave yourselves. ;)
October 8, 2006, 11:57 PM
Just wanted to say Thank You Sir - again.
October 21, 2006, 01:18 AM
Armed civilians could be a serious threat to rear echelon troops. While somewhat glorified, here's an account of one self-appointed partisan:
"A gentleman by the name of Taylor, residing in Va., whose property had been destroyed by the invaders, has killed no less than eighteen of the Ohio vandals in that and the adjoining counties. As they advance through the mountains the invaders will hear the crack of the rifle from every thicket, and learn too late for their personal safety that the back-woodsmen can never be subjugated."
When I was at Conner Prairie the other week, I spoke with an old instructor of mine, H. House, a self-taught blacksmith and gunsmith. Years ago he told me that his grandpappy use to visit the old Confederate veterans at the Veterans' Home. During our meeting he asked me about the book and shared a story about how the Union wanted to capture New Madrid. To capture one key island, they wanted to land men on it. One Confederate sharpshooter held them off for several hours. Defiant, he waited until the gunboats belched their cannon balls and shells at him before he would return fire with his rifle. Finally a ball struck his tree and he was seen to run off. The Union soldiers stood up and cheered their gallant foeman. The next day, when the Confederates surrendered, the sharpshooter stepped forward. They learned that his nose had been shot off and hence he fled. Well, after House told me this story, I told him that I too read about it and found documentation for it, and that it would appear in chapter 13. Anyway, I asked H. House about a certain photo he had told me about. I had been searching for several years for a photo of one particular sharpshooter. When he identified the (out-of-print) book, I managed to find a copy. With a bit of luck, that old photo will appear in my book. Sometimes research is slow, but patience rewarded conveys a sense of satisfaction rarely rivalled.
Happiness is knowing your work is thorough.
Finally, I'm almost finished with a French & Indian era powder horn. Have to finish the scrimshaw and it'll be done.
October 29, 2006, 04:22 PM
Here's an account of one rebel sharpshooter and the fate of his rifle. A sniper can't use a tree as hide since escape, once detected, is impossible. The use of trees dates the way up to WW II by the Russians and especially the Japanese.
"Some very heavy skirmishing today, and from reports brought in, several of our men were killed, though none of our regiment, and a good many wounded... Among those who were wounded today, Lt. Johnson and Shoemaker of our regiment, the former receiving a ball through the fleshy part of his arm, the latter wounded in the thigh, but nearly [all the rest] of them seriously. I learn one of them was shot while skirmishing by one of the rebel sharpshooters who was in a tree. Our men discovered him, fired a volley at him which tumbled him out of the tree, and his friends bore him off dead, but our men rushed up in time to capture his gun, a long range rifle with globe sights.”
November 5, 2006, 01:08 PM
The following is not domain of Mars and rather, is more within the realm of Diana, Goddess of the Divine Hunt.
When Henry Rhoads was building his log home his neighbors were few and far between, but all came with a helping hand and a happy heart to take part in his "house raising." These old-time house-raisings were attended as much for the sake of their social features as for the purpose of building a house.
One afternoon, while the crowd was busily engaged on the roof of of this building, a large bear leisurely wandered into sight. When the men saw the animal they stopped work and immediately started on a bear chase. Some ran after him with axes and others with guns. The women of the wilderness always lent a helping hand. In this instance one woman followed in the bear chase with a pitch fork. After an exiting time old Bruin was finally killed. That night a large bearskin was stretched on the new log wall and barbecued bearmeat was served in abundance at all the other meals prepared for the house-raising party.
But the noise made by the bear-chasers evidently did not scare all the wild animals out of the neighborhood. About a year after that event Henry Rhoads, while walking in his wood, which is still sanding a short distance north of the old house, espied a large drove of wild turkeys. He slowly raised his flint-lock rifle for the purpose of shooting a fine gobbler strutting under a white oak within close range. When he was about ready to pull the trigger he heard a rustling in the dry leaves behind him. Rhoads looked around, and to his great surprise saw a huge panther preparing to spring upon him. Without stopping to take sure aim he fired a the threatening beast. Luckily, the bullet hit the animal between the eyes and killed it instantly. A half-hour later Rhoads walked back home with the panther skin on his arms and his trustly flint-lock on his shoulder.
These old flint-locks were, as a rule, fine-sighted and unerring. They were slow but sure, although they did not kill every panther they were aimed at. Compared to modern rifles they were slow in all the operations that preceeded and resulted in the discharge of the bullet."
In conducting my own research, I've read through hundreds of memoirs, journals, diaries but also obscure histories and period books. Sometimes it's the only way to find some otherwise lost tidbit of info. The above passage won't appear in the book, but does display a coolness under stress and the virtue of snap-shooting.
November 13, 2006, 10:18 PM
Went to Sacramento this Veterans' Day weekend to attend the Civil War Naval Conference. The speakers included Prof. Craig Symonds from Anapolis (author of "Stonewall of the West"), Kevin Foster (National Park Service Historian), Dennis Ringle (Chief Curator for the Mariners' Museum, Norfolk), Jim Stanbery and finally, Ed Bearss (National Park Service Chief Historian Emeritus). We had terrific lectures given by all of the speakers on various aspects of naval warfare. Jim Standbery discussed the naval strategies on both sides. Kevin Foster discussed international law & diplomacy (and answered a question that has been bothering me about destruction of captured ships). Dennis Ringle covered the blockade and the sailor's life. Ed Bearss covered the raising of the Cairo as well as Vicksburg and New Orleans. Craig Symonds discussed coastal defense, technology and finally various aspects of riverine warfare.
Before our dinner banquet, we were entertained by the 5th California Volunteer Band (they galvinize into the 34th Virginia) which played period music. A squad of zouaves (114th Penn) came in and drilled to the music. After dinner, Ed Bearss delivered his talk on the Cairo. Afterwards if folks wanted, there was plenty of socializing (and posing of more questions).
The final day had a couple more lectures followed by a panel discussion where members of the audience could ask the experts a question. Wonderful opportunity to ask that pesky question that bothered you for years. Next year the conference will be in Las Vegas. If you're remotely interested, attend! Thank you Sacramento Civil War Round Table.
Enough small talk. Now, onto even smaller talk.
Don't you just hate 'skeeters when they buzz your ear while you're asleep? It causes me to wake and then I become fixated at it and can't sleep until I kill it. Today's Bedtime Story discusses a different type of 'skeeter. While the winged 'skeeter can kill you with malaria, the other 'skeeter can be quicker (and very painful). So, here's our lead 'skeeter story. Enjoy.
“The rebel pickets are within rifle distance of us, and amuse themselves by firing at us unceasingly. While walking my beat on the parapet last Friday, I counted twenty odd balls fired at me from the telescopic rifle of a Secesh sharpshooter. None of them hit, but some came near enough to singe the hair off. It is a trifle annoying to march back and forth on guard duty while a marked shot is within easy reach, earnestly endeavoring to ‘fix’ you.... Some of our guard were not so lucky; two were shot through the legs, and one in the back. One man in Company B was knocked down by a spent ball about the same time. Indeed, the firing became so harassing that a regiment of skirmishers was sent out, and a very pretty fight ensued. The Rebs, although driven back, rallied in force in the woods and sent our fellows home with a flea in their ear.”
November 23, 2006, 12:31 AM
or sometimes one is better off staying in bed. Unfortunately, in the service, you can't tell the sergeant to shove off and that you don't want to fight today. One problem with the blackpowder sharpshooter is the tell tale smoke that reveals his location. Soon, every loophole is known and watched...
“It not infrequently happens that sharpshooters in each army are engaged in firing at each other and succeed ultimately in killing, by putting a ball through the hole made just large enough for the muzzle of the rifle, while the opposite party is looking through to watch the effect of his own shot. Some little time since we had an account from Tennessee of a case in which an expert rebel and Union sharpshooter watched each other for three days, while the Union man was looking through, a ball passed into the hole and directly through his eye and brain, of course killing him instantly. The correspondent of the New York Commercial before Petersburg relates another case which occurred on Monday. A soldier got sight of a rebel sharpshooter and fired through one of the rifle holes on the breastworks, merely large enough to put the muzzle of his musket through and sight his object. Having fired he withdrew his weapon to observe what effect he had made when, from a distance of about three hundred yards, a ball passed through the rifle hole entering his head and killing him instantly.”
The latest issue of The Skirmish Line (N-SSA) has an article that may interest you. If you don't belong, find a member and ask him/her to share his/her copy.
Happy Turkey Day everyone out there!
December 8, 2006, 11:56 PM
Here's something from one of our family feuds (war).
“We marched to Charleston... Capt S. also with his and Captain C.'s Troop made an excursion into the country and attacked a body of the enemy at Snipe’s Plantation – we approached the place at sunrise in the morning, found the gate leading to the house secured with a large ox chain, and the fences each side made very strong, which it took some time to demolish under a heavy fire from the enemy. We at last succeeded, and the enemy retreated back into a large rice field, where they were over taken and very few of them escaped with their lives, and only one man taken prisoner, who was so shame fully mangled that we could not bring him away - one of the enemy, who had nearly gained a wood, discovered that no person was following him but myself, waited for me, and when I had got at a certain distance, leveled his rifle. I expected at least he would have killed my horse. To turn from him was to me certain death. I therefore dashed towards him. He fired and missed me and my horse and before he could raise his rifle he was a dead man....”
So what went wrong with the planning? Two things come to my meagre mind. First, poor ambush position. Unless you have a force large enough to hold an area, don't spring your ambush from a position where you're trapped. Second, bad escape route or what escape route? You've got to have it preplanned so you can shoot & scoot.
December 23, 2006, 02:35 PM
It was not uncommon for sharpshooters to serve as screeners, either as the vanguard, rear-guard or flankers for the army. Here's one example.
[E]arly in the morning, an attack was made on the lines around Hagerstown, which developed a hornet’s nest of sharpshooters armed with telescopic rifles, who could pick a man’s ear off half-a-mile away. The bullets from their guns had a peculiar sound, something like the buzz of a bumble-bee, and the troopers’ horses would stop, prick up their ears and gaze in the direction whence the hum of those invisible messengers could be heard. Unable to reach them mounted, we finally deployed along a staked rail fence. The Confederates were behind trees and shocks of grain, at least half-a-mile away. They would get the range so accurately that it was dangerous to stand still a moment. It was possible, however, to dodge the bullets by observing the puffs of smoke from their guns. The distance was so great that the puff was seen some seconds before the report was heard, and before the arrival of the leaden missile.
Have a Merry & safe Christmas folks.
January 7, 2007, 02:43 AM
Here's an account of someone who was almost rendered hours d' combat.
On field-picket on the flank. I barely escaped being shot while on picket to which I had been detached by the regiment that was there on command. We of the picket had our post close by the road behind the fences. In a short time when our sentinel had fired at some Rebel Ld. Ross (Light Horse), some Rebel riflemen came along and shielding themselves behind fences they opened fire and in spite of the distance hit so near us that we did not dare let ourselves be seen standing upright. I imprudently crawled forward a short way, but when I had seen some bullets strike the ground at my feet, and listening to the appeals of my comrades I had finally got up, at the very moment a rifle-ball struck quite deep into the ground just where I had been lying. Heaven had bidden me arise. We got some of our Yagers to cover our post and procured 2 cannons whereupon the Rebels retired.
January 17, 2007, 06:12 PM
Now, most of you who are into sniping have read Major Hesketh Pritchard's book, Sniping in France. Pritchard was but one British officer and is the best known because of the book. If you recall, there's a chapter entitled "The Cat", in which he discusses how they spotted a cat and determined that German officers had a bunker there. Here's another cat storyfrom a letter by another WW I Sniping officer to the boys back at home:
"The ordinary German soldier is a good fellow at bottom - a brave man, doing his duty as a good soldier. I think I see more of him than most, for, unknown to him, I am so constantly watching him, with a first-class telescope. The other day from a high point of view, not 800 yards off, I saw one leave the trench and run out to rescue a cat which was straying in our direction. Of course the cat knew better and wanted to join the British, but Fritz - you must put yourself in Fritz's place - thought it was far better to be a German cat, and so he risked being shot to save the animal. But it was stupid of Fritz all the same, for he showed us in so doing a yellow strip down his trousers enabling us to tell what regiment he belonged to.
"Yes, I see them doing all sorts of things - laughing and talking. Three days ago we had a fall of snow, and we saw them snowballing each other in the rear of their trenches. Well, well, the pity is that we should all be bombing and shooting each other instead of snowballing, all because that awful Kaiser is an ambitious blackguard, and he and his inner circle of Huns have so misled and misguided the wonderful Bosche nation that they now seem almost past praying for. So then we have got to fight, and fight with ever nerve. There can be no excuse for any able-bodied man now. It is a matter of life and death still, but we have not got to hate or despise."
We see several lessons here that are relevant today. First, the duty of the sniper is to observe and report information. The officer observed but didn't shoot. Second, he was devoid of all emotions of hatred. Sniping to him was a science and not an art. There was no room to become emotionally involved in his work. While he could empathize with the German soldier and didn't hate him personally, he knew he still had a duty to perform.
January 26, 2007, 09:08 PM
So, where does the manuscript stand? After severing my relationship with my editor, I recovered the manuscript and incorporated over 30 pages of material that has been gathered since its submission. Furthermore, one suspicious diary entry has been a source of frustration for about three years. Here it is: They are excellent and dangerous shots, and can easily bring a folded bayonet off their leg. Folded bayonet? I knew about spring loaded bayonets mounted on blunderbuses, but not folding bayonets. I consulted many experts and no one offer a plausible explanation. At Yorktown Colonial Park, I asked a couple of the staffers and cited the source and they looked it up, and couldn't figure it out either. I asked a lot of the interpreters at Colonial Williamsburg but they also couldn't respond (many had read that book too but they never picked up on that passage). I contacted the publisher in hopes of contacting the translator. No response. Finally, I found the diary this year and a kind gentlemen emailed me a photo of the page. It was translated by two capable friends (they're acknowledged in my notes) and the mysterious folding bayonet has been solved. You'll see it in the book. So, the text is being spruced up and has to be proof-read again. While it's being proof-read, I'll be shopping for a printer. Eight years is enough. Time to produce something more than articles. BTW, if you don't belong to The Company of Military Historians, you might want to join. They published my last article in the Winter, 2006 issue and will be releasing at least two more articles this year. One will raise eyebrows and the other may get me lynched. As there is no hidden agenda, I stand by my research. Here's the website for The Company of Military Historians. (http://military-historians.org/) Besides, I want to start another book project but I have to finish this one. Enough whining (for which no cheese has been received except via the courtesy of Rich Lucibella) and it's time for a bedtime story. Enjoy:
“On the rebel skirmish line at the east side of a small field, across which the Second Brigade skirmish line extended, was a log cabin in which there was daily posted a rebel sharpshooter who made good use of his opportunities. A picket detail was his special delight, and many a picket marching out to duty was disabled by his unerring rifle. And a soldier going outside of the entrenchments for any purpose was a fair mark. Next to a picket detail he seemed to delight in having a crack at soldiers going out for wood. But wood was necessary, even if it took blood. At length the timber was cleared away, much of it having been cut and carried to camp on the boys’ backs after night. The sharpshooter wounded a number when going out to the skirmish line. To fire at the cabin was useless and he was left undisturbed. Once or twice a gun from Fort W. was turned upon the cabin and a few shots would quiet him for a time, but he soon resumed his vocation.”
February 6, 2007, 09:03 AM
In this following account from the Spanish American War, we learn how observation and teamwork paid off for one cavalry troop.
“Early on the morning of the 3rd of July, before dawn, I was informed that Spanish riflemen had been seen in the moonlight climbing the white palm trunks. Some of the men of the troop which was in the pits were selected for the purpose, and when it got light enough to see they were directed to fire into the tops of the trees, while other men tried to keep down the fire from the Spanish rifle pits.
“While sitting on the edge of the pits next to Tiffany’s (colt) guns, and trying to locate the sharpshooters, Corporal, now Sergeant Hubert, Troop E, being by my side, a ball struck the top of the work between our heads, and from the gash it cut in the earth, I saw where it came from. Directing the corporal how to fire I made a rest for his carbine on my knee, fearing he would be hit if he stood up as the fire was very hot. He fired into a tree and a Spanish sharpshooter fell from it. In this manner the troop killed seven and went to breakfast. For his cool daring upon this occasion Corporal Hubert was made a sergeant.”
There's also another lesson. We've already seen that trees aren't good hides. Once detected, they're death traps. More importantly, don't be seen as the Spaniards were. Even if there's no marksman on the enemy's side, you can count on artillery or some precision guided weapon coming your way if they know where you are.
February 11, 2007, 07:22 PM
Want to seen the first silenced weapon (non-crossbow) that had repeating capability? Get thee down to Carlisle Military History Institute where an Austrian Girandoni air-rifle has been displayed. A gun of this type was carried by Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery.
When I visited the Smithsonian, there was an airgun displayed there as part of the Lewis & Clark exhibit. I began describing the operations to my host and was interrupted by a docent who eavesdropped and wanted to learn more. Spent about ten minutes speaking with her and explaining the gun. It's only because of my research that I learned of it and you'll read a short entry in Chapter 3. In the meantime, enjoy the video.
February 11, 2007, 09:34 PM
Vid woudn't run for me Gary - sounded real interesting too.
I probed and tried to access the .swf file directly but it came up not available.
February 11, 2007, 10:11 PM
Video ran great for me. Great video and thanks for the link!
February 11, 2007, 10:25 PM
Ahaha - tried the page in Firefox and then noticed a download option so used that to snag the .wmv file.
Success - fascinating in the extreme - great Gary and thx.
February 23, 2007, 12:29 AM
Shooting guilds were encouraged in the Holy Roman Empire as a means of providing marksmen with which to fight the Turks. It began spreading throughout the Holy Roman Empire and “[i]n 1645 the Elector Maximilian of Bavaria, equipped three light infantry regiments with rifles, intending to employ them principally in the minor operations of war. Frederic William of Prussia, when preparing for his campaign on the Rhine in 1674, distributed a few riflemen amongst each company of his infantry... In France, the cavalry were supplied with rifled carbines before rifles were issued to the infantry.” How good were these early rifles? Thirty Years’ War soldier Thomas Raymond tells us of the effectiveness of early rifles: “Many are shott in peeping to see what the enemy doe betweene the muskett basketts that stand on topp of the breast worke... Let but the topp on an old hatt appeare betweene the basketts and you shall have presently have 3 or 4 bullets shott into it.” The "basketts" mentioned by Raymond were gabions used in siege warfare.
February 23, 2007, 10:07 PM
Mr. Gary - I am enjoying reading these posts, and think it will take me a while to get through them. In the earlier ones (I'm only up to page 5), you refer to a book - has that become available? I should like to buy a copy for myself and my children.
March 3, 2007, 12:03 PM
About mid-month I'll get the manuscript back and should have all the final changes in by the end of March. Until then, here's one soldier's story of death at the front.
"During the following day, and almost every day since, quite a number of shots were exchanged, and at times the firing was considerable brisk. It was almost certain death for any one to expose himself to view. Occasionally a secesh could be seen scampering over their work as if on an errand of life and death, and I have no doubt they were . My nearest comrade, noticing one bold fellow walking leisurely along in open defiance of our bullets, drew up his faithful Springfield and taking deliberate aim - I fear with malice aforethought and intent to kill - fired. My friend is a good marksman, and as secesh was not seen afterwards, the presumption is that he had an extra hole made through his body. Our vindictiveness had been aroused to an uncommon degree that morning, by the loss of one of our number. A fellow from Co. B, who came out to the reserve to bring some hot coffee, &c., to us, out of curiousity, ventured out to look at the works our men had been erecting during the night, and in less than ten minutes he was brought back a corpse. A ball had passed through his breast near his heart."
March 17, 2007, 01:36 PM
During the Peninsular war, a 5/60 rifleman was ordered by his officer to shot down a man who had been deliberately shooting at him. Instead of obeying his officer, the rifleman shot down an officer of the enemy. The British officer was not happy and demanded an explanation from the rifleman. "It vas more plunder," was the response received. From that observation, one Englishman wrote:
Spoil is the incentive to activity in the German sharpshooter; he may be considered as a long-shot assassin.
March 17, 2007, 08:49 PM
Thank you Gary it has been most enlightening and entertaining as a war of northern aggression buff my self I will look for your book :)
March 27, 2007, 10:53 PM
This past week has kept me busy converting the footnotes to endnotes. This is to accomodate the two column 7 x 10 format of the book. Even with the larger page size, that reduces the overall count by 100 pages and it's still a substantial work.
Among the prisoners taken was a company of sharpshooters, which accompany each brigade. These men are thrown out as skirmishers, to pick off our officers and skirmishers. They were charged upon and captured.
O.K., onto our lesson. Support your sharpshooters. Sharpshooters can operate independently but at times require support. Just like our snipers today, artillery and other units should be able to respond and support them. In the Civil War, one famous general failed this and an entire company was captured. Incensed, he wanted their commander to face a court martial upon exchange. You'll learn about their C.O. and the general in the book.
April 9, 2007, 09:19 PM
I'm sure you've heard of Tim Murphy, the rifleman who shot General Fraser off his horse at Saratoga. Murphy was in excellent company and there were many other riflemen who served under Morgan at the battle. Here's an account of how they devastated the British artillerymen:
“The royal Artillery suffered an astonishing loss in today’s action. One captain is dead; Captain Johns [Jones?] was fatally wounded and died therefrom the next morning. Brigade Major Captain Bloomfield was shot through the cheek, under the tongue. General Phillips’ other adjutants were almost all wounded, as were some of those of General Burgoyne. Somewhat more than thirty non-commissioned officers and cannoneers of the Royal Artillery were killed or wounded, of whom not a single man was less than five feet ten inches tall, all handsome individuals, of whom many died on the field of battle and were laid out in their true five feet eleven inches to six feet. Some lay still with, and some already without consciousness.”
I should get my manuscript back from my reader tomorrow and will start incorporating the final changes when I get home. Have to turn it over to someone for designing the book. As mentioned before, it will be double column format with endnotes instead of footnotes.
On Sunday (Tax Day), I'll be in Washington, D. C. for a couple of days of fun (read that as National Archives) and then I'll visit some battlefields in Virginia and to drop off some published articles of mine. The Company of Military Historians is holding its annual conference in Williamsburg and I'm attending that. So, between this Saturday (4/14) until Tuesday (4/24), I'll be off-line.
April 24, 2007, 01:11 PM
The following is an account by Maj. Henry Kyd Douglas who was directing the
placement of Confederate troops at the base of Culp’s Hill during the battle of Gettysburg:
“I was riding in front of the line on “Ashby” and officers and men cried to me
to dismount. I saw that I was alone on horseback. But I was about to turn
the brigade over to its commander, and then it did not seem proper for a
staff officer to dismount, although I knew I could not go far on horseback
up that breakneck hill. I had given the order to throw some skirmishers to
the front as we moved on, and was pointing with my sword, directing the
line to the left oblique, when suddenly, from behind the trees perhaps a
couple of hundred yards up the heights, there sprang a dozen or more
sharpshooters, and their muzzles seemed trained on me. I fancied I could
look down the barrels and I fancied also they were large enough to crawl
into. There came little puffs of smoke, a rattle of small arms, the sensation
of a tremendous blow and I sank forward on my horse, who ceased his
prancing when my hold was loosened on his bridle reins. The skirmishers
sprang forward, up the rocks after those sharpshooters and several officers
seized my horse and held me on him, taking my sword from my right hand.”
. . . . . .
“I had a severe and ragged wound in my left shoulder, the ball having taken
in with it a clipping from my coat, shirt, and undershirt, which it cut out in
its haste and lodged with its accessories under the clavicle, cutting also
some muscles and paralyzing for a time my left arm. My duty in that battle was over.”
“I Rode With Stonewall” 1940 The University of North Carolina Press
April 27, 2007, 11:27 PM
First, thank you very much muzzlegun for taking the time to share with us something from Henry Kyd Douglas - especially so because I went AWOL for a week and a half.
Now, as to my absence, about a week and a half ago I was in the National Archives digging out info. I found a clue several years ago and finally tracked it down to its conclusion. Afterwards, it was off to Williamsburg to attend the annual conference of The Company of Military Historians. Wow! I met some pretty big names in the community and they're humble and pleasant just like the rest of us. Many were willing to share their research too. I spoke with folks from areas that were covered in my book including the curator of mechanical arts (ahem, guns) at Colonial Williamsburg. Also met the publishers of Museum Restoration Services. They specialize in publishing out-of-print manuals and monographs on guns or military topics. I didn't realize who they were until I went to the flea market and saw their table. Naturally, I dropped some bucks (no will power on my part). When the conference was over, we had field trips (pay of course) to the Military Tattoo in Norfolk, the Virginia War Museum (must see for any blackpowder or gun enthusiast and yes, there's a Flak 88, a M-5 Stuart, a 240 mm Railroad gun and lotsa of other things there). We also went to the Mariner Museum in Norfolk. I visited it years ago and was impressed by the progress. If you want to learn about the Monitor, Virginia (not the Merrimac), ships in general and see the mother of a punt-gun used by market hunters (percussion action and part of the barrel looked like a galvinized chain link fence post), GO!
Now, for this week's offering, here's an edited excerpt from Chapter 7. The Brits learned the hard way in WW I not to stand out amongst the crowd. No more skinny legs (wear baggy puttees) or mustaches (shave like an enlisted man) that would distinguish you as a target. Our soldiers learned it earlier in the Civil War.
The Western Union Armies were much more casual in their attire. As early as 1861, one Michigan sergeant and his officers were aware of the hazards of distinguished dress. “The enemy have again commenced firing at such of our men as show themselves within range. All the officers dress exactly like the men to avoid being singled out. I yesterday pulled off my jacket which is dark blue, with light chevrons, but when I saw we were going I put it on again, thinking my gray shirt might attract the fire of our own men sooner than the chevrons would that of the enemy.” At Port Gibson in Mississippi, Union General M. was known to have thrown “a blanket over his shoulders, that his uniform might not attract bullets, came to the front unattended” and surveyed the ground to plan his attack. When Pvt. P. joined his regiment in 1864, he observed “many of the officers did not wear shoulder-straps at all, except on dress parade or inspection.”
Until next time, safe shooting.
May 2, 2007, 12:56 PM
I was just reading over this and marveled at how many times sharpshooters tried to hide out in trees. This was also tried in WWII as Gung Ho (http://www.epinions.com/content_146539712132) points out.
May 2, 2007, 08:28 PM
Trees were good if you wanted to see and shoot from afar. They served as excellent sharpshooting posts in the American Revolution if the sharpshooter wasn't fighting cavalry. A mounted unit can ride up very fast and then shoot the sharpshooter from his perch before he can descend or skedaddle far. If facing ordinary musket armed (smoothbore and short ranged) infantry, trees were great. You can shoot and get away before they even get close. If however you annoy artillery and they spot you, even a smoothbore gun can easily take out the sharpshooter or even the tree.
Trees continued to be used into WW II by the Japanese. Our Marines responded by spraying any suspected tree with gunfire. The Germans were taught to use trees (though the smart ones avoided them) and the Russians frequently used them (and some paid for that folly). About 15 or so female snipers were all hiding in trees and knocked off a few Germans until the sniper came up. He figured out their hiding spots and then called for cover fire at which point he'd pick one off. They'd cease fire until he was ready and when he gave the word, they'd fire again and under the distraction of their cover fire, he'd pick off another and so it went until all of them were accounted for. A scout went out and then discovered that they were fighting women. But we're really off topic now because we're talking about sniping and not blackpowder sharpshooting.
Going to Oregon on Thursday for the Oregon Gun Makers' Fair. Will return on Sunday evening.
May 12, 2007, 01:28 PM
The picket-firing and sharpshooting at North Anna was exceedingly severe and murderous. We were greatly annoyed by it; and, as a campaign cannot be decided by killing a few hundred enlisted men - killing them most unfairly and when they were of necessity exposed - did seem as though the sharpshooting pests should have been suppressed. Our sharpshooters were as bad as theirs, and neither of them were of any account as far as decisive results were obtained. They could sneak around trees or lurk behind stumps, or cower in wells or in cellars, and from the safety of their lairs murder a few men. Put the sharpshooters in battle-line, and they were no better, no more effective, than the infantry of the line, and they were not half as decent.
I can answer this, but that'll be part of a talk I'll be giving. Yesterday I had the front of the dustjacket designed and we're starting work on the back. The spine of the dustjacket can't be done yet until we calculate the thickness of the book (that affects letter placement).
Anyone in the San Francisco South Bay who is interested in hearing me flap my jaw on the Civil War sharpshooter may attend the South Bay Civil War Round Table, preferably without rope, on June 26 at Holder's Country Inn on 998 S. De Anza Blvd. San Jose, CA 95129 (408) 244-2798. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on the South Bay Civil War Round Table.
May 20, 2007, 11:28 PM
I CERTIFY, that I have carefully examined the said *** of Captain *** Company, and find him incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of Confirmed Imbecility.
This document will be reproduced in its entirety in the book. Yep, one soldier was able to receive his discharge he was certified by the surgeon as unfit for duty. Please join the Company of Military Historians. I've two more articles scheduled to be released this year and both will cause folks to pause and rethink their concept of sharpshooters. As a member, you can attend the annual conference and meet some of the most prestigious writers, historians, professors and experts in military history.
June 2, 2007, 10:39 PM
The advance of one army was dependent upon capturing a particular bridge. While they failed to capture the bridge, sharpshooters were able to prevent its destruction:
A line of battle was at once formed, and skirmishers thrown out to the bank of the river to sharpshoot, and if possible, to keep the enemy’s battery quiet. This angle of the road, however, was a tender point in the operations. If a single man showed himself in it, they opened fire but did comparatively little harm. They fired about ten feet too high... General M. saved himself by one leap backwards which he made when he saw the flash of the gun, the shell burst right to have struck him. It was now near dark and the troops went into position for the night. The main part of the troops were withdrawn to the high ground. The skirmishers strengthened and moved up. The bridge is in possession of the enemy, but our sharpshooters command it so effectively they cannot burn it, though the kindlingwood can be seen on it ready for the match...”
Three days of fighting followed without neither side relinquishing its grip. General M. finally outflanked his opponent and crossed elsewhere. Don't forget that I'll be giving a talk last Tuesday of the month, June 26 at Holder's Country Inn in San Jose.
June 13, 2007, 12:57 AM
“I have expended some 6,000 rounds of ammunition and my men did not fire without seeing an enemy. Our boys would raise a hat on a ramrod and it would bring a half dozen balls. With a glass I detected the rebels at the same game. But we have seen them bearing off killed or wounded to such an extent that I feel confident we have punished them severely for what we have suffered. At one time we hung a blanket tightly rolled on the corner of a log building nearby us and a rebel shot a bullet into it. On examining it I found the ball in the blanket, though it had passed through 16 thicknesses of a wool blanket. Gen. F., commanding 2nd Brigade of our division, came to my lines and spoke a little short about my not conforming to the directions of his skirmish line and also about us shooting too much when no enemy was near enough to make it effective. I was well acquainted with him, and I told him I thought his men on his skirmish line were in a poor position and all the entrenching they had done was at least useless, and our boys had great sport at seeing him, half an hour after leaving us, move his skirmish line to conform in direction with ours. About the time he was ready to leave me he looked to the front through a crack in the log building behind which we were sheltered, and asked me what rifle pits those were which he had saw just a few yards in my front. I told him they were the enemy’s and just then some sharpshooters rose out of them and fired, which was the signal for the enemy to open briskly on my entire line, dropping balls thickly all around us. The general found the enemy plenty close for shooting and asked me which way I thought the safest for him to get out of that. I showed him and he started on the run. The incident rather gratified me for the short remark he had made about my men firing at ‘no enemy’ as he had expressed himself at first.”
June 19, 2007, 09:31 AM
From the report of Col. Jacob Higgins Commanding 125th PA Volunteers after action near Sharpsburg 17 Sept 1862
At the battery I gave the command for my men of lie down whilst awaiting further orders. About this time the fire of the enemy slackened somewhat, only some shots from their sharpshooters being fired, and these at mounted officers and the artillery horses. Previous to this General Mansfield fell, some of my men carrying him off the field on their muskets until a blanket was procured. General Hooker here came up to me and inquired if any troops were in the woods in front. I replied, "none but rebels," and that my command was in the front. While talking to me, his horse was shot by some of the enemy's sharpshooters. I remarked to him that his horse was shot. He replied, "I see," turned and went away.
July 5, 2007, 12:18 AM
This is taken from Chapter 9.
Among the civilians who remained in Gettysburg was fifteen year old Albertus McCreary and his family. When his family, having waited too long, could not evacuate safely, David McCreary, the head of the household, decided that it was safer for their family to remain in the stone cellar of their home at the corner of Baltimore and High street. He could not restrain his curious fifteen year old boy. Where parental control failed, minie balls succeeded as Albertus tells us, “we did not dare look out of the windows of the Baltimore Street side. Sharpshooters from Cemetery Hill were watching all the houses for Confederate sharpshooters and picking off every person they saw, since from that distance they could not distinguish citizens from soldiers.” Like all boys, Albertus was curious and he and an unidentified brother ascended the garret to watch the battle. He describes it: “[W]e could plainly see the cannon on Cemetery Hill, with the men loading and firing. Every now and then we would see a man drop by the cannon... From this trap-door we saw Pickett’s charge... While we were watching this charge, a neighbor was watching it also, from his trap-door. He was peeping around the chimney, when a bullet struck just above his head and knocked off a piece of brick. He disappeared so quickly that we both laughed. Almost immediately two bullets struck within a foot of my head in the shingles of the roof, and we followed our neighbor’s example and dropped out of sight also. We found that Union sharpshooters on Cemetery Hill had seen our heads and shot at us, thinking that we were Confederate sharpshooters. Many of the houses along this ridge were sheltering sharpshooters.”
I've been trying to summarize the book in three words or less. I couldn't do it. My best is four words: Shots from afar kill.
July 14, 2007, 09:49 PM
An article was submitted to a major magazine today. It's over 11k words excluding the endnote material. If that magazine won't accept, I know one that will. Presently I'm adapting one appendix for another magazine article. Now, for the good stuff and the following is an excerpt from Chapter 9.
“About eleven o’clock I was asked by General S. to accompany him on a ride along our line of battle to the extreme right, that we might look after our horsemen, reconnoiter the position and movements of the enemy in that direction, and ascertain whether the nature of the ground was such that a charge of our whole cavalry division during the impending fight might be profitably attempted...” They passed their men who were building earthworks. His narrative continues: “The atmosphere had now again become obscure, and the fog was rolling up from the low swampy grounds along the margin of Deep Run Creek... We had proceeded but a few steps at a careless trot when suddenly a long line of horsemen in skirmishing order appeared directly before us in the mist. I felt very certain they were Federal horsemen, but S. was unwilling to believe that the Yankees would have the audacity to approach our position so closely; and , as the greater part of them wore a brownish dust-colored jacket over their uniforms, he set them down as a small command of our own cavalry returning from a reconnaissance. So we continued upon our route yet a little farther, until, at a distance of about forty yards, several carbine shots, whose bullets whistled around our heads, taught us very plainly with whom we had to deal. At the same moment, ten or fifteen of the dragoons spurred furiously towards us, demanding, with loud outcries, our surrender - hearing which, we galloped in some haste back to our lines, where our bold pursuers were received and put to flight by Early’s sharpshooters.”
“A considerable number of our infantry skirmishers now moved forward to drive the dashing cavalrymen off. But the latter held their ground gallantly, and kept up so annoying a fire with their long-range carbines, that our men did not obtain any advantage over them... General Hood, who had been attracted by the noise of the brisk fusillade, soon came riding up to us, and seeing at a moment what was going on, said, ‘This will never do. I must send up some of my Texans, who will make short work of these impudent Yankees.’ One of Hood’s adjutants galloped off at once with an order from his general, and soon a select number of these dreaded marksmen, crawling along the ground, after their wild Indian fashion, advanced upon the Federal dragoons, who had no idea of their approach until they opened fire at a distance of about eighty yards. In a few seconds several men and horses had been killed; and the whole Federal line - stampeded by a galling fire from an unseen foe in a quarter wholly unexpected - broke into confused and rapid flight.”
July 21, 2007, 11:20 AM
Their Summer 2007 issue of The Military Collector and Historian has my article entitled, The Black Confederate Sharpshooter, in it. Adapted from the book project, it includes numerous accounts and discusses the issue of blacks fighting for the Confederacy. Previously they've published two of my articles and will publish another this year. If you want to contact the Company, click on the link: Company of Military Historians (http://military-historians.org/)
The following excerpt depicts life in front where lines have stabilized and both sides knows the other's location.
Every second of the livelong day & night I am in danger, so are all the soldiers in this army, that is to say I am constantly under fire. A shell or a musket ball, plenty of which are almost constantly on the wing, may come to me at any time. How many have struck just over my head or passed by my side I could hardly tell you since I have been at the front. Every day some one gets hit, but there are a good many of us left yet & we all take our chance. I try to be careful, not to expose myself unnecessarily & at the same not to shrink from duty in a cowardly manner. I dont wish to terrify you by these statements for it always seemed to me that I was to be lucky & I have been able to avoid the balls thus far so that nothing but chance could have hit me.
August 16, 2007, 12:30 AM
"Boys, when you drill, drill like thunder. It is not the number of bullets you shoot, but the accuracy of the aim that kills more men in battle."
Good then, good now. I've trimmed over 20,000 words from the text. Considering that the average manuscript is 120k words, this appears significant, but in comparison to what remains, it isn't.
September 15, 2007, 12:02 PM
Progress at last on the book and the good news is that an editor who is very strong in the Civil War is presently going over it. I won't mention the name, but many will recognize him. To help facilitate things, anytime a pattern of errors is identified, I redo the text so the editor won't have to. Here's something that many of you will enjoy. This fellow is mentioned in Chapter II but not to the extent of this article. Tim Murphy article (http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/historic/articles/murphy.htm)
Martin Pegler, former curator of the Royal Armouries at Leeds, has written another book on sniping. One of my articles is acknowledged in the endnotes. I suspect a second one was also used, but no credit was given to me. I haven't read the book yet as I'm presently reading an account on the Battle for Fallujah, No True Glory by Bing West. I'll get to it later but most of my time is spent working on the manuscript.
The following is an account of an attack that fell apart after its leaders were removed:
“McCulloch and McIntosh fell while leading their troops in a furious attack against Osterhaus and Davis. Hébert and a number of his officers and men were captured by pickets of the 36th Illinois (cavalry) under Captain Smith and of the 44th Illinois infantry under Captain Russell. Thus the whole of McCulloch’s column, deprived of its leaders and without unity of command, was thrown into confusion and beaten back.”
According to Ezra Warner’s, Generals in Gray, McCulloch “was fatally wounded in the breast by a Federal Sharpshooter.” You'll learn more about it in the book.
September 24, 2007, 01:59 AM
In opening Marine Sniper, Charles Henderson's classic account of Carlos Hathcock, Henderson cited Ernest Hemingway for his epigraph:
There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never cared for anything else thereafter.
Well, I've found two 19th Century passages that were very similar and it leads me to believe that Hemingway wasn't entirely original. You'll read both passages in the book and they'll be easy to find.
September 30, 2007, 01:25 PM
This is a variation of the hat on the stick trick where you draw your oppponent's attention away and then plug at him from an unsuspected location.
“We dismounted, and the Number Fours, each holding four horses, being unable to fight, left about thirty-five of us to meet the Indians. Crawling to the top we saw a line of dismounted skirmishers, standing behind their ponies, on open ground and about a thousand yards away. We deployed along the ridge and for twenty minutes or so exchanged shots with them but with little damage on either side, as the range was long for our Springfields and longer for their Winchesters.
“Lieutenant B of the Seventh, who was attached to our company for the day, standing up for an instant, just at my side, received a bullet which entered at the hip-pocket and went out at the other, having passed entirely through both buttocks; this, while we were facing the enemy, caused us to realize that we had no ordinary Indians to deal with, for, while we had been frolicking with the skirmishers in the front, their chief had engineered to as neat a double flank movement as could be imagined, and we were exposed to a raking fire coming in from right and left.”
October 6, 2007, 09:29 PM
From Chapter 9.
On Dec. 11, Burnsides attempted to throw four pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock to Fredericksburg. Barksdale's Mississippians allowed them to build them halfway across, thereby committing their resources beyond the point of no return. On command, Barksdale ordered his sharpshooters to fire upon the pontineers, cutting them down like wheat and driving the survivors away. In response, Burnsides ordered his artillery to flatten the town, thereby making it safe to finish the bridge. For the first time in American history, American artillery attempted to level an American town. A heavy barrage descended upon Fredericksburg and mercilessly punched through roofs, walls, fences and flesh and yet when it lifted and the pontineers returned, the Confederates recommenced firing. Again, the pontineers withdrew and their supporting artillery barked in anger. This scene was repeated several times until it was suggested that several regiments cross on pontoon boats. This is one soldier's account:
“We were ordered to strike Tents about ten O’clock that night and marched to the River for the purpose of supporting our Engineers while the[y] were putting the Pontoon Bridge over. They had got it about half way over, when the Rebs poured a dreadful volley of musketry into them and from the buildings in the Citty which drove our men from the Bridge.
“Isac H. had two of the fingers of his left hand shot off the first volley. He was the only one wounded in our Co. Our Artillery opened on the Citty amediatly and the Rebs were soon quited but they still held their position in the Houses. Five times during the day our men tried to finish the bridge but they were driven off as often.
“At last about 5 o’clock, Burnside said the bridge must be finished and He ordered our Regt. to get into boats and cross the river and drive the Rebs from the Citty. Not a man that got into the Boats expected to land alive.”
The spelling errors are the soldier's.
I'm going away for two weeks and won't be able to contribute to this thread.
October 30, 2007, 09:48 PM
The desire to kill something is, in the hackneyed phrase, the dominant aim of life, but when the creature he wishes to kill has rarely been obtained by any other man the desire increases in strength. Give him, further, months of anticipation, and then three weeks of fruitless hunting, and his eagerness will probably grow out of all proportion to the end in view. Yet, surely, it is this very lack of proportion that lends to sport its powerful dominion over its votaries, who, though probably in the main reasonable beings, become so much in earnest while in pursuit that they have at such times only room for the single idea.
The author was destined to become very famous later in his life.
November 2, 2007, 09:36 PM
A Senaca Indian, belonging to the Fourteenth New York Artillery, made a bet that he would capture a rebel sharpshooter who was in a tree in front of our line in Virginia. He enveloped himself in pine boughs till he looked like a tree, and by slow movements, advanced near the sharpshooter's roost. Here, Indian like, he patiently waited until his prey had emptied his piece at one of our men, when he suddenly brought his musket to bear upon the reb, giving him no time to reload. The sharpshooter was taken at a disadvantage. To the command to come down he readily assented, when the Indian triumphantly marched him a prisoner into camp, and won his wager.
Stalking skills demonstrate their usefulness. Also note that a sharpshooter engaged in sniping is taken prisoner. Other captors were not necessarily as noble.
December 8, 2007, 06:08 PM
I was once asked which side had better marksmen. If you read some of the Southern papers like the Richmond Daily Dispatch, you'll find numerous early war stories boasting of Southern skill with rifles. Similarly, you'll find articles boasting of Northern marksmanship in their papers. Witness the Harper Ferry's illustrations and stories of Hiram Berdan. Supporting the Southern belief is that the New England factory workers or storekeepers or clerks were unaccustomed to handling firearms. Having a more rural lifestyle, the Southerner was more adept with firearms-so the legend goes.
In my own research, I found that marksmanship, while not universal to all men, may be found in men both North & South and was not an exclusive trait peculiar to one side. New England produced several companies of sharpshooters & Berdan's Sharp Shooters were drawn from numerous states. There were also numerous independent companies or battalions. The Midwest also produced many men who were farm bred and raised-just like their counterparts in grey. While many were not organized into specialized units and fought as common infantrymen, they were as adept in skirmishing, stalking and shooting.
So, which side was better? I can't say.
Book update: Editor is late, again. I'm going to start shopping for a designer in the meantime.
January 4, 2008, 08:52 PM
Since writing the book (still in the editor's hands), I'm starting to read other material including books on current events. Book Review: Ronin: A Marine Scout-Sniper Platoon in Iraq
Former Marine Mike Tucker embeds himself into the Marine Scout-Sniper platoon of the 2/6. Code-named Ronin, it consists of twenty highly trained, motivated and skilled operators who are deployed in Fallujah (Sept. 2005 to April 2006). Winning their confidence and the confidence of their interpreters, Tucker gets them to provide an oral history of their experience as snipers in one of the most dangerous cities in war torn Iraq. Tucker himself is almost kidnapped twice by the Fallujah Police and had they succeeded, it is likely that he would not be alive today.
Ronin is not a collection of war stories one expect from a sniping book. Rather, it is a horror story of things that go wrong everytime as the command structure first ignores them and then employs them in duties unbefitting of their training and skill. Ronin snipers pull no punches when they scornfully point out that the Fallujah Police are Al Qaeda operatives who betray their movements, snatch fallen foes to prevent the collection of intelligence (that the fallen are the Fallujah Police themselves), and protect IED planters and weapon smugglers. They point out that the since the US pays for the police, that we are defeating ourselves. Their bitterness extends beyond the Fallujah Police and they have some hard thoughts about their commanders who forbade them to shoot or capture a prized target. Tactical unreality sets in when their command expects them to do house clearing with bolt action rifles!
Do not read Ronin if you're expecting exciting stories of battlefield marksmanship. Rather, it is a story of good men betrayed by ignorant or inept leaders - something many of us have experienced ourselves. Hopefully Ronin's story is an aberation within the Marine Corps. Even if it is, the book is a wake-up call to Americans that our guys on the ground are not being listened to upstairs and that our policies in Iraq need serious review.
February 16, 2008, 12:12 PM
Hey guys...my name is Fred...my g-g-grandfather was in Company I of the 1st. Michigan Sharpshooters..his name was John Fuller. He was 21 and came in as a late recruit....know nothing of his service...but I'm inclined to believe he was a 1/2 breed from Michigan. I know company K was the indian company, but does anyone know if indians fought in other companies....I'd like to find anything on his service in the Civil War...any direction would be appreciated..,thanks......Cowboynemo from central Texas(Georgetown)
February 16, 2008, 10:21 PM
Been looking for this thread, ever since having seen it, a while back. It’s my imagination , or sometimes maybe the search function doesn’t seem to function so well. :(
Ah, well… got some reading to do, now. :)
February 17, 2008, 03:18 PM
Cowboynemo: John Fuller of Detroit enlisted for one year and reported to the regiment in late April, 1865. He was the very last recruit to reach the regiment and didn't have to see the elephant (get shot at or shoot someone). Suggest you get his service (and if there is one, his pension) record from the National Archives. If complete, his service record will give provide a physical description and ethnicity of John Fuller. Raymond Herek's book, These Men Have Seen Hard Service, is a modern history of the First Michigan Sharp Shooters.
Concerning Indians, New York state was a bit more liberal about permitting Indians to enlist and they did in various units and in various capacities (infantry, artillery).
I'm still waiting for the editor who is doing a Longstreet (has the slows) on me. OK, Longstreet didn't deserve that reputation and it was applied to him by the Lost Causers after the war. I'm going to have to call again and pin him down to a schedule so I can get the book finished. In the meantime, I've been reading 18-19th Century material and collecting more tidbits into a file that won't be included into the book. I've also been reading aviation, naval and other books too.
Remember Uncle John Sedwick who said, "Why, they couldn't hit an elephant at this...?" Here's an equivalent. “...R. and I were riding by his side, and he had just pointed out to a trooper who had fired his carbine that ‘you couldn’t his a barn-door at that distance' when a bullet from the enemy’s rifle struck poor R. in the side just above his belt. He died in a few moments, and was greatly regretted by all who knew him including the General himself, but it made no difference in his habit of riding among his skirmishers.”
February 18, 2008, 06:36 PM
I have seen his pension request....On Ancestry.com...but there’s nothing about "race", I need to get into his enlistment file.
He is described in a 1894 Norton County,Kansas news article as "a ruputed
indian...see below article....from Ardie...Norton County Gen. Society
Source: Norton County News,
Historical Number 1870-1916, published October 1916.,pg12 & 54
"John Fuller who was reputed part Indian - perhaps from
his swarthy complexion, was well known at every target
shooting match in early times, having been a crack
shot with his long muzzle-loading rifle, came from
Michigan in June 1872, and settled on land now owned
by Sam Jones, one mile from Calvert. He sold his farm
in 1879 and returned to Michigan and died there in
The History of the Early Settlement of Norton County,
Kansas, 1894, by F. M. Lockard
Norton County GenWeb admin
John Cephus Fuller actually didn't die but moved from Michigan in 1885...into the hills of Hardy,Arkansas...then move to Cherokee Co., Kansas in 1917-1918...and died in Scammon in 1923. He's buried in Hosey Hill Cemetery in Wier, Kansas...with a Michigan Sharpshooter headstone....he must have been proud of his service.
February 25, 2008, 11:07 PM
Hey Gary do you have any more Bed Time Stories. Andy why cant we Sticky this to the first page. This has the best reading material around. I hate to post on it but i would just love to see it on the top of the forum. Or our blackpowder page.
February 25, 2008, 11:34 PM
GRAPE(S) SHOT IN THE FRYING PAN. #12
"Hello, John Wilson, haven’t you a ‘Narrow Escape’ for the Register."
"I don’t know. I was in several close places."
"Well, we want your closest call."
"Well, I believe that was at Winchester. I was in Co. D, 23d O. V. I., President Hayes’ old regiment. Our regiment saw a good deal of hard service. At Cloyd Mountain, we lost 38 killed and wounded out of my company. I have had holes shot through my blouse several times, but I consider my ‘Narrow Escape’ occurred at Winchester, July 28th, 1864. We were in line of battle 3 or 4 miles above Winchester. The rebels charged on us, and the first thing I knew my company was scattering and falling back, getting away in different directions as fast as the boys could ‘hoof’ it. They all seemed to be seeking more healthy quarters. To save myself, I started too. I had fallen back, I suppose, a couple hundred yards or such a matter, trying to get out of reach of their guns. In order to get under cover or some apple trees, I obliqued to the right. I didn’t go but a very short distance that way until they opened on us with grape and canister. I had obliqued off to the right, as I said before, to try to get under cover of the apple trees, while the dust kept flying around me powerfully. All at once I felt as if a man had struck me terrible blow across the back. I fell to the earth, but soon scrambled to my feet, glad I wasn’t killed, and kept going from there. I took along a row of apple trees and ran my best, while the apples rained like hail about my ears, as a result of the enemy’s firing.
"We kept up our retreat till we reached Bunker Hill. There we fell into line of battle again, and when the rebs came up, gave them another volley. While we were in line of battle here, a boy named Cubbage asked:
"John, what make your frying pan handle stick out so straight?"
"I answered: ‘I must have caught it on an apple tree limb and bent it.’
"But, upon examining my knapsack to see what was the matter, I found a grape shot imbedded in the pan. It had passed through my oil blanket and woolen blanket, and bent up my frying pan until it looked like a ____ ___. I was glad it was the pan, though, and not myself that was drawn up so."
"Well, that we indeed interesting," added the reporter. "The more I gather in these narrow escapes, the more varied and interesting they become. Thank you, John."
"You’re welcome, sir."
February 26, 2008, 12:00 AM
SOME EXCITING WAR EXPERIENCES NO. 1
MAYOR CORNS' EXPERIENCE
Ironton Register, Thursday, November 18, 1886
"What was your ‘narrow escape’ in the army?" we asked of Mayor Corns, of the old Second Va. Cavalry, as he stood smoking his morning stoga, before the big cannon stove of his office, last Monday.
"Oh, I had several that I thought was pretty narrow-- narrow enough to make my flesh creep when I even think of them now."
"But," said we, "what was the little the worst fix you got into while serving Uncle Sam?"
"Well, sir, about the worst fix," replied the Mayor, and he laughed and shuddered at the same time, "was when our division under Custer attacked Fitzhugh Lee, on the evening after the battle of Sailor’s Creek-- that was the 7th of April, 1865, two days before the surrender at Appomatox. Lee was trying to get off with a big wagon train, and Custer had orders to intercept him and capture the train if possible. Just at nightfall, we caught up with Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry, down there not very far from Farmville. The enemy had gone into camp for the night. They were in the woods and had thrown up piles of rails as a protection against attack. We had a heavy line of skirmishes which were soon driven in, and then, having discovered the enemy’s line, Custer ordered a general charge. There were about 7000 cavalry and we went in with a rush, but after a bitter little fight we were repulsed. We ran into a ditch or drain in the charge and that upset our calculations. We piled into that ditch with considerable confusion and were glad to get out, without bringing any rebs with us. Our lines were soon reformed and another charge sounded. It was then after dark, but the moon was shining brightly. It was an open meadow over which we charged, and save the drain, was a pretty place for a cavalry fight, for those who liked that kind of business."
"After the charge was sounded and we were on full gallop, lo and behold the enemy was charging too, and the two divisions of cavalry met in a hand to hand fight in the middle of the plain. It was an awfully mixed up affair. We couldn’t tell friend from foe half the time. We had been on the go so much that our blue uniforms were dust-colored and about as gray as the rebels’. It was the biggest free fight ever I got into, and every fellow whacked away and tried to kill every fellow he came to. It happened, however, that I got in with a little squad of six or eight of our boys, and we kept together until we found ourselves completely within the enemy’s lines, with the rebs’ banging away all around us. Our army was getting the best of the fight, and gradually pushing the rebs back, and of course we went back with the rebel line. It looked scaly for us. I saw Johnny Connelly near me and said to him, "This is a bad fix--we must get cut of this." And he said, "Yes, and here are five or six others of us right near." I got them together, for I was a Lieutenant commanding a company, and said, "Boys, we must charge to the rear and join our army," and one of the boys said, "Here goes," and started, and we were all about to put after him, but just as I started, a reb who was just in front of me, and who I thought was one of our boys, whirled around and, drawing his saber, called out, "Surrender, you d----d Yankee," at the same time bringing the saber down toward my head with fearful velocity. I dodged and the saber struck my shoulder, but did not cut the flesh as I had on an overcoat with a bear-skin collar. The blade went right through these, but stopped at the flesh, but it paralyzed my arm, which fell to my side. He did it so quickly that I had no time to parry. But missing my head, he quickly drew his saber for another stroke, and I would have got it the next time clean through my head, but just as the reb had the saber at its full height for another blow, a First N. Y. Cavalryman struck his carbine right against the fellow’s head, and exclaiming "Not this time, Johnny," blazed away and shot the reb.’s head just about off. Then we scampered to the rear, but hadn’t gone far when we got into the ragged edge of our own line and felt ourselves considerably safer. In getting out of there, three balls struck me, but I consider the narrowest escape, was when that New York Cavalryman stuck his carbine at the reb’s head and presented the blow which would have gone right through my head, as sure as fate. The narrowness of the escape was intensified by the fact that the war only lasted two days longer."
"Before we got out of there, Johnny Connelly was shot crazy, but I snatched his horse’s rein and got him within our lines. He was sent back to the field hospital and I never saw him since; but if ever I come across that N. Y. Cavalryman, I’ll take him home, set him down in the best rocking chair in the front parlor, and feed him on mince pie and roast turkey as long as he lives."
"Well, we drove Fitzhugh Lee back, captured his camp, and got a great many prisoners, a large proportion of whom were drunk. We found applejack by the bucketfuls all through the camp, but we were not allowed to touch a drop, though my arm hurt me terribly bad."
"Well, Mr. Corns, that was a ‘narrow escape.’"
"Narrow! Well, I should say so, and I sometimes have to feel up there to be sure my head ain’t split in two yet."
February 26, 2008, 12:27 AM
Scrat - never thought of making it a sticky. Anyhow, if you want non-sharpshooting stories that are a lot of fun, consider this thread at TFL: Rambling Anecdotes (http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=150010) There's some great stories from other members there at that thread. I try to keep the non-sharpshooting stories at TFL and the sharpshooting stories at THR.
My editor got four chapters back to me last week. :) I've gone over two over them and made the changes. Have to check some material on them too. I've started working on the third chapter and hope to have everything done by this week. Progress! :D So, here's the bedtime story for the week.
“The day was spent quietly, save for occasional sharpshooting. The Federals moved up within sight, but made no demonstration. About noon one enterprising rifleman climbed a tree in a farmyard some hundred yard in our front, and wounded two of the men who were throwing up cover for the guns. It was some time before his eyrie was discovered, but finally one Mississippian obtained permission to ‘hunt’ for him, and fifteen minutes later spied him out, and with a long shot brought the troublesome marksman down from his lofty perch, the body falling like that of a wounded squirrel from limb to limb until it struck the ground. Looking at the descent through my field-glasses I could almost hear the thud. The next morning when we advanced an old woman living in the cabin near by reported that the man was dead when picked up."
March 22, 2008, 11:17 PM
Sorry for the irreverence, but here's an account of one who got away. When we fell back to the woods I was leaning against a tree, General M. at the other side talking to me, when a bullet struck the tree over our heads. I remarked-
"General, that was fired by a sharpshooter; they have range of you; we'd better leave this."
"On, no; it's but a chance shot."
Just as he spoke another bullet lodged behind our heads.
"They are improving, general," I remarked.
"Well, Yes; I think it is time to leave now."
"I thought so long since, general."
March 23, 2008, 10:59 AM
thank you sir may we have another
March 23, 2008, 01:47 PM
George F. was out skirmishing on his own hook. One of Howard's regiments was falling back, when the lad, from shelter of a big tree, saw a rebel sharpshooter rise from behind a log and fire after them. George at once covered him and took him prisoner. It was rather an amusing sight to see the little lad manly marching at a charge-bayonet, escorting his big prisoner to the rear.
Over a year ago, The Company of Military Historians published my article, Sharpshooters as Prisoners. That excerpt was not included and there's a reason why. It's esoteric but anyone who reads the book (still in the editor's hands) will understand why.
April 7, 2008, 01:13 PM
Trenches. Mud. Incessant shelling. Gas. Barbed wire. Machine guns mowing down waves of attackers. Those images are conjured when World War I is mentioned. Imagine if you will a Regular British officer who was a captain at war's outbreak. It's now 1918 and he meets a young, American subaltern. The Americans, fresh from home, and spend a day in the trenches to learn their trade from their cousins across the pond."A company of the 3/120 American Regiment is in the Line, attached to my battalion. Yesterday the commander of the regiment, Major Phillips, accompanied me on my rounds. The Americans are big, manly fellows, free from brag and anxious to lean; but from our point of view they are a little careless about their duties and loose too much of their gear. They are excellent friends with our men, and have expressed their gratitude, so I hear, for the return of a portion of their missing rations. The Americans are naturally strange to this life and, for practice, relieve their platoons, mixed up with ours, every night. The company commander does not impress me, but his senior subaltern is a splendid young fellow. I asked him what kind of shots his men are; he replied in a slow drawl, 'Well, sair, I guess they got lots of practice on Revenue offiers in Arizona.'"
May 9, 2008, 09:56 PM
of mine published by The Company of Military Historians may be found republished right here. (http://www.bivouacbooks.com/bbv7i1s1.htm) The CMH will be releasing my only aviation article soon. :)
June 6, 2008, 11:57 PM
It is said that Gouveneur Warren watched with keen interest the Berdan sharpshooters at work and couldn’t withstand the temptation. “It was here that General Warren thought he could use one of the heavy rifles better than the man who had it. After firing it a few times, with what effect no one could tell, his own neck was grazed by a rebel bullet. He bound it up with his handkerchief and relinquished the rifle.” Warren modestly mentions his wound in a post war letter: “I was wounded with a musket ball while talking with Lieutenant Hazlett on the hill, but not seriously...”
Warren has been called the hero of Little Round Top. As an engineer, he was among the first to recognize its importance. Its capture would expose the Union flank and imperil the Union position at Gettysburg. Warren sent an aide to bring up men. The aide was intercepted by Col. Strong Vincent who, upon learning of the urgency of the situation, took the initiative and rushed his own brigade without orders up to Little Round Top. Vincent didn't survive the battle but one of his subordinates became famous. His name, Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine.
Gettysburg magazine will release my article on sharpshooting at Gettysburg in their June 2008 issue. Sometime in June, click Here (http://www.gettysburgmagazine.net) for more info.
August 29, 2008, 10:15 PM
I spoke with the editor on Thursday and he promised me the last chapters on Sunday. I'm crossing my fingers and if it's done, then I can get the book designed. Obviously it's too late for this year. :(
Besides having a 13,000 word article in Gettysburg, Muzzle Blasts has published my article on Pontiac's Rebellion and Bushy Run. Unfortunately, somehow the date changed 1763 to 1863. Well, in the greater scheme of things, one century isn't that bad. At least it wasn't 1963.
Here's something from the Gettysburg article:
When the battle had ended and the brigade was standing in lines close to the town, Colonel Brockenbrough and I occupied positions in the rear of the line; and near us were Capt. A. Brockenbrough and Lt. Addison Hall Crittenden. First one and then the other of these two gallant officers fell mortally wounded, although no Yankee was in sight. It was the work of sharpshooters concealed in a large wooden building on our left. I took the liberty of causing a company to fire a volley in the house and put a stop to the murderous villainy.
Like the "terrorist" and "freedom fighter" issue, when it's your sharpshooters it's your gallant men and when it's the enemy's, then its murderous villainy. If you can get the Gettysburg article, there is some insight in how to interpret all these bedtime stories that have been posted here.
September 21, 2008, 01:33 AM
I met with my editor on Friday night and we spoke at length about the book. He enjoyed it and said that the research was meticulous. Best of all, he handed the final chapter over last night and the changes are being incorporated over this weekend. I'll be meeting with someone to design it this week and hopefully that won't take too long. The edited manuscript will be sent to someone famous for an afterword for inclusion in the book. In the meantime, here's another bedtime story. It's an excerpt from the article on the sharpshooting at Gettysburg:
In the previous day’s battle, Bucktail Colonel Charles F. Taylor had been killed and Lt. Col. Alanson E. Niles wounded. Command fell to Maj. W. Ross Hartshorne, who, realizing they could be enfiladed from Devil’s Den, sent skirmishers followed by Captains John Wolfe (Co. F) and Frank Bell (Co. I) out. “The vicinity of Devil’s Den was admirably suited to the tactics employed by the Bucktails, as cover both rocks and trees abounded. Possessing Sharps rifles, they were able to reload, when necessary, without exposing any portion of their bodies, an advantage not possessed by their opponents. Utilizing this advantage to the utmost, they poured in a hot fire. The fire in return immediately became severe, and, using the skirmishing tactics taught by Col. Kane they crept nearer, of an intensity that plainly showed that the enemy was far too strong numerically to be routed by the small force sent against them. The Bucktails, therefore, stayed behind cover, devoting themselves to picking off their antagonists whenever chances offered. At this game they entirely outclassed the Confederates, who, quickly realizing that their numbers were being steadily depleted without their opponents suffering a compensating loss, left their protection and charged. To stand against such numbers would have been farcical, so the two companies beat a hasty retreat and succeeded in rejoining the other companies of the regiment behind the stone wall.” In retreating, Capt. Bell’s leg was shot and his limb was amputated.
September 21, 2008, 11:35 AM
Wow its good to hear finally at the end. Cant wait to get a copy of that book
September 28, 2008, 04:07 PM
Here's a little counter-sniping story from long ago.
I stood for a moment in ‘the open,’ and a bullet whizzed close to my head. I failed to comprehend its significance, but when another leaden messenger seemed to pass me closer, and I heard its contact with a tree just beyond me, it dawned upon my mind that I was the target for a rebel sharpshooter. I soon spied an object beyond the chimney of a house across the field, distant about four hundred yards. I satisfied myself that a ‘Johnny’ was behind the chimney on the roof, and then sent a message to our sharpshooters who were endeavoring to protect us from just such fellows as this one proved to be. Two experts responded to my summons and they began a ceaseless vigil with the purpose of killing or disabling the daring rifleman behind the chimney. They finally prepared an effigy and advanced it to the open plot where I had been exposed, and immediately a head was revealed from behind the chimney, and a rifle bullet sped across the field. We heard its ‘zip’ as it passed the effigy, and then we knew what before we had only surmised. The rebel behind the chimney was determined to slay anyone who came within the range of his rifle. Little suspecting that he had been detected, he again thrust his head from concealment for another shot, but before he had time to bring his rifle into position, a bullet from our men passed through the intervening space and we saw a human body roll down the shingled roof to the ground. That was the last of him and the last annoyance we had from that chimney
All the chapters have been edited and now the editor is working on the endnotes for them. I'm scurrying back and forth checking my citations and my quotes and he is making me work my arse off. Sometimes it's tough to find a book among several bookcases which aren't well organized.
October 9, 2008, 11:59 PM
In the following example, we have the teamwork of three men. One stalked while the other two distracted. Another lesson - never shoot from the same place. Once your location is known, get out of there if you can.
"Across from our picket line there was a Federal sharpshooter hidden behind a clay root, whose fire was very accurate and very galling, and several men on our side had been pitted against him without success. James N. was told of it. He sent two of his companions some distance to the left, instructing them to conceal themselves and fire at the clay root continuously and as rapidly as they could, whether they saw the man behind it or not. James, in the meantime, moved a little in the other direction, so as to attack the clay root from a different angle. His instructions were followed, and the two soon had the attention of the man at the clay root centered on themselves. Meantime the Yank exposed himself a little to the unerring aim of Norwood. Soon the Yankee's gun was seen to fly up, he dropped out of sight, and there was no further annoyance from that quarter."
I'll be off-line for a week. I'm taking a wood carving and silver wire inlay class for long rifles. Behave and keep your powder dry.
October 25, 2008, 07:50 PM
Had a lot of fun at Conner Prairie. I brought four books to read along the way and none of them were on the Civil War. One was on the Seminole War, one on the Modoc War and two on the Fur Trade era that preceded the Civil War.
Silver wire inlay wasn't that hard but I'm going to have to practice to become better. The other class was relief carving. My previous instructors used the stamping technique where you matched up the gouge with the shape that you want cut. You need a lot of gouges (and a pen knife) to do this technique. My last instructor used a steep "V" gouge and it was very quick.
One day after class, I met with some guys from a Civil War website and after dinner, we talked for about three hours. Another day I visited a tank museum in Crawfordsville as well as the study of General Lew Wallace. Wallace was scapegoated for Shiloh but later redeemed himself at Monocacy where he was beatened by Jubal Early. His defeat was Early's phyrric victory as Early was slowed down enough for Union reinforcements to arrive to defend Washington. Wallace gained post-war fame as the novelist who wrote Ben Hur. Above the entrance to the study you can see the face of Ben Hur as envisioned by Wallace. Check it out if you get a chance. Besides having his books, some uniform items, swords, there's also a "sharpshooter" rifle that Wallace picked up from Shiloh battlefield.
Now, without further ado, here's an excerpt from Gettysburg.
Fighting to the right of the Iron Brigade was Brigadier General Roy Stone’s Bucktail Brigade. The Bucktail Brigade, composed of the 143rd Pennsylvania and the 149th and 150th Pennsylvania Bucktail regiments, was inspired by the famous Bucktails (Thirteenth Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment). Before the battle, Bucktail Pvt. Joe Ruhl called out to fellow private Joe Gutelius, “[R]emember that you have the post of honor, Joe, if any man pulls down that flag, shoot him on the spot!” “Never you fear for that,” Gutelius responded, “We of the color-guard will look out for the flag. For my part, I’ll stay a dead man on the field before the colors of the 150th are disgraced.” After the first day’s heavy fighting, Gutelius, along with many others of the color guard were dead and their colors captured. Bucktail Corporal Rodney Conner, “As we were going through the town, and just when I was opposite the stone-yard, a column of rebels came charging down a cross-street and cut off about a hundred men with me. A rebel captain seized the colors from my hand, and the next minute he went down. Another officer went to him, and he gave him the colors and told him to present them to President Davis, with his compliments.” The “officer” was “Lieutenant Harvey, Fourteenth North Carolina sharpshooters, commanding sharpshooters, deserves special praise for his daring conduct. He whipped a Yankee regiment (150th Pennsylvania) with his sharpshooters, and took their regimental colors from them with his own hands.”
November 2, 2008, 02:20 PM
Remember reading Hesketh-Prichard's Sniping in France? He mentioned approaching loopholes and how it was important to keep them dark so as not to divulge their location. Nothing new as it was practiced in the Civil War too.
“Each man was required to carry his rations for the day, and one hundred rounds of ammunition, and generally disposed of both rations and cartridges before returning to camp. These sharpshooters were stationed in the advance trenches, and it was their duty, so far as possible, to keep the enemy’s sharpshooters quiet, and silence the guns. To do this was a very dangerous task and required the utmost vigilence. It was almost sure death for a man to show his head above the breastworks, and extra protection was obtained by piling up coarse gunny bags filled with sand. Loop-holes were obtained at proper intervals by leaving the ends of the lower bags about two inches apart and then filling up with sand so as to leave the hole about three inches high. It was not safe to watch through these holes, and precautions had to be taken to get into ‘position,’ as ‘darkening’ the loop-hole was sure to draw the fire of the ever watchful enemy, unless he thought our men were fooling him."
November 2, 2008, 04:12 PM
''They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance..."
Sedgwick fell at the beginning of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, on May 9, 1864. His corps was probing skirmish lines ahead of the left flank of Confederate defenses and he was directing artillery placements. Confederate sharpshooters were about 1,000 yards (910 m) away and their shots caused members of his staff and artillerymen to duck for cover. Sedgwick strode around in the open and was quoted as saying, "What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Although ashamed, his men continued to flinch and he repeated, "I'm ashamed of you, dodging that way. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Just seconds later he fell forward with a bullet hole below his left eye.
Sedgwick was the highest ranking Union casualty (the most senior by date of rank of all major generals killed) of the Civil War. Upon hearing of his death, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant repeatedly asked, "Is he really dead?"
November 11, 2008, 10:49 AM
To improve their position, the Texans piled rocks from which they could fight behind. First Texas Company L’s William J. Barbee didn’t bother fighting from cover. “Sgt. Barbee... having reached a rock a little in advance of the line, stood erect on top of it, loading and firing as cooly as if unconscious of danger, while the air around him was fairly swarming with bullets.” He stood “erect, exposed and fearless” atop a huge boulder, aiming and firing as if he were on a target range. Many Yankees fell to his unerring aim. Wounded comrades would load for him while he fired shot after shot. After he was wounded in the left thigh, he continued to fire another twenty-five times until he was wounded in the other leg. Even then, he refused to desist until carried away.
November 19, 2008, 12:06 AM
Here's another tidbit from the battle called the High Water Mark of the Confederacy.
Walking upright to encourage the men was Brigadier-General Leopold von Gilsa. Pvt. George Roth of Co. C recalled their conspicuous general drawing fire. “While we were entrenched at Gettysburg our Brigadier General, von Gilsa, passing our Company, wondered whether the bullets whistling near his head were intended for him.” Von Gilsa was not as ignorant as Roth speculated. Pvt. Isaac Smith of Co. K recalled: “General von Gilsa was walking around, in open sight of the many sharpshooters and I told him he had better sit down. He replied, ‘Perhaps I had better; for they may keep on shooting at me all day.’” Pvt. Roth continued: “About that time comrade Aaron espied a sharpshooter in a tree in front of us, and soon brought him down. When the General was told about it he asked to see Comrade Aaron, thanked him, and handed him a green back.”
November 23, 2008, 11:34 AM
British Lieutenant Colonel George Hanger had many opportunities to observe the American rifleman. He relates one experience: “Colonel, now General Tarleton, and myself, were standing a few yards out of a wood, observing the situation of a part of the enemy which we intended to attack. There was a rivulet in the enemy’s front, and a mill on it, to which we stood directly with our horses’ heads fronting, observing their motions. It was an absolute plain field between us and the mill; not so much as a single bush on it. Our orderly-bugle stood behind us, about three yards, but with his horse’s side to our horses’ tails. A rifleman passed over the mill-dam, evidently observing two officers, and laid himself down on his belly; for, in such positions, they always lie, to take a good shot at a long distance. He took deliberate and cool shot at my friend, at me, and the bugle-horn man. Now, observe how well this fellow shot. It was in the month of August, and not a breath of wind was stirring. Colonel Tarleton’s horse and mine, I am certain, were not anything like two feet apart; for we were in close consultation, how we should attack with our troops, which laid 300 yards in the wood, and could not be perceived by the enemy. A rifle-ball passed between him and me: looking directly to the mill, I evidently observed the flash of powder. I directly said to my friend, “I think we had better move, or we shall have two or three of these gentlemen, shortly, amusing themselves at our expense.” The words were hardly out of my mouth, when the bugle-horn man, behind us, and directly central, jumped off his horse, and said, “Sir, my horse is shot.” The horse staggered, fell down, and died. He was shot directly behind the fore-leg, near to the heart, at least where the great blood-vessels lie, which lead to the heart.”
November 29, 2008, 07:31 PM
BTT - I haven't owned any blackpowder guns for awhile but I still check in over here once in awhile just for this thread.
November 30, 2008, 11:40 AM
Among Jackson’s men was D. C., Co. G, Fourteenth Georgia: “[O]n December 13th, our corps was attacked by Franklin’s corps, sixty thousand strong. At this time we were entrenched behind a railroad a short distance in front of a skirt of shrub oak. The enemy’s charge was made through an open field and was so furious our first line was driven back into the woods, where we stopped to reform. The enemy stopped at the railroad which they used for breastworks. The distance between us was about one hundred yards, and for some time we engaged in a hot infantry duel. We were ordered to lie down to shoot, but had to stand on our knees to load. I recall now, vividly, a Yankee in the ditch just in front of me, who wore a red coat and who seemed to be a particularly good shot. Every time he raised up from behind the embankment someone was killed near me. Sergeant Dobbs, Corporal Callahan and his brother were among the number. I pointed out the man to Captain Monger, who told me to load my gun and kill the d___ Yankee. I followed instructions as closely as possible, held my fire until he raised up, took deliberate aim, and fired. Much to my relief we did not see him again during the engagement.”
December 8, 2008, 08:18 PM
One tough skirmish line of Green Mountain boys.
But the skirmishers would not come in; and when the firing died away, it appeared that the Vermonters thus deployed as a skirmish had repulsed a full line of battle attack. Twice afterward the enemy advanced to carry the position, and were each time again driven back by this perverse skirmish line. The Vermonters, it is true, were strongly posted in a wood, and each man fired from behind a tree. But then everybody knows that the etiquette in such matters is for a skirmish line to come in as soon as they are satisfied that the enemy means business. Those simple-minded patriots of the Green Mountains, however, adopted a rule of their own on this occasion; and the enemy, disgusted with such stupidity, retired across the Beaver Creek.
They used up to sixty to eighty rounds of ammuntion during each attack.
December 16, 2008, 12:24 PM
One musician wrote a description of Gettysburg. His unit fought at Culp's Hill where they watched the 27th Indiana attempt to take a position held by the Rebs. They were bloodily repulsed. He recalled scenes of death. One man was sheltered behind a tree and on his hands an knees with his head turned to one side and eyes wide open as if looking for his comrades. Another was clutching his entrails where they had spilled out when a shell fragment tore open his abdominal cavity. "One had climbed into a tall tree to do the sharpshooter act, and when killed his foot had caught in a crotch and he was now hung, head downward, from the limb."
Book update: The editor has finished with the prologue, epilogue, foreword, introduction and thirteen of the fifteen chapters. I have to re-download or scan some images since the hard drive died. I hope to have everything done by the end of December. It's only three years late.
December 23, 2008, 12:02 AM
and I couldn't do it if I tired. You guys remember the Bucktails, don't you? Well, here's another bedtime story involving a Bucktail. "We went, by rail, to Baltimore, where we were placed on board a steamer, guarded by a Pennyslvania regiment called the 'Bucktails.'
While we were traveling down the Chesapeake Bay, at the rate of about eight miles an hour, I saw one of the soldiers shoot a wild duck on the wing with a minie rifle. I thought it was an accident, but his comrades declared that he was the best rifle shot in the Federal Army."
December 23, 2008, 03:35 AM
''...but his comrades declared that he was the best rifle shot in the Federal Army."
How come there's hardly any stories about the good guys in this thread?
December 23, 2008, 09:15 AM
How come there's hardly any stories about the good guys in this thread?
'Cuz they didn't win the war. The winner always get to write the history... :evil: :D
December 23, 2008, 07:25 PM
Good guys? Which side are the good guys? There's plenty of accounts of sharpshooters both blue and grey herein. I just didn't say which side some of them are on. That'll be in the book though.
I'm no expert on hysterography (or is it histography?) but ennyway, there tends to be more primary material from Union sources than from their corn-fed counterparts. Why, you ask? Well, literacy may have been better in the North than the South but I've read some pretty poorly written material from both sides. Also, the South had a paper shortage and soldiers couldn't write as often as they wished. Secondly, things tended to get destroyed a lot more in the south so there's less material preserved for we'uns to read today. Finally, until the "old soldier syndrome" kicks in, people try to forget the bad and won't talk about things until the pain subsides. Then when old soldier syndrome kicks in, they tend only to remember the good and gloss over the painful memories. In that light, it's not surprising that fewer ex-Confederates wrote than did their Union counterparts. When they did write, they could be tainted by the "lost cause" mentality and the famous Confederate sharpshooter, Berry Benson, was certainly affected by it. I try to be partisan in my research as I take no sides (it's all hystery to me). The Confederate story is much harder to piece together than the Union.
That said, confound you anyway BHP Fan! Here's a story involving a corn-fed who got the best of a Yankee! I hope you're happy.
“We camped about a mile back from the Rebels’ works in a piece of timber. The ground in front was a little higher, so we couldn’t see the works, but could hear the firing. There was a nice creek a few rods behind camp in a deep gulch, with a fine white sand bottom, and water about two inches deep. One day I went down there to scour my gun barrel. I went by where one of the Company D boys was shaving one of the other boys. I was gone about an hour, and when I got back the one that was doing the shaving was buried. A ball had come from the front and killed him instantly. He never spoke, but fell backwards on his back and held the razor in his hand until told to let go. I couldn’t believe or realize it when they told me. That was the only bullet that came in this camp, and he, like Turner, didn’t know he was hit.”
BTW, for those who are interested, my article on the Confederate aeroplane was published in the Winter 2008 issue of The Military Collector and Historian.
December 31, 2008, 07:51 PM
“Old Joe walks the line. He happens to see the blue coats in the valley, in plain view. Company H is ordered to fire on them. We take deliberate aim and fire a solid volley of minnie balls into their midst. We see a terrible comsplutterment among them, and know that we have killed and wounded several of Sherman’s incendiaries. They seem to get mad at our audacity, and ten pieces of cannon are brought up, and pointed right toward us. We see the smoke boil up, and a moment afterward the shell is roaring and bursting right among us. Captain Joe P. Lee orders us to load and fire at will upon these batteries. Our Enfields crack, keen and sharp; and , ha, ha, ha, look yonder! The Yankees are running away from their cannon, leaving two pieces to take care of themselves.”
Happy New Year everyone! Stay safe and sane when you have fun. :D
January 1, 2009, 12:05 AM
I just love a good old comsplutterment. It just isn't worth chewing through the constraints without one.
January 1, 2009, 12:58 AM
Sedgwick, John (Civil War Union general) - Last Words of a General
John Sedgwick, a Union commander during the Civil War, uttered these last words about the enemy forces during a battle:
"They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist--"
January 1, 2009, 01:01 AM
Sedgwick fell at the beginning of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, on May 9, 1864. His corps was probing skirmish lines ahead of the left flank of Confederate defenses and he was directing artillery placements. Confederate sharpshooters were about 1,000 yards (910 m) away and their shots caused members of his staff and artillerymen to duck for cover. Sedgwick strode around in the open and was quoted as saying, "What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Although ashamed, his men continued to flinch and he repeated, "I'm ashamed of you, dodging that way. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." Just seconds later he fell forward with a bullet hole below his left eye.
Sedgwick was the highest ranking Union casualty in the Civil War. Although James B. McPherson was in command of an army at the time of his death and Sedgwick of a corps, Sedgwick had the most senior rank by date of all major generals killed. Upon hearing of his death, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant repeatedly asked, "Is he really dead?"
January 1, 2009, 02:18 AM
excellent informations guys
January 1, 2009, 03:21 AM
yet more detail...
Sergeant Grace, 4th Georgia Infantry
On 9 May, 1864 a confederate sniper took what was to be considered an incredible shot at that time. During the Battle of Spotsylvania, Sgt. Grace of the 4th Georgia Infantry, took aim and fired at a distant Union officer. Grace was using a British Whitworth target rifle and the distance was 800 yards. Grace's target, Major General John Sedgwick, fell dead after uttering the words "Why, they couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...". Sedgwick's death resulted in a delay of the Union attack which in turn gave General Robert E. Lee the edge he needed to win the day at Spotsylvania.
January 1, 2009, 03:27 AM
one for the New Year
General William H. Lytle was mortally wounded by an unknown Confederate sniper while leading a charge at the battle of Chickamauga on Sep. 19, 1863. The sharpshooter used a Whitworth .45 calibre percussion rifle. The Confederate Army used sharpshooters quite a lot to counter their lack of heavy weapons and material. The Confederate snipers were skilled and harried the Union troops and artillery, specialising in killing Union officers. However, there weren't enough snipers to stem the tide, and as we know from history the better equipped Union forces won the war.
January 1, 2009, 01:23 PM
We actually don't know who shot Papa John Sedgwick. Charles Grace claims to and so did Ben Powell. Both were equipped with Whitworths and claimed to have shot an officer from his horse. OK, that's fine, but Sedgwick was on foot and had just nudged a man, gently reprimanding him for dodging.
January 1, 2009, 04:16 PM
I've heard that story,and also the story that Sedgwick was on horseback,and his staff was begging him to get down,as the Rebels had Whitworth rifles.You're right,we'll never know for sure.When you pull the trigger,and see your man go down you can be forgiven for thinking it was your bullet that did the job.As you know,Civil War battle's gunfire could resemble lead sleet.Wasn't there a tree cut down by gunfire in one of the Late Unpleasantness' battles?
January 1, 2009, 05:50 PM
The best known example of a mighty oak cut down by rifle fire is at the Mule Shoe (Spotsylvania Court House, May 12, 1864). Here's a brief description of that battle and of one Confederate unit that was in it.
The year is 1864. Grant had taken command of the Union armies and he led the Army of the Potomac across the Rappahannock to the Wilderness where he was stopped by Lee. Despite suffering heavy casualties, he disengaged and tried to flank Lee. The belligerents collided again a few miles away at Spotsylvania Court House. Part of Lee's army was entrenced in a salient that was shaped like an upside down "U" or, as the soldiers termed it, a mule shoe. An attack two days earlier by Emory Upton had penetrated a vulnerable point of the salient and almost broke the Confederate lines. Recognizing its vulnerability, Grant figured that a larger corps size attack could penetrate the mule shoe, cut Lee's army in half and allow him to destroy it. He directed Hancock's II Corps to make the effort and on May 12, 1864, Hancock's men swept up the picket line of Virginians. Many of their guns had misfired because of the light drizzle. Thus, very little warning was given before Hancock's men stormed over the Confederate entrenchments. Over 4,000 Confederates including two generals were gobbled up and taken prisoners before Lee could organize a counter attack.
Joining in the counter-attack was the 17th Mississippi and among their ranks was Pvt. David Holt who wrote about fighting there. The Confederates rushed in, taking heavy losses as they pushed back the Union soldiers. Finally, they lost momentum and both sides hunkered down, separated by log fortification. To stand and fire meant certain death but this didn't stop men from jumping atop the parapet and shooting down into their enemy on the other side. They were handed a fresh musket by their comrades below and fired again until they themselves were shot down. Then someone else mustered the courage to replace him. Other men merely raised their rifles overhead and held it at a downward angle to shoot. Those lucky enough to be aware of it grabbed the muzzle and shoved it up and away from them. Other soldiers simply stuck their gun into the cracks between the logs and fired. Others thrusted their bayonets through the cracks. Men grabbed their opponents by the hair to drag them to their side of the logs to kill them. Bayonets were fixed to the guns and empty guns were hurled like javelins over the logs, impaling itself on some soldier on the other side. The ground, which had been muddy, turned a deep red as bodies three to five deep piled atop of one another with the dead sometimes smothering the wounded. As the ground was saturated, the men often fought in pools of blood several inches in depth. So intense was the fighting that an oak, 22" thick, was cut down by rifle fire alone. Part of it may be seen at the Smithsonian Museum today.
By the time his unit had been withdrawn to shorter lines, they were fed for the first time in over 24 hours. No one ate. Instead, they broke down and cried. They grieved for their lost comrades. They grieved for their wounded. They grieved for themselves and the horrible battle they had just survived. Men who would had previously fought each other at a glance rushed to each others arms and embraced, crying that they were ashamed to have begrudged one another in the past and how nobly the other had fought at the battle. Many swore eternal friendship.
This is all from memory. If you want the first hand account, it's from David Holt's A Mississippi Rebel in the Army of Northern Virginia. It's published by LSU Press (Go tigers!)
January 1, 2009, 08:18 PM
Great stuff.I'm pretty sure my great grandpa was there.I am sure glad I wasn't.
January 9, 2009, 11:31 PM
“Our brave riflemen, with unparalleled agility, out ran them, and notwithstanding the fire from the ships, surrounded the men and took ten of them prisoners, and secured one of their boats, the other pushed off [with] two in it; one of the riflemen ran after it in the water, but missing his grasp, fired and killed one of the men, who fell overboard, the other by lying on his back rowed to his vessel. The Savage kept up a continual fire for some hours, without the least hurt to any of our men, who lay snug behind the rocks, and defied their thunder, and at lucid individuals fired at the ship. One man was seen to tumble over the quarter-deck into the water, whom they took to be an officer.”
Good news to share with all the gentle readers out there. My editor has finished the last chapter. :D I'm going to incorporate his suggestions over the course of the week and then re-scan images that were lost when my hard drive died earlier this year. :banghead: Early in February the book will be designed and the index developed.
January 19, 2009, 11:05 AM
Rather than share a bedtime story with you, I'd rather show some analysis as an example of the book. Gettysburg had a target rifle on display (I don't know if it's still displayed since the new visitors' center has been opened). Its provenance is disputed and it is claimed to have been removed from Devil's Den. This is from an endnote that examines the dispute.
Skeptics correctly point out that other than Rosensteel’s claim, there is no provenance for the gun. They cite the lack of Confederate documentation and the difficulty of a sixteen year old boy carrying away a 30 plus pound rifle from a battlefield without being intercepted (and punished) by the Provost Marshal. One soldier remembered seeing relic hunters with some even misrepresenting themselves as volunteer nurses to attain permission to wander the battlefield. See Thomas Francis Galwey, The Valiant Hours (Harrisburg, Stackpole, 1961), 121 (hereinafter cited as Galwey). Earl Hess points out that an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 civilians scavenged over 15,000 small arms from Gettysburg. Earl Hess, The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat (Lawrence, University of Kansas Press, 2008), 50.
I believe the article is genuine. You'll see a photo of the gun in the book. Copies of the manuscript are being sent out this week for review including someone who is very famous to all students of sniping.
February 3, 2009, 12:58 AM
“For aught that I knew, some concealed observer might now be watching me from the pine-tops on the nearest knoll. Some rifleman might be running his practiced eye down the deadly groove, to topple me from my perch, and send me crashing through the boughs. The uncertainty, the hazard, the novelty of my position had at this time an indescribable charm...”
He calls it charm. I'd practice my profanity and curse not getting out on sick call. I'm shopping for a book designer now.
February 14, 2009, 11:44 AM
The Confederate sharpshooters had driven away the Union pontineers. In retaliation, the Union commander, Ambrose Burnside, ordered the town shelled by artillery fire. In addition, he had his own sharpshooters shoot into the known Confederate sharpshooter nests. After it was determined that the bombardment was sufficent, the pontineers were ordered forward to complete the bridge. But, the Confederates popped out of their shelters and pelted them with bullets, killing and wounding some, and driving the survivors back. Again the artillery shelled the town. This scene was repeated several times and the bombardment was judged ineffective. Thus, a river crossing was ordered to drive away the Confederate sharpshooters.
The bombardment was not entirely ineffective and Seventeenth Mississippi’s Lt. Col. John Fiser of Barksdale’s Brigade reported one lieutenant who “so far forgot himself as to draw his pistol and threaten to kill some of my sharpshooters if they fired again, as it would draw the enemy’s fire on his position.” To complete the bridge, Union infantrymen were ordered to cross the river in boats and clear Fredericksburg of sharpshooters. While supported by artillery and their sharpshooters, none was optimistic. The first to cross were the men of the Seventh Michigan. Watching them was Capt. James E. Smith of the Fourth New York Independent Battery. “Nearly one hundred men from the 7th Michigan promptly offered their services. While the boats were being loaded the firing increased, the bullets falling in the water near the boats like hail, but there was no flinching-the men who had willingly undertaken this task had counted the cost and fearlessly placed their lives on the altar of their country... Think of it! Less than one hundred men exposed in three open, clumsy boats, propelled with oars or paddles, which made but slow progress, in the face of a well-concealed and active foe, having no knowledge of the numbers they were about to encounter, with little hope of reinforcements until the boats could return... I shall never forget my sensations during the moments required to cross the river. The first man to jump ashore from the boats was a lieutenant, who was hit before striking the ground. He crawled back into the boat and subsequently recrossed the river...”
Among the “volunteers” who crossed by pontoon was Private Englis of the Eighty-ninth New York Volunteer Infantry. They were crossing downstream from the Seventh Michigan’s landing point. Private Englis described their experience:
“We were ordered to strike Tents about ten O’clock that night and marched to the River for the purpose of supporting our Engineers while the[y] were putting the Pontoon Bridge over. They had got it about half way over, when the Rebs poured a dreadful volley of musketry into them and from the buildings in the Citty which drove our men from the Bridge.
“Isac Hughes had two of the fingers of his left hand shot off the first volley. He was the only one wounded in our Co. Our Artillery opened on the Citty amediatly and the Rebs were soon quited but they still held their position in the Houses. Five times during the day our men tried to finish the bridge but they were driven off as often.
“At last about 5 o’clock, Burnside said the bridge must be finished and He ordered our Regt. to get into boats and cross the river and drive the Rebs from the Citty. Not a man that got into the Boats expected to land alive.”
Thanks to artillery and sharpshooter support, the Eighty-ninth New York suffered only one killed and nine wounded during the crossing. Crossing upstream from them was the Nineteenth Massachusetts and Second Lt. John B. Adams: “At last volunteers were called for by Colonel Hall, commanding the brigade, and the 19th Massachusetts and the 7th Michigan volunteered. We took the pontoon boats from the wagons, carried them to the river, and as soon as they touched the water, filled them with men. Two or three boats started at the same time, and the sharpshooters opened a terrible fire. Men fell in the water and in the boats. Lieutenant-Colonel Baxter of the 7th Michigan was shot when half-way across. Henry E. Palmer of Company C was shot in the foot as he was stepping into the boat, yet we pressed on, and at last landed on the other side.”
Preceding the Nineteenth was the Seventh Michigan which suffered one killed and several wounded including its commander, Lt. Col. Baxter. General McLaws gives the Confederate view of the crossing: “About 4:30 P.M. the enemy began crossing in boats, and the concentrated fire from all arms, directed against Barksdale’s men in the rifle-pits, became so severe that it was impossible for them to use their rifles with effect. As the main purpose of a determined defense, which was to gain time for the other troops to take position, had [been] accomplished, Colonel Fiser was directed to draw his command back from the river and join the brigade in the city; and just in time, for the enemy no longer impeded by our fire, crossed the river rapidly in boats, and, forming on the flanks, rushed down to capture the men in the rifle-pits, taking them in the rear. Some of the men in the cellars, who did not get the order to retire, were thus captured, but the main body of them rejoined the brigade on Princess-Anne Street, where it had assembled...”
There is little doubt that Gen. McLaws was correct, and First New York Light Artillery’s Maj. Osborn would agree. “As a fact,” wrote Maj. Osborn, “the shelling made no difference in the relations between the sharpshooters and the men laying the bridges. When General Sumner had shelled the city as long as he saw fit, he put men enough across the river in boats to take possession of the sharpshooters and the city at the same time. This he could as well have done at sunrise as at sunset.”
The following describes the street fighting that took place at Fredericksburg after the Rappahannock was crossed.
Intense street fighting developed as the Federals wrestled with Confederates for control. Anticipating this, Barkdale’s men placed dirt filled boxes and barrels on the streets for additional cover. Ordered to withdraw, Barksdale complied but stubbornly contested the Federal advance. Fighting behind these makeshift measures and doorways, trees, windows and anything else that offered cover, his men exacted a heavy toll on the Federal infantry.
Among Nineteenth Mass. Co. B was Sgt. Joseph Hodgkins: “[We] formed on the bank, and deployed as skirmishers through the streets. Our company moved up the street leading from the river, where we had crossed, when we received a shower of bullets from the enemy, who were posted in the houses behind the fences and wherever a shelter offered. We turned into a corner lot, and took shelter behind a fence, when we received another volley, killing one of our men and wounding another. We returned the fire, but found the Rebs. too thick and too well posted for us, so we beat a retreat to the river again.” Hawke Street was too well defended and so Sgt. Hodgkins and the rest of the Nineteenth Mass. fought from behind the house at the northwestern corner of Hawke and Sophia Street .
Nineteenth Massachusetts Lt. John Adams corroborated Sgt. Hodgkins and provided more details: “As soon as the boats touched the shore we formed by companies, and, without waiting for regimental formation, charged up the street, on reaching the main street we found that the fire came from houses in front and rear. Company B lost ten men out of thirty in less than five minutes. Other companies suffered nearly the same. We were forced to fall back to the river, deploy as skirmishers, and reached the main street through the yards and houses... Capt. Weymouth went from right to left of the line, giving instructions and urging the men forward. My squad was composed of men from companies I and A. We had reached a gate, and were doing our best to cross the street.. I had lost three men when Captain Weymouth came up. ‘Can’t you go forward, Lieutenant Adams?’ he said. My reply was, ‘It is mighty hot, captain.’ He said, ‘I guess you can,’ and started to go through the gate, when as much as a barrel of bullets came at him. He turned and said, ‘It is quite warm, lieutenant; go up through the house.’ We then entered the back door and passed upstairs to the front, Gilman Nichols of Company A was in advance. He found the door locked and burst it open with the butt of his musket. The moment it opened he fell dead, shot from a house on the other side of the street. Several others were wounded, but we held the house until dark, firing at a head whenever we saw one on the other side.”
While the Nineteenth Massachusetts fought from behind houses, the Seventh Michigan fought from behind the southeast corner house on the same intersection (the streets of Fredericksburg follow the Rappahannock River and so the first street, Sophia, runs along a NW to SE axis). The freshest regiment to land was the Twentieth Massachusetts. They stormed up Hawke Street with disastrous results. Among the waiting Confederates was Thirteenth Mississippi Pvt. William Little Davis. “One Yankee reg’t formed a pretty line and was advancing up a street-a little before dark, our boys who were laying on the ground on the next street, quickly arose and poured a deadly volley into their midst causing the greatest confusion. The Yankee officer cried to his men to charge the rebels. Our boys, one and all, cried out 'Come on!'”
The Mississippians contested the ground stubbornly and describing the Thirteenth Mississippi’s volley from the receiving end is Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry’s Pvt. Josiah F. Murphey: “Think of it, a company of about sixty men advancing up a street with no protection whatever and two or three hundred of the enemy sheltered completely and pouring a murderous fire upon you from every window, door, and behind every fence. They would even poke their guns around the corner of the houses and fire into us at close range... We lost about forty men from our company in the space of fifty yards. In no battle of the war did we lose so many men in so short a time.” Pvt. Murphey, who was among the wounded, mentions only the casualties of his company and his brigade commander, Colonel Norman Hall, reported that they suffered ninety-seven men and officers killed and wounded within that fifty yards.
Despite sustaining heavy casualties, the Twentieth Massachusetts stormed up one block to Caroline Street and wheeling right and left, cleared Caroline of the Confederates. By now Barksdale had been ordered to withdraw but one of his officers, Twenty-first Mississippi’s Lt. Lane Brandon recognized his Harvard Law School classmate, Maj. Henry Abbott, and refused to yield ground to Abbott. Instead Lt. Brandon counterattacked and drove Abbott back. Lt. Brandon received another order to retreat and after he again refused, had to be arrested.
Cut and paste the above out before visiting Fredericksburg. Old town Fredericksburg has a lot of charm and much of the area where this fighting took place was restored after the war. You can actually walk the streets and see bullet holes in the homes that were patched up.
February 21, 2009, 09:43 PM
Continued from last week.
With Fredericksburg taken, the Federals expanded their bridgehead by rolling up the flanks and capturing the Confederates who failed to withdraw. Throughout the night of the 11th and during the 12th, the Federal army crossed en masse and deployed along the river’s bank. However, Barksdale had delayed sufficiently for Longstreet to deploy his corps on Marye’s Heights and for Jackson to arrive to secure Lee’s right with his corps. Nonetheless, Lee grew uneasy and cautioned Longstreet that his line would be broken. Longstreet responded that given enough ammunition, it would hold. Longstreet’s artillery commander, Lt. Col. E. Porter Alexander, confidently predicted: “A chicken could not live in that field when we open [fire] on it.”
Alexander’s and Longstreet’s opinion were shared by many Federals. Capt. Francis Donaldson, 118th Pennsylvania Infantry or the “Corn Exchange Regiment” because it was raised in the exchange, waited apprehensively: “Our whole Grand Division was massed here, and we could distinctly see the enemy’s earthworks on the hills back of Fredericksburg... The whole army could easily see the work laid out for them, and the men were anything but enthusiastic over it. They could tell at a glance how impossible it would be to take the works that had been quietly in progress of building for weeks, while their commander waited until their finish before attacking them.” Burnside used the night to move his army across the River. They would attack on Sunday, the 13th.
Having withdrawn Barksdale’s men, Longstreet ordered General T. R. R. Cobb’s brigade in the path of the impending Federal attack. Among them was George Montgomery: “General Cobb placed his Brigade behind a stone fence and pulled off his hat and waving it over his head exclaimed, ‘Get ready Boys here they come’ and they did come sure. We waited until they got within about 200 yards of us and rose to our feet and poured volley after volley into their ranks which told a most deadening effect. They soon began to waiver and at last broke from the rear, but the shouts of our brave soldiers had scarcely died away when we saw coming another column more powerful and seemingly more determined than the first (if possible) but only a few rounds from our brave & well tried men was necessary to tell them that they had undertaken a work a little too hard. But before they had entirely left the field another column and another and still another came to their support. But our well aimed shots were more than they could stand...” The first assault against Mayre’s Heights was made by William H. French’s Third Division of E. V. Sumner’s II Corps. When they failed, Sumner sent in his First Division under Winfield Hancock. They too fared no better.
February 21, 2009, 10:11 PM
Great stuff.There was a certain poetry to even the most banal report.
February 23, 2009, 01:01 AM
Glad you enjoyed it BHP Fan. I've actually gone back to post 345 to include a prequel that described the amphibious landing across the Rappahannock. All the endnotes have been eliminated since they don't cut & paste well (but they will be in the book).
BTW, I just fiinshed the latest NRA Firearms Classic Library offering, Harry P. Davis' A Forgotten Heritage: The Story of a People and the Early American Rifle. It is filled with wishful thinking that will be corrected in Chapter I, II and III of my book. Unfortunately, Davis does not cite his sources (no footnotes or endnotes) but it will be obvious where his information isn't correct. That's the beauty of newer books. You benefit from the scholarship and research of previous authors. So, if you subscribe to the series, read the Davis book soon so you'll enjoy mine even more.
Right now the book is undergoing peer review and I'm still shopping for a designer. Most of the pictures have been photoshopped (when you scan an image, it may not be perfectly horizontal and vertical and has to be adjusted) and to some extent, touched up (older pictures are sometimes hard to see without some touch-up).
February 23, 2009, 08:37 AM
Hope you all don't mind if I post a couple pics of things you all were talking about above!
I'm quite the amateur battlefield roamer and documenter. If any of you are truly interested in seeing my pictures I'd be happy to post a link and direct you there. I have, literally, a couple thousand pictures of pretty much all the major battlefields of the Civil War.
But to get back on topic...
Here is the monument to General Sedgwick in the spot where he was killed.
That treeline in the far distance is approximately about where the shot came from that killed Sedgwick. It is a long shot but still... I would say they very much could hit an elephant at that distance.
Here is the Bloody Angle at the Mule Shoe. You can still see the ridge of the old works covered with vegetation in the foreground. The Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania is truly remarkable in that it's still so well preserved and for the most part, while being worn down and eroded and such, is still there even after 144 years.
4v50, I've heard it said that generals use the last wars strategy to fight the present day war. Did the civil war generals ever get it that they were using smooth-bore tactics in a rifled-bore war?
I've studied the civil war enough to know that "military intelligence" is another word for tragedy.
February 23, 2009, 03:06 PM
They used the tactics they had been taught. Thinking 'outside the box' was neither encouraged nor rewarded - in fact, showing initiative in designing nonstandard tactics was a trip to a remote outpost on the frontier.
That same attitude prevailed well into WW I. Developing better tactics as a war college discipline didn't happen until the trench warfare tactics were finally decried.
February 23, 2009, 09:18 PM
Throughout the Civil War the heavy reliance on linear tactics ala American Revolution and Napoleonic Era continued but with some modifications. By 1863 though, we started seeing more reliance on field fortification and men began to throw up breastworks to secure a position and increase their chances of surviving. Some were thrown up at Chancellorsville but we see the Union doing a lot of it at Gettysburg, predominantly Culp's Hill and Little Round Top. However, none was used by the Iron Brigade or the Bucktail Brigade when they fought Archer's men. Lee used it extensively during the 1864 Overland Campaign. Still, this did not stop the futile frontal assaults as witnessed by Grant's loss of 3,500 at Cold Harbor II (it was not the 11-12,000 reported by some who make Grant out to be a butcher. Those figures are the cumulative losses over three days of fighting and not the single fatal charge ordered by Grant). Sherman got bloodied at Pickett's Mill in Georgia (a state park well worth seeing) and was probably embarassed by it because he didn't write of it in his memoirs. Hood didn't figure out the futility of a frontal assault and obliged the Federals at Franklin. He lost 6,000 of his men there including seven generals. Sheridan's attack at Pickett at Five Forks succeeded because of his superior numbers and a flanking attack that overwhelmed the Confederates. The last real stand up and trade bullets type fighting took place during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of Jubal Early (where Early got whipped badly by Sheridan).
Certainly the weapons became deadlier, but the casualties, while high, percentage wise was not as bad as some Napoleonic battles. Disease killed more men in the Civil War than minie balls, sabers, grape shots and cannon balls. One reason why the minie gun didn't result in higher casualites like it was assumed it would by many pre-war theorists is that there was essentially no training in both Union and Confederate armies (with the exception of Conf. Gen. Patrick Cleburne's division). When men were given target practice, it was because someone was wise enough to authorize it. But there are no shortage of accounts of entire volleys being fired too high and knock leaves and branches down onto the intended targets. As Hess points out, the rifle musket didn't change things much. I discuss what it changed and why the rifle musket didn't live up to its expectation further in my book.
One thing it did do though was to make available to more infantrymen who did know how to shoot a long range weapon (as opposed to the short range musket).
For further reading, I suggest the following: Paddy Griffith's "Civil War Battle Tactics," Brent Nosworthy's "Bloody Crucible of Courage," and Prof. Earl Hess "The Rifle Musket in Civil War Combat."
March 1, 2009, 01:43 AM
Soon, it was time for Sumner to commit his last division under Otis O. Howard. They would be reinforced by the Second Division of Samuel D. Sturgis of the IX Corps. Their attack was launched at 2:00 p.m. No more successful that those before them, they flattened themselves as close as possible to the dirt. Lt. L. N. Chapin of the Thirty-fourth New York describes being under artillery fire, their sense of impending doom and salvation. “We suppose there were seven or eight thousand men massed under that bluff. Perhaps an inscrutable Providence could study out what this move was for; but your correspondent has never yet heard a decent theory stated. Scarcely two hundred feet away, on this bluff, was a rebel redoubt with a cannon behind it. An officer on a white horse was riding around giving orders. You may be perfectly certain he had from seven to ten thousand deeply interested spectators. Not a moment elapsed before there was a puff of smoke from behind that redoubt, and a shell from a six-pounder went screaming over our heads. It never hit a man. Another and another followed, with the same result. It was evident that the piece could not be depressed sufficiently to rake us without the muzzle hitting the front of the redoubt. Then this pale horse and his rider came out from behind the redoubt, and surveyed our position, and went back. Then four men took hold of the piece, and rolled it out from behind the earthwork. It is said the judgment-day comes but once, and we all felt that it had come for us right then and there. It was a moment to be remembered forever. Now they have us for sure. The very next shot is sure to fetch us. Of all the thousands of men huddled there, every eye was fixed on that gun. The cannoneers take their positions, the process of loading and priming is gone through with, and then every head is bowed in silence, waiting for the awful messenger. It comes, like the shriek of an incarnate demon, it plowed its way into our ranks, burying us all in the dirt. Another and another followed in rapid succession, each one bringing death and destruction into our ranks. The air is filled with the groans and cries of mangled men. Every man of those thousands is clutching the earth, and trying to make himself thinner. It is a good thing, at times, to be a spare man. No one, then, wanted to be fatter. The first shot fired, after the gun was moved out, passed directly over our company (K); the next, coming in exactly the same line, fell a little short, striking just ahead of us, and doing terrible execution. Then the orderly sergeant, Jim Talcott, lying by my side, and trying to make himself thinner, said: ‘Now, boys, it’s our turn.’ And sure enough, with an ugly scream, that might have been heard up in Herkimer County, the next shot landed squarely in our company. Every inch of the ground was covered with blue men; but this ugly auger bored a hole right through. Deep into the earth it went, and then exploded. Scarcely a man in the company but received some souvenir. And all this time we were compelled to remain inactive, not firing a shot in return. There was not a man on all that blue field but would have volunteered in an instant to dash up that height, and had there been someone in high authority to authorize the movement, that one gun would have been silenced or captured in a moment. But, any way, the slaughter was destined not to continue for long. All this time, from the north side of the river, far away, our own cannons were booming, and the moment this one piece was rolled out from behind the breastwork, it became the target for all our artillery. There was one gun on our side, miles up the river, that we had heard booming at intervals all day. It must have been a sixty-two pounder; and a moment after the third shot of which I spoke had been fired, there came the boom of this great gun. The great shot sped on its awful mission, over miles of river and valley, and hill and meadow, and came down fair and square on top of the mischievous little six-pounder, and that instant exploded. The gun and carriage were destroyed, and all the men near it knocked out, including the white horse and his rider. Then all those ten thousand men rose, and shouted with great shout.”
At 3:00 p.m., it was time for Griffin’s Division of Dan Butterfield’s V Corps to storm Marye’s Heights. Leading the assault was Col. James Barnes’ First Brigade. Included in their number was Eighteenth Massachusetts’ Private Thomas Mann: “The first time we charged I fired once just as we turned to come back. Myself and Wm. Laird went further than any other man in the regiment. I think we went to within five rods [80 feet] of the stone wall, behind which the rebels were posted. I was hit five or six times by spent balls[;] two bullets smashed my rifle, one of them blowing the lock completely off... Another bullet went completely through my tin dipper and haversack, going through a chunk of salt-pork and six thicknesses of woolen bag in which the pork was wraped, and finally penetrated my overcoat. Amid such a perfect shower of bullets it was my luck to come off with my life.” Like their predecessors, they too were stopped and pinned down.
March 1, 2009, 10:56 AM
The command of language seen here is so impressive. We have lost the ability to paint such an accurate and complete picture, while using nothing but words. :cool:
March 1, 2009, 01:05 PM
The command of language seen here is so impressive. We have lost the ability to paint such an accurate and complete picture, while using nothing but words.
Old Fuff, you hit the nail on the head all right!
March 6, 2009, 07:44 PM
Charging alongside the Eighteenth Massachusetts was their sister regiment, the 118th Pennsylvania Corn Exchange. Within their ranks was a former First California/71st Pennsylvania veteran, Francis Donaldson. Wounded at Fair Oaks, upon recovery he accepted a captaincy with the Corn Exchange. Donaldson watched as Capt. John G. Hazard’s Battery B, First Rhode Island Light Artillery courageously attempted to support them: “Then a battery of 6 guns came dashing out into the clear space at the foot of the hill, just back of the brick yard. These guns were brass 12 lb. Napoleons and were wheeled into position in less time that I can write about it, and instantly, as it were, the horses were all killed, and the men took to their heels and ran away as fast as their legs could carry them, leaving their guns and their officers, who, by the way, stood their ground and cursed the men lustily, but to no purpose. The guns never fired a shot.” According to Hazard’s report, he suffered twelve men killed, sixteen horses rendered hors de combat. Additionally, his horse, along with the horses of his two lieutenants were killed. Hazard’s report disputes Donaldson’s account about his enlisted men fleeing and Hazard wrote glowingly of them: “I respectfully beg leave to allude to the bravery and endurance of my men, not a man quitting his post on the field.” Maj. Gen. Otis Howard also upheld the honor of Capt. Hazard’s men: “To help us Hazard’s Rhode Island battery came up at a trot, crossed the canal, and unlimbered in the open ground in the rear of [Joshua T.] Owen’s troops and for a time fired with wonderful rapidity. The battery lost so many men in a short time that it was ordered back.” However, Irish Brigade 116th Pennsylvania’s Pvt. McCarthy corroborated Donaldson: “A few minutes after the repulse and retreat of my division, a Federal battery of six guns was hurriedly brought up to the brow of the hill behind where I still laid to operate in my front. The Rebels on the heights, however, at once opened a furious fire upon our gunners, killing several and forcing the others to abandon the guns and beat a hasty retreat without having fired a shot. These guns were now at the mercy and almost within the grasp of the enemy. Had the Rebs wished to have these cannons, they could have advanced out of their works to capture them.” To recover the cannons, volunteers from the infantry stepped forward: “[T]hey called on Captain [John] Maryland for volunteers. This call was quickly responded to by ten privates, although the battery was under a heavy fire from the enemy’s sharpshooters and batteries.”
Following close behind Barnes’ brigade was that of Swither and then Stockton’s. In the latter Col. Adelbert Ames led the Twentieth Maine; an unknown regiment that was to gain fame in another battle. Faithfully following Ames was Pvt. Theodore Gerrish who was soon pinned down. Gerrish described how one private foolishly exposed himself. “Our brigade was in close quarters on that memorable Sabbath, and the Johnnies kept a strict watch over our movements. It used to be the old adage at Donneybrook Fair, ‘Whereever you see a head, hit it,’ and with our enemy it was, ‘Whereever you see a head, shoot it’; and as soon as we understood that they desired us to remain quiet, we were very willing to gratify them. There were only a very few exceptions to this rule. Here and there was a man who was so reckless that he would stand up and fire at the rebels, and thus bring upon us the fire of that entire line. One man in Company B took special delight in this. He was cautioned by his comrades, and ordered by his officers, to desist, but heeded them not. He saw a rebel far above him, on the hillside; rising to his feet, he took deliberate aim, and fired. A sharpshooter saw him, a bullet came through the air, and with a dull thud it struck in the man’s brow, and he fell a corpse, a victim of his own rashness. Thus through the entire day we lay, hungry, covered with mud, and benumbed with cold.”
I'm still waiting for the afterword to be written. The manuscript was also submitted for peer review. When they come back, then it goes to a designer. Cross your fingers.
Elbert P . Suggins
March 6, 2009, 11:05 PM
This is probably the finest anthology of the Civil War I have ever seen or read about. Very well put together and it captures the reader. It is the best! Ever! I have been to Vicksburg when I was 14 but recently visited Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg. When I read these stories so eloquently written 150 years ago I can only contemplate with stark reality what it was like on Little Round Top, around the Bloody Pond, or in the Corn Field.
March 14, 2009, 05:53 PM
While fortune favored the Confederates, it was not immune to Federal rifle fire. Attesting to the enemy’s aim is Lt. William M. Owen, New Orleans’ Washington Artillery: “The sharp-shooters having got range of our embrasures, we began to suffer. Corporal Ruggles fell mortally wounded, and Perry, who seized the rammer as it fell from Ruggles’ hand, received a bullet in the arm. Rood was holding ‘vent,’ and away went his ‘crazy bone.’ In quick succession Everett, Rossiter, and Kursheedt were wounded. Falconer in passing in rear of the guns was struck behind the ear and fell dead. We were now so short-handed that every one was in the work, officers and men putting their shoulders to the wheels and running up the guns after each recoil... We were compelled to call upon the infantry to help us at the guns... We had been under the hottest fire men ever experienced for four hours and a half, and our loss had been three killed and twenty-four wounded.”
As remembered by Longstreet, the men who relieved Lt. Owen around 5:00 p.m., fared no better: “The Washington Artillery, exhausted of ammunition, was relieved by guns of Alexander’s battalion. The change of batteries seemed to give new hope to the assaulting forces. They cheered and put in their best practice of sharp-shooters and artillery. The greater part of Alexander’s loss occurred while galloping up to his position.”
Even before his battalion joined battle, Col. Alexander had been subjected to sharpshooter fire. “But I remember the day as a very disagreeable one, for I had to move about a great deal, having guns at so many different places; & the sharpshooting and shelling everywhere made me quite unhappy. There was a particularly bad nest of sharpshooters in a brick tanyard, on the east side of the Plank Road, where it crossed the little canal. They cut regular loop-holes through the brick walls & from them had a very annoying fire on certain parts of our line. And the loop hole in the corner on the Plank Road could see up the road some 300 yards to where our line crossed the road, & as we had built no breast-work, or obstruction, across it the fellow at the loophole had a fair shot at every man who crossed. To be sure a man could run across, but the sharpshooter kept his gun already sighted at the spot, & his finger on the trigger, & he only had to pull & the well aimed bullet was on its way. He had several shots at me during the day, & though he missed me every time, I acquired a special animosity to him.” As we shall learn, Alexander would appease his animosity before battle’s end.
The peer review has been completed by the Company of Military Historians. I am incorporating their suggestions and good ones they are at that! No matter how much you know, there's always more to learn. I've contacted the designer and am awaiting their response. Hopefully the design can start next week.
March 18, 2009, 12:38 AM
While artillery was always a favorite target, the Federal sharpshooters did not neglect infantry officers either. Again from Longstreet: “Our chief loss after getting into position in a road was from the fire of sharp-shooters, who occupied some buildings on my left flank in the early part of the engagement, and were only silenced by Captain Wallace, of the 2nd Regiment, directing the continuous fire of one company upon the buildings. General Cobb, I learn, was killed by a shot from that quarter... and almost at the same instant, within two paces of him, General Cooke was severely wounded and borne from the field...” A post-war account provides more details on Cobb’s death: “It was during this interval that a ball fired from a sharpshooter mortally wounded the gallant and Christian patriot, General T. R. R. Cobb. He fell under a locust tree hanging over the Telegraph road from the yard of Steven’s house, a small wooden building immediately in front of the stone wall. The fatal shot came from a house some hundred and fifty yards in front and to the left, and which was occupied by the Federal skirmishers. Captain Wallace of the Second South Carolina regiment, afterwards dislodged them by devoting a whole company to pouring a constant fire upon the windows.” Contemporary historians believe that General Thomas Cobb died from shrapnel wounds. Supporting this Georgian George Montgomery of Cobb’s Brigade reported: “The whole time of the engagement our brave and gallant Gen. Cobb was encouraging on his men until a shot from the enemy’s cannon gave him his mortal wound.”
Confederate Assistant Adjutant General Capt. H. A. Butler was with Gen. Cooke when he was hit. Capt. Butler recalls the event: “[W]e were ordered to support T. R. Cobb’s Brigade at the stone wall. Passing the Washington Artillery and going over the hill, we lost several of our men by the awful cannonading from Falmouth Heights. While Gen. Cobb, his assistant adjutant general, Capt. Brewster, General Cooke, and I were together, a Minie ball struck Gen. Cooke a glancing shot on the forehead, breaking his skull. At the same moment Gen. Cobb and Capt. Brewster fell. I had Gen. Cooke placed on a litter, taken down the lines, and then in an ambulance...” Cooke survived his wound and passed away in 1891.
Near dusk, Butterfield tried again and sent in General Andrew A. Humphreys’ Third Division. Having seen the mistake of earlier columns, Humphrey ordered his men to pass over the columns that were pinned down. They were not to fire but to rely on cold steel alone. Humphreys described the assault: “The stone wall was a sheet of flame that enveloped the head and flanks of the column. Officers and men were falling rapidly, and the head of the column was at length brought to a stand when close up to the wall. Up to this time not a shot had been fired by the column, but now some firing began. It lasted but a minute, when, in spite of all our efforts, the column turned and began to retire slowly. I attempted to rally the brigade behind the natural embankment so often mentioned, but the united efforts of General Tyler, myself, our staff, and other officers could not arrest the retiring mass.”
Supporting Humphreys’ assault was Sykes’ Second Division of Butterfield’s V Corps. Like those gone before them, they were stopped. Among Sykes’ men was Eleventh U.S. Infantry’s Captain John Ames who was uncomfortably pinned down before the stone wall: “[E]ven chickens were brought down with an accuracy of aim that told of a fatally short range, and of a better practice than it would have been wise for our numbers to face. They applauded their own success with a hilarity we could hardly share in, as their chicken-shooting was across our backs, leaving us no extra room for turning... By chance I found a fragment of newspaper which proved a charm that for a time banished the irksome present with its ghastly field of dead men and its ceaseless danger. Through this ragged patch of advertisements I sailed away from Fredericksburg with the good bark Neptune, which had had quick dispatch a month before,─for the paper was of ancient date,─and was well on her way to summer seas... I was called back to the dull wet earth and the crouching line of Fredericksburg by a request from Sergeant Read, who ‘guessed he could hit that cuss with a spy-glass,’─pointing, as he spoke, to the batteries that threatened our right flank. Then I saw that there was a commotion at that part of the Confederate works, and an officer on the parapet, with a glass, was taking note of us. Had they discovered us at last, after letting us lie here till high noon, and were we not to receive the plunging fire we had looked for all morning? Desirable in itself as it might be to have ‘that cuss with a spy-glass’ removed, it seemed wiser to repress Read’s ambition. The shooting of an officer would dispel any doubts they might have of our presence, and we needed the benefit of all their doubts. Happily, they seemed to think us not worth their powder and iron.” The “cuss with a spy glass” was Longstreet’s artillery commander, Col. E. Porter Alexander who identified himself as the only Confederate artillery officer at the battle with a spy glass. As Capt. Ames surmised, Col. Alexander never fired because he was conserving ammunition.
Finding the cuss with the spyglass took a couple of years. I asked one ranger during one of my visits to Fredericksburg and he didn't know. Finally, I stumbled on quite happily on my own.
The text has been submitted to the designer. I go on vacation on Friday and won't be back for 20 days.
March 20, 2009, 12:02 PM
Explaining why Humphreys and Sykes (along with those before him) failed is General Longstreet: “At that time there were three brigades behind the stone wall and one regiment of Ransom’s brigade. The ranks were four or five deep,─the rear files loading and passing their guns to the front ranks, so that the volleys by brigade were almost incessant pourings of solid sheets of lead.”
Deployed to the right of Marye’s Heights as skirmishers was the Ninth Virginia Infantry. While they did not take part in the fighting, they were afforded an excellent opportunity to observe both the repulse of General William B. Franklin’s forces and the assault on Marye’s Heights. Ninth Virginia Lt. John Lewis recalled meeting one man who walked away from the carnage: “On Marye’s Heights it was bloody. I saw a man coming out from that point. He said that he had looked at the dead until he was sick, and I think what he told was so, as he stated there was no danger where he was, and he was simply tired of killing men (sharpshooter).”
While the Federal attack was being repulsed at Marye’s Heights, Jackson was guarding the Confederate right. Nearby Stuart rode forward to determine the intent of Franklin’s men who opposed him. Accompanying Stuart was Heros von Borcke, a Prussian who had offered his sword to the Confederacy: “About eleven o’clock I was asked by General Stuart to accompany him on a ride along our line of battle to the extreme right, that we might look after our horsemen, reconnoiter the position and movements of the enemy in that direction, and ascertain whether the nature of the ground was such that a charge of our whole cavalry division during the impending fight might be profitably attempted...” They passed their men who were building earthworks. His narrative continues: “The atmosphere had now again become obscure, and the fog was rolling up from the low swampy grounds along the margin of Deep Run Creek... We had proceeded but a few steps at a careless trot when suddenly a long line of horsemen in skirmishing order appeared directly before us in the mist. I felt very certain they were Federal horsemen, but Stuart was unwilling to believe that the Yankees would have the audacity to approach our position so closely; and , as the greater part of them wore a brownish dust-colored jacket over their uniforms, he set them down as a small command of our own cavalry returning from a reconnaissance. So we continued upon our route yet a little farther, until, at a distance of about forty yards, several carbine shots, whose bullets whistled around our heads, taught us very plainly with whom we had to deal. At the same moment, ten or fifteen of the dragoons spurred furiously towards us, demanding, with loud outcries, our surrender─hearing which, we galloped in some haste back to our lines, where our bold pursuers were received and put to flight by Early’s sharpshooters.”
“A considerable number of our infantry skirmishers now moved forward to drive the dashing cavalrymen off. But the latter held their ground gallantly, and kept up so annoying a fire with their long-range carbines, that our men did not obtain any advantage over them... General Hood, who had been attracted by the noise of the brisk fusillade, soon came riding up to us, and seeing at a moment what was going on, said, ‘This will never do. I must send up some of my Texans, who will make short work of these impudent Yankees.’ One of Hood’s adjutants galloped off at once with an order from his general, and soon a select number of these dreaded marksmen, crawling along the ground, after their wild Indian fashion, advanced upon the Federal dragoons, who had no idea of their approach until they opened fire at a distance of about eighty yards. In a few seconds several men and horses had been killed; and the whole Federal line─stampeded by a galling fire from an unseen foe in a quarter wholly unexpected─broke into confused and rapid flight.”
Among Jackson’s men was David Champion, Co. G, Fourteenth Georgia: “[O]n December 13th, our corps was attacked by Franklin’s corps, sixty thousand strong. At this time we were entrenched behind a railroad a short distance in front of a skirt of shrub oak. The enemy’s charge was made through an open field and was so furious our first line was driven back into the woods, where we stopped to reform. The enemy stopped at the railroad which they used for breastworks. The distance between us was about one hundred yards, and for some time we engaged in a hot infantry duel. We were ordered to lie down to shoot, but had to stand on our knees to load. I recall now, vividly, a Yankee in the ditch just in front of me, who wore a red coat and who seemed to be a particularly good shot. Every time he raised up from behind the embankment someone was killed near me. Sergeant Dobbs, Corporal Callahan and his brother were among the number. I pointed out the man to Captain Monger, who told me to load my gun and kill the d___ Yankee. I followed instructions as closely as possible, held my fire until he raised up, took deliberate aim, and fired. Much to my relief we did not see him again during the engagement.”
I'm off line for three weeks begining today. I won't return until April 12. The designer has the book and the illustrations.
March 25, 2009, 10:39 PM
Many thanks for hours of informative entertainment. You've got me plotting to buy an accurate percussion rifle now.
I'm looking forward to your book coming out.
March 26, 2009, 01:17 AM
I'll most certainly buy a copy.
April 14, 2009, 07:38 AM
Here's the conclusion of the First Battle of Fredericksburg. Some of it you've read before.
Had Meade’s division been supported, Jackson’s line would have been broken. But Meade’s commander, General Franklin didn’t commit his reserves. Hoke counterattacked and drove Meade back. Afterwards Hoke ordered his men, who included Twenty-first Georgia’s Lt. Ujie Allen, back to secure the railroad embankment. They were entertained there by Federal sharpshooters: “We came back to our line of battle along the first ditch and remained a day and night. During the time the anemy’s sharpshooters amused themselves by shooting at us. They were some eight hundred yds. Off and did no harm. Our men would expose themselves and then dodge when ever their guns would fire. We enjoyed it too. We only returned a few shots, for it was against orders.” Lt. Allen survived Fredericksburg and also recovered a prized Sharps breechloader rifle.
While Col. Alexander did not find a “prize” like Allen did, he had the satisfaction of revenge against the sharpshooter who had annoyed him before his battalion joined the battle.
“I visited Longstreet’s headquarters, & having told how they had had us under hack all day in sharpshooting & shelling, because we were saving ammunition, Gen. Longstreet gave me permission to use a few score shell the next day to get even with them... As before, Monday morning was again thick and hazy, but when the sun was about an hour high the nest of sharpshooters in the tanyard announced their ability to see by opening a very lively fusillade. I happened to be nearby, & I at once determined to try & rout them... I got the line of the obnoxious corner loophole on the roof & sighted in that line, & then fixed an elevation which I thought would just carry the shell over the low hill, aiming myself, & taking several minutes to get all exact. Then I ordered fire. Standing behind we could see the shell almost brush the grass, as it curved over the hill, & then we heard her strike & explode. At once there came a cheer from our picket line in front of the hill, & presently there came running up an excited fellow to tell us. He called out as he came─‘That got ‘em! That got ‘em! You can hear them just a hollering & a groaning in there.
“I examined the place the next day, after the enemy had left. I had made a perfect shot. The shell struck within a foot of the corner loop hole, making a clean hole over a foot in diameter, & exploding as it went in. It knocked off most of the head of the sharp shooter, & the walls of the room on all sides were scarred by fragments of shell & brick. They left his body in the room, & doubtless others were wounded by fragments, from the account of the groaning, but were carried off. But not another shot was fired from the tanyard that day, & in a very little while orders were evidently extended over their whole line to cease sharpshooting.”
Despite artillery and sharpshooter support, the Federal offensive stumbled to a halt and Lt. Col. Alexander’s prophecy came true as each successive wave stormed up Marye’s Heights and approached no closer than 25 yards to the stone wall before being driven back. Union artilleryman Major Thomas W. Osborn recalls the carnage of fallen Union soldiers: “The field between Marye’s Heights and Fredericksburg was a slaughter pen. At that point which was the main point of attack, we did the enemy no damage while the field in their front was black with our dead. We did not gain an inch, and the enemy is stronger than before the battle. At this point our men were put in like grain in a hopper, and had we still been fighting them, there would still be no change, excepting we should have more dead and fewer living men.”
As for the wall that figured so prominently in the battle, it was not even a consideration in Lee’s plans. Longstreet candidly admits: “The stone wall was not thought before the battle a very important element.” Of the 12,653 Federal casualties, Longstreet estimated that 5,000 were from rifle fire alone. The climactic battle won at Marye’s Heights was made possible by Barksdale’s Mississippian sharpshooters who “held the enemy’s entire army at the river bank for sixteen hours, giving us abundance of time to complete our arrangements for battle.” And what of Barksdale, who earned many laurels for his men? Glory was fleeting for he, along with half his Mississippians, would fall at Gettysburg.
There was a second battle at Fredericksburg that was part of the Chancellorsville Campaign. After his failure at Fredericksburg, Burnside attempted to redeem his honor by marching north to flank Lee's army. The rain turned the hard roads into a quagmire and as men, wagons and horses struggled through the mud, it was derisively called the Mud March. Disgraced, Burnsides was replaced when Hooker assumed command of The Army of the Potomac. Hooker maintained a front at Fredericksburg and accomplished what Burnsides failed to achieve - he flanked Lee's position and crossed the Rappahannock in secret. Poised to roll up Lee's army, Hooker suddenly got cold feet and instead of advancing, dug in instead. Lee learned of Hooker's move and dividing his smaller army, marched to Chancellorsville to meet Hooker.
April 19, 2009, 11:27 AM
OK, this is backwards, but here's what I have for the opening of the First Battle of Fredericksburg (Dec 1862).
In the aftermath of Fredericksburg, Capt. Henry Kyd Douglas, a staff officer for Stonewall Jackson, reflected in retrospect: “There was nothing interesting about the Battle of Fredericksburg, either in maneuver or action, in initiative or execution. Without strategy or tactics to speak of, it was a series of gallant attacks with little hope, disastrous repulses with little effort...” However, it is one of the few battles where marksmanship, with sharpshooting in particular, was a substantial factor for the Confederate victory. We explore this proposition and let soldiers from both sides speak for themselves.
One confident Confederate did not think Burnside would hazard assaulting such a formidable position. He warned: “We have a very strong position here and I think Burnsides knows the result.” Another, Lt. Ujanirtus “Ujie” Allen, Twenty-first Georgia, thought otherwise and wrote to his wife before the battle: “I have no idea that Burnsides will endeavor to approach Richmond by this route. He is Burnside now, but if he will come out in good weather he will be Burnt-all-over. Mark what I tell you. The soldiers all say that they will do it.” This was not bravado, and even the Federal soldiers believed that their chances were slim. “The country is clamoring for General Burnside to drive his army to butchery at Fredericksburgh...[I]f General Burnside allows himself to be pushed into a battle here, against the enemy’s works, the country will mourn thousands slain,” wrote Sixth Wisconsin Col. Rufus Dawes, Iron Brigade, to his sister two days before the battle. As seasoned campaigners, the soldiers were equally unhappy about their prospects. Pvt. Josiah F. Murphey, Twentieth Massachusetts: “Well we knew what was in store for us, we knew that we were to make an attempt to cross the river and gain the city and take the heights beyond, and knowing how strongly fortified the rebs were we knew what a reception we should get, and that many of us would never see the light of another day.” Nevertheless, they attacked and failed neither from want of courage nor effort but from poor leadership. Few times would a Civil War era newspaper be more succinct than when the Cincinnati Commercial summarized: “It can hardly be in human nature for men to show more valor, or generals to manifest less judgment, than were perceptible on our side that day.” General McClellan, still smarting from being relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac, added his criticism:
“The dear boys, in their weather beaten blue, were making the best of a gloomy affair, and could not conceal, or cared not to do so, their feeling that there were many chances all would not be well with them. The worst of it was they all doubted in the capacity of the commanding General, and they were strangely devoted to McClellan, singing ‘McClellan is our leader,’ the last song of the night, with hearty enthusiasm.
“The resounding cannonade was almost harmless. It did not take a soldier to tell that there was no business in it, but the expenditure of ammunition. There was so much iron flying that the sound of it rasping through the shivering air could be heard distinctly. The cannon bellowed and the shot hummed low and fiercely. The old town was invisible, but two church steeples pierced the fog. The laying of the pontoons under the fire of the Mississippi riflemen was a sacrifice of brave men. Officers who fell in that service and were carried to the rear were strewn thickly on the grass.
“The Confederates paid very little attention to the bombardment. It meant nothing to them but that something was about to take place. Their riflemen in the cellars were well protected, and shot the men at work on the pontoons at their pleasure. It was no trick at all for a marksman to kill a soldier at every shot. Why all of the bridge builders were not shot down I could not understand.
“It was not Lee’s policy to hold the town. It was a trap. I could not see any show for the Union Army from first to last, and the battle scenes to me were terrible...”
While the carnage at Fredericksburg was not because of a trap, it certainly had that effect. The late arrival of the pontoon bridges wasn’t Burnside’s fault, but he tardily initiated his offensive when he attempted to build his bridges on Dec. 11. Waiting four hundred feet away on the Fredericksburg side of the Rappahannock were General William Barksdale’s Mississippians and their sharpshooters. Ordered to delay the crossing, they would gain time for Jackson’s men to march north to reinforce Lee’s right flank.
Longstreet explains: “The Federals came down to the river’s edge and began the construction of their bridges, when Barksdale opened fire with such effect that they were forced to retire. Again and again they made efforts to cross, but each time they were met and repulsed by the well-directed bullets of the Mississippians. This contest lasted until 1 o’clock when the Federals, with angry desperation, turned their whole available force of artillery on the little city, and sent down from the heights a perfect storm of shot and shell, crushing the houses with a cyclone of fiery metals. From our position on the heights we saw the batteries hurling an avalanche upon the town whose only offense was that it was near its edge in a snug retreat nestled three thousand Confederate hornets that were stinging the Army of Potomac into a frenzy... It was terrific, the pandemonium which that little squad of Confederates had provoked. The town caught fire in several places, shells crashed and burst, and solid shot rained like hail. But, in the midst of all this fury, the little brigade of Mississippians clung to their work...” Undaunted by the bombardment, Barksdale offered Lee that “if he wants a bridge of dead Yankees, he can furnish him with one.”
There's one more part that I have for Fredericksburg and I'll post it next week.
Concerning the book, the designer said that they'll get the first chapters back to me this week.
April 30, 2009, 04:13 PM
As promised, here's the rest of the section on Fredericksburg.
The Confederates survived the bombardment because they had fortified themselves. General Lafayette McLaws, Barksdale’s divisional commander, describes their preparation: “Detachments were immediately set a work digging rifle-pits close to the edge of the bank, so close that our men, when in them, could command the river and the shores on each side. The cellars of the houses near the river were made available for the use of riflemen, and zigzags were constructed to enable the men to get in and out of the rifle-pits under cover. All this was done at night, and so secretly and quietly that I do not believe the enemy had any conception of the minute and careful preparations that had been made to defeat any attempt to cross the river in my front.” One Federal officer who examined Barksdale’s entrenchments commented: “I found a loop-holed block-house, uninjured by our artillery, directly opposite our upper bridges, and only a few yards from their southern abutment. I also found in the neighborhood a rifle-pit behind a stone wall, some 200 feet long, and cellars inclosed by heavy walls, where the enemy could load and fire in almost perfect safety. There were many other secure shelters.”
Given permission to reconnoiter the front, Capt. William W. Blackford of General Jeb Stuart’s staff, visited Fredericksburg and described it: “... I entered one of the zig-zags leading from Main Street to the river a little below the Island. It was the first time I had ever entered a fortified work in action and it felt very comfortable to hear the bullets whistling and hissing and pattering about against the earthworks above my head so harmlessly. Right in front of us a pontoon bridge had been laid a third of the way across the stream, the nearest boat not a hundred yards distant, and upon it lay several dead and wounded men. Time after time had the foolish attempt been made, and time after time had the working parties been swept away by our riflemen in the trenches dug on the crest of the bank. Our men in the pits were highly elated and swore they could hold the place against the whole Yankee nation.”
While the Federals bombarded Fredericksburg, the sharpshooters sheltered themselves and waited for opportunities to return the compliment. “It was impossible fitly to describe the effects of this iron hail hurled against the small band of defenders and into the devoted city. The roar of the cannon, the bursting shells, the falling of walls and chimneys, and the flying bricks and other material dislodged from the houses by the iron balls and shells, added to the fire of the infantry from both sides and the smoke from the guns and from the burning houses, made a scene of indescribable confusion, enough to appeal the stoutest hearts! Under cover of this bombardment the Federals renewed their efforts to construct the bridge, but the little band of Mississippians in the rifle pits under Lieutenant-Colonel John C. Fiser, 17th Mississippi, composed of his own regiment, 10 sharpshooters from the 13th Mississippi, and 3 companies from the 18th Mississippi (Lieutenant-Colonel Luse), held their posts, and successfully repelled every attempt. The enemy had been committed to that point, by having used half their pontoons.”
Exasperated, First New York Light Artillery’s Maj. Thomas Osborn wrote: “I cannot satisfactorily explain to myself why General Sumner laid his bridges just in front of the city where of necessity he must suffer from the fire of many sharpshooters and lose a good many men. To me it appears the same object would have been attained by putting bridges above or below the city where the sharpshooters would have had little cover and our men would have suffered less. When the city was occupied from above or below, as many bridges as might be desirable could have been laid where ever thought best. The city as such is of no importance excepting as it is the point where all the roads of the country center.”
Albany was nice and we got to visit the USS Slater, DE 766. She's a beautifully restored WW II warship and when you step aboard her, you'd think that you stepped back in time. Don't pass up on an opportunity to visit her if you ever visit Albany. We also got to visit the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs. Housed inside an old armory that has been restored, it's a world class museum and they allowed us (Company of Military Historians) in limited groups to visit their arms room (a former firing range). Guns galore down there with several MP-43/44s, a MP-38, an Iraqi made AKM, a Lahti 20mm anti-tank gun, a couple of decadent era flintlocks, quite an array of Civil War muskets, plenty of Springfields (03, 03A3s, no A4s), etc. We also visited the West Point Army Museum and were allowed in even smaller groups into their vault. Wow! There's a collection of Civil War artillery shells of virtually every type down there. Many were featured in a post war book that was published right after the war. There's scale model artillery pieces, a gatling, a billinghurst-requa volley gun, a coffee-mill gun, a Nordenfelt, numerous machineguns (they were all on shelves so it was hard to ID the machineguns). It was better than the NY Military Museum. Lesson: if you want behind-the-scene tours of musuems that have guns, you've got to attend the Company of Military Historians' conference. Next year we tour the NRA museum in Fairfax.
April 30, 2009, 11:13 PM
At least as far as the Class of 1977 individulal Cadets were allowed to check out individual arms from the West Point Museum.
Must have been fun, eh?
May 1, 2009, 01:36 AM
kBob - I'm going to have to contact the curator about that. He wasn't working for them back then, but if they were checking out guns, I'd like to know if there were restrictions and if there weren't, I should have applied for West Point. So what if I never would have made it? I would have bragging rights for playing with guns some folks can only see in the books. Anyhow, for serious scholars, you make an appointment and let them know what you want to see.
May 12, 2009, 09:22 PM
The following excerpts pertains to Antietam/Sharpsburg. You must visit this battlefield if you're in the area. Unlike Gettysburg, it's do-able in one day. It's very well preserved too.
While Lee had anticipated fighting in the farmlands north of Sharpsburg (Maryland), it occurred sooner than expected and before his army could be concentrated. Despite being outnumbered almost two to one (38,000 to 75,000), Lee used every advantage offered by the terrain. First, the farms near Sharpsburg had numerous stone walls and fences behind which he could fight. Second, before McClellan could even fight around Sharpsburg, he would first have to cross Antietam Creek which formed a natural moat.
Identifying five distinct phases of the Sept. 17th battle is Union Brevet Brigadier General Francis Winthrop Palfrey. “Of the battle of Antietam it may be said that it began with the attack made by the First Corps under Hooker upon the Confederate left. The next stage was the advance of the Twelfth Corps under Mansfield to support Hooker. The next was the advance of the Second Corps, under Sumner, and this again must be divided into three parts, as Sumner’s three divisions went into action successively, both in time and place. The division that first became engaged was furthest to the Federal Right, and the next was to the left, and the last still farther to the left. The fourth state was the slight use of a few troops from the centre, mostly Franklin’s, made as late as one o’clock or thereabouts, and the fifth and last was the fighting of the Ninth Corps on the extreme right of the Confederate position.”
In Palfrey’s first phase Hooker’s First Corps crossed Antietam Creek unopposed and turned southwards. Advancing against the Confederate pickets, Hooker’s left and center drove the Confederates into the West Woods and engaged Jackson’s division in a terrible fight. At the edge of the West Woods the artillerists and horses of Capt. J. Albert Monroe’s Battery (Battery D, First Rhode Island Artillery, First Div., I Corps) found themselves being shot down. One gun had five of its six horses killed by the men of Kershaw’s Brigade, and to prevent the gun from being captured, infantry were called upon to assist in dragging it away. We now shift our focus to Palfrey’s third phase and in particular the attack by Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick’s Second Division whose men pushed into the West Woods and were soon flanked by Lafayette McLaws’ Division.
Among Sedgwick’s men caught there were the First Andrew Sharpshooters who were initially deployed alongside the Fifteenth Massachusetts (First Brigade, Second Division, II Corps) and fighting as line infantry. Before the counterattack, they enjoyed initial success: “The coolness and desperation with which the brigade fought could not be surpassed, and perhaps never was on this continent. Captain Saunders’ company of sharpshooters, attached to the Fifteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, together with the left wing of that regiment, silenced one of the enemy’s batteries and kept it so, driving the cannoneers from it every time they attempted to load, and for ten minutes fought the enemy in large numbers at a range of from 15 to 20 yards, each party sheltering themselves behind fences, large rocks, and stray-stacks.” Falling victim to their guns were the gunners of Stuart’s battery.
May 16, 2009, 10:41 AM
to bring you this tidbit I just found.
Today 150,000-200,000 shots fell toward our brigade. In spite of this, only 5 men were wounded and 2 killed. Among the slight wounded was H. W. of Co. E, who was shot through the left arm. The main causes of these unsuccssful shots by the Rebels, as well as our own troops, are: first, the soldiers fire at such a great distance, that it would require the skill of that marksman in the fable, who wanted to shoot the left eye out of a goat sitting on a church tower three-miles away; and second, many officers engage in a deafening yelling that they believe will inspire the soliders. In this act, however, it excites them so unnaturally that their entire bodies start to vibrate; thus the balls travel through the air, instead of into the body of the enemy.
Lesson: bring a bigger gun. In this case, they should have brought out a smoothbore 12 pdr or a rifled cannon.
May 20, 2009, 07:28 PM
We continue our look at the battle of Sharpsburg/Antietam.
McLaws’ counterattack slammed against the extreme right of the Union line and the First Andrew Sharpshooters found themselves flanked and cut to pieces. “There were two companies of Andrew Sharpshooters of Massachusetts... One of these companies was in Morell’s division of the 5th Corps, and one in Gorman’s brigade of the 2d Corps. This latter company was badly cut up at Antietam, in a close engagement where rapid loading and quick shooting with them was out of the question, their guns being little better in that affair than clubs, they losing 26 with their captain and a lieutenant among the killed.” According to Palfrey, “There were some ten Confederate brigades on his front and flank and working rapidly round the rear of his [Gorman’s] three brigades. The result was not doubtful.”
Caught in the maelstrom was First Andrew Sharpshooter Asa Fletcher of Winchester, Massachusetts. “Fletcher was given a Remington rifle of small caliber, such as were issued to many of the New York regiment at the beginning of the war. He was furnished with but twenty rounds of ammunition. His quick marksman’s eye at once discovered the deficiencies of such a weapon for a sharpshooter. In his strong, high-keyed, nasal voice, with Yankee-like readiness for a trade, he suggested a ‘swap’ for my new Springfield rifle, the envy of our little squad, but, boy-like, I refused, confident that I ‘knew a good thing when I saw it...’ Hungry for food, Fletcher used one cartridge for foraging: “[H]unger knows no law. I used one of my precious cartridges in killing a hog, which I tumbled over at the first shot as he was running 200 yards distant.” Fletcher’s rifle may have been a Remington target rifle or, since target rifles didn’t have cartridges, a Remington M 1841 rifle.
Armed with his Remington, Antietam was Fletcher’s introduction to combat:
“I joined my company at Antietam, the evening of the 16th, as they were lying in the line of the left. I did not know right face from left. Their rifles were not like mine, so Captain A. Said, ‘Go in! Get under cover and do all the harm you can to the Johnnies; the first man killed in the company, if within your reach, take his rifle and cartridges.’ This was good advice, but not at all reassuring to a new recruit just going into battle; how did I know that I should not be the first to be killed myself?
“On the morning of the 17th, when going in with the company, I saw a frightful slaughter all about me, I found myself trying to dodge every shot and shell that came in our direction. My nerves were all unstrung under this altogether new and novel excitement; it was different kind of gunning from what I was used to; my hands shook and I was mad with myself that I acted so like a coward, and found it so hard to control my feelings.
"The moment we halted in line, however, the Captain said, ‘Lie down! Every man on his own hook! I was all right, and was just as cool as though shooting at a target, or watching behind a ‘blind’ for a shot at a duck on the rise. I got behind a tree, and kneeling, watched my chances. I had but nineteen cartridges, and that worried me some; but I determined, upon the Captain’s suggestion, to change my rifle and ammunition at the first opportunity, for then I should have plenty.
“The ‘Johnnies’ were behind haystacks. I shot five times deliberately, and dropped a man every time. How do I know? Well, I did not shoot until I saw a body, and a good, fair mark; then I sighted to kill, and saw the man drop after I had fired.
“Just as I expected, though, the Remington rifle heated right up, and fouled. I rammed down a ball; it stuck. I partially rose up, either to draw it or to force it home, when I saw a rebel steadily aim at me from the haystack where I had dropped the others. I dodged down, but wasn’t quick enough; he fired; the ball took me here, through the body, going through a portion of my lung. I fell, with a dull numbness all over me.”
May 21, 2009, 10:33 PM
May 24, 2009, 10:26 AM
We've left off with Asa Fletcher of the 1st Andrew Sharp Shooters being wounded.
Their position was overrun. Wounded, Fletcher was spared the bayonet, captured, and paroled to Frederick City where he was finally discharged and after the war died of his wounds. Besides Fletcher, Captain Saunders, First Lt. William Berry and eleven other were killed. They died fighting, and their effectiveness was recorded by one Confederate: “Most of the casualties in the artillery during the day were occasioned by Federal sharpshooters, who were posted in the treetops and behind stone fences where, with their long range guns and telescopic sights they picked off our officers, men, and horses with almost unerring aim...” As we have seen, it was not without heavy losses to themselves. Second Lieutenant Henry Martin was promoted to First Lieutenant and assumed command of the surviving Andrew Sharp Shooters. Many survivors exchanged their target rifles for Sharps or Merrill breech-loading rifles.
Riding along the Boonsboro Pike to observe the battle General Lee, with Longstreet and D. H. Hill approached the crest of the first hill out of town. Their presence did not go unnoticed by Union Major Alfred Woodhull who informed Captain Stephen Weed, commander of Battery G, Fifth US Artillery. Weed carefully sighted one of his guns on the horsemen and pulled the lanyard, sending a shell toward them. Longstreet spotted it first and suggested that Hill move. Intent on watching the movement of his men, Hill ignored the suggestion and the shell sheared off his horse’s legs, causing Hill to fall into a fetal position. It was quite a feat of sharpshooting with artillery.
It was during what Palfrey identified as the fourth phase that the fighting around the Bloody Lane had ended when the Confederates were flanked and driven back. Supporting the Confederate infantry who were holding Lee’s center at Mumma’s Swale was the New Orleans’ Washington Artillery. Collapse of the center would result in the defeat of the Confederate Army. “Boys,” shouted General Lee to Col. John Rogers Cooke’s men, the Twenty-seventh North Carolina and Third Arkansas Infantry, “you must hold the center or General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia will be prisoners in less than two hours.” Along with their supporting artillery, the Third Company of the Washington Artillery, they rushed into the gap and suffered heavy casualties: “At Sharpsburg, the 3d Company... was ordered into a broken gap, or crevasse, in General Lee’s line, where the enemy’s fire was so withering that it seemed that no living thing could stand before it. Five batteries had preceded the 3d Company of the Washington Artillery in attempting to get a foothold, but the cannoniers had been killed or driven off. To prevent a repetition of this disaster, the last named battery drove to the fatal crest at a full gallop ─ as fast as lash and spur could carry the lumbering and bounding guns and ammunition carriages. Without halting, and at imminent risk of capsizing with the cannoniers upon them the pieces were wheeled into position, and in less than two minutes after, had opened a fire. This stopped, at this point, the breach in the Confederate line; but in five minutes after, the enemy marksmen had shot down eight of the gunners and seventeen horses of the 3d Company. The men were indeed picked off so fast that distinguished officers, who had been brought by the crisis to the point, jumped down and assisted with hands and shoulders at the guns─Longstreet among the number.” Cooke’s men depleted their ammunition but as there were no replacements, kept their bayonets fixed, lay upon the ground and were ready to rise and repulse any Union advance.
May 31, 2009, 01:33 AM
Longstreet found more men who held up the Union attack.
After the battle, Boston Journal correspondent Charles Coffin explored the battlefield and graphically described it for his readers: “The slaughter had been terrible in the sunken road. I could have walked a long distance upon the bodies of dead Confederates. Some of them were shot dead while climbing the fence, and their bodies were hanging on rails. One had been killed while tearing his cartridge with his teeth. He had died instantly, and the cartridge was in his hand. An officer was still grasping his sword. He had fallen while cheering his men... Riding up to the turnpike a short distance south of the Dunker Church I saw a dead Confederate hanging across the limb of a cherry tree by the roadside. He had been a sharpshooter and had taken the position to pick off Union officers, but himself had been shot. I afterward learned that several Union soldiers had seen puffs of smoke amid the foliage of the trees and had given return shots, one of which had taken effect.” He may have been one of the men who wounded General Hooker during the battle.
Turning to what Palfrey called the fifth and final phase of the battle, we examine the attack of the Union left by Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s IX Corps. Gen. Burnside had been directed by McClellan to cross the lower bridge (Rohrbach Bridge) and to attack Lee in his right flank. If his attack was timely, the combined attacks in the center and the right flank would overwhelm Lee and cause his army to collapse. However, Burnside became entangled while attempting to cross the Antietam. Posted on the heights above Antietam Creek were soldiers of the Second and Twentieth Georgia from Robert Toomb’s Brigade along with a company from Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins’ South Carolina sharpshooters. This handful of men held off several attacks and bought invaluable time for Lee.
Supporting one attempt to capture the bridge was the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Infantry, whose Capt. James Wren described coming under fire: “[D]uring the struggle one of the 6th Newhamshir men Came to me and said he had got his finger shot off, but he did not want to go to the rear, and said he had about 40 rounds of Cartridges in his Cartridge Box... Said I, ‘Now you bite the ends off theas Cartridges & I will fire them Cartridges of yours,’ & I lay down my sword & took up the musket... Before Charging the Bridge, I Came near losing my life with 3 difrent musket Balls Coming right over whear I was firing with the musket & the men said, ‘Captain, they have range on you,’ & watched Closly & saw a Soldier on the other side of the Crick, alongside of the Bridge, step to the one side from behind a tree & fire & the Bullet whistled over my head & [I] secured a safe place & had my gun at a rest & lined [up] for the tree & when he Came out to fire again, I fired but was too slow & I loaded again & Kept my gun lined on the tree & Just as he moved I drew tricker [trigger] & I saw him Double up at the root of the tree & that Ball Ceased Coming over my head. I made up my mind that if ever we ware sucksessfull to gain the Bridge & get on the other side, I would go to that tree & see if thear was any one the air & afterwards, in being suckssessfull in Carrying the Bridge & being ordered to skirmish, at once I went to this tree & sure enough, thear was a solider laying thear & my men said, ‘Captain, that is your man,’ & [I] did think I had Killed one man in the Battle of the Bridge.”
June 10, 2009, 09:46 AM
The designer returned chapters 1-10 to me. In addition to some corrections, I've made suggestions as to changes. There's enough for me to work on the index and long hours are spent going through each page.
Here's the conclusion of Antietam.
The initial troops rushed across the bridge but their comrades crossed, “not at all ‘with a rush at the point of the bayonet, a la Lodi’ or ‘Arcola’” but [t]hose of our troops not in the advance crossed somewhat upon [the heels of] those in front─and the whole column while on the bridge appeared like an irregular mob moving nervously, but at a snail’s pace, toward the enemy. The unincumbered motions of a tired soldier are distressingly feeble in appearance. So there was much want of all bounding energy in all these movements... The column kept up its snail pace, passed the bridge, took the road to the right till it was clear of the bridge, and then, being out of ammunition, or nearly so, took position on the sloping bank of the creek...” They then poured “a volley into the rebels; we see their sharpshooters drop from the trees and soon the whole rebel line is flying up the hill and out of sight.” The Fifty-first New York and Fifty-first Pennsylvania were soon joined by the Twenty-first Massachusetts and the rest of the Second Division which advanced along the southern edge of the battlefield, sweeping all before them. Their success however was short lived when, after hard marching from Harper’s Ferry, Maj. Gen. Ambrose P. Hill’s Light Division slammed into their flank and drove them back.
While largely overlooked, the delaying action fought by the Second and Twentieth Georgia along with the company of South Carolinian sharpshooters prevented Burnside arriving in time to support McClellan’s main attack. Had Burnside reinforced McClellan, Lee would have been overwhelmed. Ironically, capture of the bridge was not that important. Boston Journal correspondent Charles Coffin observed: “The water in the Antietam was so low that it could be forded at almost any point. I myself crossed it several times during the day, and in no instance did my horse go above his knees into the water. It is fair to conclude that neither McClellan or Burnside made any effort to discover whether or not the stream could be forded.” Had Burnside known how shallow the creek was, he could either have flanked Toombs’ men or attacked across a broader front. The delay allowed Hill’s Light Division to march up from Harper’s Ferry and counterattack at a crucial moment, which threw Burnside’s men back to the creek.
Despite Burnside’s tardiness, McClellan still had in his reserves one last trump card. Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter’s V Corps of 11,000 could potentially drive a wedge between Lee’s army and break it in half. However, McClellan mistakenly believed that Lee’s army was twice the strength of his and being over cautious, declined attacking. Neither attacked the next day. As he did during the Peninsula Campaign, McClellan hesitated and forfeited another opportunity to destroy Lee’s Army and win the war. Lee took advantage of McClellan’s diffidence and withdrew to Virginia. With losses being about equal in one of the bloodiest battles of the war, Lee was again stalemated. His anticipated victory on Northern soil that would bring recognition from the European powers did not materialize. While Lincoln was disappointed that Lee wasn’t crushed, Antietam did yield one final result─it gave Lincoln the victory he needed to announce the Emancipation Proclamation. Finally, while sharpshooting didn’t prevent Lee’s defeat at Antietam, it delayed Burnside sufficiently for Hill to arrive and save him.
Earlier when this thread was begun, it consisted of sharpshooting stories as found in their published form. In the telling of Fredericksburg and Sharpsburg/Antietam, the sharpshooter's story is told in the context of the greater battle or campaign.
June 22, 2009, 10:51 PM
Eyrie is an eagle's nest.
Our next installment begins the story of sharpshooting around Chancellorsville. I hope that some of you who live in Virginia are taking the time to visit your National Battlefield Parks. It's fun to walk the grounds and figure out who did what to whom where.
While restoring morale and the army’s fighting spirit, Hooker was also planning his offensive. Hooker’s plan called for Gen. John Sedgwick’s VI Corp to pin down the Confederates at Fredericksburg while he led the rest of the army northward and across the Rappahannock via Kelly’s Ford. After crossing with four corps, he would sweep down on Lee’s rear and left flank and roll up the Army of Northern Virginia. Hooker’s initial execution was swift. He crossed undetected and was prepared to roll up Lee’s flank. Then, inexplicably, Hooker hesitated. Lee in the meantime had learned of Hooker’s crossing and leaving behind a small rear guard at Fredericksburg, marched north.
Second Lieutenant W. E. Cameron, (Mahone’s Brigade) described a May 1st sharpshooting incident that happened while Lee was maneuvering his units into position near the Tabernacle Church (located on the Fredericksburg Pike): “The day was spent quietly, save for occasional sharpshooting. The Federals moved up within sight, but made no demonstration. About noon one enterprising rifleman climbed a tree in a farmyard some hundred yard in our front, and wounded two of the men who were throwing up cover for the guns. It was some time before his eyrie was discovered, but finally one of [Carnot] Posey’s Mississippians obtained permission to ‘hunt’ for him, and fifteen minutes later spied him out, and with a long shot brought the troublesome marksman down from his lofty perch, the body falling like that of a wounded squirrel from limb to limb until it struck the ground. Looking at the descent through my field-glasses I could almost hear the thud. The next morning when we advanced an old woman living in the cabin near by reported that the man was dead when picked up.”
The book designer returned chapters 11-13 to me. I'm working on the index and have most of it done. The index is presently double column format and is 28 pages long.
On the side, I've submitted an article to a major magazine and am writing another article for submission in a professional magazine.
June 25, 2009, 10:57 AM
Fantastic stuff as always. Please let us know when it goes to print...
June 28, 2009, 11:53 AM
Part II of Chancellorsville
After determining Hooker’s deployment, Lee divided his outnumbered army. With only 18,000 men (Richard H. Anderson’s and Lafayette McLaws’ Division), Lee would distract the Federals while Jackson’s 32,000 men (his corps and Stuart’s cavalry) marched around the Union line to strike it in its flank. It was a risky move to divide one’s forces in the face of the enemy. If Hooker attacked while Lee’s forces were divided, the Confederate Army could be destroyed piecemeal. Capt. David B. Castle’s Little Wilderness signal station at Hazel Grove spotted Jackson’s flanking movement and warned Howard. So did some pickets, but XI Corps commander Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard interpreted them as a Confederate withdrawal southward, and refused to change his front. Even after Hooker suggested that Howard close up his lines and send out pickets far enough to determine the enemy’s intent, Howard did nothing. First Sergeant Peabody wrote facetiously: “I will admit that Jackson ought to have had brains enough to charge Howard’s front through the swamp; but no, he was ignorant and ill mannered enough to creep around to the right flank and rear. But Howard had his position in front of that swamp, one in which he could defy Lee’s whole army; he was going to hold that position, and the idea that those colonels should send to him, advising a change of front, so that his right would be protected by the river, and his left by the swamp, or that he would need any fortifications, was too absurd. Of course, he would not change his line of battle. What did those fellows on the skirmish line know about it? They were only colonels. He was a major-general.”
To deceive Hooker, Lee ordered Anderson and McLaws to distract him without bringing on a general engagement. It worked and unsure of Lee’s intentions, Hooker ordered Sickles to harass the Confederates near the Orange Turnpike. Lt. Charles W. Thorp led First USSS’s Co. E and K forward to assist a battery. Followed by a line of infantry, Thorp “[a]dvance[d] out on this plank road in the form of a letter V, the point in front, drive the rebel skirmishers in, [to] find their main force and report back... On this venture, some sharp duels took place. Among them, Lt. Thorp using a sick man’s gun had several close encounters, getting his ear grazed, the seam of his sleeve cut, but invariably bringing down his opponent, and afterwards breaking his gun.” When the infantry arrived, Thorp’s sharpshooters fell back and became the reserve.
BTW, I just received book three, In the Trenches at Petersburg of Prof. Earl Hess's triology on Civil War fortifications.
July 3, 2009, 09:10 PM
and no hard feelings to our British cousins across the pond. Families do feud and it was just one of those family feuds we 'uns tend to have every now and then. And now for our second installment of a battle from the Mother of American family feuds (which unfortunately proved that Americans are the best people for killing other Americans).
While Hooker was distracted, Jackson’s men were moving into position and despite the warnings, Howard’s men were unprepared. And why not? According to Hooker’s plan, Lee’s smaller army should be retreating, not advancing against him. At 5:15 p.m. when Jackson’s men emerged in two lines from the woods and struck, they surprised and routed Howard’s XI Corps. Attempting to rally them and save his reputation was Gen. Howard himself. Sergeant Peabody described Howard’s desperate but futile efforts: “I saw General Howard swinging his revolver in his left hand─he had no right hand─and when I had gotten close to him, he was crying out, ‘Halt! Halt! I’m ruined, I’m ruined; I’ll shoot if you don’t stop; I’m ruined, I’m ruined.,’ over and over again. I stopped, leaned on my musket, and looked at him in surprise and wonder, that a man who occupied the position he did should get so completely confused and bewildered; in fact, he was ‘rattled.’” Fleeing through the ranks of Sickles’s III Corps, Howard’s men threw them into confusion. It was not without difficulty that some semblance of a line could be restored late in the night.
While Jackson’s initial attack was successful, order had been lost, compelling him to pause to reorganize his men. At 2100 hours, while conducting a reconnaissance to determine where his breakthrough attempt should be, his party was fired upon by his own men and he was wounded. While Jackson’s wounds themselves were not life threatening, being dropped twice by his litter bearers seriously exacerbated them such that a preexisting pneumonia fatally set in. Command fell on A. P. Hill, but he too was soon wounded, and cavalryman J. E. B. Stuart assumed command. Lee ordered Stuart to press the Union line and join up with him. However, the night allowed the Union army to reorganize itself and Stuart’s line no longer overlapped it. Instead, the Confederate line was now overlapped.
Maj. Gen. John Reynolds’ I Corps was deployed along the Plank Road (to Eley’s Ford) and threatened Stuart’s left flank. To Reynolds’s right was Sickles III Corps, Second Division under Gen. Hiram Berry. Behind Berry Sickles deployed Amiel Whipple’s Third Division in Fairview Grove as a reserve. Adjacent to Berry’s Division was Henry W. Slocum’s XII Corp with Alpheus S. Williams’s First Division securing Berry’s left and John Geary’s Second Division to the left of Williams. These units formed a salient against which Lee would hammer.
When the Union line collapsed, the apex of the new Union line became the knoll at Hazel Grove. Sickles recognized that Confederate artillery could pummel the Union line from this position and therefore occupied it. However, on the morning of May 3rd, Hooker ordered Sickles to withdraw to Fairview Grove. They were about the same elevation and separated by about 1,000 yards of clear field. Confederate artillery officer Col. E. Porter Alexander deployed Capt. Greenlee Davidson’s artillery to pound the Union position. Supported by Davidson, the Confederate infantry attacked but were driven back. Rallied by Stuart, they attacked again with the same results. Adding more artillery at Hazel Grove to support his attacks, Stuart kept feeding his infantry into the cauldron.
Ordered forward into the woods, II Corps, Third Div.’s Third Brigade of Col. Charles Albright (132nd Pennsylvania) advanced and upon coming upon a Confederate line fired a destructive volley that killed and wounded many. They captured over a hundred prisoners and after sending them back, advanced farther. Maj. Frederick Hitchcock of the 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteers skirmished with the second Confederate line: “We could see the enemy dodging behind trees and stumps not more than one hundred yards away. We also utilized the same shelter, and therefore suffered comparatively little. Suddenly I found bullets beginning to come from our left and rear as well as from our front. Two of these bullets had been aimed at me as I stood behind a small tree on our line. The first knowledge I had of them was from the splinters of bark in my face from the tree, first one and then another in quick succession as the bullets struck, not more than three inches from my head. They were fairly good shots. I was thankful they were no better. But now I had to move a couple of companies to the left to meet this flank attack. It did not prove a serious matter, and the enemy was quickly driven back. The same thing was tried shortly after on our right flank, and was again disposed of the same way. They were probably groups of sharpshooters hunting for our officers. One of them, I happened to know, never went back, for I saw one of our sergeants kill him. I was at that moment standing by him, when he clapped his hand to his ear and exclaimed, ‘That was a ‘hot one,’‘ as a bullet just ticked it. ‘There is the devil who did it. See him behind that bush?’ and with that he aimed and fired. The fellow rolled over dead.”
July 3, 2009, 09:21 PM
. . . which unfortunately proved that Americans are the best people for killing other Americans . . .
Sad, but there is so much truth to your statement.
July 6, 2009, 11:30 PM
This was originally posted by me in the Lafayette thread. It is an excerpt of a letter from Lafayette which he wrote when he was in Virginia. It will be found in Chapter 2 of my book. I've tried to figure out where that battle took place and while the general area is known, there's been no archaeology digs as of yet. I'll have to go back on my next trip to Virginia. So, without further delay, General Lafayette.
“Our loss is two captains, two lieutenants, ten privates wounded; two lieutenants, one sergeant, six privates killed; one lieutenant, twelve privates, whose fate is not known; one sergeant taken. The enemy had about sixty killed, among whom are several officers, and about one hundred wounded. They acknowledge the action was smart, and Lord Cornwallis was heard to express himself vehemently upon the disproportion between his and our killed, which must be attributed to the great skill of our riflemen.”
We will resume the Battle of Chancellorsville next week.
July 11, 2009, 10:49 PM
The Confederates retreated leaving the field to the Federals. There was no time to celebrate as the brigade was isolated with both flanks exposed. Retracing their steps back to their lines, they were almost fired upon by their own artillery that, during their absence, had deployed in the position the infantry had earlier vacated. Luckily their colors preceded them and were recognized before the order to fire was given. Maj. Hitchcock recalled meeting his friend who commanded Battery G, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, Captain Amsden. “‘Boy, you got out of those woods just in time. Our guns are double-shotted with grape and canister; the word ‘fire’ was just on my lips when your colors appeared.’ I saw his gunners standing with their hands on the lanyards. After forty years my blood almost creeps as I recall that narrow escape.”
To drive Stuart back, Hiram Berry’s Second Division (III Corps) charged the Confederates. When his left flank became exposed, Berry attempted to restore the line but was shot. According to Seventeenth Maine’s Pvt. Haley: “He was shot by a sharpshooter, who must have been up in a tree, while rallying troops to fill a breach in our lines. The bullet passed down through his shoulder and heart, killing him almost instantly. He was carried off the field on his horse, supported by two of his aides, a sad sight to us who fairly idolized him.”
In our next installment, we'll learn more about Berry's death.
I've been working on a paper about the volley that saved Western Civilization. BTW, the volley missed.
July 11, 2009, 11:41 PM
written by 4x50 Gary;
Note: One thing about reading old texts, you get use to the inaccurate spelling. Some British officers spelled things phonetically and some writers spelled the same word differently within the same letter. In reading original documents, sometimes the word is difficult to decipher and it requires the reader to look at the word in context with the sentence around it.
So... what you're saying is that thanks to an inadequite school system, relaxing of standards and plain ol' laziness we're seeing a return from a standard language spelling to the mishmash of yesteryore..... :D Nowhere is this more obvious than on the 'net forums I'm on.
Anyhow.... I'm at page four of the storys and working my way down a few a day. Great stuff and as long as there are stories it's worth keeping this thread alive.
July 14, 2009, 12:45 AM
It is said that someone commented on Sam Colt's rather unique style of spelling, and suggented that he obtain a copy of Webster's Dictionary.
Col. Colt replied that he would do do as soon as Webster produced a first-class revolver... :D
August 2, 2009, 09:09 PM
We continue our story of one general's death at Chancellorsville.
Berry’s death resulted in confusion when one of his brigadiers, Joseph Revere, withdrew his men. Eleventh New Jersey Infantry Col. McAllister offered an eyewitness account: “The progress of the Rebels was now checked at these points though they advanced and readvanced upon us. We charged and recharged on them, all in front of our old line. But finally all of our right had given way to the other lines in the rear of us, and the line in my rear had retreated. The horses in the battery were shot down and the battery was hawled off by hand. The Jersey Brigade was falling back, Genl. Berry was killed, and our brave boys were surrounded on three sides by Rebels. There was nothing to do but to retreat, which we did...” Third Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Sickles restored the situation when he counterattacked with a New Jersey brigade and captured some prisoners and their colors.
Whether Berry died because of a tree-perched sharpshooter is left to conjecture. However, Major Thomas Osborn witnessed Berry’s death: “He was fully aware of the desperate position in which his division had been placed and was determined to carry it through its work successfully. When the enemy attacked in the morning, he ordered his officers and men to cover themselves as much as possible by the earthworks the men made during the night. These were about 18 inches high and gave good protection to the troops lying on the ground. He, however, refused to make any effort to screen himself, but walked to and fro along the line encouraging all to hold the line and keep themselves well covered. In this way he was exposed to the fire of the sharpshooters and four-fifths of his person to the general fire of the enemy. He had escaped a considerable time and was confident he would not be struck. While standing close to me and near the section of the road, he was hit by a musket ball in the breast and in a few minutes after died.” It was almost noon and time was running out for another high ranking Union officer.
In our next installment, you'll learn who kept his appointment with the Reaper.
August 9, 2009, 04:26 PM
That officer was Third Division’s General Amiel W. Whipple of Daniel Sickle’s III Corps. Private J. Molyneux recalled: “Whipple was shot by a reb. sharpshooter Monday morning. He was but a few rods from our Gen. and staff. I heard the ball pass close over me that struck him.” In his classic work, Generals in Blue, Ezra Warner gives this long accepted account of Whipple’s death: “During the fighting in the tangled woodland around Chancellorsville on May 4, 1863, Whipple was sitting on his horse, writing an order to dislodge a Rebel sharpshooter who was annoying nearby officers, when a ball from the same marksman’s rifle struck him in the stomach and passed out near his spine.” Warner’s view is supported by Berdan Sharpshooter Charles Stevens who wrote: “While lying in reserve behind the artillery, one battery of which was composed of men from the Iron Brigade, the division commander Amiel W. Whipple, who had been busy superintending the movements in front, was shot by the enemy’s pickets a half mile distant, while among our sharpshooters; being struck near the spine and mortally wounded, dying shortly after.”
There's more on Whipple's death. What we have above is the official and romantic version. Gallant officer who is carelessly exposed and preoccupied with the safety of his men when he is struck down by a hidden foe. It's the stuff that heroes are made of. Next week, you'll get one officer's unofficial and very candid account.
My website is being designed now.
August 9, 2009, 04:54 PM
Website?????? Website you say??
:) :cool: :) :cool: :)
August 9, 2009, 05:01 PM
August 16, 2009, 12:14 PM
Perhaps the most authoritative account is by Capt. F. Donaldson. “About one P.M. General [Amiel] Whipple, General Hooker’s Engineer officer, came out to where we were and leisurely walked his horse along our breastworks. He was at once cautioned by the officers and advised at least to dismount, but being so much under the influence of liquor as to be scarcely able to sit on his horse, he did not heed nor reply but walked along to the right of our regiment, where, halting his horse and facing the enemy, he swayed backwards and forwards in his saddle. Capt. Crocker had just remarked that the General was very drunk, when we saw the dust fly from his clothes and himself fall off his horse. Running to where he lay we found that he had been shot through the stomach and bowels, the bullet coming out at the small of the back.” While Donaldson is mistaken as to Gen. Whipple’s responsibilities─Whipple commanded the Third Division, Donaldson’s account is probably the most reliable.
With bratch's help (and especially his wife), I now have some pictures of a sharpshooter rifle that were needed for the centerfold. The centerfold tells the story of the sharpshooter and his gun. There is one for both blue and grey. The placement of the centerfold is going to be tricky. It was designed after the pages were paginated and so I'm not sure if it's going in the center (sans page #s) or will be placed immediately after the Civil War chapters of the book (with page #s and thus won't be a centerfold). The folks who did the peer review and the fellow who wrote the afterword doesn't know about this material so it will come as a surprise to them when they see the finished product. I'll say more on the fellow who wrote the afterword later.
Had pictures of myself taken for the website and dustjacket last week. It was a very warm day and like an idjit, I'm wore a shirt and tie. I posed with a 20 lb French and Indian era breech-loading flintlock rifled wall gun (I'll do an article about it later).
August 23, 2009, 09:37 PM
Also drawing fire was III Corps commander Major-General Daniel Sickles. Capt. Robert Carter remembered:
“On the 4th, at daybreak, we were relieved, and clambering again over the breast-works, occupied the front line of rifle-pits, with the 3d Corps just in rear. We were within a few yards of the little white house (Bullocks).
“The sharpshooters overlooked our position. The bullets spit, sung, and glanced in among the caissons of the batteries. All day long we lay flat, covered as much as possible, but a groan would often convince us that one more of nature’s noblemen had met their doom. General Whipple was mortally wounded. We could see his tent from where we were lying. Beeves had been driven across the river. The meat was issued warm to the hungry men, many of whom had thrown away their knapsacks with rations, in their distress. While cooking it over our small fires, General Sickles sauntered up. ‘Well, boys, this is cooking under difficulties!’ Hardly had he uttered these words, when a z-i-p!--zi-i-i-p!! And the bullets began to buzz about his head.
“‘I am too tall for this place!’ said he, and walked quietly away. A shriek from a man who, under cover of the caissons, was dodging along the lines, hurried some of us to his side. His groans convinced us that he was mortally wounded; he evidently thought so too. We stripped off his shirt. A large black and blue spot on the small of the back showed that the ball had glanced somewhere, and, somewhat spent, had struck hard, but failed to penetrate. Somebody said: ‘Shut up, you d--d fool; you are only hit by a spent ball!’
“His courage rose as we announced it, and his groans gave place to─‘Oh! If I don’t have sweet revenge for that.’ ‘If I do-o-o-n-n-nt have sw-e-e-t revenge!!’ In the early afternoon, a part of our division swept out from the right, found the enemy, and again our batteries rung out in deafening discharges. Then came a lull. An officer of Berdan’s sharpshooters sprang nimbly over the logs directly in front of our position, and creeping to the edge of the woods with a telescopic rifle, watched carefully for a death-dealing sharpshooter who had persistently picked off our gunners.
“We were silent and breathless spectators for a long time, but soon a puff and a sharp crack rewarded the officer’s patience, and a moment later he came in. The story was short. He had swept the horizon with the telescope for a long time, had seen the puffs from a leafy tree. Soon the wily sharpshooter, becoming tired, shifted his position across the field and the cross hairs of the telescope. A pull and the bullet sped to the ‘Johnny’s’ heart.
[Note.─He is said to have brought back with him the rebel’s rifle, a foxskin cap, $1,600 in Confederate money, and $100 in greenbacks.]”
The index has been finished up to chapter 13. Some changes are needed in chapters 14, 15 and the epilogue. Afterward, the index should be finished rather quickly and then submitted for design. The 7 x 10, double column book looks it will be 820-30 pages long.
August 31, 2009, 11:26 PM
The story continues and with a long range rifle shot. I paced it off when I visited Chancellorsville.
Fighting concentrated around Hazel Grove and Fairview Grove where the Confederate gunners pounded Hooker’s apex. During the artillery duel, Confederate battery commander Capt. G. Davidson was struck by a Federal sharpshooter. Confederate Lt. John Hampden Chamberlayne of the Richmond Howitzers reported: “I was on my horse beside Davidson when he was killed by a minie [ball] fired 800 yards off.” According to Major William J. Pegram, Davidson “fell, mortally wounded, at the moment of victory.” The Union center was giving way in part in response to the Confederate pressure and in part in response to Hooker’s command to retreat.
Thus far Darius Couch’s II, Daniel Sickles’ III and Henry Slocum’s XII Corps and a fourth of George Meade’s V Corps had born the brunt of the fighting. The remainder of Meade’s corps, along with Reynolds’ I Corps, were still fresh. Additionally, Howard had rallied 5,000 men giving Hooker 37,000 men─far more than Stuart’s 26,000. With Reynolds’ I Corps in position to roll up Stuart’s left flank, the order to attack never materialized. Maj. Frederick Hitchcock explains that Hooker was injured about 1:00 pm. “The army was practically without a commander from this time until after sundown of that day.” Hooker received a concussion when a post he was leaning against was shattered by a cannon ball. Dazed, he ordered a retreat across the Rappahannock. Both Reynolds and Meade were stunned and Reynolds attempted to bring about a general engagement by sending one brigade to provoke a fight, but the Confederates did not respond.
The image of a gun was submitted this week. I took the photo last week and it took some time to get it photoshopped (lightened and then converted to black & white). The final two chapters have been indexed and that's going in today. With luck, everything goes to the printer this week. My website should be going up soon.
The index is finished and has been submitted.
September 2, 2009, 10:09 PM
the Dragoons were for Horse people , the Mounted Dragoons actually , right ? Seams pertinant to the history of the guns to me , but what do I know , I don't sell books here .
September 2, 2009, 10:58 PM
Dragoons didn’t necessarily fight on horseback. Their mounts allowed them to be moved more quickly then ordinary infantry, that had to march on foot, so Dragoons would sometimes dismount and either defend a part of the line behind cover, or to advance as skirmishers on foot. They should not be confused with Cavalry.
Concerning the book, which many of us are eagerly awaiting. It is a definitive study of the use of, and performance of “sharpshooters” (we now call them snipers) during the Civil War, and the substantial difference they made in the outcome of various battles. I am sure it will specifically cover the various rifles used on both sides. Anyone who understands what it will offer knows darn well that the author, who is highly respected in a number of both historical and firearms circles, doesn’t need The High Road to plug his book. Updates on its progress have been much appreciated by many potential readers, as has the information so generously offered in this thread.
September 7, 2009, 08:08 PM
Fighting as rearguard was the Corn Exchange Regiment. Recalling one lieutenant’s lucky escape is Captain Donaldson: “It soon became apparent that the enemy, far back in the woods─the margin of which our pickets firmly held─had gotten our range exactly, and from the tree tops at nearly a mile distant, their sharp shooters constantly picked off our men. Indeed the firing became so severe that we were obliged to keep below the breastworks for safety, and yet we could not see from whence the shots came. About 11 A.M., whilst momentarily standing in an exposed place talking to Lieutenant Thomas, he was struck in the shoulder by a bullet, which having traveled such a long distance was spent and did not penetrate his clothing, but just gave him a severe blow and then fell at our feet. Upon examining the missile we found it to be of the peculiar elongated pattern used in the Berdan rifle and most likely was fired from one of those terrible globe sighted weapons captured from our people.”
Either upset over losing Whipple or wanting revenge (or both), Sickles summoned his sharpshooters the next day. Describing their mission is First Berdan’s Sharp Shooter C. Baker: “[T]here were two from each Co., by order of Gen. Sickles, selected from the 1st, to go beyond our picket lines, and ascertain, if possible, where the shot came from. W. B. was one to go, and you know that he would be ashamed to make excuses, although sure death. But to proceed beyond the picket line, it required some caution and creeping, to get within sight of where the shot came from, but we became satisfied that it was a stray shot, fired from a target rifle at our pickets, who were on the rise of ground, and some of the shots came into camp. The party returned at dark, one at a time, one only being wounded, having exchanged several shots with the rebel sharp shooters, but not being able to reach the said target rifle, which kept up an occasional fire all day, wounding several men in camp.
“The next morning, our regiment went on picket in the vicinity of the target rifle. We started at three and advanced... About one fourth of a mile, and in addition to that, advanced four picked men in front of all the others. Soon after daylight, there was a squad of rebs, fourteen in number, came creeping up to a clump of oaks, which they were permitted to gain without opposition, and then commenced an interesting exchange of shots, which lasted for about two hours, resulting in one of the four on the extreme front pickets getting a ball through his leg, and others through their clothes, and the silencing of the reb sharp shooters, and recovering of fourteen rifles, one a Smith and Wesson rifle, with a telescope sight, and the others sporting rifles...”
Unfortunately, it could not be determined what happened to that Smith & Wesson rifle. I doubt if it was Smith & Wesson though and most likely it was a rifle built by Edwin Wesson (the older brother and master of Daniel Wesson).
The designer has finished and the total page count is 836 pages.
September 7, 2009, 09:15 PM
FWIW: two of my gggrandfather's brothers were in the 35th Ga.Reg.Co.G.(Walton Sharpshooters). The youngest (22 years old)brother Pvt.Benjamin F.Thomason was killed at 2nd Manassas,the other Pvt.Gideon A.Thomason served until the end of the war. There were also 5 members of the Dial family in the 35th Co.G. who were cousins and uncles of my gggrandfather.
September 7, 2009, 11:47 PM
Benjamin F. Thomason enlisted as a private on 21 Sept., 1861 and was indeed killed at Second Manassas on 30 Aug., 1862.
Gideon Thomason enlisted as a private at the same time as Benjamin. Per the 28 Feb., 1865 muster roll, he was AWOL (not unusual for many Corn-feds who were fed up with the war and willing to go home).
John B. Dial enlisted as a private on 16 Sept. 1861 and was wounded at the Wilderness on 6 May, 1864. He was captured near Petersburg on 25 March, 1865. That was the Battle of Fort Steadman (read John B. Gordon's book for more information). Released at Point Lookout, MD on 26 June, 1865.
Jonathan Jackson Dial Jr. enlisted as a private on 3 March, 1863 and was wounded that same year . He died at General Hospital #1 in Richmond on 8 Dec. 1863. You have to contact either the Museum of the Confederacy, Virginia Historical Society or the National Battlefield Park in Chimborazo (Richmond) for information of General Hospital #1.
Jonathan Jackson Dial Sr. enlisted as a private on 27 Feb. 1862. At Second Manassas 29 August, 1862, he was wounded in the left left and permanently disabled. He was captured at Louisa Court House (VA) on 5 April, 1865 and released at Lookout, Maryland on 26 June, 1865. Jonathan Sr. was born in Georgia on 16 Feb. 1821.
Martin M. Dial enlisted as a private on 16 Sept. 1861. Promoted to corporal in 1863, he was captured at Gettysburg on 2 July, 1863. Died of typhoid fever at Fort Delaware, Del on 16 Jan., 1864.
William M. Dial enlisted as a private on 26 July, 1862. Wounded in 1864. Went AWOL by 25 Feb. 1865.
Check your PM.
September 8, 2009, 07:40 AM
Now that is a remarkable example of quich research... :what: ;)
September 22, 2009, 11:51 PM
Dime Novel stuff.
California Joe, the Mysterious Plainsman
KIND reader, it is only necessary to say that California Joe continued his wanderings about the border daily winning greater fame as a plainsman and Indian-fighter, until the promise he made Feather Face, to "do as, much for him," was faithfully kept, and more so, for he took that chief's scalp instead of his ears in a fight he had with him one day, after guiding a party of soldiers to his village, to punish him for slashing about with "the hatchet," when it was supposed to be buried.
When the civil war broke out, California Joe went with the Union Army as one of a band of Border Sharpshooters.
That his deadly aim did not fall him in army service, is proven from the fact that war-correspondent of Harper's Weekly sent a report of his having "picked off" a Confederate sharpshooter at the distance of fifteen hundred yards, when even artillery had failed to dislodge him.
After the war, in which he won the name of a long-range dead-shot, California Joe returned to the border, and one day came near losing his life, as he was on his way to make a visit to the Reynolds cabin, where he had not been since the night he had carried Maggie back to her parents.
He was riding along the river bank, when suddenly he beheld a canoe and an occupant, and turned just as a rifle was leveled at him. He spoke just in time to save his life. But as Joe related the story of that meeting with Maggie Reynolds-for she it was-to Captain Jack Crawford, the "Poet-Scout of the Black Hills,"* and he has told it in rhyme, I will give my readers a few of the verses, in their own pathetic words:
Beside a laughing, dancing brook.
A little cabin stood,
At weary with a long day's scout,
Spied it in the wood.
A pretty valley stretched beyond,
The mountains towered above,
While near the willow bank I heard.
The cooing of a dove.
T was one grand panorama;
The brook was plainly seen,
Like a long thread of silver
In a cloth of lovely green.
The laughter of the waters,
The coning of the dove,
Was like some painted picture
Some well-told tale of love.
While drinking in the grandeur,
And resting in my saddle,
I heard a gentle ripple,
Like the dipping of a paddle.
I turned toward the eddy-
A strange sight met my view:
A maiden, with her rifle,
In a little bark canoe.
She stood up in the center,
The rifle to her eye;
I thought (just for a second)
My time had come to die.
I doffed my hat and told her
(If it was all the same)
To drop her little shooter,
For I was not her game.
She dropped the deadly weapon,
And leaped from the canoe.
Said she: "I beg your pardon,
I thought you were a Sioux;
Your long hair and your buckskin
Looked warrior-like and rough,
My bead was spoiled by sunshine,
Or I'd killed you, sure enough."
"Perhaps it had been better
You dropped me then," said I;
For surely such an angel
Would bear me to the sky."
She blushed and dropped her eyelids;
Her cheeks were crimson red;
One half-shy glance she gave me
And then hung down her head.
That blushing young huntress being Maggie Reynolds, dear reader, it need not be said that the romance of her life and that of California Joe ended in the reality of matrimony.
In his book, "My Life on the Plains," General Custer thus speaks of California Joe:
"In concentrating the cavalry which had hitherto been operating in small bodies, it was found that each detachment brought with it the scouts who had been serving with them. When I joined the command I found quite a number of these scouts attached to various portions of the cavalry, but each acting separately. For the purpose of organization it was deemed best to unite them in a separate detachment under command of one of their own number. Being unacquainted with the merits or demerits of any of them, the selection of a chief had to be made somewhat at random.
"There was one among their number whose appearance would have attracted the notice of any casual observer. He was a man about forty years of age, perhaps older, over six feet in hight, and possessing a well-proportioned frame. His hand was covered with a luxuriant crop of long, almost black hair, strongly inclined to curl, and so long as to fall carelessly over his shoulders. His face, at least so much of it as was not concealed by the long, waving brown beard and mustache, was full of intelligence and pleasant to look upon. His eye was undoubtedly handsome, black and lustrous, with an expression of kindness and mildness combined. On his head was generally to be seen, whether awake or asleep, a huge sombrero, or black slouch hat. A soldier's overcoat, with its large circular cape, a pair of trowsers with the legs tucked in the top of his long boots, usually constituted the make-up of the man whom I selected as chief scout. He was known by the euphonious title of 'California Joe,' no other name seemed ever to have been given him, and no other, name appeared to be necessary.
"This was the man whom, upon a short acquaintance, I decided to appoint as chief of the scouts.
"As the four detachments already referred to were to move as soon as it was dark, it was desirable that the scouts should be at once organised, and assigned. So, sending for California Joe, I informed him of his promotion and what was expected of him and his men. After this official portion of the interview had been complete, it seemed proper to Joe's mind that a more intimate acquaintance between us should be cultivated, as we had never met before. His first interrogatory, addressed to me in furtherance of this ideal was frankly put as follows:
"'See hyar, gineral, in order that we hev no misonderstandin', I'd jist like ter ax ye a few questions. First, are ye an ambulance man er a hoss man?'
"Professing ignorance of his meaning, I requested him to explain.
"'I mean,' said he, 'do yer b'lieve in catchin' Injuns in ambulances or on hossback?'
"Still assuming ignorance, I replied, 'Well, Joe, I believe in catching Indians wherever we can find them, whether they are in ambulances or on horseback.'
"'Thet ain't what I'm a-drivin' at,' he responded. 'S'pose you're after Injuns had really want to hev a tassel with 'em would yer start after low on hossback er would yer climb inter a ambulance and be hauled after 'em? That's ther p'int I'm a-headin' far.'
"I answered that I would prefer the method on horseback, provided I really desired to catch the Indian; but if I wished them to catch me, I would adopt the ambulance system of attack.
"'You've hit the nail squar' on the head,' said he. 'I've bin with 'am on the plains whar they started out after Injuns on wheels jist as ef they war goin' to a town funeral in ther States, an' they stood 'bout as many chances uv catchin' Injuns ez a six-mule team would uv catchin' a pack of thievin' ki-o-tes, jist as much. Why, thet sort uv work iz only fun fer the Injuns; they don't want anything better. Yer ort to've see'd how they peppered it to us, and we a-doin' o' nuthin' all the time. Sum uv 'am wuz afraid the mules war goin' to stampede and run off with ther train and all our forage an' grub, but that wuz impossible; fer besides the big loads uv corn an' bacon an' baggage the wagons had in 'em, thar war from eight to a dozen infantry men piled into am besides. Yer ort to hev heard the quartermaster in charge uv of the train tryin' to drive infantry men out uv the wagons and git them into ther fight. I 'spect he wuz a Irishman, by his talk, fer he said to 'am: "Git out uv thim wagons; get out uv thim wagons; yez'll hev me thried for disobadieance uv orders for marchin' tin min in a wagon whin I've ord hers fer but ait.'"
California Joe was killed, as was his friend Wild Bill, by the hand of an assassin.
He was seated in front of his cabin at Red Cloud, Dakota, on Dec. 5th 1876, cleaning his dearly loved weapons, when some foe fired at him from an ambush and shot him through the heart.
Who that unseen assassin, was no one ever knew, and the secret will doubtless remain unknown, unless the "still, small voice of conscience" may drive the murderer to confess the crime some day, for most truly, is it said that "murder will out."
There were two California Joes. One is the fellow mentioned earlier in this thread. The other was a plainsman who gained fame after the Civil War. The dime novel writer confuses the two (why let facts ruin a good story). The one described by the writer is too tall to be the California Joe who served in Berdan's Sharp Shooters. Second, the Berdan Sharp Shooter returned to San Francisco after being discharged and worked for the Customs House there. I found the general locations of his residences in San Francisco but of course, nothing remains as everything burned down in the '06 earthquake and fire.
September 26, 2009, 10:37 AM
Naturally the First Berdan Sharpshooters became part of the rearguard. Earlier in the morning the left flank had been driven back against their artillery, which in turn drove back the Confederates. The rest of the day was spent in picket firing. Berdan Sharpshooter Capt. Charles Stevens: “Shooting was in order until late in the afternoon, many close shots being received from a well concealed foe. George Griffin had an open duel with a rebel target shooter who had watched our men closely, the least exposure bringing forth a bullet. It was some time before he was discovered, but finally Griffin stepped out in the open space and brought him to light. Their pieces cracked simultaneously, Griffin receiving a bullet through his pants below the knee, while his opponent, well, if he was not in fitting condition to continue his shooting others were there to take his place, which was an important position covering an approach along the narrow road by which the pickets entered the swamp.”
While Hooker was withdrawing, the sharpshooters exchanged shots incessantly. Supporting the Berdan’s Sharp Shooters from the edge of a wood, the Eleventh New Jersey Infantry suffered one officer wounded. Sergeant Marbaker remembered help came from a Berdan sharpshooter: “The next day (the 5th) the rebel sharpshooters kept up an annoying fire, and several men of the Eleventh were wounded, among them Lieutenant [Alexander] Beach. When Beach was struck, one of Berdan’s Sharpshooters asked ‘if that fellow hit any one.’ When told that Beach was struck, he replied, ‘I have my eye on the _____.’ The next instant there was a report, and the ‘reb’ came tumbling out of a tree.’
I learned on Friday that the stamping for the cloth cover had to be designed so I farmed it out and hope to have it by Monday. The dustjacket also needs a little modification.
October 4, 2009, 10:25 PM
Prior to the campaign (April 17), the First Andrew Sharp Shooters was detached from the Fifteenth Massachusetts and assigned directly to the headquarters of the Second Division, II Corps. At Chancellorsville, they joined Sedgwick in his diversionary attack on Fredericksburg and are credited with killing or wounding one hundred Confederates. In his June 10, 1863 letter, Fifteenth Massachusetts’ Private Bowen described how Andrew Sharpshooter David Temple accounted for twenty. “David Temple, a member of the Andrew Sharp Shooters and more commonly known as ‘Old Dave,’ is called the best shot in the Company. [He] is a reckless old Cuss and cares nothing for any body. He has been detailed in the Commissary Department for sometime past. Yesterday he volunteered to go over as he says ‘and kill a few God damned Johnnys in revenge for the death of Capt. Saunders at Antietam.’ So down he goes with two more men, gets the most advanced position he can find and proceeds to give them Hell. He bangs away all day. Both men that go with him get badly wounded. He r[e]turns at night unhurt himself and glorifying over the fact that he has caused 20 of the damned Skunks of Hell to have a reckoning with their Eternal Creator.”
Chancellorsville was another Union defeat. As Jackson’s crowning achievement, it was blemished by his death─a loss Lee would always regret.
This concludes the story of sharpshooting at Chancellorsville. When you get a chance, visit your local National Battlefield Park and tour the grounds these battles were fought over.
October 6, 2009, 08:01 PM
As you can see from my tagline to the left, I live at Chancelorsville. Like most locals I almost never tour the battlefields. It was the same when I was growing up at Gaines Mill and Cold Harbor. I remember playing army in the trenches left from the war. (I was a kid during the CW Centennial.)
However, that's not to say I totally ignore them. I do consider myself a Civil War buff. Here's a few pictures I've taken near here.
This monument marks the place where Stonewall Jackson fell.
Fighting concentrated around Hazel Grove and Fairview Grove where the Confederate gunners pounded Hooker’s apex. During the artillery duel, Confederate battery commander Capt. G. Davidson was struck by a Federal sharpshooter. Confederate Lt. John Hampden Chamberlayne of the Richmond Howitzers reported: “I was on my horse beside Davidson when he was killed by a minie [ball] fired 800 yards off.” According to Major William J. Pegram, Davidson “fell, mortally wounded, at the moment of victory.” The Union center was giving way in part in response to the Confederate pressure and in part in response to Hooker’s command to retreat
Moving over to the Spotsylvania Courthouse battlefield. This monument marks the spot where Union General Sedgwick fell, shot by a Confederate shaprshooter. General Sedgwick had just told his men not to be afraid. "They can't hit an elephant at this distance." Then fell, shot through the eye.
The "Bloody Angle" at Spotsylvania. The site of some of the most desperate fighting of the war. There is a stillness here. Even on a hot summer day in Virginia, there is a coldness that I just can't put my finger on.
And a couple from the beginning of the end. The McLean house, Appomattox Courthouse. Appomattox, Virginia. It was here that General Robert E. Lee, Commanding, Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered to Lt. General Ulysses Grant, Commanding, Armies of the United States, on April 9, 1865.
A small Confederate cemetary, just outside of Appomattox where we stopped for a picnic lunch. One of the men burried here, I forget which marker, (I believe it's the third from the left) enlisted a few days after Fort Sumter. He apparently marched and fought with the Army of Northern Virginia all through the war, only to die in the final charge as Lee tried to break out of the Federal encirclement.
Hey CajunBass... your pix and narrative add some good seasoning and make for some interesting viewing. Thanks for sharing them ! :cool:
October 20, 2009, 11:37 PM
O.K. A different track. We leave the Civil War to examine another battle from a war fought almost one hundred years earlier. The time is 1763 and it takes place here in North America. The continent is still under the control of the British Crown and the colonies were supposed to be enjoying the peace that followed the Treaty of Paris.
British adaptation to forest warfare in light of Pontiac’s War and Bushy Run
Following the Peace of Paris, the French surrendered their interests in the New World in Canada and east of the Mississippi, the French outposts were occupied by the victorious British. While France was humiliated, the ones who suffered most were their Indian allies who had fought against the encroachment of their lands by the restless British colonists. It was an uneasy truce at best. After all, reasoned the Indians, unlike the French, they were not defeated, and how could the French give away that which was not theirs? Discontent increased when the British Commander in Chief, Lord Jeffrey Amherst, reduced the flow of gifts to the Indians. To the latter this was a serious breach of protocol. Disgusted with the English, Ottawa war chief Pontiac announced that he had a dream in which he received a vision. He said that the Great Spirit told him that the red man was to discard the trappings of the whites and return to their earlier way of life. Under his leadership, the tribes were to unite and destroy the English and retake their land.
The excerpt is from Chapter One. The books should be printed by Friday. Delivery is sometime next week.
October 21, 2009, 07:58 AM
From whom will it be available? :) :) :) :) :)
October 21, 2009, 09:58 AM
I've got someone working on the website. I've got the resale license so now I'm a tax collector in California. I'm still waiting for the fictitious business name from the county. Then I can get a bank account and from there it will be good to go.
War erupted on the frontier. Farms burned and settlers who did not flee were slain. The defensive chain of forts fell in rapid succession and in the Great Lakes region only Fort Detroit held out. In the south, only Fort Pitt and those east of it remained in British hands. It is said that Fort Pitt held out because “not an Indian would show his nose without being picked off with a bullet, for we have some good marksmen here.” Anxious to relieve Fort Pitt, Lord Amherst sent Col. Henry Bouquet along with the remnants of the Forty-Second and Seventy-Seventh regiments (excluding staff officers, 171 and 102 strong, respectively). Both regiments were depleted by sickness in their West Indies Campaign (of the 2,057 Scots who embarked for the campaign, only 795 returned in Nov. 1762). Along with his own regiment, the Royal Americans (Sixtieth) and frontiersmen whom he hired as scouts and flankers, Bouquet mustered a pitiful 500 men. His feeble column was substantially weaker than the 7,000 he and Forbes had led in 1758. The only advantage Bouquet enjoyed over the earlier expedition was that his men were no longer strangers to forest warfare. Following his earlier route on the Forbes Road, Bouquet led his small column eastward from their staging area at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. When less than twenty miles from Fort Pitt, they were ambushed. The two companies of light infantry drove the Indians back. Montgomery Highlander Pvt. Robert Kirk: “When Col. Buccard perceived their design, he ordered that part of the square which were on the flank, to move forward and support the front.” After their initial repulse the Indians regrouped and attacked the flanks and the supply train in the rear. Pvt. Kirk continues his narrative: “The rear by this time had come, when the Indians perceiving they must fight a fresh party, changed their scheme, came round and attacked the rear; we faced about, and having made a kind of breastwork with the flour bags, waited their approach; when they came close up, we gave them our whole, fire, and rushed out upon them with fixt bayonets; the Indians are not very well used to this way of fighting, they therefore immediately took to their heels, and left the field of battle, but they hovered in the woods about us all days and night, which made the commanding officer not to think it expedient to leave that situation for that night.”
October 22, 2009, 07:29 PM
waiting for the books,with baited breath!
What the heck does that mean ,anyway?
October 22, 2009, 10:23 PM
'Bate' (alternate spelling is bait) is a shortened form of abate, meaning to lessen or moderate. To 'wait with bated (or baited) breath' is to wait with shortened, shallow breathing, as in ambush, anticipating your quarry.
October 22, 2009, 10:47 PM
Proof that mykeal is smarter than I.
Here's more on Bouquet and the Battle of Bushy Run.
Realizing their only salvation was to lure the Indian to close quarters, Bouquet devised a strategy. Since Indian tactics called for minimizing their casualties, they avoided fully encircling an opponent. By allowing an avenue of escape, a disheartened foe could flee and in the ensuing panic the Indians would run them down and destroy them. Thus the Indians’ lines were shaped like the letter “C” as opposed to a complete encirclement. The gap was used by Bouquet to move one light infantry company, his grenadier company of the Forty-Second and remaining frontiersmen onto an unoccupied portion of the hillside and out of view. Bouquet ordered his remaining two light infantry companies (probably one from the Seventh-Seventh and one from the Forty-Second) to feign a retreat toward the center when the Indians again attacked.
By the hair of a bear, Bushy Run was narrowly saved from closing due to Pennsylvania's deficit. So, if you've got a chance, visit that battlefield. It's operated by the PA State Park System. Other nearby sites that are worth visiting include Jumonville Glen, where Washington started the French & Indian War by his failure to protect Jumonville when he surrendered. Jumonville Glen, along with the nearby Mt. Washington Tavern, Braddock's Grave and Fort Necessity (Washington's first defeat) are operated by the National Park Service. Everything is close to Pittsburg so if you should stop by there to visit Fort Pitt - another PA State Park site. A blockhouse built during the time of Herny Bouquet still stands today. Take note of Grant Street when you in Pittsburg (a short distance from Fort Pitt). It's where 77th Montgomery Highlander Maj. James Grant launched his (1758) attack on Fort Duquense. I'll post that after Bushy Run is finished.
October 30, 2009, 11:03 PM
The next day, when the Indians renewed their attack, the two light infantry companies retreated as planned. Mistaking this for a panicked retreat, the Indians rushed forward for the kill. Instead, the light infantry suddenly turned around and fired a volley. Startled, the Indians prepared to stand their ground when the two light infantry companies lowered their bayonets and charged. The final surprise came when the hidden companies swept forward and cleared the hillside. This was too much for the Indians, who broke. The student, Bouquet, applied the Indians’ tactic of luring a pursuer into an ambush against the Indians themselves. (Indian tactics included luring a pursuer into an ambush. Knowing a pursuit would follow the raiding band for revenge, recovery of prisoners and chattel, the Indians would lie in wait and fall upon their pursuers.) Describing the climactic moment is Pvt. Robert Kirk: “[T]he Indians thought we were going to break and run away, and being sure of their prey came in upon us in the greatest disorder; but they soon found their mistake, for we met them with our fire first, and then made terrible havock amongst them with our fixt bayonets and continuing to push them every where. They set to their heels and were never after able to rally again...” Bouquet collected his wounded and pressed on to Fort Pitt. His casualties (fifty dead, sixty wounded or about twenty-four percent), while heavy, were nowhere near those of Braddock (1755) or Grant (1758), and he succeeded in lifting the siege of Fort Pitt and breaking the spirit of Pontiac’s Revolt. It being late in the year, and with few troops, Bouquet was compelled to halt the campaign and rest his men.
Books arrived today. Now I can't walk into my downstairs library.:p
October 31, 2009, 04:35 AM
Well I'm in for a book as soon as I know where to send the money order or PayPal.
November 1, 2009, 10:50 PM
While some earlier historians believed that Bushy Run proved the British soldiers’ mastery of forest warfare, both Brumwell (Redcoats) and Starkey (European and Native American Warfare) cite the post-Bushy Run defeat of Capt. Dalyell with 276 men (which included Maj. Robert Rogers and his Rangers) at Fort Detroit and the Seneca ambush on the Niagara Trail (Sept. 14, 1763) as evidence to the contrary. Brumwell argued that the British Redcoat adapted to forest warfare. Starkey’s assessment is more accurate, and while Starkey recognized improvements, he believed that the Redcoat was still far from being the equal of the Indian. The Indians had no doubt about their superiority and derisively called the British “petticoat soldiers”. Starkey also pointed out that most British officers failed to adapt themselves and he cites the loss of successive forts during Pontiac’s Rebellion as demonstrating a lack of understanding of Indian tactics. Many years later one former Royal American lieutenant, Major General Arthur St. Clair, was badly defeated in his 1791 expedition against Little Turtle’s Miami Indians.
Even after his victory Bouquet expressed reservations about his regulars. “[I]n obedience to your desires I would have attempted it with that Small addition of men fit for Such Expeditions. But without a certain Number of Woodsmen, I can not think it adviseable to employ Regulars in the Woods against Savages, as they can not procure any Intelligence; and are open to continual Surprises. Nor can they pursue at any distance this Enemy when they have routed them, and Should they have misfortune to be defeated the whole would be destroyed if at above one day’s march from a Fort.” Furthermore, a confident Bouquet would not have issued instructions to scatter to the victors of Bushy Run. Pvt. Robert Kirk: “We were now within 20 miles of Fort-Pit, & had directions if we were again attacked, and should be defeated, to make the best of our way to said Fort...”
To buy a copy, here's a link to a Link (http://thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=484150)
November 8, 2009, 12:16 PM
Analysis on Bushy Run continued...
In eight years of conflict, British fighting skills improved and this becomes evident in comparing the losses sustained by each successive battle near Fort Duquesne/Fort Pitt. Respectively, Braddock, Grant and Bouquet suffered 62%, 37% and 24% casualties. Furthermore, Bouquet’s paltry column not only withstood an Indian attack longer than Braddock’s or Grant’s, but also fought on the next day and won. While still not the equal of the woodland Indian, the British regular was adapting to forest warfare. Credit must be given to Bouquet who understood Indian tactics and applied it against them. He used the Indians’ overconfidence and their contempt for the redcoat to lure them to close quarters where his Highlanders’ skill and passion for cold steel were most effective. Was there a tactical edge that allowed Bouquet’s strategy to work? We turn to frontiersman James Smith for an answer. A former captive who was adopted by the Caughnewago Nation and lived with them for five years, Smith was intimate with their mode of warfare and both raised and led a company of riflemen to protect the Pennsylvania frontier against Indian raids. Smith wrote: “The Indians had no aid from the French, or any other power, when they besieged Fort Pitt in the year 1763, and cut off the communication for a considerable time, between that post and Fort Loudon, and would have defeated General Bouquet’s army, (who were on the way to raise the siege) had it not been for the assistance of the Virginia volunteers....” Smith also points out that the Indians: “...had no British troops with them when they defeated Colonel Crawford, near the Sandusky, in the time of the American war with Great Britain: or when they defeated Colonel Loughrie, on the Ohio, near the Miami, on his way to meet General Clarke: this was also in the time of the British war. It was the Indians alone that defeated Colonel Todd, in Kentucky, near the Bluelicks, in the year 1782; and Colonel Harmer, betwixt the Ohio and Lake Erie, in the year 1790, and General St. Clair, in the year 1791....” (Note: While Smith and Montgomery Highlander Robert Kirk both identify Barrett’s men as Virginians, Bouquet identifies them as Marylanders. The ambiguity may arise from the dispute between the two colonies over their border.) Bouquet neglects to credit Capt. Barrett and his Virginia riflemen as instrumental to his success. It is likely that without them Bouquet’s regulars could not have pursued the Indians deep into the woods without being ambushed again.
November 25, 2009, 10:08 PM
The next year Bouquet led a larger army including numerous frontiersmen into the heart of Indian territory in a punitive expedition and negotiated a peace from a position of strength. In recognition of his achievements Bouquet was promoted to brigadier general in the United States and transferred to Florida where he died of malaria (1765). Pontiac surrendered himself to Sir William Johnson (July 25, 1766) and almost three years later in April,1769, was murdered by a Kaskaskia Indian who was in the pay of an English trader.
While recent research, notably Bodine’s, cast Bouquet in a less mythical light, some of Bouquet’s ideas for Indian warfare remain valid. The adoption of brown clothing and leggings or even the limited use of rifles are among them. Perhaps the most viable proposal by Bouquet was the use of dogs. While not original to Bouquet, who acknowledged the Spanish precedent, the use of dogs was validated in the American Revolution at Freeland Station (April 2, 1781) where a party of settlers set out to ambush a war party that was en route to attack the station. Instead of being the ambushers, they were ambushed and cut off by the Indians who had thrown a cordon in their path. Their precarious state was relieved by the timely release of their dogs, who distracted the Indians long enough for the settlers to retreat to safety.
Bouquet was promoted to General in America. The peculiar thing about British ranks, is that outside of the Americas, Bouquet would only be a colonel. It's somewhat akin to the brevet ranks given to our soldiers during the American Civil War - except that Bouquet probably received a general's pay. Unfortunately, he didn't have long to enjoy his promotion. He was sent to Florida where he contacted yellow fever and perished from it. His final resting place is unknown.
The article was originally released in Muzzle Blasts Magazine, the official magazine of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association. If you don't belong, you might consider joining. Here is a Link (http://www.nmlra.org/)
January 2, 2010, 12:55 PM
During the course of 2010, the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association will publish three articles adapted from Chapter 1 and 2 of the book. If you don't already belong to the NMLRA, you should consider it. Here's an incident from our Revolution.
The American’s lack of artillery did not deter them and they posted men to pick off the landing parties. Their fire was so accurate that the British abandoned their efforts to land and burn the town. The next day the British attempted to destroy the town with cannon fire but their ships had mistakenly anchored too close to shore and were within range of the riflemen. “Men were picked off in every part of the ships, and great terror soon prevailed in the fleet. The cannon were deserted, for every gunman became a target for the riflemen. The British commander, unable to endure a fire so deadly, ordered the cables slipped and the vessels to retreat. This movement was difficult, for men seen at the helm, or aloft adjusting sails, were singled out and shot down.” One tender, along with seven of her sailors, was captured.
The Company of Military Historians should also release one of my articles this year.
January 4, 2010, 11:45 AM
I am enjoying my, signed ,copy of your book that my wife got me for Christmas... It was well worth the wait.
January 4, 2010, 01:00 PM
Gary,have you done anything on "Bloody" Bill Cunningham or maybe,"Daring" Dicey Langston? My ggggggrand father Martin Dial sr. of Laurens Dist.,South Carolina, was once captured by Bloody Bill(according to family legend) at the canebrake. Martin's son Isaac(my gggggrandfather) named his daughter Dicey (my ggggrandmother)after the daring Miss Langston.
January 4, 2010, 08:16 PM
Jimmy Ray, neither Bloody Bill nor Daring Dicey Langston are mentioned. BTW, I've heard of Bloody Bill Anderson but not Bloody Bill Cunningham.
I had information on Jack Hinson too but didn't include him as I wanted feats of marksmanship and not just body counts. Now there's a book on Hinson that was released last year.
January 7, 2010, 01:31 PM
Bloody Bill Anderson was a Confederate partisan (rode with Quantrill)and a relative of mine.(his mother was Martha Thomason Anderson) also my Todd ancestors rode with Quantrill. Bloody Bill Cunningham was a Tory during the American Revolution and was deserving of the nickname. Dicey was his sworn enemy and a patriot to be admired at age 16 years.
May 1, 2010, 04:59 PM
Scout-Sniper 1862-1865 perspective might find commonality with the scout-sniper of today.
The following excerpts were taken from: The Civil War Diary of Wyman S. White
First Sergeant Company F 2nd United States Sharpshooters.
While the contention over the gun was in progress, our boys could see a Rebel over beyond the gun stand¬ing beside a tree. They fired at him for a long time and he in return sent a bullet as often as one might reload. A puff of smoke told our men that he still lived and was doing business at the same stand. Why all the shots our boys sent him did not silence him or even disturb him was to them a mystery. At that time I was using a telescope breech loading rifle that weighed thirty pounds and someone came to us and wanted me to try my rifle on the man they could not hit or si¬lence. I went and as soon as I brought my rifle's tele¬scope to bear on the mystery, I saw that it was the body of a dead rebel lashed up to a tree and a live rebel Sharpshooter was behind the tree doing his best to pick off the Yankees that were sending bullets into his dead comrade hung up beside the tree that covered him.
Four Inches of Powder
Then I fired a shot and the bullet made the dust fly right amongst the workmen. They scouted around but went to work again. I loaded my thirty pounder again and fired, making the dust fly among the chaps, who took themselves out of sight for a short time. I fired the fifth time before they quit their job and they did not put in an appearance at their job again. This per¬formance proved beyond a doubt that the big muzzle loader was a longer range gun than the Sharps rifle, and there was a reason. The charge in loading it was four inches of powder, a good flannel wad, a bullet that weighed more than an ounce that was wedged into the grooves of the rifling inside by use of a false muzzle. So that when the fire from the percussion cap touched the four inches of powder it would send a bullet more than a mile and do good execution. I have no doubt the working party of rebels was more than a mile away and I had no trouble in driving them away. I also have no doubt that if I hit them they received an awful wound.
This young officer was a tall slim man about thirty years old, of florid complexion and, as he lay there and I had seen nothing but his face, I should never have thought but it was the face of a living man. How I came to notice the affair was that my rifle was in bad shape and needed cleaning. I saw a rubber coat and thought that I might get a dry piece of cloth from under the rubber coat. The body was clothed in no less than three coats of cloth besides the rubber one, also three or more pairs of pants, and I concluded this officer wore all those clothes to give him a better appearance by looking more stocky. In getting cloth for cleaning my rifle I cut through three pairs of pants before I got a dry piece fit to use on my rifle. This piece was taken from a pair of U.S. Soldier's sky blue pants, and the rubber coat the colonel wore had the name and regiment of an officer of a New Jersey regi¬ment stamped on the inside with stencil. I got my dry cloth out of his pants and left him alone in his glory and went on my way to obey orders in locating the enemy.
The Telescopic Sighted Sharpshooters Rifle
There was in use, a very heavy rifle, with a teles¬copic sight, used for special sharp shooting. There were not many of these rifles but they were assigned to those soldiers considered to be the best shots. The soldier had a special wooden case for the rifle. When the unit moved, he had to take the rifle to the case at the wagon train and put the rifle in it, for transportation. The rifle weighed 34 pounds. When he put away the telescopic sighted rifle, he took up his Sharps rifle again and moved with the troops until a special duty required the use of the large long range rifle again. The charge for loading the telescopic rifle was four inches of black powder, a good flannel wad, a lead bull¬et that weighed more than an ounce that was wedged into the grooves of the rifling inside by use of a false muzzle. When fire from the percussion cap hit the charge, it would send the bullet more than a mile and do good execution. The rifle fired greater distances and more accurately than the Sharps Rifles were capable of doing. In the book "Berdan's U.S. Sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865," the author, C. A. Stevens, explains in an incident in the First Regiment, he high regard in which those using such rifles were, held. "Harrison's Creek, June 16th, 1864. One of the first men shot on taking this position was James Heath, ,f Michigan, who carried a 34 pound telescopic rifle, the heaviest in the regiment, and which, as he went down, fell with a heavy blow in the middle of the road. The rifle was immediately turned over to James Ragin, of Wisconsin, who was sent to the rear by Capt¬ain Wilson, to put it through repair before attempting o use it. The giving of these telescopic rifles, but a few of which were now carried at this period of serv¬ice, was in the nature of a mark of honor, as the sharpshooter thus armed was considered an independent character, used only for special services, with the, privilege of going to any part of the line where in his, own judgment he could do the most good. It is there- fore sufficient, in naming the men carrying these pon¬derous rifles, to show that they were among our most trusted and best shots." It is to be noted that at the Battle of Burnside's Mine, 30 July, 1864, Ragin was wounded in the left arm. The rifle was then assigned to Frederick H. Johnson of Company B. He was from New York City.
In the foregoing manuscript, it will be noted that Wyman S. White had been assigned one of these tele¬scopic rifles and had used it for an extended period of time with, according to him, quite excellent results. It will also be noted that he operated at times as an in¬dependent marksman in various parts of the line where he thought he could do the most good.
May 1, 2010, 05:31 PM
So, who made this 34 pound rifle?
May 1, 2010, 05:42 PM
Wyman White's diary remains the most valuable diary of any Civil War era sharpshooter that I have read. It's also getting hard to get now too.
BTW, as to which soldier got the rifle, what was described in the above thread talks only about the practice of the Berdan Sharp Shooters. I have found an example where whomsoever could get their hands on a telescope gun could become a sharpshooter and whether he had any expertise with it or not was not relevant.
As to who made the rifle, they were made by individual gunsmiths. There are examples of these guns in various collections. Gettysburg National Battlefield Park has at least one as does the Log Cabin Shop in Lodi. The National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, VA has several target guns of the period. The Smithsonian does too, but it's not on display right now (I was there in April).
May 1, 2010, 06:01 PM
Thanks! I was assuming it was some heavy model of the Whitworth or something like that.
Sounds like the Civil War equivalent of the Barrett!
May 5, 2010, 08:57 PM
April 2010 issue of Muzzle Blasts had an article on Braddock's Defeat. It was extracted from Chapter 1.
May 2010 issue has an article on Spencer's Ordinary, a little known skirmish that was a prelude to Yorktown.
May 7, 2010, 07:20 PM
There's a terrific book out by Tom Tate. From Under Iron Eyelids: The biography of James Henry Burton, Armorer to Three Nations discusses the career of James Burton. If you never heard of the man, he's the fellow at Harper's Ferry who improved Claude Minie's bullet and by tapering the bullet's skirt, could discard the plug that served to expand the undersized minie ball to mate with the grooves and lands of the gun barrel. He then went to England where he help set up the English armories to make the P53 Enfield rifle musket. When the American Civil War broke out, he returned to the South and became an armorer for the Confederacy. I just started reading it and it's terrific, well researched and is a must for anyone who is fascinated by the Civil War.
Enough rambling. Here's our bedtime story for today.
In the afternoon, as three companies of our regiment were supporting a section of the Baltimore battery, Second Lieutenant B. G., Co. F, was shot by a rebel sharpshooter at not less than 900 yards distance. The lieutenant died at 10 p.m. on Sunday night.
August 1, 2010, 04:04 PM
Here's a link to a book I've been searching for for many years now. It's a fictionalized account of WW I sniping. Sniper Jackson has been out of print for many years, then Goggle Books has it. Link (http://books.google.com/books?id=dFAMAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=sniper+jackson&source=bl&ots=yN9iy_BOpJ&sig=MUzYtAPFS1A0V2l8SbK_wOOVLX8&hl=en&ei=j8tVTPS8M4_4sAOyvpDZAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false)
Enjoy Sniper Jackson. I'm reading it now.
July 2010 issue of Muzzle Blasts magazine has my article on sharpshooting at the Battle of St. Foy (Quebec II). The Company of Military Historians has done a review of the book which it will release soon.
August 1, 2010, 06:54 PM
I was reading one of your anecdotes on TFL about Lord Baden Powell, & I was wondering if you have been to Gilwell. If you had, is there a critter that might stand out a little more for you then others.
I have enjoyed reading your postings here & can't wait to introduce my youngest (39) son to them. Heading to Gettysberg on 8/16/10, he has been student of the War Between the States for many years.
You posted a link to a link for information regarding your book but I wasn't able to get in. Please pass the info, title,etc.
Thank you I enjoyed them!:)
August 1, 2010, 10:03 PM
"Back to Gilwell, happy land,
I'm going to make my ticket if I can"
And I am infact working on some wood Badge Tickets this summer and fall.
August 2, 2010, 12:08 AM
Here's a bit of advice from a WW I British sniping officer to his pupils. He himself was introduced to his trade by a sergeant in 4 Gordons. The sergeant didn't survive the war (artillery got him) and unfortunately, his diary was destroyed with him. This bit of advice is almost 100 years old and is as relevant today as it was then.
“You see you must never despise your enemy. He is a very good soldier, the German, so do not listen when people laugh or sneer at ‘Bosches.’ When the newspapers talk so stupidly of ‘Huns’ not playing the game, etc., etc., as often as not these Germans are fine fellows doing their best for their country, and doing it better than most. They are standing all sorts of hardships; they are facing all kinds of dangers, just as much as our own good men at the front, an example to many who might do more.”
August 2, 2010, 12:12 AM
While at Gilwell what group of critters did you wind up being involved with? You mention you will be working with some tickets, are you working the course?
Just an ole Beaver.:D
August 2, 2010, 10:02 AM
I wear the mark of the Fox.
If I can get four of five finished by late January I am invited to be on cadre at next year's classes in my Council.
Having some difficulty on the personal improvement ticket due to illness, mine and the kids, but well on the way.
On a BP related note I hope to do the Outdoor Activities FIrearms training course before next summer.
Sorry to hijack. I will stop now. I like reading your stories too much to get in the way much.
August 4, 2010, 11:05 PM
In theory, I should have finished the book but I'm only 3/4th through. There are problems with reading it. The author's heavy reliance on WW I vernacular results in some things sailing over my head. Another difficulty arises in not understanding a scottish accent. One must slow down to translate what is being said. Here's an example. It is from a Scot sniper to an American serving in a Scottish regiment. The Scotsman is encouraging the American to write to his (the Scot's) sister.
"Och, ay, man. Ah'll write tae ma lassie tellin' ye're gaun tae write tae her sister Bella. An' Ah'll tell her what like o' chap ye are. Bella will write ye a' richt. She's just cast oot wi' a lad. Gaun! Write noo," urged Billy.
"What'll I say?" asked Oldheim, opening out his writing block.
"Say ye are a lonely sodger, an' would she excuse you just dropping her a line for something better tae dae. Say ye've heard frae me that she's oot a lad the noo, an' that Ah reckomendit ye tae apply for the vacancy. Tell her aboot the fecht we're noo gaun up tae. Pile it on thick. Lassies fairly like that. Say ye've heard she's a graun' baker, and that ye likit that bite o' one o' her scones Ah gied ye. She'll mebbe send ye some."
August 5, 2010, 09:15 AM
The Scot is encouraging the American to write his girlfriend's sister, not his own.
I think it is colorful speech, but does slow one down.
August 8, 2010, 06:12 PM
Here's an account where sniper training came in very handy. When the supply chain breaks down, soldiers have to forage for their food. One forager had the benefit of sniper training and a scoped rifle.
Another type of game bird we hunted was the ducks that lived in the swamps behind the village. We hunted the ducks with our rifles. Because we were not officers, we didn't have any shotguns and shooting a duck with a rifle can be very tricky. You had to hit them in the head or shoot the head off. A hit with a rifle bullet in the body would ruin the duck and it would have to be thrown away.
Being a sharpshooter, I had better luck at this than most riflemen. I had a Zeiss scope on my rifle and it came in real handy for shooting ducks. I'd sneak in to the edge of the swamp and lay down or rest the rifle across a tree limb to keep it steady. Then I'd find a target, a duck, and set the crosshairs on the thinnest part of its neck. That's when I'd hold half my breath and squeeze the trigger of that Mauser very carefully until the rifle fired. Almost every time, I could shoot a duck's head right off.
GENTLEMAN OF THE CHARCOAL
August 8, 2010, 07:27 PM
Some of the writing and posts you make on here are very interesting, informative, and just downright enjoyable reading....
August 9, 2010, 01:34 AM
Gary Thank's some nice stories here & just remember " THERE'S NOT MANY THINGS THAT A MAN CAN'T FIX WITH $700.00 AND A 30-06 "
August 16, 2010, 12:34 PM
On 16 August 1864,Federal troops over-ran the Confederate's position at the second battle of Deep Bottom, Virginia(AKA; Fussel's Mill). Although a Confederate victory,many Confederate soldiers were taken prisoner of war. Among those captured was my great-great grandfather Private Isaac Sanford Thomason of the 64th Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry,Company K. At the time of his capture he was 35 years old. He died at Jackson Hospital in Richmond ,Virginia on 24,October 1864.
August 16, 2010, 11:34 PM
At another gunboard, the question was asked, what was the first sniper rifle issued?
Well, one has to consider what is meant by sniper? The term was coined in the late 1700s and was in the English lexicon by 1820. It hadn't entered the American lexicon until after the Civil War. While there are some uses of the word sniper and sniping by Civil War soldiers, most of the time they used it post-World War I when they penned their memoirs. There are a few cases where I haven't been able to determined if the author, editor or copy-editor changed "sharpshooter" to sniper. One should locate the original manuscript and this isn't always easy.
However, if we use a general dictionary definition of a military marksman who shoots from a position of concealment, then indeed many blackpowder era sharpshooters could be snipers. The questioner provided further clarification into what he sought by specifying he was thinking of optically equipped weapons. This would preclude virtually all flintlocks even though some flintlock riflemen certainly did snipe at their opponent. Tim Murphy at Saratoga or 1/95 rifleman Tom Plunkett at Bueno Aires comes to mind. My own research showed at least two flintlock rifles which were scoped. One was tested by Frederick the Great, but there is no record of it being used in combat. The other was made right here in America during the Revolution. However, the soldier was a militia officer given to sword waving (or spontoon wielding to align his men) and his journal shows no record of it being used to bag a redcoat. He was happy to be able to hit a sheet of paper at 100 yards, but that would could have been done by any proficient rifleman back then.
So, which rifle takes the prize? First, I want to disqualify a lot of the scoped rifles used by the Union sharpshooters. The question asked about military issued or inventoried weapon. The scoped weapons used by the Union sharpshooters were privately purchased. There was no uniformity with respects to the caliber, weight, power charge, patch or bullet that these guns fired. It is possible that one unit did receive gubmint issued scoped rifles, but this was state gubmint and not the federal gubmint. All in all, the scoped rifles used by the Yankees are therefore disqualified.
So, which one is the winner? The British Whitworth. Not all Whitworths had optical sights and the ones issued on an experimental basis to the various regiments of the British army probably didn't. Whether it was optically sighted or not, the Confederates bought all the Whitworths they could grab. One writer estimates that upwards of 250 were bought (but not all reached America and we know of fifty that were intercepted and auctioned off in New York). Still, there were some with detachable Davidson scopes and this meets the questioner's criteria. So there you have it. The first gubmint issued "sniper" rifle is the British Whitworth as issued by the Confederate government.
(BTW, it's one thing to have the data or information, like all these unrelated sharpshooting stories presented in this thread. It's another to interpret them, which hasn't been done here. The above is an example of the analysis. Enough self-congratulatory back-patting. Back to work.)
October 24, 2010, 10:30 PM
Here's someone else's online article on a rifleman of the 1/95, Tom Plunkett. He is mentioned and illustrated in Chapter 3 of my book. Link (http://www.napoleon-series.org/research/biographies/c_plunkett.html) Enjoy.
October 30, 2010, 11:43 PM
When first elected, Abe Lincoln had to be snuck into Washington, D.C. like a thief in the night. This precaution was necessary as there were many pro-south sympathizers who were plotting to kill him while en-route or at the inauguration. He traveled under an alias, had Pinkerton bodyguards including a woman bodyguard whose travel cover was that she was his cousin. His inaugural route was well secured and the inauguration platform guarded against bombs for twenty-four hours by a soldiers before the inauguration. Lincoln was very well protected.
Contrast that to the protection he received later on March 4, 1865. This observation was made by poet Walt Whitman.
"I saw him on his return, at three o'clock, after the performance was over. He was in his plain two-horse barouche, and looked very much worn and tired; the lines indeed, of vast responsibilities, intricate questions, and demands of life and death, cut deeper than ever upon his dark brown face; yet all the old goodness, tenderness, sadness, and canny shrewdness underneath the furrows. (I never see that man without feeling that he is one of to be attached to, for his combination of purest, heartiest, tenderness, and native Western form of manliness.) By his side sat his little boy of ten years. There were no soldiers, only a lot of civilians on horseback, with huge yellow scarfs over their shoulders, riding around the carriage. (At the inauguration four years ago, he rode down and back again surrounded by a dense mass of armed cavalrymen, eight deep, with drawn sabres; and there were sharp-shooters stationed at every corner of the route.)"
Taken from Keith Jennison's The Humorous Lincoln, page 137.
November 19, 2010, 07:21 PM
The Firing Line, the official publication of the California Rifle and Pistol Association and not the famous website owned by Rich Lucibella, has published my article entitled, Sharpshooters, in their Nov. 2010 issue.
November 19, 2010, 09:21 PM
I can nay see why some o' ye are havein' problems readin' th' Scot's letter. What are ye, Sassanach?
November 27, 2010, 03:37 PM
NRA Secretary and Carlos Hathcock's boss, Major Jim Land is interviewed by Remington. Scroll down to interview and you'll see a link to his interview by Remington. Enjoy. Link (http://www.remington700.tv/#/remingtontactical)
What's their connection to General John "Black Jack" Pershing?
Read all about the history of these Buffalo Soldiers and discover what they accomplished.
Buffalo Soldiers originally were members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on September 21, 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.....
March 16, 2011, 01:10 AM
Since Articap raised the issue of the Buffalo Soldiers, I recently picked up a book on one regiment. The Twenty-Fifth Infantry by John H. Nankivell. It had too much modern history (for my taste) and not enough frontier and Spanish American War. I did find this gem in it.
An innovation of this period was the establishment of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, under the command of 2nd Lieutenant James A. Moss. An article by Fairfax Downey in the American Weekly for September 18, 1928, gives a very entertaining description of the "Corps," and from which I have culled the following extracts:
In the heydey of the bicycle, the year 1897, there was organized at Fort Missoula, Montana, the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps. In command of the cycle corps was Lieutenant (now colonel) James A. Moss, widely known as the author of Moss's Manual and other military text books. His talent made him a fit chronicler of the activities of his command - activities which were to resolve themselves into a veritable peace-time anabasis, a series of bikes through the Rocky Mountains.
'Now this Bicycle Corps of the 25th Infantry, was not the sizable organization it sounds. With customary army conservatism, the strength of this new department was restricted to one lieutenant, one sergeant, one corporal, one musician and five privates, one of them a good mechanic. They all presumably qualified as being able to ride wheels. Before very long, they could do a good deal more than that. They cold drill, scale fences, ford streams and hike - or bike - forty miles a day in heavy marching order.
'The Corps would clear a nine foot fence in twenty seconds. The command was, 'Jump fence,' and they did it - of course 'By the numbers.' A front rank man would rest his wheel against the fence and pull himself over. Thereupon his file would pass over both wheels and follow himself. On the other side, the Corps would smartly assume the position of 'Stand to bicycle.' To ford a stream not deep and swift, they dismounted, and rolled their wheels through, but if it was a more formidable proposition, two men slung a wheel on a stick resting on their shoulders, and carried it over. Their packs consisted of aknap-sack with blanket roll and shelter half strapped to the handlebars. A haversack was carried forward underneath the horizontal bar. Under the seat was a cup, in a cloth sack to keep off the dust. The rifle was strapped horizontally on the left side of the wheel. Slung on the rider himself was the canteen and thirty rounds of ammunition, having been found that it was prudent to burden the soldier's person with little, in case of a fall.
'The corps made its first real hike to Lake Macdonald. Starting at 6:20, they had clicked off thirty-three miles by 12:30 without much untoward happening, except for two men falling in a stream. By 7:30 that night they had put fifty-one miles behind them. the next day it rained and was very muddy, but they made thirty-one miles. All in all, they made 126 miles in twenty-four hours of actual travel and that under adverse conditions. The Corps next put a hike to Yellowstone Park. A hot sun and steep hills which necessitated pushing the wheels were encountered, and down grades where it was hard to hold back also provided difficulties. At last the command halted on the Continental Divide, where half the squad took position on one side and half on the other. When a tourist asked one of the cyclcists, 'Where do you expect to go today?', the answer came back quick as a shot, 'The Lord only knows, we're following the lootenant.' Deprecating the deep dust and many falls, but enjoying the scenery and the geysers, the Corps pedaled through the park, making a speed of seven miles an hour for 133 miles.
'Their record hike was seventy-two miles averaging eight and three-quarters miles per hour. While the strength of this Corps was increased later to twenty and it proved valuable as scouts and couriers in regimental maneuvers, it did not continue, and during the usual peace inertia between wars, no similar organization took form. The extent of our country, its lack of network of roads, its large supply of horses - all these were factors discouraging cycle corps while the reverse in Europe encourages them."
Their bicycles were the old steel frame, one gear type. No carbon fiber or aluminum frame, titanium gears, shock absorbers or anything that can be found on a modern mountain bike. That was some tough biking.
The March-April issue of Muzzle Loader magazine has my article, Sharpshooters to the Tops! It's about the topmen and their role in naval warfare.
November 2, 2013, 10:48 AM
After the close of the war, we were in Augusta, Georgia, and while there bonded with a family named Wheeler. It developed that Mr. Wheeler had been a sharpshooter in the Confederate army and was with General Wheeler at the time the general harassed and siputed the crossing of the rivers by General Sherman and his army in Georgia. Wheeler's men usually had to be driven out before the bridge could be laid. This evening there were several present and they were relating incidents and stories of the war in which they took part. E. was silent, for he knew he was the only Yankee present, and while they knew he had served with the Northern army, they did not know he was one of Sherman's men, and he though it was the better part of wisdom not to tell them.
Mr. Wheeler was telling about Sherman and his men and how, though Gen. Wheeler was not strong enough to attack them, they made the laying of bridges and crossing of rivers a dangerous job. He told of the pontoon train with Sherman's army and of the men who had charge of it. General Wheeler had given orders that his sharpshooters should especially single out these men at the clearings and harass them and pick of their officers as often as possible. They would hide on the opposite bank and shoot at these men till compelled to retire by the fie from the infantry. He told of the coolness and indifference these bridge layers manifested in what was often a very dangerous situation, and how they tried to cripple them before the other part of the army came up, for these men were always in the van. Then he went on to relate about one officer who seemed to bear a charmed life. He was often in charge of the work, was very active and nothing seemed to daunt him, had fine command of his men and did not spare himself. If there was a danger point, he was right there. He had taken aim and fired at this officer many times, hoping to wound or disable him or even kill him, but he had never been able to him him, and he thought he was a pretty good shot too. E. looked up and quietly remarked, "So you were the chap that tried to pot me." The look of amazement on Mr. Wheeler's face was ludicrous. "Was it you?" He said. "I guess it was," E. replied, "and I thought you were a mighty poor shot not to be able to hit me, but I did not have time to think about it."
Next year Muzzle Blasts Magazine will be releasing my article in two parts on the Glorieta Campaign.
November 2, 2013, 09:55 PM
Looking forward to that Gary. I've been to Glorieta and did a bit of walking around the area of the battle.
January 11, 2014, 10:11 AM
It's been discussed before that removing the leadership will incapacitate the men. That worked at Saratoga when Gen. Fraser was shot by Tim Murphy. Here's another example:
"There were not, however, wanting many brave fellows among the French officers, who exerted themselves strenuously to rally their terrified comrades, and to restore the battle. Among these I remarked one in particular. He was on horseback; and, riding among a flying battalion, he used every means which threat and entratey could produce, to stop them; and he succeeded. The battalion paused, its example was followed by others, and in five minutes a well-formed line occupied what looked like the last of a range of green hills, on the other side of a valley which we were descending.
"This sudden movement on the part of the enemy was met by a corresponding formation on ours; we wheeled into line and advanced. Not a word was spoken, not a shot fired, till our troops had reached nearly half way across the little hollow, when the French, raising one of their discordant yells, - a sort of shout, in which every man halloos for himself, without regard to the tone or time of those about him, - fired a volley. It was well directed, and did considerable execution; but it checked not our approach for a moment. Our men replied with a hearty British cheer, and giving them ack their fire, rushed to the charge.
In this they were met with great spirit by the enemy, I remarked the same individual, who had first stopped their flight, ride along the front of his men, and animate them to their duty, nor was it without very considerable difficulty, and after having exchanged several discharges of musketry, that we succeeded in getting within charging distance. Then, indeed, another cheer was given, and the French, without waiting for the rush, once more broke their ranks and fled. Their leader was still as active as before. He rode among the men, reproached, exhorted, and even struck those near him with his sword, and he was once more about to restore order, when he fell. In an instant, however, he rose again and mounted another horse, but he had hardly done so when a ball took effect in his neck, and he dropped dead. The fall of this one man decide the day. The French troops lost all order and all discipline, and making their way to the rear, each by himself as best he could, they left us in undisputed possession of the field."
Jan. 2014 Muzzle Blasts will have my article on The British Army Learns Forest Warfare.
A hearty hello to Dan C's son-in-law whom he visited in Dec.
August 31, 2014, 12:24 AM
Here's an entertaining video that describes shooting a muzzle loading target rifle of the Civil War period.
April 12, 2016, 02:58 PM
Sidenote: Just learned that a fellow at school belongs to the 10th Cav Association which is composed of descendants of the buffalo soldiers. His relative? The colonel of the regiment! He didn't have his relative's biography or picture so I provided them from the regimental history, Under Fire. A couple of years ago I learned another student (a special forces command sergeant major) had a relative who fought at King's Mountain. He had no information other than the last name. I checked it out and found three relations of his had fought there. Amazing who you can meet if you bother to talk to them. Now, on with the useless but entertaining incident from the past.
I have been vaguely conscious of wireless voices reporting snipers in trees. Trees in my telescope. Ropes dangling. "Snipers must be up those trees, using ropes to shin down,' observes Mac. 'Can't see 'em. Too high to elevate the gun. Load HE and knock those trees down by the roots.'
I aim at the foot of one of those trees. Fire! Watch. An immediate furnace of red-hot steel seems to flare at the tree's base. The tree, killed instantly, takes a tired leap, like a shot deer, topples and crashes flat. 'And thenext one!' - Mac. As I aim I see at the margin of my vision a field-grey figure swarming down his rope. The muzzle flame breeds another grossly distending furnace fire. The second tree splits apart. The smoke clouds clear. There is no tree. No rope. No field-grey figure.
For anyone who is in Trinidad on April 20, 2016, I will be presenting an hour talk on the Civil War sharpshooter inside the Berg Building's little theatre. Talk starts at 7 pm.
May 9, 2016, 11:54 AM
I just today discovered this thread. I will eventually read all of it because it is so interesting. I did a search for and quotes about Jack Hinson (since he was from my stomping grounds), but found only one reference about the book on him. I'm not a typist, so operating a keyboard is tedious and frustrating (I try to correct my mis-types). But in this post and following ones I'll give you all some interesting quotes from Tom C. McKenney's "Jack Hinson's One-Man War".
p.166: ...his favorite vantage point... would be in southwest Stewart County, a high and rugged bluff overlooking the Tennessee River at the mouth of Hurricane Creek. From there...he would exact a terrible toll on men and morale aboard Grant's gunboats and transports.
p.176: The rifle...had a full stock...made of tiger maple. The unusually heavy, octagonal barrel was 41 inches long from muzzle to tang, nearly 1.5 inches in outside diameter, and bored to .50 caliber. ... Jack's new rifle weighed eighteen pounds.
Hinson's first two targets were the Union lieutenant and sergeant who had executed and beheaded his two sons. He dispatched them in short-range ambushes on separate occasions. Personal vendetta fed, he began his methodical long-range sniping of Union river traffic.
p. 254: The thing that made his firing point perfect was the location of the river's channel... The passage was narrow, close in, and the current was both swift and powerful. Southbound boats not only had to pass right under Jack's bluff, but they moved...so slowly as to be almost stationary targets.
May 9, 2016, 12:56 PM
I'm continuing some excerpts from Tom C. McKenney's "Jack Hinson's One-Man War".
Perched in his bluff hideout, Hinson observed a US Navy gunboat straining to make headway against the current running through the "chute".
p. 256: There was no wind; the range was about six hundred yards..... Before the report of the rifle reached the boat, the captain was slammed to his knees...
On another day, Hinson targeted a transport carrying a company of infantry troops. He chose the most senior man on the deck. His bullet struck the captain in the left-center chest, passed through him, and buried itself in a lieutenant's leg. On page 266, he again shoots a Union officer on another Union boat.
The book continues on recounting several more sniping situations, giving ample time to the event where Hinson made several kills on a heavily-laden Union cargo ship.
p. 297: From high above, Jack Hinson wondered if his old eyes were playing tricks on him...the captain had surrendered his boat - to him. He had captured the boat, complete with cargo, deck guns, surviving crew, and the embarked infantry unit, weapons and all. although the captain didn't realize it, he had placed his entire ship at the feet of one amazed old man.
I'm done with typing for now. I highly recommend this book. It is an easy read, is interesting, and might influence someone to make a reproduction of Jack Hinson's rifle.
The book says Minie, Hinson having a mold that was made with the gun.
May 11, 2016, 09:08 AM
Are you using "talk -speak" or something that is adding those periods?
May 11, 2016, 10:03 AM
Other computer's bad keyboard compelled me to use periods to space the words.
This past Monday I visited the National Park's Wash-ita Battlefield (actually massacre) site and bought the book, Wash-ita Memories. It's a compilation of first hand accounts from both sides and includes the list of Custer's sharpshooters. This corps d' elite was excused from normal camp duty so that they may maintain and refine their shooting skills.
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