A collection of bedtime stories - or sharpshooter tales


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4v50 Gary
January 3, 2003, 10:48 PM
At Cold Harbor, one Indian from the First Michigan Sharpshooters, Co. K, was sent to General Wilcox's H.Q. to dispatch a rebel sharpshooter who had made things uncomfortable for them. Old "One Eye" had use of only his left eye and would normally be disqualfied from serving as a soldier. This did not stop him from enlisting and furthermore, he was one of the best shots in the regiment.

"One Eye arrived at General Wilcox's headquarter and asking no questions and speaking to no one, sat down and observed. After half an hour, he got up, and walked away, his silence never broken. Later in the afternoon, pickets reported seeing a rebel sharpshooter in a tree being hit and falling through the branches onto the ground. Later in the evening, One Eye returned to his camp and laconically reported to his commanding officer, 'Me got im.'"

Elsewhere in the book it is learned that the Indians of Co. K were not only the best shots in the regiment, but that they also taught the rest of the regiment how to camouflage themselves (applied mud and allowed it to dry or rolled in dry dirt until the blue uniform blended with the ground).

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ojibweindian
January 5, 2003, 02:52 PM
Gary

That was a great story!

more than likely ole "One Eye" was a Chippewa Indian, or Ojibwe, to use my native tongue. If he was from the northern part of Michigan, he may have been a part of my tribe! Or, possibly, the Bay Mills tribe.

4v50 Gary
January 5, 2003, 03:59 PM
You're welcome Ojibweindian. It was my pleasure as you are an old time member of TFL.

BTW, "One Eye" was the name given to him by the whites of the regiment. The Indians of Co. K were recruited from the reservation in Oceana County, Little Traverse Bay, Bear River, Little Traverse, La Croix and the Mackinac region. Others came from Isabella Reservation & the Saginaw area. I'm not familar with the state (only been to Kalamazoo and I know where Fort Michilimakinac even though I've never been there). See Herek at pages 35-36.

Here's another story that involves a Berdan Sharpshooter: "I was sent to the Ninth Corps and had a long hard day sharpshooting... My orders were to annoy the enemy artillery which was keeping up a tearing fire on our troops... In front of me was a field of standing corn which was about two feet high making me a good screen but the shells came too close and I wanted to go over the summit and get down below the cornfield... I was sure that if I tried to cross the opening that the rebel pickets would get a bullet into me. While on the ridge I met a Michigan soldier and he was under the same orders I was. He was a full blooded Indian. I told him that I wished that I could get down to the cover of brush but the corn was not large or thick enough to cover us from the view of the rebels. The Indian said, 'Make self corn. Do as I do.' He then cut off the stocks of corn and began to stick them into his clothes and equipment. I did as he did and then we worked our way to the fence and cover of bushes without even drawing rebel fire.

The Indian and I had a very fine chance on the rebels. The Indian was good shot and enjoyed his duty, only when the shells came too close, then he would cringe and his eyes would look as wild as a panther's. In front of us was a battery and the earth at the muzzle was too high, so high that they did not try to fire the guns but were digging it down as we came into our new position. They dropped out of sight at our first shot and we kept them from using the guns all afternoon. After dark, the Indian and I returned to our respective commands, never to meet again. To me he was pleasant company although he had little to say." Taken from Wyman White's "The Civil War Diary of Wyman S. White," pages 249-250.

The First Michigan Sharpshooters was also in the area and it is possible the Indian mentioned by White was from Co. K.

*************************************************************

Thanks for the follow up ajacobs! We were posting concurrently with one another. Those details are exactly the "little stories" that we "outsiders" love to hear. If I think of anything more, I'll post.

ojibweindian
January 6, 2003, 11:24 AM
Gary

All those places are in the Lower Peninsula, but still a part of Chippewa territory.

Thanks for posting those excerpts!

4v50 Gary
May 1, 2003, 03:11 PM
Here's something I found that you blackpowder buffs or Civil War fans may enjoy. I got it from Richard Wheeler's Sword Over Richmond, page 183.

The story is told by Lt. Davis Constable aboard the U.S.S. Naugatuck. The Naugatuck was part of Commander Roger's Squadron that was sailing up the James River (May 15, 1862) to bombard the Confederate Capital, Richmond. Before they could though, they had to pass by Drewy's Bluff. Stationed at the bluff were soldiers and sailors (from the scuttled Virginia). Lt Constable tells of coming under fire:

"A rifle ball passed through my clothing and lodged in a hammock near me... At least three well-directed shots had been fired at me from one spot before I discovered where they came from. I then saw that they had been fired from a thick green bush about eighty yards from me. Once I even caught sight of the muzzle of a rifle as it protruded through the bush to aim at me, and twice I raised a rifle to my shoulder to aim at him, but he dropped out of sight in a twinkling. Finding that I must either shoot him or get shot myself, I tried another plan. I aimed one of our 12-pounders, loaded with canister, at the bush, and directed the captain of the gun to fire at the moment I raised my signal. I then took my former position and watched the bush closely. Sure enough, when the fellow saw me standing without a rifle in my hand he again thrust the muzzle of his gun through the bush, but before he could pull the trigger I raised my hand. 'Bang!' went the 12 pounder, and when the smoke cleared away, rebel, gun, and all had been destroyed."

What can we learn from this? Well, it's a reiteration of the old rules governing gunfights. Rule 1: Bring a gun (he did). Rule 2: Bring a bigger gun (he did). Rule 3: Bring all your friends with guns ([b]he did).

Oh, by the way, the Confederates repulsed Commander Roger's attempt to sail up the James.

scotjute
May 2, 2003, 11:01 AM
There is another lesson here : the sniper who fires repeatedly from the same spot invites return fire.

Poodleshooter
May 2, 2003, 01:23 PM
Drewry's Bluff is an excellent spot to vist for those visiting Petersburg (see the Crater and siege works) or the Richmond area (too many to list).
It's sort of tough to find the small park there, but the selection of old Columbiads (?) is awesome. You don't NEED rifled cannon when dealing with ships at those distances, just a big fat shell firing smoothbore.

4v50 Gary
May 8, 2003, 02:50 PM
Sometimes it's fun to read these old books because of some of the basic lessons that you can get from them. I just read Theodore Upson's With Sherman to the Sea which is Upson's story of the 100th Indiana Volunteer Regiment in the Sibil War. Instead of being issued with the anticipated Springfield rifled musket, they received the Austrian Lorenz instead (see p 27-28). From page 34 we learn of their first use of these imported arms:

"We reached Cairio (Cairo) and took boat down the Miss[iss]ippi River. There was nothing worth noting on our trip except that we landed once in the woods and stretched our legs by the hardest four mile march over the worst road I ever saw or imagined. We were glad to get on the boat again. We can look across the Reiver here and see the Arkansas shore a mile away. Yesterday about 20 mounted men rode down to the landing. We were told to fire at them as they had a Rebel flag. Our officers could see through their field glasses. We put up the sights on our rifles and began firing. They kept waving their flag. Some of the boys put a double charge of powder in their guns but it was no use; they still waved their flag and put their thumbs to thier noses and other insulting gestures. Just then our men ran a 10 lb rifled gun out of the works and fired a shell at them, and they scampered away quick. We are a little disappointed in our new rifles."

(note: Upson uses "thier" in lieu of "their"). In fairness to the Lorenz, even a Springfield or Enfield would be hard pressed to hit a mile away. A heavy barrel muzzle loading target rifle of the era could reach, but not with certainty of hits. Can't beat Ma-Duece for those mile long shots. However, lesson of the day is in a gunfight: Bring a bigger gun.

Upson finally gets an Enfield (captured from the Corn-feds) which is an improvement. His unit later exchanges the Enfields for Springfields but again they are disappointed since they wanted the Henry lever action. Upson himself manages to get a Henry for $35 from a wounded Union soldier who is going to the rear (and probably out of the war).

Jim K
May 11, 2003, 01:35 AM
And therein hangs another problem. Upson got a Henry, but when whatever ammo he got with it ran out the gun was not much good, likely being too short for a tent pole and having no bayonet for roasting chickens.

A friend, now gone, was in the Polish Home Army (underground) in WWII. They ran into* a German motorcycle courier who had a Thompson SMG in the scabbard. I asked him what they did with it and he said they threw it in a lake because there was no ammo supply for it.

*Actually, he ran into the piano wire they had stretched across the road; the bike and the body went one way, the head, helmet still in place, went another.

Jim

4v50 Gary
May 11, 2003, 12:57 PM
If the troops weren't issued Henrys, they could buy them anywhere from $45 to $50. Upton bought it from a wounded Union soldier going to the hospital (at the rear). While many soldiers bought their own (more were purchased privately than issued), the ammunition was free from Uncle Sam.

I recall reading Berry Benson's memoirs where he states he had a Spencer Repeater. When he ran out of ammo, he discarded it for a single shot rifled musket. The Confederacy could not produce the ammo required by the Spencer.

Mike Irwin
May 12, 2003, 12:08 PM
Cairo...

What a nifty, historic, and completely dead little town.

You REALLY get the feeling that time has passed that place by...

4v50 Gary
May 12, 2003, 04:39 PM
Thanks for the tip. In my journeys I'll make sure I don't get anywhere near that place.

BTW Mike, probably going back to VA this year. Want to spend a few more days in the Museum of the Confederacy, the VA State Library and also the VA Historical Society.

Mike Irwin
May 12, 2003, 07:04 PM
On the contrary, Gary, I HIGHLY recommend a trip to Cairo, if for no other reason than to stand at the point where the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers come together.

The town has some very interesting old architecture, as well, and it's neat to watch the river traffic go by.

I've read some of the contemporary descriptions of Cairo back when it was a very busy river port. It must have been something else.

Let me know when you'll be in town and I'll try to arrange my schedule this time.

4v50 Gary
May 20, 2003, 01:12 AM
Back in the Sibil War when Berdan's Sharpshooters were raised, one man to rally to the Union was Truman Head, aka California Joe. Not to be confused with another California Joe who scouted for the calvary in the 1870s, Truman Head was an easterner who, upon being rejected as a suitor by his fiance's father, left for California where he made a name for himself as a hunter and as a merchant.

"Old Californny" was perhaps the most famous of all sharpshooters in the two regiments of sharpshooters (1st & 2nd U.S.S.S.). The denizen of the press, he was a mild soft spoken man. 52 years old at the time of enlistment (he lied about his age and looked about 10 years younger), he gained fame during the Siege of Yorktown.

I've got about 3 pages of text on Old Californny, but am saving it for later. Here's an excerpt from a soldier who met him:

I met California Joe in a dry ditch near the chimneys and admired his six foot rifle with telescopic sights on it. It was very heavy in weight, had an octagon shaped barrel and silver mounted ornaments. Two weeks ago, before we had advanced our line of pickets to the chimney, a Rebel sharpshooter had climbed the inside flue of it at night, and by a stick of crosswire had fixed himself near the top from whence he had shot several of our fellows rom his covered perch. Joe came along and at the fourth shot broght the enemy down at 500 yards' distance. The other bullets had struck the bricks which were seen to chip off. The sharpshooter tumbled down the chimeny before it had been burnt. Some days afterwards when our picket line was pushed forward the body was taken down and proved to be an Indian. he had been shot between the eyes and the back of his skull was all blown out! He was buried near the ruins. Joe was a dead shot and had often kept the enemy from firing a gun for half an hour at a time by shooting five, six, and seven one after another... through the embrasure." (That's one heckuva subject to write home about).

Failing eyesight resulted in Joe's discharge late in 1862. No other member of Berdan's Sharpshooters would ever achieve the level of fame that Joe enjoyed. After receiving his discharge, Joe returned to San Francisco where he died in 1875.

Kaylee
May 20, 2003, 02:32 PM
50 yards? :confused:

perhaps 500?

4v50 Gary
May 23, 2003, 11:51 AM
Thanks Kaylee. It is 500 yards and it's a typo on my part.

I visited Truman Head's grave earlier this week and took a few photos for the book. It's a simple gubumint tombstone and is quite invisible in the sea of like gubumint tombstones.

Hand_Rifle_Guy
June 10, 2003, 07:55 PM
I wonder if he had a Gemmer Sharps, basically a Sharps with a Hawken front end. Neat guns. Pics I've seen had REALLY thick barrels, with a fore-end secured by wedges and very nice furniture.

That's presuming he had a cartridge gun at all, mind you. I don't think the percussion Sharps' ever saw Gemmer conversion.

Neat info tidbit.

4v50 Gary
June 16, 2003, 10:21 PM
Sorry about the delay but I just returned from the Midwest & East Coast.

California Joe carried a single trigger Sharps. It may be seen when he posed while holding Hiram Berdan's horse. This gun was damaged while engaged in sharpshooting at Yorktown and was replaced with a target trigger Sharps.

BTW, finally found his gravesite and in the Presidio, San Francisco. It's a simple grave and unlike I had thought, had no Masonic emblems. The Masons' records were destroyed with the '06 fire (unlike the probate records the Bellesiles purported to have examined ;) ).

4v50 Gary
June 27, 2003, 12:48 AM
"On the 14th of May, 1864, a soldier was directed to climb a tree standing in front of the breastworks which overlooked the surrounding pines and report his observations of the enemy's line. The sharpshooters discovered him at once, and the firs shot aimed at him struck and installed killed Marshall O. Creekmore of Norfolk county, a member of Company 'A,' while asleep in his tent. Isiah Hodges, a new member of the same company, rushed to him and while stooping to raise the head of the dead soldier, was pierced by another bullet and fell dead across the body of his comrade... It was an appalling tragedy, occuring while we were lying around in the shade of the trees... The man in the tree escaped untouched, but he descended from it with lightening speed."

Thus concludes our talke of a lucky scout, a hapless sleeper and his unlucky comrade.

mbott
July 5, 2003, 09:01 PM
Billy Dixon, for those who haven’t heard the story, was among other things in his life, a buffalo hunter during the heyday of the hide hunting business. It is said that he could keep ten hide skinners employed just to keep up with him. In addition to hunting, he was also well known as a target shooter. While later working for the Army as a civilian scout, he would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroics at the battle of Buffalo Wallow, but the event that propelled him to fame happened at the second battle of Adobe Walls. Adobe Walls was the remains of an old Spanish mission, that had been occupied for the purpose of supplying the hide hunters in the Texas panhandle. The day of June 27, 1874 found Billy Dixon, 26 other men, and one woman fighting for their lives against a party of Kiowa and Comanche warriors, the number of which is reported to be between 250 and 500 strong, depending upon the account. As the war party was forming for an attack on the people holed up at Adobe Walls, Billy Dixon took a shot at a mounted Kiowa warrior, knocking him off of his horse at a distance that was later confirmed by a surveyor to be 1538 yards, or a full nine-tenths of a mile! Billy never attributed the feat to anything but good luck, but it saved him and his associates from certain death at the hands of the war party. The Indians were so surprised at the power and accuracy of the white man’s rifles that they retreated.

[Ed. Note: the June 2003 issue of the NRA's magazine America's 1st Freedom features an article on Billy Dixon's remarkable shot. Entitled "Gun Smoke Over Adobe Walls", the excellent article was written by Gary Lantz. - Boge Quinn]

The above from: http://www.gunblast.com/BillyDixon_Sharps.htm

4v50 Gary
July 14, 2003, 02:13 AM
The Eleventh NJ was at Petersburg where it, along with other regiments, had to endure the foulness of trench warfare. One bored soldier found a means to amuse himself:

"But one afternoon, being a little tired of the fort and bomb-proof, he thought he would like to pay a visit to the boys on the outer line. He, in company with Corporal Leonard Gillen, reached the line without drawing the enemy's fire, and passed the exposed part leading down to the stream. Some men from his own company were posted south of the stream, and among them Sharp, who had constructed a miniature mortar out of a section of rifle-barrel, and was amusing himself by shelling the enemy, using minie-balls for bombs..."

The Confederates home made larger ones by burning out tree trunks to take a full size mortar shell. With some powder and real mortar bombs given to them by their friends in the artillery, they'd use it to flush out the Yankees.

In reading Grant's memoirs, I learned that the Union forces at Vicksburg didn't have mortars so they also resorted to trees that were burnt out and reinforced with iron hoops.

4v50 Gary
July 19, 2003, 02:04 PM
At the Battle of Drewy's Bluff (May 14-15, 1864), the Thirteenth New Hampshire Infantry ran short of ammunition and was compelled to fall back before the advancing Rebel Army. They became so pressed that they even abandoned their camp, leaving behind much of their personal possessions.

"Pretty soon the colors of four rebel regiments are planted on the part of the works where the Tenth and Thirteenth fought in the morning; while still other rebel regiments hurry along and past their rear and form, one after another, on their right, until the whole works are manned by them as far as the eye can see. Now the enemy begins to examine the Thirteenth's baggage, to roll up our blankets, to eat our breakfast, to drink our coffee, to put on our clothes, to handle sundry papers and fling them away; one fellow cooly sits down, throws off his shoes, and hauls on a pair of our boots - and last, to rob our dead. [Gary's note: both sides are guilty of this] One of them having just appropriated Capt. Julian's overcoat, proceeds to rifle the pockets, and to strip the clothing from the body of John H. Harvey of E, which we were obliged to abandon lying near the lone apple-tree, at the second angle, near where the right of the 13th rested in the morning. This is a little too much for Sergeant Charles F. Chapman, who puts the powder of two cartridges into his gun, rams home a bullet, runs forward a rod or two to the edge of the brush, rests his gun in the fork of a little tree, and fires; the pilfering rebel lies down and never once moves again - dead or badly wounded. The range is a full 500 yards."

About one and a half year earlier, the Thirteenth Regiment actually had some target practice - with dismal results. "Nov. 7 [1863] Sat. Fair. Rifle practice by the Regiment. Most of the bullets hit the ground - in the course of time; a new newspaper covered target will be required about once in three months." In Dec., they practice again: "Dec. 5. Sat. PLeasant, quite cool. Reg. marches out about a mile and practices at target-shooting, at the usual place, on the right hand of the road, west of camp, just beyond the stockade gateway. There are 250 guns, and the men fire 20 rounds per gun - 5,000 shots - and the irreverent affirm that the vicinity of the target is the safetst place to be found within a circuit of half a mile. The Sub and cockney, Reed of E. wants to show the Regiment 'Ow they fire hin the Hold Hinglish Harmy.' He steps to the front, holds his gun at arm's length, fires - and doubles up like an old jackknife, a rod back in the brush. The boys have given him a kicking gun. He takes his place in the rear rank again, andat the next fire singes his file leader's hair and whiskers, and nearly breaks his head. Col. Stevens sends him off to camp; and we turn him into a mess-cook, a good one too, the best in camp."

John Reed transferred to the navy and as for the men, well, they got real practice in battle and with the experience of trench warfare (fixed distances), actually became proficient shots as demonstrated by Sgt. Chapman.

Let me know if you guys want more stories like this. I may link some other threads together.

scotjute
July 21, 2003, 04:31 PM
You have my vote to keep them coming!

4v50 Gary
July 27, 2003, 01:57 AM
Now, I've read a lot of books on the Sibil War and have come up with all sorts of nonsense that I'll share in my own. In today's mail I got a package containing two books and I've read one already (it's a small paperback of 180 pages). Anyway, it talks about the 17th Virginia Infantry which was composed of many militia units.

One unit was originally called the Alexandria Sharp Shooters. Sounds impressive enough and certainly the men who formed this proud body of men believed so. At the first meeting, it was agreed that their knapsacks and cartridge boxes be embossed with the unit's initials, so as to readily distinguish them from lesser units. The meeting was adjourned and the men dispersed into small groups.

One small group suddenly realized the significance of their initials: A.S.S. While it probably befitted some egotistical and asinine members, it would be of no service to draw such attention to them or to the others of the group. The banter they would be subjected to by the street urchins would be unbearable and besides, it certainly would not impress any group of young ladies they may wish to meet. :o

The meeting was quickly reconvened by their captain and the Alexandria Sharp Shooter were renamed the Alexandria Riflemen.

Old Fuff
July 27, 2003, 11:29 AM
Neat! And thanks.

4v50 Gary
August 21, 2003, 11:45 PM
Hystery can be so embellished that we are led to believe that all our forbears were nobly endowed with courage, strength, wisdom and determination. At the Battle of Chancellorsville, it was said that General Whipple was killed by a sharpshooter while writing instructions to his men on how to dispose of said sharpshooter who was pinning them down. Certainly sounds gallant enough, doesn't it? Here he is, mounted atop a horse, calm in the face of enemy fire, bent over scrawling with a pencil on a piece of paper calming writing instructions. Baloney!

In my readings, I found a first hand account that tells something that most hysterians overlook or just don't think worthy enough to share to we unlearned mortals. Enjoy.

"About one P. M. General 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."

I suppose it's bad juju to laugh at another's misfortune. As a point of order, Whipple was the Division Commander of the Third Division, Third Corps (Sickle's) in the Army of the Potomac.

Soap
August 24, 2003, 10:56 AM
Wow! Interesting tidbit!

4v50 Gary
August 27, 2003, 07:48 PM
Here's one for Preacherman. It's not the type of blessing any of us would want. After all, while many of us want to meet Big J, we'd rather not do so before our ticket is punched. The following is an account I dug up in my reseach and I think it is worthy to share here (I'll probably merge it with the sharpshooter thread in the Blackpowder Forum later). So, without further blah blah, here's the inspirational message for the day:

"In one of the Indiana regiments (at Carrick's Ford, West Virginia, July 13, 1861) was a Methodist preacher, said to be one of the very best shots in the regiment. During the battle, he was particularly conspicuous for the zeal with which he kept up a constant fire. The 14th Ohio Regiment, in the thick of the fight, fired an average of eleven rounds to every man, but this parson managed to get in a great deal more than that average. He fired carefully, with perfect coolness, and always after a steady aim, and the boys declare that every time, as he took down his gun, after he fired, he added, "And may the Lord have mercy on your soul."

Preacherman
August 27, 2003, 08:44 PM
Hmmm... his aim was good, and he aimed good too! :D

JShirley
August 28, 2003, 12:13 AM
ain't got to hate anybody, even the enemy. Reckon they may think they're doing their job, too.

John

4v50 Gary
September 1, 2003, 04:41 PM
The following story is from General John B. Gordon who penned his memoirs, Reminiscences of the Civil War, after the war and during the period of reconcilation between North & South. It's interesting but strikes me as dubious as to authenticity. The scene is Appomttaox where Sheridan's Cavalry and the Union V Corps cuts Lee's Army of Northern Virginia off from further retreat. Famished, supplies low, there is but little choice for Lee than to surrender. General Gordon:

"In a short time thereafter a white flag was seen approaching. Under it was Philip Sheridan, accompanied by a mounted escort almost as large as one of Fitz Lee's regiments. Sheridan was mounted on an enormous horse, a handsome animal. He rode in front of the escort, an ordely carrying the flag rode beside him. Around me at that time were my faithful sharpshooters, and as General Sheridan and his escort came within easy range of the rifles, a half-witted fellow raised his gun as if to fire. I ordered him to lower his gun, and explained that he must not fire on a flag of truce. He did not obey my order cheerfully, but held his rifle in position to be quickly thrown to his shoulder. In fact, he was again in the act of raising his gun to fire at Sheridan, when I caught the gun and said to him, with emphasis, that he must not shoot men under the flag of truce. He at once protested: 'Well, general, let him stay on his own side.'

"I did not tell General Sheridan of his narrow escape. Had he known the facts, - that this weak-minded but strong hearted Confederate priveate was one of the deadliest of marksmen, - he probably would have realized that I had saved his life."

O.K. Today I finished reading Vol. II of Sheridan's Memoirs. Guess what? On April 9th he says he was riding up to meet the Confederates when he saw some men @ 150 yards distance level their guns at him. He stopped immediately and their officers caused them to desist from firing. He sent his aide up to confer with them and the aide returns and identifies the officers as General Wilcox and General Gordon. My apologies for my skepticism but what Gordon said was true after all. :o

4v50 Gary
September 20, 2003, 10:20 AM
At Fredericksburg, the Washington Artillery of New Orleans originally defended Marye's Heights against the Federal assault. When their ammunition was low, Col. E. Porter Alexander's battalion was called up by Longstreet to relieve them.

Before he was called to action though, Alexander was subjected to sharpshooter fire from the brick tanyard that was right across the creek that separated Mayre's Heights from Fredericksburg proper. We hear from Col. Alexander:

"I remember the day as a very disagreeable one, for I had to move about a great deal, having guns at som many different places; & the sharpshooting & 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 they 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 yadrs 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...

"I visited Longstreet's headquarters, & having told how they had had us under hack all day in sharpshooting & shelling, becuase we were saving ammunition, Gen. Longstreet gave me permission to use a few score shell the next day to get even with them...

"...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 on 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 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 a 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."

If you saw Gods & Generals (I'm sorry), Alexander is the fellow who says to Lee "a chicken couldn't live in that field when we open on it." More accurately it was said by Alexander to Longstreet but that's the magic of movies.:rolleyes: Alexander was also featured in Gettysburg and he was the artillery colonel who bombarded the Union center before Pickett's charge.

Old Fuff
September 21, 2003, 01:59 PM
Gary;

Just wanted to drop a post and say that I've really enjoyed these stories. It's nice to make the historical association between the guns and the men that used them.

Thanks again.

The Old Fuff.

4v50 Gary
September 24, 2003, 12:19 AM
Remember reading some of those early stories on recruiting snipers? Units in 'Nam would be called upon to send recruits for sniper training. Typically, rather than send the soldier who shot Expert and was skilled in hunting, target shooting and good in woodcraft, they took the opportunity to send the ****birds. Well, that's traditional folks and here's something from the Civil War.

On Aug. 2, 1863, Brig. General Terry, commanding the U.S. Forces on Morris Island issued an order: "[T]he commanding officer of each regiment at this post will select from his command, to the extent of 2 per cent of the number reported 'present for duty,' those enlisted men who have proved themselves the best marksmen, and from the company officers that one who is most skillful in this respect, forwarding the names of such officers and men to Maj. Joshian L. Plimpton, Third New Hampshire Volunteers, assistant inspector-general. The officers so selected will report with the best rifle he can procure and its corresponding ammunition to Major Plimpton, at his office near these headquarters, at 2 p.m. to-morrow."

Well, the regimental commanders sent their "best" and were probably very very happy for it. Unfortunately for their, the charade was soon discovered as is evidenced by this letter two days later from an Aug. 4, 1863 letter from Capt. T. B. Brooks, Aide-de-Camp & Assistant Engineer to General Terry, Commander of Union Forces on Morris Island, S.C.:

"General: I have the honor to submit the following concerning sharpshooters, for offensive and defensive operations, in the advanced works under my charge: The present so-called sharpshooters are inefficient. First, they are not good shots; second, their arms are not in good condition; third, they are not in sufficient numbers, even if they were efficient; fourth they are not properly officered..."

In case you didn't already know, a lot of Confederate units did the same thing in 1862. Human nature hasn't changed. :D

4v50 Gary
October 5, 2003, 04:37 PM
When Napoleon invaded Spain and installed his brother Joseph as King, the Spaniards weren't all that delighted. Ungrateful at the substitution of a Buonaparte for a Hapsburg, they took up arms and Napoleon found it necessary to crush the "upstarts."

The Spaniards at Rodrigo were audacious enough to shut themselves up within their city - necessitating a siege. One young soldier recorded their fun with a Spanish marksman. I share it with you now:

"As long as the Spaniards kept possession of the suburb, upon which the left flank of our battery rested, they did us great mischief, as they well understood the use of the rifle. A few marksmen, posted in a small steeple, particularly distinguished themselves by their dexterity; one above all the others, named Manuel, was an unerring shot, and the greatest caution was necessary when he was at this post. The garrison were incessantly calling out to him: 'Manuel tira!' (fire, Manuel.) We by way of joke, used often to call out to him ourselves. Aftewards, some batteries being erected close to the suburb, the Spaniards withdrew into the fortress, and we were no longer annoyed from this quarter."

4v50 Gary
October 19, 2003, 07:31 PM
Since she asked about the Lawrence Pellet Priming system for the 1859 Sharps rifle. Here's an account from a Berdan Sharpshooter:

"I was watching for the smoke of a Rebel, when I discovered a mound of earth some little ways out in front of me. I noticed something that looked like a rifle sticking up from the other side of the earth. I soon discovered that the rifle moved and I sent a bullet at the rifle. It struck the earth just at the top, very close to the rifle barrel. The effects of the shot stirred up a commotion. I saw a second rifle and I knew there were two rebels in the hole and I thought they were about to run away. I then gave them, or their earth protection, another bullet. There was more commotion and I was puzzled and somewhat doubtful what to do. Finally, I put several bullets into their bank of earth, so they thought there must be several Yankees on them, thanks to my breech loading-rifle.

"They did not dare to run or fire for they saw that I could hit them sure if I got sight of them. After I had given them several shots in quick succesion, they made signs that they wanted to surrender. Then I called to them to come in and judge my surprise when five big Rebels came out of the den, one after the other."

4v50 Gary
November 2, 2003, 02:13 PM
During the Civil War, it was not unusual for the belligerents to cease fire, allow men to climb out of their rifle pits, stretch, answer to the calls of nature, cook their food, and perhaps even exchange tobacco & coffee or newspapers. These impromptu cease-fires were generally honored by both sides. Here's one time it wasn't at Petersburg:

"Late this evening, some man of Davis' Brigade, which is just on our left, perpetrated a cowardly act unworthy of a white man. Since sharpshooting has recommenced, it has been customary for both sides to cease operations just after sunset for about an hour, of which both sides took advantage to relieve their pickets. It also allowed the men in the works a short respite at least during which to walk about without being constantly reminded of broken heads and shattered limbs by the whistling of 'Minies.' But this evening after the firing had ceased, and while all the pickets were out of their holes in the fancied security of each of the others honor, this man of Davis' Brigade deliberately took aim and shot one of the enemy, the ball striking him in the forehead, no doubt killing him instantly. Now while I believe in the abstract principle of killing a Yankee where ever one is found on our soil, yet in such a case as this, it was not only brutal, but dishonorable in the extreme."

The next day a Union sharpshooter exacted revenge:

"The enemy have taken revenge for the affair of last evening. This evening some fifteen or twenty minutes after the usual cessation, and while our men were walking about, a single shot was fired from the Yankee line which struck a poor fellow from Perry's Brigade in the left side below the ribs and passed entirely through him. He died in about five minutes. I have no doubt but that this was done in retaliation, and as it is usual in such cases, the innonent suffer for the guilty."

4v50 Gary
November 4, 2003, 10:43 PM
Sorry, no story tonight. However, if you guys got any historic stories to share, please do. Must be something besides Billy Dixon & Jack Bean in the post-Civil War westward expansion.

S_O_Laban
November 5, 2003, 05:40 AM
Thanks Gary, I had forgot about this thread. Some interesting stuff.

4v50 Gary
November 8, 2003, 10:46 PM
When you're entrenched and the other guy, like yourself, is patiently waiting for a careless move so he can send a leaden missile to relieve you of your wordly concerns, sometimes it helps to have friends who inspire him to "jump" first. From a book (which I'll decline to identify) written by a Confederate:

"Some fellows in the second pit on my right thought up a plan to flush the Yanks out of their pits and give us a shot at them. They made a mortar by burning out the end of a log; using the process common in the South to make a mortar to hull rice. The batteries gave them some shells, cannon powder and fuse. When ready, word passed along the line to 'Stand to your guns and look out while we flush 'em.' Then they fired off the mortar. The shell did not go very high, but sailed along over the rifle pits of the Yanks as if it was looking for a good place to land. Every pit that it passed over turned out two men who thought theirs was the selected target. And in the excitement we got in some telling shots."

A counter was found, but I'll save that for another day.

4v50 Gary
November 17, 2003, 01:23 AM
From one soldier serving with Sherman's Army during the Atlanta Campaign:

"Skirmishing was an everday business with us. At no time were we out of earshot of guns. The popping of rifles was incessant and hourly some poor fellow received a shot which ended his career as a solider.

"An erroneous idea prevailed that the enemy had superior rifles, superior ammunition and, with the hands of expert riflemen, were doing this shooting. The fact was their arms, as a general rule, were but the ordinary smoothbore muskets. I took special pains to determine an answer to the question, searching the field after the battle, examining captured arms, and only in one instance saw anything different. On the field after the battle of Peachtree Creek, I found in one cartridge box cartridges of superior make. The paper wrappers were white and strong and the powder of better quality than ours. I at once pronounced them to be of English manufacture. The enemy had a similar idea concerning us, that we had marksmen armed with rifles having telescopic sights. Our Eastern army had a few such weapons, but I only saw one man so armed in our Western army."

The Confederates did have men equipped with superior rifles and ammunition. These were the Whitworth sharpshooter who operated apart from the normal brigade sharpshooter. The Whitworth sharpshooters selected their own ground where they felt they could be most effective. With the Union naval blockade, very few of these guns ever reached the Confederacy and their capture was virtually unheard of.

4v50 Gary
November 17, 2003, 02:18 PM
We're aware of the periscope rifle during WW I. Those are the rifles with the modified stocks and periscopes that allowed the shooter to shoot from the safety of the trench and without exposing himself to counterfire. Examples are displayed at Springfield Armory National Historic Site. Well, credit for the first such rifles must go to the Civil War Americans who attached mirrors to their buttstocks at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia. The better shooters even learned to deflect their bullets by hitting at the bottom of the headlogs and deflecting them into the Confederate trenches. Needless to say, this did little to endear the "damned Yankees" to their Confederate brethen.

4v50 Gary
November 24, 2003, 10:36 PM
"We marched several miles and drove in their pickets, which were nearly a mile in front of their breastworks, and saw a Reb that one of the Company F Indians had taken prisoner. He was the most disgusted Reb I ever saw. He was behind some rails they had pile up to protect them, and out in front was an open field with big stones, some higher than a man, and near the woods, which were big trees and no underbrush. He said he saw the Indian go behind the stone, and was waiting for him to come out to get a shot at him, when the first thing he knew the Indian's gun came over the end of the rails and there was nothing to do but to surrender. He asked the Indian if he was the one that went behind the stone. The Indian said he was, but wouldn't tell the Reb how he go out without being seen. The Reb said he had read of the Indians doing such things, but didn't believe such yarns, but had to believe it this time. He said he didn't care so much about being taken prisoner, but hated to have such a game as that played on him. The Indian just laughed at him as did the rest of us."

Good woodcraft made it possible. Are you camouflaged, moving slowly to avoid detection and taking every advantage of the terrain for cover and concealment?

ojibweindian
November 25, 2003, 09:58 AM
LOVE IT!:D

You know, when out in the woods squirrel hunting, I am absolutely amazed at the noise my hunting buddies make, and I have a bad case of tinitus!

When I was a kid, I would practice sneaking up on cats, dogs, rabbits, squirrels, and birds while at home or in the woods. Got pretty good at it; it was a fun game. My daughter is pretty good at it, too. I once saw her sneak up to within 10 yards of a cotton tail rabbit before it noticed her, and she was 7 at the time.

You can sneak up on pretty much anything with enough patience and a little luck:D

4v50 Gary
December 26, 2003, 07:51 PM
One Rebel officer's view of Berdan's Sharsphooters:

"Did you ever see any of those globe or telescopic-sighted rifles, exclusively used by Berdan's battalions of sharpshooters in the Federal army? They are a very accurate weapon, but expensive, I am told; yet the Federals have not done much mischief with them. The men are trained to climb trees, lie on their back, crawl rapidly through the grass, have grass-green pantaloons to prevent detection, etc.; but with all the usual systematic boasting regarding them, out Texans and others are more than a match for them. We have picked off a greater number of them than we have ourselves lost by their wonderful shooting; but as our men do not waste much time in skirmishing, but hasten to 'close quarters, " I have not heard much of them for some time, although a few months since nothing was talked of, North, but the extraordinary achievements of 'Berdan's Sharpshooters.' To believe their reports, nearly every general in our army has fallen under their 'unerring aim.' The best sharpshooters with us are to be found among the Missourians, Texans, Arkansans, Mississippians, and Alabamians - men accusotmed to woods and swamps and to Indian warfare."

note: Probably written sometime in 1862.

4v50 Gary
January 10, 2004, 12:13 AM
"A little before dawn Birge's sharp-shooters were astir. Theirs was a peculiar service. Each was a preferred marksman, and carried a long-range Henry rifle, with sights delicately arranged as for target practice. In action each was perfectly independent. They never maneuvered as a corps. When the time came they were asked, "Canteens full?" "Biscuits for all day?" Then their only order, "All right; hunt your holes, boys." Thereupon they disperesed, and, like Indians, sought cover to please themselves behind rocks and stumps, or in hllows. Sometimes they dug holes; sometimes they climbed into trees. Once in a good location, they remained there all day. At night they would crawl out and report in camp."

Birge's Western Sharpshooters, later renamed the 66th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, was authorized by Gen. John Charles Fremont. The author of the statement, Gen. Lew Wallace (author of "Ben Hur") is not entirely accurate in that they carried sporting guns and about 450 Dimick rifles (think Plains rifles in appearance) were procured by them. The Henry rifles came later and each sharpshooter bought his own (gubmint provided the fodder). As it was a siege, the Sharpshooters made life miserable for the defending Confederates. Mind you, sometimes the Confederates gave as good as they got during the siege. One sharpshooter (unit unknown) was spotted in a tree so applying Rule 2 & Rule 3 of gunfighting (bring a bigger gun and bring all your friends with guns), a 12 pdr cannon was found and using solid shot, they blasted the tree from 3/4 of a mile away. Needless to say, the Federal sharpshooter tumbled from his roost.

4v50 Gary
January 21, 2004, 12:28 PM
Nifty little snippet about why not to kill one another.

"It was comparatively quiet on his part of the line, but another man in the company got behind a tree, a little in advance of the line, and was exchanging shots with a blue-coated sharp-shooter, when Smith said, "Tom, what in the Devil do you mean?" Tom replied, "Why, I want to kill that Yankee sharp-shooter." Smith said, "You are a fool! Don't you know that if you kill him that you will make some of them fellows over there mad, and they wil disturb our rest over here all the time?" It never pays to do wrong to sptie some one for having acted likewise. This is true of armies as well as individuals.

ojibweindian
January 22, 2004, 10:38 PM
Gary

A 12 pdr to kill a sharpshooter? :what:

4v50 Gary
January 23, 2004, 12:10 AM
Objibweindian: The ability of riflemen to harass artillery predates the American Civil War. We saw it at Saratoga when Morgan's riflemen decimated the British artillery crews there. The British riflemen did the same in Spain during the Peninsular War.

By the time of the American Civil War, the rifled musket increased the "potential" of the common infantryman. In the hands of a sharpshooter, a battery could be silenced. Thus, it was not unusual for a gun to engage a singular sharpshooter to remove the annoyance. One general knew this and sent his sharpshooters out to determine the capability of his opponent's artillery. He then fought his battle accordingly. It is not that artillery development lagged behind that of small arms. Rifled cannons were around in plenty of numbers but so was the smoothbore 12 pdr Napoleon. If an artillery piece came within range of the infantryman (500 yards or less), the crew could easily be shot down. Thus, if a gun crew wanted to survive and didn't have to engage in an artillery fight, it would remove its most immediate threat: the sharpshooter.

The book will discuss this more fully and there is no shortage of examples in it.

ojibweindian
January 26, 2004, 10:17 AM
Gary

Very fascinating. I was thinking, after reading the post describing the use of a 12pdr to kill a sharpshooter, that was some serious over-kill.

I had no idea sharpshooters were such a threat to artillery.

4v50 Gary
February 1, 2004, 01:09 PM
Using artillery to plaster a sharpshooter is a fine tradition that the British maintained during WW II. A sniper's post was identified and instead of sending Tommy and his mates out to catch the sniper, they called up the 25 pdrs and looked for bits of uniform of flesh afterwards.

The lesson of the week: Don't taunt a rifleman.

On Rich Mountain, Virginia, the Confederates were being chased by a larger Union force. One Confederate had been fired upon numerous times by the Enfield armed Union "sharpshooters." Thinking himself safe, he stooped over and offered the Union squad of sharpshooters a most undignified insult. This angered the Union men who fired again. One bullet went all the way through the body and out the throat. OUCH!

4v50 Gary
February 15, 2004, 01:13 PM
After the battle of Chickamauga, Rosecran's army was bottled up in Chattanooga and relied on a very tenuous line of supply that ran along the river. It was dubbed the "cracker line" by the Union troops who relied on it for their sustenance, hardtack. :barf:

The Confederates sent out sharpshooter to interdict food coming along the "cracker line." "We brought our Whitworth rifles from Virginia with us. These were placed down the River on our extreme left to shoot down the front teams, which after being done, the road was entirely blocked and we then proceeded in a leisurely manner to use our English rifles. The road was too narrow between the bluff and the Riuver for the teams to turn around or to escape in any manner, and were compelled to sand until all were shot down."

Another Confederate elaborates: "Two companies of our regiment have been sent out and are now actively engaged in firing into their wagon trains. The companies on picket have done considerable execution - stopped the wagon trained and killed a number of mules. The drivers left their teams and took to the woods as soon as the firing commenced."

The cracker line was reopened when the Union floated some men at night past the Confederate position. They attacked the Confederates who were caught off guard. At the same time, a bridge was built at Brown's Ferry and Union troops crossed in support of their comrades.

4v50 Gary
February 23, 2004, 08:33 PM
While a large part of my work concentrates on the American family feud of 1861-65, about 1/3rd concerns the flintlock era. Back then the majority of soldiers (1700-1850s) carried smoothbore muskets and riflemen were far and few between. Still, some pretty accomplished shots were made with the old musket. Here's a tale from the Immortal Wolfe's capture of St. Louisberg (Seven Years' War or French-Indian War as we call it here):

"During the landing at Louisberg there was a rascal of a savage on top of a high rock that kept firing at the Boats as they came within his reach, and he kill'd a volunteer Fraser of our Regiment who, in order to get his one shilling instead of six pence a day, was acting, like myself as a Sergeant, he was a very genteel young man and was to have been commission'd the first vacancy. There sat next to Fraser in the boat, a silly fellow of a Highlander, but who was a good marksman for all that, and not withstanding that there was a positive order not to fire a shot during the landing, he couldn't resist this temptation of having a slap at the Savage. So the silly fellow levels his fuzee at him and in spite of the unsteadiness of the boat, for it was blowing hard at the time, 'afaith he brought him tumbling down like a sack into the water. As the matter turned out, there was not a word said about it, but had it been otherwise he would have had his back scratch'd if not something worse.

This shot was the best I have ever seen."

"Fuzee" was another term for "fusil" or a shorter smoothbore musket. It was generally carried by officers, light infantry or fusiliers (honorific title to soldiers who guarded the artillery).

The British Army was very harsh in those days (never mind those movies where it looks easy). Men were considered by officers as brutes and drunkards and had to be tightly controlled. Lashing, or the "scratch'd" was a popular form of punishment in those days (the Germans use to punish folks by having them run the gauntlet) and the "bloody lobsterback" that our Patriots would taunt the British soliders with before the revolution was in reference to the whippings. :(

4v50 Gary
March 3, 2004, 10:16 PM
During the Siege of Boston when that motley collection of rebels who called themselves patriots ;) bottled up the British Army in Boston, a regiment of riflemen from Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland marched to Boston and began practicing their marksmanship on the British. There is one account of a sentry who showed only half his head and was shot at two hundred and fifty yards distance for his troubles. That's not a difficult shot by modern standards but to perform this feat with a patched round ball rifle takes some skill. Enough of me running at the mouth. Here's one militia lieutenant's first hand account:

"The out Centinals are only at forty Yards distance from each other, and some time past it was a practice for the Centinals to go as far as a pol[e] which was fixed between them and converse but now Genl. Worshington has forbid it. One of [their] Captains who went t Relieve g[u]ard was shot at by three of our Riffle men at 250 yards distance & tumbled from his Horse, this is a practice which General Worshington now discountenences."

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.

4v50 Gary
March 12, 2004, 10:21 PM
Any student of sniping will recall Hesketh Pritchard's Sniping in France in which Maj. Pritchard describes the use of dummies to draw German sniper fire and to locate the same. Well, dummies have played a life saving role in warfare for centuries.

On our own continent, The Wetzel boys made a false face out of a soft block of wood, and painted it a human color and fixed it in the human shape, and some of them would frequently go and see to the domestic concerns of their farm. Jacob taking the false man and his sister, Susannah by name and staying all night, was apprehensive that there were Indians near, by the alarm of the dog at night. He told his sister he had every reason to believe there were Indians near.

As soon as it was fairly light, he opened the door, taking his post on the left side of the door, and Susannah on the right side. As the door opened to the right, she stood rather back of the door, holding up the false man with her left hand in full view of the open door. Two Indians were concealed some distance in front of the two house[s]. One of them fired at the false man, thinking it was the man of the house. The Indians rose from behind their concealment and made toward the house, but as soon as the report of the Indian's gun was heard, Susan let the false man fall in the house. Jacob shot one dead on his approach, and Susan quickly shut and bolted the door. Jacob soon had powder in his gun, and ramming two naked bullets down, fired out of a port hole just as the Indian was in the act of making off, the two balls taking effect in the Indian's back and soon brought him to the ground."

There are other instances of dummies being used to draw fire and WW I sniping hadn't really changed from the frontier days.

Shanghai McCoy
March 13, 2004, 09:28 PM
Gary,I must say that I have enjoyed these stories ever since I found this site.Pity that you "Hide" them here.Rgds,Paul

4v50 Gary
March 14, 2004, 01:42 PM
Wait 'til you guys see the book. I'm almost ready to send it to an editor and am spending more time cleaning up the text now than gathering more material. Also waiting to get a DVD back from a museum with plenty of firearm images. Guns, pictures of guns and the men and plenty of stories all woven into the tale of the blackpowder sharpshooter.

BTW, two Shawnee under Blackfish also used a "dummy" to draw fire from the defenders of Boonesboro. It took a while before the defenders caught on and they then waited until the Braves grew careless. The "dummy" bearer was shot and seeing it, the shooter ran off. When the dummy was recovered, it was found to have been pierced several times.

I've more dummy stories in the book.

4v50 Gary
March 15, 2004, 04:50 PM
The Lone Marksman Revisited (http://www.snipercountry.com/Articles/LoneMarksmanRevisited.asp)

Here's something you guys will enjoy. It's an excerpt from my chapter on the Napoleonic Era rifleman that was published in a blackpowder magazine last year. While most of the chapter discusses the British Rifleman (after all, we only fought them briefly), there are marksmanship examples from the French, Swiss & Austro-Hungarians.

4v50 Gary
March 24, 2004, 11:30 PM
When the American Revolution first broke out in 1775, the British tried to hold Boston but couldn't. So, they evacuated and later took New York to separate the rebellious New England colonies from the others. However, there was unrest elsewhere including Charlestown, South Carolina.

A southern strategy was devised and Sir Peter Parker was dispatched with a fleet to capture Charlestown. Guarding the approach against any seaborne force was Fort Moultrie (now a National Park Service site specializing in coastal defense) on Sullivan Island. The fort was half finished and unprepared for a siege when the Sir Parker's fleet appear.

To the surprise of everyone, including the rebels, cannon balls bounced harmless off the palmetto logs used to construct the fort. A landing force was sent to capture the unfinished fort from the rear. Anticipating this, riflemen were deployed to give any invader a warm reception.

One American rifleman described the fight: "Our rifles were in prime order, well proved and well charged; every man took deliberate aim at his object... The fire taught the enemy to lie closer behind their bank of oyster shells, and only show themselves when they rose to fire." The British and their Tory allies were repulsed and Fort Moultrie remained in American hands. "It was impossible for any set of men to sustain so destructive a fire as the Americans poured in... on this occasion," wrote one Tory who landed on Sullivan Island. The accurate fire of the riflemen ensured that Fort Moultrie remained in American hands.

With several of his ships grounded, Sir Peter Parker withdrew. The British would not return until 1780. This time, they would approach Charleston (as it was renamed) from the land.

4v50 Gary
March 29, 2004, 03:10 PM
But ye of Scottish descent will appreciate it.

During the French-Indian War, one Highlander was captured by the Indians. Knowing that captives were generally tortured to death, he bragged (through an interpreter) about his prowess as a medicine man skilled in the making of potions. He told them he knew of one potion that would make his skin invincible to the blade and that he could teach them its preparation. The Indians were skeptical but agreed to release him to gather his herbs and secret ingredients. They escorted him through the woods and watched while he gathered plants. He returned to the village and ground them, chanting unintelligible words (probably Gaelic) and finally applied the magic potion around his neck. He then layed his head upon a tree trunk and invited them to try to chop his head off. Well, down came the axe and off came his head. The Indians were initially angry but soon lavish in their praise for this cunning Scotsman who evaded torture.

4v50 Gary
April 7, 2004, 09:25 PM
When the sluaghter in the Secundrabah was almost over, many of the soldiers lay down under a large peepul tree with a very bush top, to enjoy its shade and quench their thirst from the jars of cool water set around the foot of the tree. An exceptional number of dead and wounded also lay under the tree, and this attracted the notice of an officer. Carefully examining the wounds, he found that in every case the men had evidently been shot from above. The officer called to a solider to look if he could see anyone in the tree-top. The soldier had his rifle loaded, and stepping back, he carefully scanned the top of the tree. He almost immediately called out: "I see him, sir!" Cocking his rifle, he immediately fired, and down fell a body dressed in a tight-fitting red jacket and tight-fitting rose-coloured silk trousers; and the breat of the jacket bursting open with the fall, showed that the wearer was a woman. She was armed with a pair of heavy old-pattern cavalry pistols, one of which was in her belt still loaded, and her pouch was still half filled with ammunition. From her perch in the tree, which had been carefully prepared before the attack, she had killed more than a dozen men.

Trees make lousy hides and even in the Civil War, soldiers from both sides used trees as sharpshooters posts. Once detected (thanks to the smoke), they were generally quickly brought down.

BHPshooter
April 12, 2004, 07:21 PM
Gary, this thread is great. It makes work go much faster.

Wes

4v50 Gary
April 18, 2004, 12:37 PM
In the days of the olde, the lessers were not suppose to shoot their betters. Of course, the English longbowmen rudely ignored this bit of sage wisdom at Agincourt and Crecy and the "flower" of French chivalry died under a shower of arrows (d**n peasant archers). Somehow, the Scots didn't know any better either and they were either unschooled in the niceties :confused: of warfare or just didn't give a d**n. Here's something from a Scotsman who fought against Boney:

As we approached the enemy their skirmishers retired, followed by ours and the Portugese to within a few yards of their lines for seeing the British advancing through the tempest of balls, they kept advancing in like manner to within a few yards of the enemy's pieces, crying out 'Fogo ma felias" or 'away my sons'. At this moment a French officer mounted on a white horse seemed to be very busy endeavouring to keep his men to their work, when a Corporal by the name of Joffrey and I got leave to try if he was ball proof; and running out a few yards in front kneeled down and fired together, but which of us struck him must still remain a myster, but down he went. Poor Joffrey, while in the act of rising off his knee, received a ball in the breast which numbered him with the dead also.

There's a story about 1/95 (Rifle Brigade) Tom Plunket who was accepted General Paget's offer to shoot General (Colbert) who was leading the French vanguard. Plunket ran out from among the ranks, threw himself down upon the ground and slew the Frenchman. He then shot the bugler who attempted to assist 'mon general.' Plunket ran back to the safety of his ranks before a dozen angry French troopers could cut him down. He received in gratitude General Paget's purse. One Victorian era historian found it hard to believe that one General would wager to have another officer brought down. There's enough evidence to show that it was "policy" to bring down the leaders. Our Scotsman in the above example quoted above didn't need encouragement. Furthermore, there is a letter from one French Marshal complaining about the 5/60 (Royal Americans) who were responsible for bringing down many French officers.

Well, the lesson is if you ride white horses and wave silly swords, you'll not only draw the attention of your own men but also inspire the enemy to fill your chest with metals (not medals). There are plenty of examples in the American Sybil War of officers being mettled with by sharpshooters. Perhaps the best known example is Uncle John Sedgwick at Spotsylvania who is remembered for his encouraging statement, "Why are you dodging man? Why, they could hit an elephant at this distance.":o In inspiring his men, poor Uncle John received a bullet in his face.

M67
April 18, 2004, 07:07 PM
Hey Gary. Is this a private thread, or can others play too? Even if it isn't British colonial history...

In the days of the olde, the lessers were not suppose to shoot their betters. Depends on how olde the days and who you are referring to. A Norwegian king made a speech before a battle in 1179 where he told his men that "he who kills a nobleman shall himself become one." (Nobleman is a very loose translation, I just don't know an English word for what he actually said.)

Somehow, the Scots didn't know any better either and they were either unschooled in the niceties of warfare or just didn't give a d**n. Well, based on my impression of Scots, my guess would be the last alternative. I kinda like the Scots. :)
Not giving a d**n probably discribes the king mentioned above as well. By the 1190s his disagreements with the church led to the king getting himself excommunicated by pope Celestin III. This was no mean feat, considering the fact that the king also happened to be an ordained priest...

4v50 Gary
April 18, 2004, 11:30 PM
Yes M67, anyone can play. Regarding the Scots, I think they were pragmatic about shooting officers. I've seen another account during the Napoleonic Wars where one Highland regiment was about to be overwhelmed if a particular officer continued encouraging his men. The Scots tried to bring him down but all failed. Finally, one Scotsman left the ranks and ran a bit forward to get a better aim. He fired one well placed shot and flattened the French officer on the ground.

The Germans of the 5/60 Royal Americans were noted for killing officers.

If anyone has any interesting stories, please feel free to share.

4v50 Gary
April 23, 2004, 11:52 PM
American Revolutionary War seaman Ebenezer Fox was captured aboard the Protector during the ill fated Penobscot Expedition. He was imprisoned aboard the Jersey in New York Harbor. Starved into submission, he and a few others decided to enlist into the British Army in the West Indies where they were promised that they would not have to take up arms against their countrymen. True to their word, Fox is sent to Jamaica where he is enlisted in the 88th Regiment.

While serving the King, Fox's skill as a barber (he was an apprentice barber and wig maker prior to enlisting) is soon discovered and he was relieved of all dutys save but shaving the officers. Still, Fox was not happy about his situation and joined with five others to escape. They steal two pistols and some cutlasses and obtaining a pass, leave their camp with no intent to return.

"In a few moments, we saw coming over the hill three stout negroes, armed with muskets, which they immediately presented to us, and ordered us to stop.

Our arms, as I have formerly obsreved, consisted of two pistols and three swords: upon the pistols we could place but little dependence, as they were not in good order; and the swords were concealed under our clothes: to attempt to draw them out would have caused the negroes to instantly fire upon us.

They were about ten rods before us, and stood in the attitude of taking a deliberate aim at us. To run would be certain death to some of us; we therefore saw no alternative but to advance. One of our numbers, a man named Jones, a tall, powerful fellow, took a paper from his pocket, and, holding it up before him, advanced with great apparent confidence in his manner, and the rest of us imitated his example. As we approached, Jones held out the paper to one of them, telling him that it was our pass, giving us authority to travel across the island. The negroes, as we very well knew, were unable to read; it was therefore immaterial what was written upon the paper, - I believe it was an old letter, - as manuscript or print was entirely beyond their comprehension. While we were advancing, we had time to confer with each other; and the circumstances of the moment, the critical situation, in which we were placed, naturally led our minds to one conclusion, to obtain the consent of the negroes that we might pursue our journey; but that if they opposed our progress, to resort to violence, if we perished in the attempt.

There was something very exciting to our feelings in marching up to the muzzles of these fellows' guns; to have our progress interrupted when we were, as we supposed, so near the end of our journey. Our sufferings had made us somewhat savage in our feelings; and we marched up to them with that determination of purpose which desperate men have resolved upon, when life, liberty, and everything they value is at stake: - all depended upon prompt and decisivie action.

This was a fearful moment. The negroes stood in a row, their muskets still presented, but their attention ws principally directed to the paper which Jones held before them; meanwhile our eyes were constantly fixed upon them, anxiously watching their motions, and designing to disarm them as soon as a favorable opportunity should be offered.

The negroes were large and powerful men, while we, though we outnumbered them, were worn down by our long march, and enfeebled by hunger. In physical power we were greatly their inferiors. But the desperate circumstances in which we were placed inspired us with uncommon courage, and gave us an unnatural degree of strength.

We advanced steadily forward, shoulder to shoulder, till the breasts of three of us were within a few inches of the muzzles of their guns. Jones reached forward and handed the paper to one of the negroes. He took it, and, turning it round several times and examing both sides, and finding himself not much the wiser for it, shook his head and said, "We must stop you." The expression of his coutnenance, the doubts which were manifested in his manner of receiving tha pepar, convinced us, that all hope of deceiving or conciliating them was at an end.

Their muskets were still presented, their fingers upon the triggers. An awful pause of a moment ensued, when we made a sudden and desperate spring forward, and seized their muskets: out attack was so unexpected, that we wrenched them from their hands before they were aware of our intention. The negro, whom I attacked, fired just as I seized his gun, but I had fortunately turned the direction of it, and the ball inflicted a slight wound upon my side, the scar of which remains to this day. This was the only gun that was discharged during this dreadful encounter.

As soon as it was in my possession, I exercised all my strength, more than I thought I possessed, and gave him a tremdous blow over the head with the breech, which brought him to the ground, from which he never rose.

I had no sooner accomplished my work, when I found my companions had been equally active, and had despatched the other two negroes in the same space of time. None of our party received any injury but myself, and my wound I considered as trifling.

The report of the gun we were fearing would alarm some of our enemies' comrades, who might be in the vicinity, and bring them to the spot. We accordingly dragged the bodies to a considerable distance into the woods, where we buried them under a quantity of leaves and brush. In their pockets we found a few biscuit, whcih were very acceptable to us in our famished condition.

The best gun ws selected, as we did not think it necessary to burden oursleves with the others, as they had been injured in the conflict. We took what ammunition we though necessary, and then sought a place to rest for the reaminder of the day."

In part II, we'll learn how marksmanship played a key role for them. Note: one rod = 5.5 yards.

4v50 Gary
April 25, 2004, 11:35 AM
We continue our narrative of Fox's escape from Jamaica.

"Dejected and melancholy, we again sought our place of concealment, to reflect upon our situation, and form some determination respecting future operations. To remain where we were long, without straving or being detected, was impossible, but how to get away was the problem to be solved. Undetermined what to do, we left our retreat again, and the first object that met our view upon the water was a sail-boat directing her course to the shore near where we were.

Here was a means of escape that Providence had thrown in our way. Our previous despair was now changed into hope, and, with our spirits suddenly elated, we retreated to the bushes to come to some immediate decision.

We resolved ourselves into a committtee, appointed a moderator, and proceeded to business. The question wto be discussed was, whether we should attempt to make a prize of the boat, and escape to Cuba.

Without spending much time, as we had none to spare, to discuss the question, or to hear speeches for, much less against it, we put it to vote, and carried it unanimously.

The wind was blowing from the shore, and the boat was consequently beating in against the wind. This was a favorable circumstance for us, if we could get possession of the boat. The undertaking was fraught with difficulty and danger, but it was our only chance for escape.

We left our council place, and crept cautiously down to the shroe, keeping concealed as much as possible between the bushes, till we arrived near to the point, at which we thought the boat was steering. As she was beating against the wind, we concluded, if the man at the helm could be brought down, the boat would luff, which would bring her near the shore, when we were immediately to spring on board. Jones, being the best marksman, took the musket, and seeing that it was well loaded and primed, crept as close to the edge of the shore as he could without being discovered by the crew, and lay down, to wait for a good opportunity to fire at the man at the helm. The rest of us kept as near to him as possible.

Every circumstance seemed to favor our design. The negroes were all in their huts, and every thing around was quiet and still.

The boat soon approached near enough for Jones to take a sure aim; and we scarcely breathed as we lay extended on the ground, waiting for him to perfrom the duty assigned him.

In a few moments, bang went the gun, and down went the negro from the helm into the bottom of the boat; and, as we hand anticipated, the helm being abandoned, the boat luffed up in the wind and was brought close to the shore, which was bold, and the water deep enough to float her. The instant the gun was fired, we were upon our feet, and in the next moment up to our waists in the water alongside the boat.

No time was lost in shoving her about, and getting her bows from the land. There was a fresh breeze from the shore; the sails filled; and the boat was soon under a brisk head way."

Fox and his comrades released the crew and allowed them to swim for land while they made their way to Spanish Cuba (30 leagues away). The Spaniards treated them courteously and placed them aboard an American frigate which carried them home.

4v50 Gary
April 25, 2004, 01:09 PM
The 1800s saw a period of rapid firearms development. The roundball's reign as the premier "missile" used in firearms came to an end when the French developed the "minie" bullet. It was actually the third and final best effort of the French who found that long range fire was necessary to counter that of the Arabs who were unappreciative of French inroads and "blessings of French culture" in their country. Mon Dieu! Those darn Arabs were shooting and killing the French from distances beyond 500 yards.

The Minie was an undersized conical shape bullet that was hollow in the back. An iron cup was placed into the back and when the gun was fired, it would drive into the lead and expand it such that the bullet fitted the lands of the rifle. While retaining the musket's rapidity of loading, the minie had the rifle's advantage of long range. In fact, the range was greater than that of the normal round ball rifle and it was deadlier too.

In the American War of the Rebellion (Sybil Wa-oh), a surgeon for the Union Army was half a mile behind the front lines when he had a very unpleasant experience: "I was loading my ambulance one day at Cold Harbor with wounded men to send to the Corps Hospital, when a bullet struck the near horse just back of the shoulder, and passed through the horse, which instantly fell dead, then entered the off horse in a like manner and lodged under the skin of the off side; this off horse stood a moment, then fell dead on the near horse."

M67
April 25, 2004, 09:10 PM
Biathlon, 18th century style.

I recently came across a reference to the rules for skiing contests arranged by Norwegian ski-companies, dated 1766. These ski troops were "special forces" 200 years before the invention of "cool capslock acronyms". They would dress in light colours to blend with the snow, move rapidly cross country, do recon, harass the enemy rear etc., in addtition to fighting as skirmishers in regular engangements. They were not very popular among the traditional enemy, the Swedes, who I think preferred a more continental style of fighting.

Anyway, the regulations for these skiing contests said that although they were arranged by the army, anyone "without exception" was allowed to participate. There were four categories, two involved downhill stunts, one was a regular race to see who could run the fastest quarter mile (just under two of your miles) in full gear with a slung rifle/musket.

The interesting category in this context is the one for the top prize.

First prize was for "the person who could, while skiing at full speed down a moderately steep hill, fire his gun and most accurately hit a target 40 to 50 paces distant".

40 to 50 paces isn't very long range to a modern sharpshooter, but to hit anything at all while on the move with 18th century skis and shooting a flintlock, I think you would have to be a quite good shot as well as a good skier.

I use the word "gun" in my translation above because the Norwegian word used in the original would include both rifle and smoothbore musket. The ski-troopers and other special forces did use rifles, but because the rifles were expensive to replace if damaged or worn out, each soldier was also issued a musket for training purposes, and those may have been used in this type of competition. I imagine participating civilians used whatever they had.

4v50 Gary
May 3, 2004, 03:25 PM
Here's an account of the Civil War sharpshooter's life:

"The position of the sharp-shooter was one of constant privation and jeopardy. Creeping out at night on all fours to within six or eight hundred yards of the opposite lines, he selected a tree, stone, pit, or chimney, which to secrete himself. At daylight, every part of him must be invisible, and remain so till sundown. At the same time, he must be able to draw a bead upon some rebel angle, embrasure, or other position of importance. Whatever the weather, - warm, cold, wet, or dry; whatever his condition, sick or well, wounded, or evy dying, - there he must remain til nightfall, or, exposing himself, run the risk of instant death."

Smokeless powder was not invented yet in the Civil War so after the first shot, the sharpshooter had to be extremely careful as his position was known to the enemy's sharpshooters. They would lay in wait until he fired and then fired their presighted gun in hopes of killing him.

4v50 Gary
May 7, 2004, 10:39 PM
Earlier I introduced California Joe. Here's an incident of his fine work:

"I had an opportunity to examine 'California Joe's' rifle this morning, as he is behind earth-works where I am now writing, laying for a chance to pick off a rebel gunner. The rifle weighs 32 pounds, and has a small telescope running the whole length of the barrel, which he uses to sight his target by. The telescope will make a man who is a mile away look as if he was only 200 or 300 yards off... There! The scout has just shot a secesh! And he was a good half mile away from where we are!!! It looked as if the rebels have been trying all morning for a chancce to load the 64 pounder which was pointing directly towards us, and a few minutes ago one of their officers jumped up to the top of the parapet and waved his sword, as if to encourage the men to come up and load the gun. It seemed for a minute or two that he was going to succeed, but the scout had his rifle sighted on the officer who was making such a fine target of himself, and when he fired down came the rebel, heels over head, outside his own fort towrd us, evidently stone dead. It was a fine shot for the man must have been a full half mile away."

4v50 Gary
May 14, 2004, 11:49 PM
During the fighting along the North Anna River (Grant was again trying to slip past Lee's right and get between Lee and Richmond), one Confederate came under long range fire from an unseen Union sharpshooter:

"I was surprised by the accuracy of some of the enemy's sharpshooters... seats had been fixed around a shady tree some distance in rear of our line, where I was sitting with some officers of the Brigade, my head against the tree. The well known whistle of a bullet was heard... another ball passed still cloer, and broke up the party, a thrid ball passed between my neck and the tree, cutting some hairs off my head and some bark of the tree. I did, of course, not wait for another ball."

The distance to the nearest Union picket line was about a mile. While the sharpshooter was probably closer, that he remained unseen, undetected after several shots and was driving his shots pretty close was pyschologically unnerving.

Shanghai McCoy
May 15, 2004, 12:07 AM
Sure do enjoy these stories Gary.Looking forward to that book you've been talking about.

4v50 Gary
May 20, 2004, 02:32 AM
It was mentioned in an earlier post (Drewy or Drury's Bluff in the American War of the Rebellion) that the modern rules of gunfighting apply to sniping and sharpshooting. During the French-Indian War, Gen. Jeffrey Amherst wanted to capture Fort Niagara and convinced Commodore Loring to sail his ships within 100 yards of the fort. Besides filling his decks, each fighting top was filled with marksmen. The plan was for the marksmen to suppress the fort's defenders so that Amherst's batteaux (boats) could approach and storm the fort.

Well, the French captain in charge decided he wasn't playing by the rules and actually anticipated the tactic. He hid his cannon and his own musketmen and when the ships were within range of pistol shot, "had each ship bombarded one after the other with five guns... using ball & grapeshot." He forced two ships to run aground and a third to strike her colors which he accepted. Remember, in a gunfight, bring a bigger gun and bring all your buddies with guns.

4v50 Gary
May 26, 2004, 11:28 PM
While the book definitely has an American bias, we should acknowledge that other nations also produced sharpshooters of their own who were equally skilled as our own. In the following vignette, we learn how one Russian bested two Englishmen.

"In most of the parapets of the trenches, at the top of the gabions, were double rows of sand-bags, and these again were covered with earth; at intervals, in order to permit more secure observation and to allow our marksmen to be usefully employed, small loop-holes were formed, and, according to the taste or discretion of the field-officer commanding, a fire might be kept up on the embrasures if any activity prevailed, or on the clever skirmishers or on the diggers of the ambuscades, isolated in the first instances in couples, or singly, to work an ambush.

Through one of the sand-bag loop-holes a British private had been firing with, as he fancied, indifferent success, and therefore took a sergeant into consultation; the latter was judging the distance and looking through the loop-hole, whilst the private, much interested, looked over the sergeant's shoulder. Nothing could be seen of these two men above the parapets, except perhaps the moving of their forage caps, but so judicious was the judgment and so excellent the aim of a Russian rifleman, that a shot entered the loop-hole, passed through the head of the sergeant and the throat of the private, killing them both.

"As the small loop-hole was scarcely visible such a shot could only have been made by the marksman calculating where the face was from the slight circumstance of a cap being observed an inch or two over the parapet, breaking the regularity of the line of defence. The two poor victims to such deadly aimed were buried on the spot where they fell, and their arms and accoutrements carried back to camp."

Clearly the solution was to conceal one's loophole or deceive the opposition as to which loophole was being used. Here, a higher parapet would have made the aligning of two men unknown to the enemy.

Now, my apologies. I'm leaving for Kentucky (May 28th) to build an iron mounted southern rifle and will be offline for three weeks. If anyone has any vignettes, please share them with the guys. Behave yourselves ;) and shoot straight.

Old Fuff
May 27, 2004, 12:08 AM
Have a good trip. It sounds like fun. Hopefully we'll see pictures when the project is done.

pinblaster
June 9, 2004, 07:08 PM
Keep 'em coming !

4v50 Gary
June 19, 2004, 12:37 PM
Just to let you know, a few salty tales do creep into the book. Here's a lesser action that is amusing:

In an action mimicked by the German hilfskreuzers (auxiliary cruisers or converted merchantships that served as raiders)of WW I & WW II fame, the fishing smack Yankee used deception to lure the British sloop-of-war Eagle to close quarters. A calf, sheep and a goose along with three innocent appearing "fishermen" were conspicuously displayed on the Yankee's deck. When the Eagle approached and ordered her to stop to be boarded, forty hidden musketmen arose and fired a volley that killed three sailors and drove the remainder below deck. Stunned, the Eagle struck her colours wihtout returning a shot.

4v50 Gary
June 27, 2004, 08:40 AM
or 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (alternatively numbered as the 42nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry).

I had the opportunity after dinner to inspect the camp of the "Bucktails," a regiment of Pennsylvania backwoodsmen, whose efficiency as skirmishers has been adverted to by all chroniclers of the Civil War. They wore the common blue blouse and breeches, but were distinguished by squirrel tails fastened to their caps. (Gary's note: it was bucktails or portions of the deer hide that resembled a buck tail) They were reputed to be the best marksmen in the service, and were generally allowed, in action, to take their own positions and fire at will. Crawling through thick woods, or trailing serpentlike through the tangled grass, these mountaineers were for a time the terror of the Confederates; but when their mode of fighting had been understood, their adversaries improved upon it to such a degree that at the date of this writing(Gary's note: circa 1862) there is scarcely a corporal's guard of the original Bucktail regiment remaining. Slaughtered on the field, perishing in prison, disabled or paroled, they have lost both their prstige and their strength. I remarked among these worthies a partiality for fisticuffs, and a dislike for the manual of arms. They drilled badly, and were reported to be adepts at thieving and unlicensed foraging.

Two men were sent to guard the farm of a Miss Priscilla.

They deposited their muskets in a corner, and balanced their boots on the fender. Nothing was said for a time.

"Did you lose yer poultry?" said the tall man, at length.

"All," said Miss Priscilla.

"Fellers loves poultry!" said the same man, after a little silence.

"Did you lose yer sheep?" said the same man, smacking his lips.

"The Bucktails cut their throats the first day that they encamped at the mill," said Miss Priscilla.

"Them Bucktails great fellers," said the tall man; "them Bucktails awful on sheep: they loves 'em so!"

He relapsed again for a few minutes, when he continued: "You don't like fellers to bag yer poultry and sheep, do you?"

Miss Priscilla replied that it was both dishonest and cruel. Miss Bell initimated that none buy Yankees would do it.

4v50 Gary
July 1, 2004, 12:33 AM
When it comes to dibs or more appropriately bragging rights, there's quite a bit of controversy and unfortunately the heat of battle is not conducive for one to cease fire just to write notes. In the smoke, noise, confusion of battle, it becomes difficult to concentrate on anything other than staying alive. Verification becomes an extremely difficult matter and many stories must be approached cautiously. For instance, the famous General Sedgwick ("Why, they couldn't hit an elephant...") is but one example. While there are several claimants, we really don't know who shot Papa John. Same with Admiral Nelson (yes, a post war Frenchman stepped forward and claimed responsibility but British swabbies said that they potted Nelson's killer). With that in mind, here's an example of one where the troops fired a volley (and therefore had bragging rights), they were silenced by one claimant:

At Shiloh, the Twenty-third Tennessee, in resisting a charge, poured a volley into the enemy. At this time there was a Major on horseback in hot pursuit, some distance ahead, although the whole of Captain J. A. Ridley's Company fired on him, yet one of the soldiers of said Company alone claimed to have killed him. The Company challenged his right. The soldier said, "If you find that the ball entered under the right arm pit, he's mine, if not, I'll give it up. On investigation, the shot was found there."

OF
July 1, 2004, 12:54 PM
Great stuff, Gary!

Please sir, can we have some more? :D

- Gabe

4v50 Gary
July 3, 2004, 11:46 PM
Not to knock the Brits (and I have plenty of British friends and this is just hystery for the fun of it anyway), but this being the 4th of July, I'd thought I share an incident from our little family feud with the Brits. It goes like this (in the best bed time story tradition)....

Well, one night the Brits sneak out of Boston to do a raid on the militia stores. Well, word goes out and they shoot some minute men and are chased back to Boston by an angry militia. Among the militiamen was one old hunter who rode a pale horse. Here's his tale:

Through their whole retreat the British had notice one man in particular, whom they learned especially to dread. He was an old, gray-haired hunter, and he rode a fine white horse. He struck the trail as they left Concord, and would ride up within gunshot, then turning the horse to throw himself off, aim his long gun resting on the saddle, and that aim was death. They would say, 'Look out, there is the man on the white horse.' He followed them the whole distance.... [J.R.] saw him gallop across the brook and up a hill, pursued by a party of the flank guard who kept the plains midway between Charlestown and Main street. He turned, aimed and the boy saw one of the British fall. He rode on, and soon the same gun was heard again, this time also with deadly effect."

Happy Birthday America!

sm
July 4, 2004, 01:34 PM
Gary, these are Great!

Please keep this up.

Thanks again for the info you provided and the suggestions - including this thread!

Steve

Old Fuff
July 4, 2004, 02:10 PM
I second the motion ....

sm
July 5, 2004, 03:01 AM
Tell me a "buck and ball story" please . :D

4v50 Gary
July 5, 2004, 11:48 PM
Mistakenly called Battle of Bunker Hill. After the militia chased Gate's army back to Boston and bottled them up there, they began entrenching on Breed's Hill from which they could bombard the harbor and the ships therein. If the Royal Navy was to sustain the Army at Boston, the Army must first eject the "Damned Rebels" from Breed's Hill. So on June 17 they sent a large force to capture Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill.

One problem though. Those cowardly rebels had entrenched themselves and wouldn't come out from behind their wall. As the Redcoats marched up the hill, a sheet of flame erupted from the wall, bringing many Redcoats to the ground, either dead or writhing in pain. Falling back, they regrouped and marched up again - with the same results.

Now, story is that we had a lot of Riflemen there but riflemen were few and far between in the New England states. The celebrated riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia didn't arrive until after that battle. Most likely the rebels were armed with muskets and fowlers - all smooth bores capable of shooting buck 'n ball. The damned rebels were also very unsporting and cheated by aiming - especially at officers. Apparently they didn't know that they weren't suppose to hurt their betters. Pure American ignorance in the ways of warfare.

There was one fellow who was higher than his fellows so as to have a better view. Remember we're talking black powder with white clouds of sulphorous smoke obscuring what was once a nice, clear view. We now hear from a British Lieutenant (pronounced "left-tenant")who explains the high officer casualties:

As it is very uncommon that such a great number of officers should be killed and wounded more than is proportion to the number of private men: the following discovery seems to account for it.

Before the entrenchments were forced, a man, whom the Americans called a marksman, or rifleman, was seen standing upon something near three feet higher than the rest of the troops, as their hats were not visible. This man had no sooner discharged one musket, than another was handed to him, and continued firing in that manner for ten or twelve minutes. And in that small space of time, by their handing to him fresh loaded muskets, it is supposeded that he could not kill or wound less than twenty officers; for it was at them particularly that he directed his aim, as was afterwards confirmed by the prisoners. But he soon paid his tribute, for, upon being noticed, he was killed by the grenadiers of the Royal Welch Fusileers."

Of the 2,500 British officers and men who joined in the assault on Breed's Hill, 40% or 1,150 became casualties. The officers suffered 19 killed and 70 wounded.

Note: the intonation of the book will reflect less bias than what I type here on THR. Remember, this is for fun learning and learning is cool. :cool:
My own preference is to heavily rely on quotes and allow you the reader to interpret it. It's more fun that way. The 23rd Regiment, Royal Welch Fusiliers sacked our capital during the War of 1812 and ate President Madison's dinner.

sm
July 6, 2004, 01:22 AM
:cool:
Thank You Sir!

"I ain't ever had nuttin' dedicated to me before" I am humbled.

"Damned Rebels" shooting at officers like that, entrenched and all...:D

4v50 Gary
July 11, 2004, 02:12 PM
Concerning the blurb on Breed's Hill, the British Commander-in-Chief in 1775 was Thomas Gage, not Gates. Gates served on the American side & was the Victor of Saratoga (with a lot of help from Benedict Arnold). My apologies for the mistake. Well, onto the bedtime story for the day.

Part of the effectiveness of the modern sniper is the fear he generates when he strikes out from his hidden lair to dispatch his foe. Unlike today with our thermal imaging and radar, an enemy who isn't seen, can't be fought. It was almost as bad during the blackpowder era (where the tell tale white smoke that followed every discharge would reveal a sharpshooter's location). Still, the deadly annoyance of the sharpshooter was unneverving.

"Quite a number of officers were sitting together just before dark eating their supper.... when the bugler of the regiment, who was sitting near, was shot through the heart and killed instantly. No one could tell where the shot came from. He was just raising his spoon to his mounth when he fell over dead."

It is little wonder why one soldier wrote: "There was an unwritten code of honor among the infantry that forbade the shooting of men while attending to the imperative calls of nature, and these sharpshooting brutes were constantly violating that rule. I hated sharpshooters, both Confederate and Union, and I was always glad to see them killed."

That misunderstanding and hatred of sharpshooters was the legacy of the sniper. American Snipers in 'Nam were called "Murder Incorporated" and in an earlier war, a British sniping officer was called, "The Professional Assassin."

M67
July 12, 2004, 08:56 PM
a man, whom the Americans called a marksman, or rifleman, was seen standing upon something near three feet higher than the rest of the troops, as their hats were not visible. This man had no sooner discharged one musket, than another was handed to him, This reminded me of an episode from my neighbourhood, during the 1807-14 war between Sweden and Denmark-Norway, which was a "branch-war" of the Napoleonic wars.

In february 1808 a Norwegian battalion of grenadiers and sharpshooters was mobilized in Trondheim and marched south with 630 men. For some reason they marched on their feet along the "roads", not on skis even though it was winter. 14 days later they reached their destination, after an average of 46 km (sorry, "clicks") per day. That's not bad considering the terrain - prime musk ox habitat - and weather. The impressive part is that they arrived with 630 men, not one single man failed to complete the march.

Anyway, to the point. One of the grenadier company commanders was a captain named Dreyer. On April 25th two companies of this battalion held a larger Swedish force at a road pass, the Swedes had to use the road because of the deep snow. After some time, the rest of Dreyer's battalion attacked the Swedes from the rear, along with two companies of skiers that attacked from the forest on both sides of the road. At one point during this battle, capt. Dreyer was reported to have been lying on the roof of a house, shooting at the enemy while his men handed him loaded rifles. Later, as the battle developed into close quarter fighting, the captain climbed a tall tree stump, from which he could direct his soldiers better. He continued to shoot at the enemy from this vantage point, as the men closest to him handed him loaded rifles. The downside to having an unobstructed view of the enemy is of course that the enemy can see you as well. The surviving Swedes surrendered after three hours.

Towards the end of the battle the captain fell off his tree stump, wounded. According to legend he had been hit seven times, although the exact number of hits is a bit hazy. He died of his wounds four days later.

The good captain was apparantly quite a character. He was commisioned 16 years old, after serving six months as an NCO. He had a reputation for speaking his mind, something that made him unpopular among his superiors. He got a written reprimand from no less than the commanding general of the Norwegian army, who expressed his displeasure with the captain's conduct. But he was known among his soldiers as a very good shot.

4v50 Gary
July 19, 2004, 10:33 PM
Thank you M67 for your contribution.
[Rod Sterling Twilight Zone Voice on]

And now for the most famous sharpshooter regiments of the Civil War, Berdan's Sharp Shooters. The following excerpt took place at Kelly Ford (Nov. 7, 1863) well after the major campaign season was over. Meade was busying following Lee and probing for weaknesses. He came across the Confederates guarding Kelly's Ford. From their encounter there, we have a tale of two good marksmen and with only one unfortunate target between them:

"A remarkable instance of fine shooting occurred at this time. Corp. Johnson, of Company G, upon being urged to give the retreating Rebs a shot, although he considered the chances poor hitting his man at that distance, running off as he was, finally exclaimed: 'By great! I'll try him,' and allowing two feet for windage, drew up his rifle at 700 yards raised the sight and fired. At the same time Lieut. Thorp of the adjoining company, K, asked George J. Fisher if he could 'down that fellow.' Answering: 'I guess I can," Fisher shot just as Johnson did, and the man threw up his hands and went down. The fallen rebel was afterwards found wounded in two places, he stating that both shots came from the same instant, one through the right thigh, the other the left hip."

Sometimes it doesn't pay to get out of bed.:uhoh:
[/Rod Sterling Twilight Zone voice off] Come back for more Bedtime Stories or Sharpshooter Tales here only at THR.

[Commerical Break]
***** Deleted by Oleg Volk ******

Penman
July 20, 2004, 08:35 PM
An intersting comment on the battle for Breed's Hill was that after the colonists retreated and the British took over the hill, one of the colonial leaders said: "I'd gladly sell them another hill for that price."

4v50 Gary
July 24, 2004, 11:33 AM
Penman - where did you get that quote?

And now for a tale from the American Civil War.

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 the 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 rifle barrel. (Note: some units were required to brighten their barrels to keep the rust off. ) 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 believer 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.

4v50 Gary
July 30, 2004, 11:20 PM
How did the average soldier feel about the opposing sharpshooters? In some cases there was a genuine hatred and some men felt that they should all be killed. In the following example, one Federal soldier actually meets one and describes his feeling. Enjoy.

"A most complete entente cordiale had just been established between Company D and the Alabama and Arkansas men who have just been posted opposite to us. It was rather embarassing, at first, to come face to face with the chaps, who, for a month back, have been shooting at you night and day; but I wanted to study the live 'reb,' and determine the category in natural history under which he should come, - whether 'gorillia,' as some claim; or 'chivalry,' as others; or sometines betweeen... A group of rebels were gathered in the hollow, and over the parapet others came jumping, coming in a straggling line down the slope. I am bound to say, they seemed like pleasant men. All were good-natured, and met our advances cordially. They straightened up as we did. 'It was good to be able to stretch up once more to the full height; they had not been able to do it for a month.' Several were free-mason; and there was mysterious clasping and mighty fraternizing with the brethren on our side. Some had been in Northern colleges, and were gentlemen; and even the 'white trash' and 'border ruffians,' who made up the mass of them, were a less inhuman set that I should have believed...

"'Here comes Old Thous'n Yards!' said they, as a broad, tall Arkansian, with a beard heavy as Spanish moss on an oak, and a quick dark eye, came swinging down from the parapet. They all made way for him with some deference. He was 'Old Thous'n Yards' with every one, and turned out to be the great sharp-shooter of that part of the works. I inquired about him, and found he was a famous backwoodsman and hunter, who, with a proper rifle, was really sure of a bear or buffalo at the distance of a thousand yards. He came forward rather bashfully. On both sides, the rifles were left behind; and 'Old Thousand Yards' seemed to be as much troubled to dispose of his hands as a college freshman at his first party. His left arm would half bend into a hollow as if to receive the rifle barrel, and the right fingers work as if they wanted to feel the touch of the lock. I borrowed a chew of tobacco, and won the perennial friendship of 'Old Thousand Yards' by bestowing it upon him. Then I bought his cedar canteen to preserve as a souvenir... I fear more than one of our poor fellows has felt his skill; but, for all that, he was a good-natured fellow, with a fine frame and noble countenance, - a physique to whose vigor and masculine beauty, prairies and mountainpaths and wild chases had contributed."

Shanghai McCoy
July 31, 2004, 12:31 AM
Now that is "good reading".It sometimes amazes me how well written these old stories can be.

4v50 Gary
August 6, 2004, 12:14 AM
Now, our Southern members don't need reminding as to who Benjamin Butler was. For those who don't know, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler was a Massachussetts politician who adeptness at politics ensured his Colonel's commission and his brigadier's star. He commanded the Union land forces that marched into New Orleans after it was captured by the Navy (Farragut gets the credit for capturing that city).

Well, the Southern ladies didn't take too kindly to having Yankees in their town and they would turn about and show their backsides whenever a Union officer approached. This along with other offenses (including emptying of chamber pots) resulted in Butler issuing an order pn May 15, 1862, that any woman who disrespected his men would be treated as ladies of the street - prostitutes. "General Order No. 28: As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject ot repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans, in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered hereafter when any female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation. By command of Major General Butler."

Butler drew upon an ancient London ordinance for the wording. The outraged Gentlemen of the South placed a bounty of $1,000 on the head of the Beast. Concern also grew in England and when Secretary of State Seward was questioned by the British Ambassador about it, he quipped, "Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense," the motto on the Royal Ciper (Evil to he who thinks it).

One thing about Butler, while he was hated, he was a pretty able administrator. The yellow fever or malaria (whatever) that was hoped for by the South to wipe out the Yankees never struck them. Butler anticipated it and ordered the canals to be cleaned. He also had the streets swept (scraped would be more accurate) of the centuries of dirt a buildup. He brought in food to feed the poor. However, the South grew increasingly furious about Butler (he also brought his brother along who did some profiteering) and Butler was removed and given other responsibilities.

Well, one thing Butler wasn't and it was a military man. Don't ask him to lead a squad, division or even a Corps. He was well over his head. He could organize it, but he wasn't a Hancock, Reynolds, Thomas, Sheridan by any stretch of the imagination. So, what does this have to do with sharpshooting?

Well, when Butler's command was bottled up in the Bermuda One Hundred (during the Petersburg Campaign), one Confederate who was anxious to collect the bounty ascended a tree to lay in wait for Beast Butler. He was going to sharpshoot the Beast when he inspected his line. He never fired a shot. A party of Union woodcutters came along and began chopping down his perch. He meekly surrendered to them and when questioned, admitted his scheme. Thus, the camp woodcutters played a role in saving Butler's life. Had Butler been killed, more Union lives may have been lost later when Butler commanded the expedition to capture Fort Fisher in North Carolina. Butler was discouraged when his scheme to float a blackpowder laden boat and explode it near Fort Fisher failed. Had a more competent leader been selected and the attack gone forward, Union casualties could have been much higher than what they were.

As a sidenote, one of General Grant's fear was being killed and then Butler, being the senior Major General, replacing him as the General of the Armies. Perhaps Grant should have ordered that no trees be chopped for wood. :p

BTW gang, if you have any stories you'd like to contribute, please feel free to do so. I'm leaving on Saturday AM to visit some historical sites on the East Coast including Gettysburg, Norfolk, etc. Won't be back until the end of August.:cool:

Shanghai McCoy
August 6, 2004, 05:52 PM
Great stuff Gary.Have a good trip,we'll miss your new "chapters" while you are gone so make sure that you have some good stories to tell when you get back.

4v50 Gary
August 6, 2004, 11:10 PM
BTW, I'm taking most of the manuscript to the fellow who is writing the introduction for me. :) I won't mention his name, but he wrote a significant book about firearms in the blackpowder era. Why am I only bringing part? I lost a lot of pages when it didn't get printed at the xerox place. :( I'm working on Word Perfect and they just got rid of it and went with WORD (bleah :barf: ). Next time I'll put it on Adobe Acrobat and that way it won't be messed up. I also get to meet with my editor during this trip too. :)

OK, since I finished packing my bags, I'll give you one more story before I go bye-bye for three weeks. Top grade target guns were very rare in the Confederate Army and among the most highly prized was the .451 caliber hexagonal bore British Whitworth rifle. While it weighed no more than a 3 band Enfield (about 9 pounds), it could kill with certainty at 900 yards and had an extreme range of 1800 yards. Their very scarcity ensured that only the best shots would get them and in this following snippet, we learn of one competition for the prized Whitworth.

"One day Captain Joe P. Lee and Company H went out to shoot at a target for the gun. We all wanted the gun, because if we got it, we would be sharpshooters, and be relieved from camp duty, etc. All the general and officers came out to see us shoot. the mark was put up about five hundred yards on a hill, and each of us had three shots. Every shot that was fired hit the board, but there was one man who came a little closer to the spot than any other one, and the Whitworth was awarded to him; and as we just turned round to go back to camp, a buck rabbit jumped up, and was streaking it as fast as he could make tracks, all the boys whooping and yelling as hard as they could, when Jimmy Webster raised his gun and pulled down on him, and cut the rabbit's head entirely off with a minnie ball right back of the ears. He was about two hundred and fifty yards off. It mgiht have been accidental shot, but General Leonidas Polk laughed very heartily at the incident, and I heard him ask one of his staff if the Whitworth gun had been awarded. The staff officer responded that it had, and that a certain man in Farquaharson's regiment - the Fourth Tennessee - was the succssful contestant, and I heard General Polk remark, 'I wish I had another gun to give, I would give it to the yong man that shot the rabbit's head off.'"

Be good while I'm gone. Other staffers will moderate in my absence and if anyone has a sharpshooting story, please share it.:)

BTW, when I get back, I hope the book will be done and the only thing holding it up would be getting more photos.

goon
August 14, 2004, 11:19 AM
4v50 Gary - I don't get around here as much as I used to but every time I do I make it a point to stop in here and see if you have told any more stories.
I love history and I love guns. Put the two together and I am a happy man. :D

4v50 Gary
August 31, 2004, 01:17 PM
I mentioned "Beast" Ben Butler in a post above. When I visited the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, VA, I saw a commode which was graced with the likeness of Beast Butler. Amusing but none sold in their gift shop. Anyway, I spent about 9 days in and about Richmond and Petersburg before I went to the Shenandoah Valley where I visited Cedar Creek & New Market, Leesburg (Ball's Bluff) and Harper's Ferry. Harper's Ferry was the site of an armory but it was burnt at war's outbreak. Still, they've got the obligatory gun making machinery on display there as well as the brick house that John Brown and his men hid in before being captured by Maj. Robert E. Lee. It's been moved from it's original site (thanks to the National Park Service) to its present location. Then I visited Gettysburg for five days before going elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Visited Manassas (Bull Run) as well as Washington, DC where I did some research in the Library of Congress and the National Archives. Oh what joy it was too. Enough rambling.

Here's something I picked up from Gettysburg. It's written by a Gettysburgian (as they call themselves) whose home was used as a nest by Confederate sharpshooters:

"While thus viewing the battle, they noticed, on one occasion, in the garret of the adjoining neighbor, a number of rebel sharpshooters, busy at their work of picking off our men in the direction of Cemetery Hill.

"The south wall of this house, had a number of port holes knocked into it, through which the Rebels were firing at our men. All at once of these sharps-shooters threw up his arms and fell back upon the garret floor. His comrades ran quickly to his assitance, and for the time being, they appeared greatly excited, and moved rapidly about. A short time afterwrad they carried a dead soldier out the back way, and through the garden.

"On account of this position occupid by the rebel sharpshooters, a continual firing was drawn toward our house; and to this day no less than seventeen bullet holes can be seen on the upper balcony. One of the bullets cut a perfectly even hole through a pane of glass. The back porch down stairs, the fences and other places, were also riddled; showing how promptly and energetically the Union boys replied, when once they detected the whereabouts of the enemy."

The Confederates sharpshooters were under the command of Maj. Eugene Blackford. He would be courtmartialed later in the war, but that's another story.

BTW, some of you may want to check out Rambling Anecdotes in the Black Powder Forum of The Firing Line. It complements but does not replace Bedtime Stories. A link is provided: Rambling Anecdotes from the Blackpowder Era (http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1388020)

Shanghai McCoy
September 2, 2004, 07:44 PM
Welcome back Gary.Sounds like you had quite a trip.I have walked some of the ground at the battlefield in Gettysburg.The walk from the Southern lines along the route of Pickett's charge was a very moving experiance for me...

4v50 Gary
September 4, 2004, 04:12 PM
Thank you Shanghai McCoy. It was indeed quite a trip. I spent about 9 days around Richmond & Petersburg to go over the battlefields of the Peninsula Campaign and Overland Campaign that I had missed as well as some of the forts and sites around Petersburg. Robert Krick Jr., the National Park Historian, was kind enough to let me use their research library (oh, what I'd do for a week off just in that library). I also got the contact email of the photographer who took the picture of the big Dalgreen at Fort Darling (Drewy's Bluff). Tried to duplicate it but the shrubbery is too high and from the angle he must have used a ladder (and was a lot taller than myself).

At Petersburg I found some sites that are significant for my work and photographed them. This includes Fort Steadman where John B. Gordon's Corp attempted to break Grant's siege of Lee's Army. The attack was led by the Confederate sharpshooters (read Berry Benson's memoirs). BTW, the Dictator, mother of all mortars has been removed for restoration work. You can still buy the postcard. :rolleyes:

At Gettysburg I saw some houses that were used by the Confederate sharpshooters to pick off Union men at Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. The trees are too tall so the line of sight is now obscured. Where the Union Hotel stood at the apex of the Baltimore Pike and Taneytown Road is now a gas station. From that hotel the Union soldiers engaged Maj. Blackford's sharpshooters (5th Alabama) as well as the 8th Louisiana Inf. By holding the hotel, they kept the Confederates from approaching closer to Cemetery Hill. That was held by Union troops until the third day when the Confederates drove them out with cannon fire but they held the lot and kept the Confederates from advancing into the hotel.

If you get a chance, go to Harper's Ferry during the summer. It's almost like visiting Colonial Williamsburg but with a mid-19th century flavor (gotta have all those interns running about). The old maple tree that stood behind John Brown's fort was being torn down and I got a small sample of it. Enough travel ramblings as I don't want to bore you guys.

Here's the tidbit from the Peninsula campaign. While the cassions may go rolling along, sometimes the artillerists didn't.

[W]hile the men stood to their pieces, straining their eager eyes to pierce the thick brush in front, a dropping fire was opened on us by sharpshooters completely hidden from view, resulting in killing one gallant fellow [who] drooped at his gun and was sent to the field hospital where he died. In another moment brave Corporal Riker tumbled over, mortally wounded, and then Private Cipperly suddenly fell from his horse, with a sharp cry, and was carried to the rear. In quick succession John Johnston and Robert Shaw dropped badly wounded. This murderous fire from an invisible enemy was a severe trial to men who had never yet been in the front of battle, especially as no defense could be made." Their situation was only relieved when the Confederate line of battle appeared murkily out of the bush. A sheet of flame erupted from the vengeful battery which swept the Confederates "away like chaff before the wind."

4v50 Gary
September 9, 2004, 11:28 PM
While THR was shut down due to the Hurricane, I had promised the gang (P95Carry in particular) a Gettysburg sharpshooter story.

The climax of the second day was on Little Round Top and there is no need for us to cover the stand of Chamberlain's 20th Maine against the 15th Alabama. Instead, we look to the third day when Devil's Den was finally recaptured by the Federals.

A bit of digression for those who haven't read up on the battle. On the second day the Confederates captured Devil's Den, a rock formation about 500 yards below Little Round Top. From Devil's Den they provided suppressive fire against Little Round Top's defenders. Many gallant Federal officers were shot down while defending in. At the behest of Maj. Gen. Gouvernor Warren, Brig. Gen. Strong Vincent led his brigade up there moments before the Confederates arrived. When he saw the 16th Michigan waver, he rushed over to rally them and was shot in the neck. "Don't give an inch!" was his last order before he expired. Taking over for Vincent was General Stephen Weeds who had arrived with his brigade as reinforcements. Weeds was also shot and wanted to Lt. Charles Hazlett (5th U. S. Artillery) to hear his last words. As Hazlett leaned over Weeds, he was shot in the head and expired instantly. The Confederates shooting at Little Round Top were from the First Texas and the Third Arkansas.

On the third day, the Union did a flanking movement and rounded up some of the First Texas and Third Arkansas. We let one Union soldier described them: "We soon learned that our fire had been drawn by the old, well-known Yankee trick of displaying hats upon sticks or ramrods... Both regiments of Berdan's Sharpshooters, crawling over our prostrate bodies, sought cover in the rocks and trees, farther to our left and front, and tried for hours to dislodge them; but after wasting much lead all along the line, we failed to move or silence these murderous fellows, and it was not until a portion of Crawford's division, advancing from our right, and making a partial wheel captured them. They proved to be the raggedest, most insigificant and dirty looking crowd of rebels we have seen. It was the Third Arkansas, Robertson's Brigade, Hood's old division..."

According to Stevens, the historian for Berdan's Sharp Shooters, the prisoners were at first worried that they would not long survive their capture. "A sorry looking crowd, being very hungry and about famished for the want of water. They were much alarmed at being caught, because as sharpshooters they expect no quarter, and begged lustily for their lives, nor would they scare believe Sergt. Tyler's assurances that they would be treated as fairly as other prisoners, until they learned that their captors were Berdan Sharpshooters, when a sudden change came over their dejected spirits to one of undisguised happiness."

P95Carry
September 10, 2004, 12:01 AM
Gary - thx ever so much .... appreciate that. :)

Here is a cropped pic from one of the Devil's Den description plaques ... the famous pic of the fallen soldier. It is hard to get good pics from these plaques .. they are sorta fiberglass laminated ... anyways, here it is with two chunks of text accompanying. So - it was faked ... no less effective tho.


http://www.acbsystems.com/boards/thr/img_assd/gettysburg/devil-den-sharpshooter-s.jpg


http://www.acbsystems.com/boards/thr/img_assd/gettysburg/sharpshoot-txt-01.jpg


http://www.acbsystems.com/boards/thr/img_assd/gettysburg/sharpshoot-txt-02.jpg


Thx again.

4v50 Gary
September 18, 2004, 01:58 PM
We've covered some incidents occurring on the American Continent. For this week's snippet, we look across the pond and in paticular to the sons of William Tell. The following took place during the French Revolution when Europe rose up in arms against la belle Republic.

"Near the famous pass of the Pont du diable, the Russians had erected a battery, rendering its passage almost impracticable, and the French were reduced to the greatest dilemma possible, till a party of Swiss riflemen, serving as volunteers in the army, offered their services, which were readily, though not without anxiety accepted. These immediately posted themselves with the utmost deliberation on an eminence on top of a rock, at a distance of about 400 yards, which completely laid down the cannoniers who were working the guns in the battery below. It is needless to say, that in the course of a very short time, the whole of them were either killed or wounded, and the French lost not a man in doing that, which, had they had recourse to the ordinary method, would have been attended with great difficulty and loss of blood and time."

Remember, this is the flintlock & round ball era. 400 yard shots were quite an achievement back then and the minie ball was yet to be developed. Hats off to those riflemen of the old.:cool:

P95Carry
September 18, 2004, 05:24 PM
Hats off to those riflemen of the old. My thinking too Gary .... and I reckon the reason for their skill was simple ... obvious too to us shooters probably. Careful attention to loading proceedures (read, consistency) and shere familiarity with weapon platform .. implicit within which would be I suspect considerable practice.

Those sorta guys could probably achieve near consistent minute of pie plate at 400 yds ... well good enough to hit enemy COM almost every time. I think these days we often assume the old flinters were rather basic and innacurate .. tho on U.S. soil, many a Kentucky rifle has ''scored'' I believe at extended ranges.

4v50 Gary
September 25, 2004, 03:26 PM
Faced with the prospect of fighting Johnston's Confederate Army along the Rappahannock River, Commander of the Union Army George "the young Napoleon" McClellan decided to bypass Johnston by placing his army aboardship and landing on the Yorktown Peninsula where Fortress Monroe was still in Union possession. From there he would steal a march on Jonston and capture Richmond and end the war in 1862. At least that was the plan.

He marched his army up the peninsula whereupon he came across Confederate General Magruder's division. Magruder had fortified Yorktown as well as the Warwick river as it led to the James River (the Peninsula has the York River to its north and on the south the James). Vastly outnumbered, Magruder marched his men back & forth to simulate larger forces than he actually possessed. Additionally, McClellan's Pinkerton spies also inflated the Confederate strength. Convinced that he was faced against a superior Confederate army, he decided to besiege Yorktown instead of storming it. McClellan's delay gave time for Johnston's army to reinforce Magruder. Still, Johnston felt that the position at Yorktown was unfeasible as it could be easily outflanked by an amphibious assault. He retreated just before McClellan attacked.

So much for the background material. I could write more, but why bore you with details? After all, this is about sharpshooting. It was during the Peninsula Campaign that this little incident involving a Union soldier against a concealed Confederate took place:

I was on Picket duty yesterday & one of the men was shot in the hip, one of them had a ball through his hat & another had one in his blouse, & all of us had them fall as near as we wished to them come. I felt the wind of one as it passed my face & struck a tree within a foot of my head... We were not more than thirty yards apart, he came under cover of a ditch at that distance of our lines, and while he kept his head down he was safe. I was behind a large stump on the very verge of our line, where each Corporal was stationed two hours at a time to prevent the men from exchanging papers & so forth which they often do when not watched. I knew the fellow was in that ditch somewhere, but where I could not see as he kept covered. There was another chap about 80 rods away behind a tree, who had fired at several times at our men & I was watching pretty sharp to get a shot at him when whiz came a bullet & went with a dull shriek into a little tree right by my head. I looked & saw the smoke of the fellows rifle curling up from a little bush on the banks of the ditch but could not see him for some time, but at least I saw the leaves shake a little nearly ten rods from where he was when he fired & pretty soon I could see him looking out...

Opps, the hurricane is picking up as it approaches Florida. I'm packing. Join us next week for the conclusion of this exciting tale.

stevelyn
September 26, 2004, 12:21 PM
Fortress Monroe..... I was stationed there in the mid-80s. Fascinating place. Steeped in history from 1600s to the present. Oldest active duty army post in the U.S. Only Union fort located inside the Confederacy that didn't fall to the C.S. Army.
The old fort was designed and built by Lt. Robert E. Lee when he was in the U.S. Army Engineers in the 1820s. Lincoln stayed there for a time during the Peninsula Campaign. Troops witnessed the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack from its ramparts. Jefferson Davis was imprisoned there for about two years following Lincoln's assination. His cell is open to the public and is furnished with the original furniture as well as personals items on display. Most of the original housing including Lee's quarters are still in use today.
The poet, Edgar Allen Poe was stationed there as a sergeant major in the coast artillery that guarded the entrance to Hampton Roads. His uniform as well as iron fragments from the USS Monitor are on display in the Casemate Museum.
They still dig up unexploded ordnance from time to time when excavating for new construction.
Yours truly had the unique privledge (after much begging) of entering the Casemate Museum arms room one tme and checking out neat things such as original muskets, sabers, cutlasses, bayonets w/blood pitting, a Browning water-cooled MG, a Thompson SMG and assorted other goodies.:D
Even have some ghost stories I'll share one day on the ghost thread on the Roundtable forum.

Gary, I hope you guys get through that storm okay.

4v50 Gary
September 27, 2004, 10:04 PM
Let us continue where we left off. In our last episode, our hero was fired upon by an unseen Confederate. He finally spotted his man.

"[P]retty soon I could see him looking out. I was a full five minutes in taking an aim before I would trust myself to pull, my hand shook so, but at last I fired & he sprang at least five feet up and forward and fell on his face after which I did not see as he moved again although he lay in plain sight, so I guess he must have been hit in the head. I always supposed a fellow would feel a sort of horror or some such thing after coolly shooting a fellow man, even though in self defense, but wither I must be awful hard hearted or else mistaken in my opinion, for instead of any compunction of conscience, I felt a quiet satisfaction in knowing I had fixed his flint for him."

In all my readings, that's the first time I've seen the phrase "fixed his flint." BTW Steve, I've been to Fortress Monroe on my last trip to Virginia. A well preserved fort that all Civil War enthusiasts should visit. The house used by Robert E. Lee isn't open for visits, but you can walk into Jeff Davis' cell (but you can't lay on the bed as it's roped off). The Mariner Museum in Newport News is nearby and is worth visiting too. They have the turret of the Monitor as well as other parts (presently immersed to desalinate).

P95Carry
September 27, 2004, 10:16 PM
I've been enjoying these Gary - many thx. :)

4v50 Gary
October 2, 2004, 01:27 AM
The vast majority of soldiers on either side were armed with muzzle loading rifle muskets. Here's one soldier's commentary on firearms. Please bear with the 19th century semi-literate spelling. (The bracketed items have been added for clarity):

I thought of fe[t]ching you an Austrian rifle when I come home but I have changed my mind[.] they shoot oz balls and then they kick like mules[.] if you had one it would kick you so far you would never get back[.] I think I will try to get a couple of Berdans sharp shooter's rifles[.] they are picking off the rebel gunners at a 1/2 mile every pop[.]

While the Sharps rifle was highly desirable over many a rifle musket, the user must also have the skill to use them effectively. Even then, a man armed with a muzzle loader can be a formidable opponent. We have already seen examples where a single telling shot was all that was required.

P95Carry
October 2, 2004, 09:10 AM
Idle thought here .... haven't checked on figures but .. taking my 2 band musketoon as an example, which is a shortish barrel ... my cast Minnies weigh in at 508 grains (.577 cal). Let's assume an MV of 1200 fps, which would not be that unlikely IMO (equating here with a 12G) .. that gives an ME of 1600 ft lbs.!

Those suckers would take some stopping ... and seemed to often produce some real wicked wounds. Easy to under-estimate the front stuffers!!

4v50 Gary
October 7, 2004, 10:07 PM
On June 6, the First Berdan's Sharpshooters were parceled out among four divisions with each division receiving a complement of sharpshootres. Co. H was assigned to Richardson's Division. Among the men of Co. H was First Sergeant Albert Barrett. "[A] detachment under First Sergt. Barrett was sent across the "Nine-mile Road" to look after a part of the regular picket line, where several of our infantry men had been shot. Locating the enemy's position, four of our Sharpshooters deployed, two on each side of the road, and advanced carefully through the brush some 200 yards where they lay quiet watching for further developments; but seeing or hearing nothing they rigged up a stick with a hat and coat, and shoved it out across the roadway, when instantly a report was heard and a bullet passed through the coat. The puff of smoke seeming to issue from the center of a tree 100 yards distant, the Sharpshooters then crawled forward to either side of the road, keeping under cover as much as possible, firing at the right and left side of the tree, the result being a very damaging character to the concealed Johnny he receiving his quietus. The company was frequently called on to perform service of this kind, to locate lurking foles and silence their guns."

Several factors contributed to First Sergeant Barrett's success. First, deception was used to induce a concealed opponent to expose his position. Second, woodcraft and stalking skills were needed to move into a choice shooting position. Third, good teamwork was exhibited by all the involved sharpshooters.

I'm taking an engraving class and will be off-line for next week. Everyone take care of yourselves and keep your powder dry!;)

sm
October 16, 2004, 03:29 AM
Gary -

Thanks for sharing !

When you get back, we expect a report on that engraving class by the way. :)

4v50 Gary
October 16, 2004, 03:50 PM
Following Braddock's Defeat before Fort Duquense, The 62nd (later renumbered to 60th) Regiment or Royal Americans were raised on Christmas Day, 1755. In 1797 a fifth battalion was raised from the German elements of the British Army (recall that British Royalty came from the House of Hanover) and were consolidated into one rifle battalion. Almost logically they became part of the Royal Americans which were originally to be raised from Europeans (foreigners) and of colonists who settled in America. The 5/60 (fifth battalion, 60th Regiment) became the first battalion size unit regularly equipped with rifles in the British Army. How effective they became may be judged by this excerpt from a letter by (French) Marshal Soult:

"There is in the English Army a Battalion of the 60th, consisting of ten companies - the Reigmient is composed of six Battalions, the other five being in America or the West Indies. This Battalion is never concentrated, but has a company attached to each Infantry Division. It is armed with a short rifle; the men are selected for their marksmanship; they perform the duties of scouts, and in action are expressly ordered to pick off officers, especially Field or General Officers. Thus it has been observed that whenever a superior officer goes to the front during an action, either for the purpose of observation or to lead and encourage his men, he is usually hit. This mode of making war and of injuring the enemy is very detrimental to us; our casualties in officers are so great that after a couple of actions the whole number are usually disabled. I saw, yesterday, battalions whose officers had been disabled in the ratio of one officer to eight men! I also saw battalions which were reduced to two or three officers, although less than one sixth of their men had been disabled."

The 60th was later renamed the King's Royal Rifle Corps and survives today (along with the 95th Rifle Brigade) as a battalion in the Royal Green Jackets. They have a nice museum in Winchester, England.

goon
October 17, 2004, 11:47 PM
Gary, your stories rock.
May you never run out of them.:cool:

4v50 Gary
October 20, 2004, 01:27 AM
You're welcome goon. Don't worry about me running out. I've over 600 pages of text literally filled with hundreds of anecdotes and I'm trying to wrap it up right now.

I'm having four articles published next year of which only one does not involve sharpshooting. I'm submitting another article today of which this is an excerpt:

"[T]he Duke of Orleans, before going to Africa, organized a battalion of Tirailleurs de Vincennes (then called Chasseurs d'Afrique) to take with him. As an instance of perfection of this weapon(Gary's note: the newer Delvigne rifle), even in 1838, it may be mentioned that the Duke, while reconnoitering, was annoyed at the pranks played by an Arab sheik at a distance of about 650 yards. He offered five francs to any soldier who would knock the Arab down. A soldier stepped out of the ranks of the Chasseurs d'Afrique and instantly shot this Arab chief through the heart."

4v50 Gary
October 24, 2004, 02:08 PM
Later known as the King's Royal Rifle Corps.

Capt. Peter Shore's With British Snipers to the Reich gives you a brief introduction to this famous regiment. Shore states: "No record, irrespective of brevity, of the history of British sniping and sharpshooting would be complete without mention of the King's Royal Rifle Corps - the old 60th... The 60th, snipers and sharpshooters from their inception, throughout the Peninsular War 'crawled like snakes' and used the back position. It was distinguished by its quickness of action and in making the most of all favourable circumstances.

Shore is right but only within certain limitations. While the 60th was among the first British regiments to experiment with the rifle in an era where virtually all soldiers were equipped with the smoothbore musket, it was not unique. Other units also received a limited issue of rifles during the French and Indian War. What distinguished the 60th was one of its battalion commanders, Col. Henry Bouquet. Bouquet served in the Department of the South which included the Carolinas, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Having seen the dress of the American frontiersman, he advocated adopting of their brown (walnut dyed) clothing as it provided better concealment. He also developed newer tactics that were better suited to forest warfare. His training and more enlightened approach towards handling his men were certainly progressive for its time, but did not rise to the level of "sniper and sharpshooters" that we are given to expect.

Rather, Shore's statement must be taken within its proper context. Many years after Bouquet passed away a new battalion was added to the Royal Americans - 5/60. It was composed of Germans who were in the British Army. When it was first decided to raise a rifle equipped battalion, the 5/60 was created. These were the men that Shore was writing of when he talked about "sniper and sharpshooters."

4v50 Gary
October 29, 2004, 11:08 PM
I thought I had coined the term and then I find someone else pre-empted me. Oh well, so much for originality.:rolleyes:

My research has uncovered numerous incidents involving Afro-Confederate marksmen. One Union General complained: there was sharp picket firing... in which many men from my command were killed, and strange stories were bruited about the fatal precision and fire of a Negro marksman, a Rebel." Not surprisingly, this marksman was nicknamed "n*****" by the Union troops and they hated him with a passion. One Union officer thought that "n*****" was a dark complexioned Confederate or a mulatto. He was purportedly armed with a large bore target rifle that was accurate out to 1/2 a mile. He could hit the arm of an artilleryman who attempted to serve his piece and any soldier who exposed himself became an inviting target to a bullet served by "n*****."

Now, one 17 year old sharpshooter spotted "n*****" and hurriedly loaded his gun. Firing off one shot, he made the mistake of exposing himself through his peephole. The Afro-Confederate shot back. It was the last mistake made by the young sharpshooter.

In due course of time, several Afro-Confederates were captured. Angry Union soldiers wanted to exact revenge for the death of their friends and these poor men had several narrow escapes before they reached the safety(?) of headquarters.

The story of the Afro-Confederate sharpshooter is a little told one. This is but one of numerous accounts that have been collected.

Shanghai McCoy
October 29, 2004, 11:33 PM
Great story Gary and very interesting to read about the black troops in the army of the South.I am sure looking forward to the release of your book.Put me down for two copies when you get it done.My brother in Sac would really enjoy these stories.

4v50 Gary
November 4, 2004, 12:59 AM
Here's another account involving Afro-Confederate sharpshooters.

"Last Thursday night our pickets were successful in assaulting and carrying the rebel rifle pits... Among the captured prisoners, amounting to 63, are 5 black men, two were fully armed and equpped as REBEL SHARPSHOOTERS. They had the very best pattern of rifle, 'neutral' make, and are represented by the 'trash' as unerring shots. The other three were at work in the trenches. One of these sabel rebels is represented to be a reb at heart, he is a large owner of chattels himself, and does not seem to exhibit any of that humble or cowering mien, to indicate that he thinks himself inferior to the 'Great Jeff' himself. He holds himself aloof from the other 'misguided heathen,' the same as my Lord of the olden time did from his vassals."

The book will discuss more aspects of the Afro-Confederate sharpshooter that will be supported by more examples that I've found. Speaking of the book, I've received an email asking when the book will be released. The manuscript was sent to the editor the day (Nov. 3) after election. I've got some names of printers and will have to shop around for a price after its edited. Some time must be spent developing an index too. A rough draft without page numbers has already been started.

4v50 Gary
November 10, 2004, 11:04 PM
Many Indians fought for either the Union or the Confederacy during the War. In one regiment, they taught the other men how to camouflage & conceal themselves. There are also numerous examples of the Indians using their stalking and hunting skills in combat. They were not always victorious and here's an example where a determined Confederate got the better of the Indian:

On the 5th or 6th of May, 1864, the sharpshooters of this regiment were much annoyed by one of the Federal sharpshooters, who had a long-range rifle and who had climbed up a tall tree from which he could pick off our men, though sheltered by stumps and stones, himself out of range of our guns. Private Leon, of Company B, concluded that this thing would have to stop, and taking advantage of every knoll, hollow, and stump, he crawled near enough for his rifle to reach, took a pop at this disturber of the peace, and he came tumbling down. Upon running up to his victim, Leon discovered him to be a Canadian Indian, and clutching his scalp-lock, dragged him to our line of sharpshooters."

Lessons learned: Avoid firing more than once from one post. Skedaddle after you shoot. Even if there's not another sharpshooter aiming at your post, artillery shells will visit you.

BTW guys, I'm going to be off-line for a few days. Will be back on Sunday and then off line for a week after that. Post stories if you've got them. Thanks!

4v50 Gary
November 18, 2004, 10:09 PM
Greetings from Arizona. Visited Arizona's Fort Verde today which is near Cottonwood, Sedona and the National Park Monument, Montezuma's Castle.

The advent of the minie ball in the rifle musket and the rifled musket gave the average infantryman the ability to hit targets up to 500 yards. Prior to that, anything beyond 75 yards was still a challenge for the smoothbore musketman. However, while the potential for accuracy improved, the soldier may not have the skill necessary to take advantage of them.

Under certain circumstances though, through practice the untrained soldier of the War of the Rebellion (and many Northerners were not trained in marksmanship) developed marksmanship skill - if they survived. The opportunity to improve developed especially during a siege situation where distances were fixed and the soldiers figured out the "Kentucky" windage.

Here's a story which I found amusing. Items in brackets have been added for clarification: "Wel[l] our regt occupied the frunt trenches the uther day (we occupie[d] the front trenches 1/3 of the time)[.] Wel[l] I went tu gunter and sez I[,] [']gunter les slip up that hole and du soum sharpshuteing[.]['] agrede sez gunter[.] wel[l] we crawled up very sly and got our persetion undiscuvered by the inimy[.] wel[l] I peaps up and seas 3 rebs trien tu git a shot at som uv our sharpshuters so I pluged away at the fattest uv them but before I cud git mi head down fiz fiz went sum bals apast it[.] I peped over agin and seas a fat reb crauling around trien to git a better persition so I blazed awa and he jumped gist 27 ft in according to multiplication[.] while I was laffen at him runnin fiz fiz fiz went sum more bals apast which reminded me that mi persition was none to the inimy[.] tu make a long story short thats the way weve bin livein here fur nearly 2 months[.]"

If you had trouble reading the above, remember that not all soldiers finished their one room school house education. Many worked the farm before enlisting and the literacy varies from soldier to soldier. Still, once you struggle through the "English" it is fun reading.

goon
November 18, 2004, 11:23 PM
If you had trouble reading the above, remember that not all soldiers finished their one room school house education. Many worked the farm before enlisting and the literacy varies from soldier to soldier. Still, once you struggle through the "English" it is fun reading.

Thanks. I check the BP forum out every once in awhile just to see if you or anyone else has added anything to this thread.


Incidentally, I live in rural PA. I have been dealing with that type of "English" my whole life. :D

It is like reading the Bible or Shakespeare...
You just ignore the language and try to get the general point. ;)

4v50 Gary
November 25, 2004, 10:34 AM
One may be quite a marksman, but marksmanship must be accompanied by proper tactics. The British learned in WW I never to deploy and shoot directly at the opponent. Rather, it was better to shoot from an oblique as the loophole would not be exposed to return fire. The marksman or sharpshooter who fails to apply this lesson could pay for it with his life. Here's an account of a duel between marksmen at that tragic battle of Fredericksburg:

[P]rivate Mulvey, a fine marksman, had been doing good service with his Enfield rifle, when he was cuationed by an officer against exposing himself to the fire of the enemy's skirmishers. With a patriotic answer, he sprang forward to a pile of railroad ties. A rebel sharpshooter was posted on the opposite bank of a stream, behind a tree, and would load and fire when he could get a fair shot. Mulvey soon discovered him, and watched for his opportunity. The rebel put his head and rifle out from the tree; Mulvey did the same above the piles. There was a double explosion. Mulvey fell back, pierced through the brain with a minie ball. The rebel marksman tumbled over, his body in full view, also pierced to the brain through the left eye, from the unerring aim of poor Mulvey."

Fredericksburg was a battle which never should have taken place. If you never visited the place, do so. It's developed and only a small portion of the stone wall remains. However, the waterfront where the delaying action was fought is pretty much like it was. Cross the Rappahannock and go to Chatam Place (part of the National Battlefield Site) and you'll see an early form of the radio that was available to Union commanders during the war. Yep, wireless radio was around then but its range was limited (about 75 miles).

4v50 Gary
December 2, 2004, 10:51 PM
We talked about tactics in the previous post. At times the tactics of the blackpowder sharpshooter was no different from early snipers. The following excerpt describes how sharpshooters (the skilled marksman and not the light infantry "skirmisher") operated when lines were stagant. Except for the equipment, there is hardly any contrast between what the sharpshooter did and what today's sniper would do. Read and enjoy.

"Frequently two or three men would occupy the same hole, and then all sorts of devices were used to circumvent the enemy. One would raise his cap on a ramrod to draw his fire, while a comrade took the opportune moment to spot the Gray who took the bait. Often the skirmishers were obliged to leave shelter before they had 'warmed their holes,' as they expressed it, to make a sudden dash upon the enemy... A figure on the skirmish line was a vagabondish fellow. He conducted his part of the campaign entirely after his own fashion. Armed with a rifle [sometimes] having telescopic sights, and laden with a spade, a couple of haversacks of provisions, and a brace of canteens, he would find an eligible location, dig a hole, and stay there until his rations or ammunition were exhausted, when he would go to the rear with a fresh supply, only to return to resume his murderous work. He was a dead shot, and the terror of the enemy's artillerists, whose guns he had frequently silenced."

4v50 Gary
December 9, 2004, 03:18 PM
I have a couple of articles coming out next year. Two will appear in Muzzle Blasts and two in Muzzle Loader. Only two articles (one each) will concern blackpowder riflemen in battle. But enough chest beating. You guys are here because Bedtime Stories is about blackpowder riflemen who make terrific shots under battlefield conditions.

Marine Sniper Carlos Hathcock became aware that it was dangerous to develop a pattern. If the enemy learns your pattern, he can select the time and place to his advantage. Roger's Rangers Major Robert Rogers didn't go so far but he cautioned against following the same route back from whence one came. He figured he avoided ambushes that way. In this following tale, we learn how one old Sybil Wa-oh sharpshooter paid for his pattern.

"There is now, immediately in the open field in front of us, a rifle pit, wherein sits an old gray hair Berdan sharp shooters, who has been detailed to locate the spot in the chimneys whence, at long intervals, comes the unnerving shot that has done so much damage to our people. Although the old man has been two days on this duty he has of yet to find the man who so safely conceals himself... Patience & persistence paid off for the old Berdan sharpshooter. Our story continues: "Well, he actually succeeded in killing the rifleman hidden there - his body, which proved to be that of a nigro, was found in the fireplace just as it had fallen." (Gary's note: spelling is that of the letter writer's). The old Berdan man, however, lost his life also, for as was often his custom, upon staying out all night in the pit for the avowed purpose of 'catching the early bird,' he was found the next morning, still in his pit, but with his throat cut and his rifle gone. Someone was bold as he had stolen in upon him during the night and murdered the poor old fellow."

And that's the Bedtime Story for this week.

BTW, if you haven't done so, go to Rambling Anecdotes (http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=150010) for some stories (not sharpshooters) from the days when blackpowder provided the only *bang* around.

4v50 Gary
December 17, 2004, 10:47 PM
Most soldiers during the American Revolution carried smoothbore muskets or fowlers (the latter being a sporting piece that did not take a bayonet). While muskets and fowlers did not enjoy the accuracy of a rifle, this was partially compensated for by loading it with three buckshot in addition to the ball. The smaller buckshot may not readily kill or maime like the large ball, but it was sufficient to render hors d' combat to those unlucky to receive the contents of the gonne's discharge. Furthermore, since aiming took time and lowered the rate of fire, soldiers weren't suppose to aim at their assailant and merely presented the piece. For the most part, the muskets were "ill-bored" and accuracy was not its strength. The higher rate of fire and so it was the mainstay of virtually all modern armies of the period.

Evem after the musket was superceded by the minie-gun, it played a predominant role at the beginning of the War of the Rebellion (American Civil War). But today's Bedtime Story isn't about that war. We turn to an earlier American War - the American Revolution.

"...here I saw a piece of American workmanship that was, as I thought, rather remarkable. Going one evening upon a picket guard... we had to march... close up the bank of the river. There was a small party of British upon the island in the river. One of the soldiers, hoverever, thinking perhaps to do more mischief by killing some of us, had posted himself on a point of rocks at the southern extremeity of the island and kept firing at us as we passed along the bank. Several of his shots passed between our files, but we took little notice of him, thinking he was so far off that he could do us but a little hurt and that we could do him none at all, until one of the guard asked the officer if he might discharge his piece at him... the officer gave his consent. He rested his old six-feet barrel across a fence and sent a further notice of it but passed on. In the morning upon our return, we saw the brick-colored coat still lying in the same position we had left it in the evening before. It was a long distant to hit a single man with a musket; it was certainly over half a mile."

4v50 Gary
December 22, 2004, 11:58 PM
I've already mentioned how Afro-Confederates were not suppose to be combatants and that it wasn't until very late in the war that the Confederates decided to arm and train some. Two companies were seen drilling in the streets of Richmond and they accompanied Lee on his Retreat to Appomattox. They did fight briefly but it was too little too late.

Much earlier in the war some Afro-Confederates took up arms, presumably with the permission of their masters. None of it was official though and there was no recognition or mention in the Confederate Roll of Honor for their deeds. It was not a topic to acknowledge as it was a "white man's war" and it was beneath the dignity of Southerners to acknowledge that they had some slaves who were pretty good shots. Well, the Union felt a bit differently and so here's another Bedtime Story involving an Afro-Confederate:

"One of our men in Company G, named Brown, has a small telescopic rifle, weighing only 32 1/2 pounds. He and I were detailed for special duty, the said duty being to kill a rebel sharpshooter - a big negro - who had been picking off our men. We waited a long time for a sight at him but he did not show himself. It was getting towards night, when a puff of smoke was seen to rise from a tree near the fort, and a bullet came whistling past our heads. We now arranged our plans. By the aid of a glass I could see his black 'mug' peeping from behind a tree. I elevated my sight and fired. It must have come close, for he sprang out. As he did so Brown fired, and 'my joker' fell, with a bullet through him. Brown had his sights elevated for fifteen hundred yards! What do you think of that, for long range shooting?"

Well, I'm pretty impressed myself. Several lessons learned. Of course, trees as hides are horrible in the days of blackpowder. White puffs of smoke tend to reveal your position. Second, kinda nice to have a spotter to work with whereas the Afro-Confederate was working solo. Three, kinda nice to know the range too so you can plug your target first time around. Fourth, never use the same hide twice.

4v50 Gary
December 25, 2004, 03:14 PM
Here's my Xmas gift to the readers of this thread. It's a choice tidbit that I found penned over a century ago in the blackpowder era. Think there's any difference? Nope. It's all the same and the writer's words apply as much today as when he first penned them.

"Of all known kinds of hunting, that of man by man is certainly the most exciting. It is superior to all others, in being a strife between intelligences of the same nature, with equal arms and equal dangers. Thus the powers of both of mind and body are put in play, and are developed with an ardor curious to study."

4v50 Gary
December 30, 2004, 11:45 PM
And the best training is actual practice. Basic skills are taught and practiced in under safe conditions. They're later honed in combat. One officer made this observation and shares it with us:

"This kind of drill in firing, whose usefulness I have heard discussed often, has incontestable advantages. Better than any other, it perfects the soldier in the use of arms of precision; it familiarizes him readily and without effort to danger, and finally gives a tone to his character by the habitual application of his individual faculties to the common work: that is, to do the greatest possible amount of damage to the enemy, with the least sacrifice to ourselves."

This was written immediately after the Civil War. It applies today.

sm
December 31, 2004, 12:19 AM
Gary-
I've been enjoying these, thank you!

Ya know - ya outta write a book. ;)

Yeah I know...

Bart Noir
January 4, 2005, 04:29 PM
Cross the Rappahannock and go to Chatam Place (part of the National Battlefield Site) and you'll see an early form of the radio that was available to Union commanders during the war. Yep, wireless radio was around then but its range was limited (about 75 miles).

My scepticism meter pegged on this remark. This was decades before Marconi's experiments and he is rightly called the "Father of Radio". What more can you tell me about this?

Bart Noir

oneshooter
January 4, 2005, 06:18 PM
Best guess that I have would be a Heligraph (sp). Used a system of mirrors to flash morse code messages from hill top to hill top.

Oneshooter
Livin in Texas

goon
January 6, 2005, 10:49 AM
Just wanted to keep this thread up here. It is definitely one of my favorites and if we get any new guys coming along I want them to see it right away too.
;)

4v50 Gary
January 6, 2005, 09:42 PM
Opps. :o My bad. It's not telegraph but the novelty of the device I was thinking of is that it doesn't require knowledge of Morse Code. You turned the dial and the dial machine on the receiving end turned with it. The operator jotted down the message as it came out.

National Park Service Historian Donald Pfanz at Fredericksburg National Battlefield Site corrected me and I'm grateful for his assistance. Here's a link he provided me.Beardslee Telegraph (http://www.beardsleetelegraph.org/)

O.K. War brings out the grim nature of man and macabre scenes that would turn the stomach are given little thought by men who are under the strain of combat. Normal societal conventions are set aside as men concern themselves with one thing: survival. In this following story we see the macabre aspect of man being applied.

"Our boys could see a Rebel over beyond the gun standing 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 breechloading 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 silence. I went and as soon as I brought my rifle's telescope to bear on the mystery, I saw that it was the body of a dead rebel lashed up ot a tree and a live rebel Sharpshooter was bheind 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."

While the author does not comment any further on the clever Rebel, there is little doubt that he fired at the live one and ended the threat from that quarter. And that's our Bedtime Story for this week.

sm
January 7, 2005, 01:10 AM
Gary - Keep 'em coming! :)

4v50 Gary
January 14, 2005, 01:05 AM
In July, 1861, the Union Army marched towards Fairfax (near Alexandria, Virginia). Scouting ahead of the infantry was a cavalry column. They halted when the Fairfax Court House came into view. Defending it were two artillery pieces. Our story starts:

"The column... passed through a narrow belt of woods and reached a hill from which Fairfax Court House was in full view. There were two pieces of Rebel artillery in a field, a dozen wagons in park, squads of soldiers in sight, horsemen galloping in all directions. nearer, in a meadow, was a squadron of cavalry on picket. I stood beside the captain... commanding all the skirmishers.

'Let me take your Sharps's rifle,' said he to a soldier. He rested it on the fence, ran his eye along the barrel, and fired. The nearest Rebel horseman, half a mile's distant, slipped from his horse in an instant and fell upon the ground... The other troopers put spurs to their horses and fled towards Fairfax, where a sudden commotion was visible."

I'd like to extend a welcome to all NMLRA members who dropped in because of WebBlasts. Updates are about once a week. :)

4v50 Gary
January 17, 2005, 06:20 PM
Sieges. What can I say? Well, for one thing, sieges are a means of capturing a fortress or city with miminal exposure of harm to the besieging forces. Generally, one digs a parallel around the outline of the fort and then artillery emplacements to silent the defending artillery. Zig zags are then dug so that a closer parallel is dug around the fort. It's slow, tedious and labor intensive but compared to storming a fort and the high loss of life involved, may be better.

Several memorable sieges came out of the American War of the Rebellion. One of them was Vicksburg and the fall of that City after a forty-five day siege gave the Union control of the Mississippi. While the Confederates could still get supplies (food) over to their armies in the east, it required that they evade patrolling Union gunboats.

Summarizing the siege is one Confederate: "One day is like another in a besieged city - all you can hear is the rattle of the Enemy's guns, with the sharp crack of the rifles of their sharp-shooters going from early dawn to dark, and then at night the roaring of the terrible mortars is kept up sometimes all the time." Food ran low, tempers ran high, yet the Confederates held on until they were exhausted. They capitulated on July 4, 1863 - one day after Gettysburg.

Sieges are covered in greater detail in my own work. In fact, one chapter is devoted entirely to one siege. It took over two months to write and from my readers I've been told it reads very smoothly.

Paul "Fitz" Jones
January 21, 2005, 10:28 PM
A few years ago an elderly aunt of my first wife passed away and the retirement home room mate found and sent my wife a letter the Aunt had saved from 1862 or three that contained the discharge papers from the Union Army for poor eyesight and grandfather of some degree was a successful methodist minister starting generations of methodist ministers including my wife's father. I was disappointed that the letter had no postal stamp but the government then did not need one.

Great stories Gary! Thanks for mentioning them.

4v50 Gary
January 26, 2005, 09:24 PM
We've all heard of the fighting Irish. It's no legend.

"Private Twomey, was a good representative of the Irish race. Brave to rashness, he never looked for consequences, but 'went for the cursed ribbels' whenever there was a chance. During the battle of Stone's River, there was a point in our lines opposite which the enemy's works were formed at almost right angles. One day a rebel officer was seen riding along the line, and advancing beyond the intersection of their lines. Twomey and a comrade noticed it, and concluded to 'go for him.' One was to fire at the man and the other at the horse. Both fired. Horse and rider fell.

Twomey started like a deer for the officer. His comrade's courage failed. Over the four hundred yards in front Twomey ran with great speed. The rebels were puzzled by the strange movement. Reaching the horse, Twomey fell flat alongside, pulled a waterproof overcoat from the dead officer, took a watch from his pocked, and a flask of whiskey from his saddle bags.

Springing up suddenly, he ran swiftly towards the Union lines, reaching them without a wound, although a heavy volley was fired at him..."

If I had to go through that much trouble for a drink, I'd give up drinking.

4v50 Gary
January 29, 2005, 10:07 PM
Excerpts from my chapter on the Revolutionary War were submitted in Feb. of last year and have finally been published in Feb. 2005 Muzzle Blasts Magazine. It's about battles/fights where Americans riflemen don't render honors of combat (they missed) to and still win. Check it out.

4v50 Gary
February 3, 2005, 01:42 AM
Well, we've heard quite a bit from dem Yankees and so now it's time to give the perspective of a Corn-fed soljah. This writer is a commissioned officer with some real schooling behind him.

"Did you ever see any of those globe or telescopic-sighted rifles, exclusively used by Berdan's battalions of sharpshooters in the Federal Army? They are a very accurate weapon, but expensive, I am told; yet the Federals have not done much mischief with them. The men are trained to climb trees, lie on their back, crawl rapidly through the grass, have grass-green pantaloons to prevent detection, etc.; but with all the usual systematic boasting regarding them, our Texans and others are more than a match for them. We have picked off a greater number of them than we have ourselves lost by their wonderful shooting; but as our men do not waste much time in skirmishing, but hasten to 'close quarters,' I have not heard much of them for some time, although a few months ago since nothing was talked of, North, but the extraordinary achievements of 'Berdan's Sharpshooters.' To believe their reports, nearly every general in our army has fallen under their 'unerring aim.' The best sharpshootesr with us are to be found among the Missourians, Texans, Arkansans, Mississippians, and Alabamians - men accustomed to the woods and swamp and to Indian warfare."

Admittedly the newspapers, then and now, generously applied their talents at creative writing and many soldiers would laugh at what they read. :D

4v50 Gary
February 12, 2005, 12:47 PM
"Lieutenant G. was in command of the sharpshooters... They formed an independent organization, going where they can most injure the enemy. We had been fighting for several days in the most advanced trenches admidst persistent firing from both sides, which, however, did little damage, except to prevent all rest and sleep. Finally both armies saw the folly of such warfare and desisted. Towards noon yesterday, weary, I suppose, of the inacation, a Confederate sharpshooter mounted his earthwork and challenged any one of our sharpshooters to single combat. Lieutenant G., a fine fellow, standing at least six feet two in his stockings, accepted the challenge, and they commenced what to them was sport. Life is cheap in this campaign! Both fired, and the Confederate dropped. G's great size was so unusual that his opponent had the advantage, and our men tried to make him give way to a smaller man. But, no! He would not listen, became very excited as his success multiplied, and when darkenss stopped the duelling he remained unscathed, while every opponent had fallen victim to his unerring aim.

"The Lieutenant was so exhilarated that he claimed with much bluster a charmed life; said nothing would kill him; that he could stand any amount of duelling, and this he would prove in the morning..."

...to be continued.

4v50 Gary
February 13, 2005, 02:31 AM
We pick up where we left off. The lieutenant had survived the first day of dueling unscathed and brought down all of his challengers. He was jubilant and contemplating repeating his performance the next day.

"But the man seemed crazed with the faith in his charmed life. He would not yield his determination, and when we left him he was simply waiting, as best he could, for daylight, to begin the dueling again.

"As we all foretold, he was finally killed, but his death was due to treachery. In the morning, true to his mistaken conviction, he stood upon the works again and challenged an opponent. Instantly one appeared, and as both were taking aim, a man from another part of the Confederate line fired and shot G., through the mouth, the ball lodging in the spinal vertebrae, completely paralyzing him below the head. We dragged the poor deluded fellow to his tent, where, after uttering inarticulately, 'I hit him anyway, Doctor,' he died.

"We then heard a tremendous uproar outside, and found that our men were claiming the murderer of their lieutenant; but the Confederates shouted that they had already shot him for a cowardly villian; and then came praises across the line for Lieutenant G's pluck and skill."

sm
February 13, 2005, 02:39 AM
:)

Thank You Again Kind Sir.

4v50 Gary
February 19, 2005, 06:41 PM
I was reading my old copy of the Army manual FM23-10 Sniper Training. 4-12b(1) discusses digging a pit for a hide. It reads: All excavated dirt is removed (placed in sandbags, taken away on a poncho, and so forth) and hidden (plowed fields, under a log, or away from the hide site). Good advice. Just like placing a handkerchief beneath the muzzle to reduce the distrubance of dust that would reveal your position.

One Union soldier went to the rear to draw rations. Before he left though, a man was shot through the loophole he was watching. He retrieved the rations and upon returning, found his spot occupied by another man. So, he went along the trench line to find himself another spot. Walking along a new section of trench, "I went along down the new ditch a short distance then I stepped up close to the bank, raised and looked over to the north where I could see the Rebel work. I had hardly got straightened up when a ball came right down the ditch and just missed my back. I had thought that ball was just a stray one so I went back there again and looked over, and another ball came and twenty paces out I saw a pile of fresh dirt. I knew well what that meant. He had crept out there last night in the darkness from the Rebel works and dug him out a pit and now he was one of their sharpshooters."

Our hero returns to his comrades and points out the pile of fresh dirt to them. He instructs them to aim their guns at that point while he lured out the sharpshooter. Creeping back to where he was shot at before, he placed his cap on his gun and raised it very slowly over the ditch. Bang! The Confederate fired at the cap. A volley rang out from the Union side, forever silencing the pesky Confederate.

Lesson: like the Army manual says, hide the dirt excavated from your hide. You'll live longer. :)

4v50 Gary
February 26, 2005, 01:09 AM
The Confederate infantry was use to handling the Union cavalry. Besides, who ever saw a dead cavalryman anyway? ;) Here's an account where one infantryman placed too much faith in God and was bested.

"Soon dismounted cavalry made their appearance, and they displayed more knowledge of war than the average infantryman. We judge they were Western men and did not come from behind a counter.

(Note: As many New Englanders and New Yorkers came from factories or stores, they had little knowledge of firearms. These were to proverbial ten Yankees who could be whupped by one Southernor. Not that some Yankees weren't marksmen and many were as Berdan's Sharpshooters were recruited largely from New England & New York State. The Midwesterners proved to be of different mettle than the scorned shopkeeper. We continue our story).

One fellow in particular gave us a lot of trouble. He hid in a drain behind an apple tree. Fultz was the man opposite him. They exchanged shots, and, as Fultz for all his bravery was not much of a shot, it became evident that he was no match for the Yank. The Captain ordered him to go back and lie down and let men that could shoot handle the sharpshooter.

"But Fultz had his dander up and would not obey the captain. The boys were always joking him about his shooting. They would say, 'Fultz you can't shoot,' and he would get excited and answer, 'Py tan, my gun goes off yust like hell, and de pullet mus' go sompe phaeres. Phere he goes is de pisness of de Almighty. My pisness is to bull de drigger.' He was an everlastingly good soldier and a sporty old numbskull that knew more about a yardstick than he did about a gun.

"He stood up to shoot. Many men yelled at him and the captain ordered him down. He shot, but instantly fell over with a bullet through the center of his forehead. Word was passed up the left wing, 'Don't let that fellow live.' We got a glimpse of the Yank at our end of the line and soon saw him roll over into the drain."

4v50 Gary
March 5, 2005, 12:20 PM
No, we're not talking about someone going "postal" and shooting up the workplace.

While Grant was closing his grip around Petersburg, Virginia, Lee decided to draw some of Grant's men away and thereby relieve the pressure on his army. He sent Jubal Early into the Shenandoah Valley with a small army. Much like Jackson had done before, Early was to threaten Washington and cause Grant to weaken his own army to protect the Capital.

Well, it worked and Early's vanguard arrived on July 11th. Defending Washington were some cavalry troopers, displaced soldiers returning to their units and even the Invalid Corps (soldiers who were disabled but wanted to serve in non-combat positions) and other hastily scraped together forces (read Civil Service Employees) who were thrown in to man the breastworks surrounding the Capital. Early's sharpshooters drove in the pickets but seeing how so much of his army had straggled, he decided to attack the next morning.

During the night the remainder of the VI Corps as well as the XIX Corps arrived and manned the defenses. When Early and his army awoke, they faced a veteran army. Still his sharpshooters went to work to harass the "post office clerks" at Fort Stevens. Bullets whizzed by one particularly tall clerk. This prompted the colonel in charge of the artillery to approach the clerk and gently remonstrated him. The clerk complied. The Colonel was "gentle" because the clerk was President Abraham Lincoln.

Early retreated that evening under pressure from the VI Corps. Abe Lincoln would not fall to a sharpshooter's bullet.

4v50 Gary
March 11, 2005, 10:09 PM
One of the great myths at the outbreak of the Late Great Unpleasantry between kinfolk or the Mother of American Feuds (War of the Rebellion 1861-65) is that one Southerner could whip Ten Yankees. Well, from past posts we saw it was certainly a myth as the Union troops from the Midwest could hold their own. Some New Englanders were also excellent and many of Berdan's Sharp Shooters were recruited from the New England states. Here's an example of one skirmish where the Southerners could whup ten Yankees:

"Along in the afternoon, I suppose about 4 o'clock, a white flag was raised by a Yank officer who boldy stepped out in front of the skirmish line and waved it. An order came down our line from the left for Leutenant Bryan to take a guard of three men and go out and see what was wanted. Lt. Bryan appeared out of one of our rifle pits with a white pocket handkerchief in his hand and called B. West, B. Compton and myself. We accompanied him to where the Yankee captain awaited. We were all unarmed as was the Yank. He had no guard.
"The two officers saluted, and Lieutenant Bryan said, 'Captain, what do you want?'
'We want a truce for two hours to bury our dead,' replied the Captain.
'It will be granted,' said Lieutenant Bryan, 'if we have the same privilege.'
'Certainly,' replied the captain, waving his hand.
'Instantly a crowd of litter bearers and other unarmed men swarmed over the breastworks and commenced their gruesome job.
'Lieutenant,' asked the captain, 'how many men have you lost today on the skrimish line?'
"We have lost one officer killed and two men slightly wounded,' Lieutenant Bryan replied. 'How many have you lost, Captain?'
Tears came into the eyes of the captain and his chin quivered when he said, 'I came out this morning with a company of ninety-two men and four officers. Now I am the only officer left and there are but six men fit for duty.'"

4v50 Gary
March 18, 2005, 10:42 PM
For three years, the Union had been trying to vanquish the Confederacy. While substantial victories had been won, notably the capture of New Orleans, Fort Donelson, Vicksburg and Gettysburg, the South would not concede defeat. Hiram U. Grant (nicknamed Samuel while he was attending West Point and thus U. S. Grant) was appointed General-in-Chief of the Armies. Grant decided that the Union war effort were fragmented, or in his words, mule teams pulling independently of one another. He decided that 1864 would be different and that there would be mutliple simultaneous attacks against the Confederacy. Nathaniel Banks would capture Mobile and hook up with Sherman who would threaten Atlanta. Sigel would march down the Shenandoah Valley and from there threaten Richmond from the west. Butler would land his Army of the James south of the James River and threaten both Petersburg and Richmond. Grant would accompany Meade's Army of the Potomac and cross the Rappahannock and challenge Marsh Roberts (Robert E. Lee) and his Army of Northern Virginia.

Well, Lee and Grant fought at the Wilderness and Grant was stalemated there. He then tried to slip around Lee's right flank and moved southwards. Lee anticipated it and entrenched at Spotsylvania Court House first. In fortifying himself, his engineers created a salient which was vulnerable. Dubbed the "mule shoe," it had been attacked earlier by Col. Emory Upton who led 4,000 men into it. They captured 1k prisoners but had to relinquish their gains the end of the day. This convinced Grant that a larger, corps scale attack would be more successful. Grant called upon Hancock's II Corps to make the effort.

They moved into position at night and at dawn, attacked. They quickly overran the forward position and began rolling up the Confederate flanks. Several thousands of Confederates were captured including two generals.
Lee desperately launched uncoordinated attacks. We have a first hand account that is quite exciting:

"[We] advanced until we came to a small bottom and going through that, reached the rise and plainly saw the Yankees about one hundred and fifty yards from us. They were in those pens made by our regiment, they were standing up in those pens as thick as herrings in a barrel, and as far back behind them as the smoke would allow us to see, - such a mass of men I never saw! We found one Confederate soldier, an Alabamian, who was standing behind a large pine tree, loading and firing wiht as much deliberation as if he were firing at a target. He was keeping the whole of Hancock's force back at this point. He said he was a sharpshooter, and his line was on either side of him! There certainly was no other Confederate in front of our regimental line, nor could we see one on either the right or left... About the coolest thing I saw during the war was under that terrifc fire from the Yankees who were in our breastworks. It should be remembered that when we took our position in their front, we found one lone Confederate who was keeping up a steady fire on them!"

This battle is discussed more fully in the book.

4v50 Gary
March 26, 2005, 11:12 AM
Well, kinda-sorta to the rear where safety is in flight. :p Here's an incident from the Late Great Unpleasantry Between States or the Mother of American Family Feuds that illustrates the necessity of removing leadership. Enjoy.

"The enemy was steadily advancing on the line of Rodes, and at the distance of 100 yards menaced a charge. An officer, mounted on a white horse in front, was impetuously urging them onward.

"The potent incitation was manifest to Major Hobson, and in the crisis, he felt the necessity of removing the officer. He at once selected skilled riflemen to 'pick him off.' This was unerringly done, and at his fall the enemy hesitated, were checked, and the fortunes of the day changed.

"Subsequently, and not long before the battle of Sharpsburg (some comment having been made on the sacrifice of the gallant officer), states Colonel Hobson, an officer from General Jackson came to him with 'compliments of General Jackson' and the message: 'Tell Major Hobson I want the brave officers of the enemy killed off. Their death insures our success. Cowards are never in the front; they skulk or flee!'"

And that is our Bedtime Story of the week.

4v50 Gary
April 2, 2005, 12:14 AM
Instructions. Like today, you go through school, get your certificate and then you're off. Not quite. You're only qualified to begin your apprenticeship and when you go into the field, you learn under a more senior and experienced man. That's how it's done today and how it's done then. Here's an observation from a Corn-fed General who evesdropped on two sharpshooters.

During the Atlanta campaign the General was sitting in a clump of laurel on the north face of a mountain, out beyond the bounds of his own lines, sweeping with a glass the lines and camps of Sherman's army, which were spread out before him upon the plain below. He had been deeply absorbed and was suddenly startled by hearing conversation in a low tone comparatively near him. He sat absolutely still and peered about, until, to his great relief, he saw two gray-brown figures stretched out side by side on the leaves but a little distance from him (my note: observe the camouflage effect as well as stillness which prevents detection). One was a grizzled, fire-seamed veteran, and the other a beardless youth, and the elder addressed the younger, in substance, as follows:

"'Now, Charley, when you ain't in a fight, but just shootin' so; of course you ought to get a fellow off by himself, before you let fly. If it's clothes, why, of course, you choose a fellow your own size; but if it's shoes you want, you just pick out the very littlest weevil-eaten chap you can find. Your feet would slide 'round in the shoes of a Yankee as big as you are like they was in flat boats. Why, no longer ago than last evening I had drawn a bead on a fine, great big buck of a fellow, but just as I was about to drop him I looked around and found I didn't have no shoes. So I let him pass, and pretty soon here come along a little cuss of an officer, and' - raising his right foot, as the old general did his, by the way of a vivid recital and illustration - 'there's the boots.'"

4v50 Gary
April 6, 2005, 09:22 PM
A member was told that conicals could hit at 1,000 yards distance. Well, yes they could - sometimes. Most minie balls were good for 500 yards and thereafter weren't terribly accurate. One that seemed to stand out more than the others was the English Enfield. Hits have been recorded at 1,000 yards distance but it was very few who could achieve it and sometimes it was pure luck. The British Whitworth was a different matter; but we won't discuss that any further right now. The following bedtime story involves a long range hit.

"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 the 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 had 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 uhand 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."

Death by sharpshooter or a stray bullet? We'll never know.

Gang, I'm going to Washington D. C. on April 7th and won't be back until April 15th. I won't be online to post any new bedtime stories but if any of you have any to share, please do so. Thanks and have fun. Be safe.

P95Carry
April 6, 2005, 09:50 PM
DC for a week Gary? I can but offer commiserations!! :p

Been good reading all these snippets - a fascinating insight.

I have a 2 band musketoon - Parker Hale repro of the Enfield. A 530 (or so) grain Minnie sure as heck is accurate out to 200 yds - never stretched further than that. Of course, rather short barrel on this rifle but - always has impressed me what it can do. I think some while ago, I may have posted a pic of my Minnies ... I cast these with a thinner skirt for better obturation - and they must spin pretty well because of apparent accuracy factor.

Safe trip. :)

4v50 Gary
April 16, 2005, 01:07 AM
Hi, I'm back and most of my time was at the National Archives. Didn't get everything I wanted, but that's what happens when you start expanding the scope of your search. Besides Washington, one battlefield (Monocacy) and Quantico was visited. Met some interesting people and even saw some local sites in the town I was staying in (Alexandria).

While on the flight back, the stewardess asked what book I was reading. She asked because her boyfriend is a Marine at Quantico. When she mentioned Quantico, I told her that I visited someone there on this trip. Anyhow, this week's snippet is dedicated to Molly and her USMC boyfriend.

A captain of one of the Confederate companies was standing by his ment at the fence, just across one field, west from the Thomas house. Firing was going on from both sides. The captain saw a Union soldier standing down by the small stream that flows through the Thomas lawn, aim at him and fire. The bullet whizzed by close. A reloading and a re-aiming and a refiring. This time the bullet tipped a piece of the captain's ear. With his sword he touched a man of his company who was known to be an expert marksman. The Union soldier, again reloading his gun, was pointed out to this marksman, and the result of the two preceding shots briefly told to him. It was now a question of seconds. The expert rested his gun on a fence rail, aimed carefully and fired. The riflemen by the rivulet dropped his gun, threw up his hands and fell, but how seriously wounded he was is not known."

sm
April 17, 2005, 03:51 AM
:)

Gee Gary, these are GREAT- thank you again.
Ya ever thought about doing a book? ;)

:neener:

4v50 Gary
April 17, 2005, 04:23 AM
OK, progress report. This last trip to the National Archives resolved one mystery that had been bugging me. You'll see it in Appendix III. Additionally I'm going to modify a few places to include some info on individuals that I've found at the National Archives but for the most part, the manuscript is in the readers' hands. When they're done, I submit to the editor - again. I want it done this year.

4v50 Gary
April 21, 2005, 01:32 AM
Trench warfare is nothing new and Washington used it at Yorktown against Cornwallis. It was used to great extent during the siege of Petersburg during the Late Great Pleansantry Between States (or the Mother of American Family Feuds). Here's an excerpt I'd like to share with you:

"The original intent of such 'works' is to afford protection against regular attack by the full battle oine of the opposite side, advancing out of their works to attack yours. This, of course, everyone understands... The constant wearing feature of 'the lines' is sharpshooting, which never ceases as long as there is light enough to see how to shoot; unless the skrimishers or sharpshooters of the two sides proclaim, or in some way begin, a temporary truce, as I have known them to do. I have also known them to give explicit warning of the expiration of such a truce.

"Sharpshooting, at best, however, is a fearful thing. The regular sharpshooter often seemed to me little better than a human tiger lying in wait for blood. His rifle is frequently trained and made fast bearing upon a particular spot, - for example, where the head of a gunner must of necessity appear when sighting his piece, - and the instant that object appears, as it were, 'darkens the hole,' crash goes a bullet through his brain..."

Doesn't it remind you of the "murder incorporated" comment about our snipers in 'Nam?

4v50 Gary
April 30, 2005, 10:42 AM
"There were, I think, three men detailed from the Seventh to perform some special duty at the front [sharpshooting]. One of them was a natural born clown, and wore a brown felt hat, which he had by some means obtained, the crown of which he had stretched in a conical shape, an imitation of a very tall 'fool's cap.' The three were sitting on the ground under an awning that covered some light artillery, near the marsh, eating their supper, when the Johnnies sent a ten-inch Columbiad shell over from Fort Johnson; just before reaching our works the fuse-plug blew out, preventing the explosion of the shell, and while it was yet smoking it struck the top of the breastworks that protected the light artillery pieces, plowed through and rollwed between the men, who, with their backs to the enemy, were enjoying their supper, as only a soldier can, and covered their hardtack with sand, tipped over their coffee, and stopped on the oppostie side of the ditch about eight feet away from them and a few yards short of where I was sitting. For a few seconds they were a terrified looking set of men and seeme dimmovably fixed, but soon saw that the smoke did not come from a burning fuse, and then the clown exclaimed in a moderate way, his eyes still standing out like peeled onions, while his hair had raised his hat several inches higher above his red, sun-browned face, 'Some, dam yer, smoke. I don't care half as much about getting scared as I do about losing my coffee, and then, if that shell had gone six inches to the right or left one of us wouldn't have wanted any more supper, for it would have taken his appetite away.'"

4v50 Gary
May 8, 2005, 01:08 PM
We all know the story of how Chief Joseph fought a running retreat towards Canada. With his handful of warriors, he defeated successive Union commanders including Mother of All American Family Feuds (Civil War) Gen. John Gibbon. Here's an account of one such battle:

“The soldiers poured into camp, firing into the tepees, and, in the gray light, shooting indiscriminately everything that moved. Naked warriors, with only their rifles and cartridge-belts, ran into the willows and to the prairie knolls overlooking the camp and instantly from these positions of vantage opened a telling fire... In every other Indian battle which I have considered such a surprise meant a crushing defeat for the Indians and the destruction of the camp. Not so in this instance... Instead of a victory Gibbon found that he was fighting for life. The Indian riflemen - and these Indians could shoot straighter than any on the continent - were decimating his men.” It is little wonder that Chief Joseph said, “When an Indian fights, he only shoots to kill; but soldiers shoot at random.”

It is lessons like this along with the awareness that marksmanship was needed that encouraged the Post Civil War US Army to have shooting competitions and to award medals to the best shots.

4v50 Gary
May 12, 2005, 09:12 PM
Here's another snippet from the past. While it would be rare for snipers to take out modern artillery (heck of a long stalk to get behind lines and it's easier to call in an air-strike), the same can be done against crew served weapons today.

It would surprise you could you see the tricks resorted to by our sharpshooters to get in range of some particular rebel gun, so as to pick off the gunners. Sometimes they will get a short thick log of wood & by laying flat behind it wile rolling it forward keep themselves covered from the rebel rifles untill they gain the coveted position. Then by a free use of the bayonets & hands they will in a few hours get down so as to be out of sight even when standing. They can load without exposing their arms or hands & if a good sharpshooter gets into his hole in the place he wants, woe be to the rebel who dares show himself around that gun. There are now three or four of the rebel guns which are thus rendered useless to them by day as it is sure death to anyone to show himself near them. They can only fire them by night, & that is pretty much all guess work & not very safe work either for our riflemen have the range & can send their bullets pretty close even in the dark.”

Leaving for the Oregon Gun Maker's fair on Friday & won't be back until Monday PM. Be good and if you have a bedtime story of your own to share, please do.

4v50 Gary
May 18, 2005, 01:57 AM
Readers of this thread may find this link to a muzzleloading forum interesting. The particular thread concerns the technology that evolved up to the time of the Mother of American Family Feuds. Click on the link: Technology marches forward (http://www.muzzleloadingforum.com/ubbthreads/postlist.php?Cat=0&Number=115099)

Sorry. :o You may have to register to read it. Opps.

4v50 Gary
May 21, 2005, 11:14 AM
Soldiers may have been brutalized in battle, but once the enemy was captured or wounded, their humanity was shown. Such is the case of this incident at Gettysburg:

The skirmishers on both sides lay very close to the ground, making the most economical use of any little depression, of a fence-rail or two from the fence thrown down during the night or day before, or, as in many cases relying on the doubtful shelter of their knapsacks which they unslung and pushed out before them. Little groups were gradually and spontaneously formed along the line, and these groups acted together firing by volley into any puff of white smoke that would be thrust out by the enemy, with fair chance in this way that one bullet at least of the volley would count. Midway between the contending lines was a solitary tree that in peaceful days had given its shade to the harvest hands at their nooning. Early in the morning some Confederate sharpshooters had crawled out to this tree, where they lay at its roots and were able to reckon their game with every shot. So destructive, in fact, did their fire become that the wildest imprecations were shouted at them by the Federals, and threats were made that if taken they would get no quarter. All at once there came a lull in the firing at this part of the line. A Confederate was seen to rise up from the base of the tree and advance toward the Federals with his hands raised. Shots were fired at him, but there was curiousity at his approach, and the word was wait till we see what he wants to do. Some thought he had a mind to desert and encouraged him with shouts of Come over, Johnny! We wont fire.
But if the Confederate spoke, what he said could not be heard over the din of the cannonading and musketry, then growing heavy and continuous as the day wore on. Forward he came still, and all eyes were now strained to see what it could be that he meant to do. There can be no truce on a battlefield till the battle is lost or won... Suddenly the Confederate dropped upon the grass and for an instant was lost to the sight. It was thught he had been hit. But only for an instant for a thrill of enthusiasm passed through the Federals, murmurs of admiration were heard, and then a cheer, as hearty as if given in a charge, burst forth from their throats, and the cheer, repeated and increased in volume, proved that unselfish, noble actions are possible, and that there are noble hearts to appreciate and to respond.
The Confederate sharpshooter, who had been doing his best to destroy his antagonists, had seen in front of him a wounded federal lying helpless on the ground between the lines and begging in his agonizing thirst for a drink, and, at the almost certain risk of his own life, had gone forward to give some comfort to his distressed enemy. This it was that caused the federal cheer and for a few moments checked the work of death in that neighborhood. When the sharpshooter had performed his act of mercy he hastened back to the tree and with a warning cry of Down Yanks; were going to fire the little unpremeditated truce was ended and was soon forgotten in the grand events that followed almost immediately after.
The next day the Fourth of July - a heap of Confederates was found under that tree. Whether the hero of the day before was one of the ghastly dead will probably never be known.

4v50 Gary
May 25, 2005, 11:02 PM
Here's a question that popped up in the Civil War forum of http://www.muzzleloadingforum.com

"I did some Civil War reenacting about 10 years ago as a Union infantryman. Now I've spent tons on F&I gear but I just can't let go of my interest in the Civil War. I live in Southeast Missouri where countless skirmishes took place among the wooded hills and farms. I have ancestors who fought for both sides in the so called Missouri Militias. I figure some of these outfits were rather rag tag compared to their eastern counterparts but the war was different west of the Mississippi River. Weapons were more diverse as well and I've seen reenactment sights that claim that a LGP Rifle with a brass telescopic sight is a fair enough representation of a type of sharpshooter's tool of the trade. I know that some used 30 pound fat barreled target rifles and the Sharps of course but I need some backup from some of you that could confirm that my GPR with a brass scope would be reasonable. Weren't some outfits required to supply their own rifle? I've had the scope for over a decade and I want to put it to use in this way. I don't have time to reenact Civil War at this time but I want to have an acceptable gun to shoot at the range and just pretend if just for the history of it all. Sorry this is so long winded."

And here's the response:

"As to issuance, the Official Records has a report that (los Federales) listed 2,707 common sportmans' rifles in the inventory. There were also some telescope arms in inventory and Berdan's Sharpshooters sent to Washington for ten of them. How these guns came to be in the US inventory is unknown.

Now, regarding the men carrying their own into battle, that did happen. Two companies of Berdan's Sharp Shooters and part of a third did. Despite being promised bounty money for bringing their own guns, the bounty was never authorized by the War Department so no bounty was ever paid. Most of the men sent their guns home after the Yorktown Campaign. Both companies of Andrew's Sharp Shooters also had target guns (and not all target guns had a telescope attached to it). Brady Michigan Sharpshooters (attached to the 16th Michigan Vol. Inf.) had some lighter target guns that were telescope equipped.

In the Midwest, there were some, but they were more rare than in the East. I do have evidence that target guns were used (not just by Birges Western Sharp Shooters/14th Missouri/66th Illinois) by soldiers in regular units. I think it's a matter of (1) being a very good shot thus qualifying as a marksman/sharpshooter; (2) bringing your own gun. There's an account of one Federal soldier who withdrew at Franklin because he had exhausted his ammunition and had to cast some more.

The Corn-feds had three sources for telescope rifles. First, they imported them from neutral England. Second, they used existing stock (brought their own). Third, they made some (the arsenal in Georgia had about a dozen scopes which they intended to attach to sharpshooter rifles). I would hazard to say that if you were a good shot and brought your own, you could play sharpshooter. There's a Corn-fed gun with "HCP" on a silver plate at Gettysburg. It was claimed to have been found at Devil's Den. It wasn't until a few years ago that HCP was traced to a soldier in the 1st Texas (and the 1st Texas was at Devil's Den). That's as private of a gun as you can get."

4v50 Gary
May 29, 2005, 12:12 PM
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I guess it's about time to burst the bubble about one of the cherished myths of Civil War arms,namely the guns used by sharpshooters especially Confederates.The tendency has been to classify many civilian guns other than regularly issued rifled/smoothbore muskets as being guns used by sharpshooters The truth is that no round ball guns will have the range and accuracy of the major weapons used by both sides,namely the long Enfield and Springfield rifle muskets and the Enfield Musketoon.Since these three arms are the cream of the crop so to speak and were regular issued arms, they will be the only guns discussed.

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Concur. Prussian tests with both trained and untrained men showed the limit of the smoothbore gun. Even for ranges of 200 yards, because the groups were so large, it would have to be a platoon volley fire for any chance of success. There's no way a smoothbore gun can compete against a minie rifle.



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Quote:
It becomes painfully obvious that these as issued arms were extremely superior to round ball weapons and thus there was no reason to consider the civilian and other round ball weapons for sharpshooting.


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Concur. However, remember that the term "sporting arm" encompasses all sorts of non-military firearms including target guns and, to use period venacular, telescope rifles. I believe it was these and not the round ball smoothbore or even the venerated Pennsylvania Long Rifle that crept into US inventory.



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Quote:
Some of the other arms could have and may have been used for that purpose but with the Enfields and Springfields available in large numbers,it would have made very little sense to use anyting else let alone a round ball arm especially when the issue musket was equipped with a telescopic sight. Remember too that in Picket's charge the Confederates were taking concentrated rifle fire at at least 400 yards and maybe more. Yet the myth persists. "Confederate Long Arms and Pistols" by Hill and Anthony at PP. 126-127 illustrates a "Murdoch Morrison Sharpshooter Rifle" in .38 cal.It is a half stock country rifle from the mid 19th century and the authors infer that it was used for sharpshooting. As stated above by Weller,range and accuracy were almost non existent above 200 yards with a ball of such small caliber.I do not deny that many civilian rifles of this type saw service but generally only till the soldier could get a fine Enfield, Springfield,Richmond,or Fayetteville rifled musket.
Tom Patton
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Concur. Again, round ball guns won't carry that far with certainty - especially smaller caliber round ball rifles. That round ball rifles have been used at distances greater than 200 yards in the past would not suggest that they would be preferred over the Springfield or Enfield. The Enfield did become the choice weapon of the Confederate sharpshooter (light infantryman type sharpshooter) in both the Army of Tennessee and the Army of Northern Virginia. If a small bore round ball rifle was found, it was brought along as a measure of expediency by irregulars. Remember that Ned Robert's Uncle Alvaro brought home a small bore rifle that was a battlefield pick up.

Lest we forget though, the heavy barrel target guns that were not general issue and were civilian arms. Second Berdan Sharp Shooter Wyman White mentions using one with 4 inches of powder to harass Corn-feds at a mile's distance.

Thank you Tom Patton for your insights on this matter.

4v50 Gary
May 30, 2005, 11:58 PM
Harry who? Sir Harry Smith of the 95th, Rifle Brigade. Sir Harry rose to the rank of General and served with the 95th in Spain as well as at New Orleans (where Andy Jackson whupped the British). He was known by other members of the Rifle Brigade including Kincaid, Costello, Simmons, et al. While Sir Harry is largely unknown today, a town named in honor of his wife, Juanita Smith still exists: Ladysmith in South Africa (until they change the name). It's the love story of the Regiment & Smith stole Juanita from Kincaid. Anyhow, it took me enough time just to find and buy a copy of his autobiography. Now it's on-line. I cite Sir Harry several times in my own work but if you want to read it for yourself, click here (http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/hsmith/autobiography/harry-1.html)

4v50 Gary
June 5, 2005, 03:39 AM
This was written by a Berdan Sharpshooter. The woods look as quiet and peaceful as a farmers kitchen [at home]. But while you gaze on those groves in front, a hundred eyes are gazing on you with tiger like ferocity. You feel that a powerful glass is critically scanning your every move. The woods swarm with foes more crafty, subtle and cruel than the Mingo, and soon comes the deadly minie, with its devilish singing, and happy are you if you hear it, for unless it passes you will never hear it in this world...

Lesson: See, but don't be seen.

4v50 Gary
June 14, 2005, 01:53 AM
No one here believes the now discredited hysterian, Michael Bellesiles, who received an award for his fictional work that he passed off temporarily as hystery until the evidence he cited was proven to be fabricated, as a credible source for our hystery. Well, according to Mike, we really didn't have riflemen at the Battle of New Orleans. Well, here's a little talk that was given some time after the battle when it was still fresh in the minds of the men who fought there:

The havoc made at New Orleans, near the close of the last war, leaves no doubt on this subject. I have been told of a case, of two riflemen there, who shot at the same officer, and each claimed him - one said that he shot to hit him under the left eye; the other that he shot at his head; he was found to have been shot just under the left eye, and also in the head; so that he would have been killed by either... I have been told, further, that, after the battle, a bet of a supper was made between the officers of two rifle corps from Georgia and Tennessee, of six shots aside, an hundred yards; that they shot at a paper on the mouth of a musket that the Tennesseans shot their six balls into the musket, on which the Georgians gave up the bet.

BTW, go to Germans jus wanna have fun - The King's German Legion (http://www.muzzleloadingforum.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=128922) if you would like to read about Germans who fought for the English Crown during the Napoleonic time. Anecdotal, but fun tidbit from the dustbin of hystery.

4v50 Gary
June 21, 2005, 10:51 AM
The following is what one Confederate officer reported at the last battle of the Seven Days Battle (Peninsula Campaign, 1862):

The enemy now retreated to Malvern Hill and here made a determined stand. This was a most formidable position commanding the open, level ground for a mile in the front, and protected by a sluggish and difficult stream on our left. Our command took position on a neighboring ridge on the left where we suffered much from the enemys artillery which dominated our position, from which, however, we could see the entire field. We saw the charge of D. H. Hill, Huger and Magruder across this open field. The formidable position of the Federals with his hundred pieces of artillery and heavy lines of infantry made such an advance appear as a forlorn hope, but the gallantry displayed was splendid. Shot, shell, grape and cannister poured into these brave troops was horrible to behold; but they never flinched nor wavered, but pressed forward until recalled. Many dead and wounded were on the field. Well posted sharpshooters with guns of longer range than ours were annoying and damaging. Our men were thus picked off here and there with remarkable regularity... [I]t is said and oft times really seemed to be so, that fortune favors the brave and these soldiers were brave. A moment later a minnie ball well spent in its force struck a soldier in the forehead, but did not penetrate the skin. He jestingly remarked that they came near getting him that time, and while thus joking, he fell and expired, concussion caused death.

The sharpshooter were Berdan Sharpshooters who were posted far in advance of the Union line of battle. By now they had exchanged their Colt Model 1855 Revolving Rifles for the famous Sharps rifle.

4v50 Gary
June 26, 2005, 02:46 PM
If you're ever at Richmond, Virginia, take time to visit the Petersburg National Battlefield Park. It's where the Battle of the Crater (depicted in the movie, Cold Mountain) was fought as well as the Battle of Fort Steadman (where the Corn-feds attempted to break the Seige) and numerous other memorable battles. The Seige Museum in Petersburg is worth visiting too and they have a Confederate revolving cannon (think of it as a cannon with a big revolver cylinder) displayed there. Anyhow, my work concentrates on the little wars that were annoying and oftentimes deadly:

Cooks and officers servants going back and forth get picked off, and we have generally between twenty and forty each day wounded in this way by sharpshooters, besides those killed. There was one Confederate sharpshooter who persistently annoyed the 17th Maine: The line of works we are building bid fair to extend all the way to Richmond, if our men arent all picked off by sharpshooters first. Several men inside the works were killed, while the pickets, who were much nearer the foe, were unmolested. There seemed to be a fatality lurking in certain spots along our line and no one could tell just where the missiles came from, except that it was from above every time. It was decided that this must be stopped. Accordingly, one of our independents was invited to reconnoiter the spot. He betook himself a short distance to the rear and watched. It wasnt long before Mr. Reb made his whereabouts known, but he was so covered with leaves that no eye could discern him. Our sharpshooter drew a bead on him and something dropped, that something being a six-foot n***** whose weight wasnt less than 300 pounds. This put an end to the firing and we soon commenced trading instead.

Right now I've finished modifying my text after feedback from one reader. I'm still waiting for two more readers to get back to me. The introduction by a noted gunwriter/author has been done as well as the foreword by another noted individual. I'm selecting maps and trying to get more photos for it right now. I want it done this year as it's taken so long. :uhoh:

John C
June 28, 2005, 01:56 AM
Gary, I'm interested in your book. Could you please be sure to post the details of where I can get it when it comes out?

I've been following this thread since the beginning, and I have to say that I've enjoyed it immensely.

-John

Old Fuff
June 28, 2005, 10:35 AM
++++1!!

4v50 Gary
June 28, 2005, 05:11 PM
OK, here's a tidbit from the past. During the Battle of Deep Bottom, the Union Army of the James (Benjamin "Beast" Butler) attempted to distract Lee with a probe from north of the James River towards Richmond. In the typical Butler manner (he was a better attorney and politician than a military leader), they didn't get far and were pinned down. The Yankees then had a taste of their southern brethen's marksmanship:

"While we were on the rising ground in the open field, a rebel sharpshooter took a position in a pine tree top in our front, and every time he fired his rifle a man was sure to fall inside our lines. His place of concealment was soon discovered by the little puffs of smoke that were seen to rise from each discharge of his piece. A section of light artillery was at once brought to bear on the tree, when he was seen to beat a hasty retreat."

Lesson: Fire only one shot from your hide, then skedaddle or [for those old enough to remember "Moose must die," I give you the bullwinkle choice] It is better to give than to receive. :p

4v50 Gary
July 1, 2005, 03:17 AM
Hats off regardless of your sympathy. On this day, July 1st, brave men from both sides met upon the field of battle and some would never see the sun again. In honor of those men and of all men who fought at Gettysburg, I give you a snippet from the first day of Gettysburg.

The two armies collided at Gettysburg when the Federal cavalry under Brig. Gen. John Buford encountered Pettigrews brigade, Heths Division, A. P. Hills Corps four miles west of town. Bufords men were hard pressed and he sent for reinforcements.
First to arrive in Gettysburg to reinforce Buford was General John F. Reynolds I Corps. Reynolds immediately sent his 1st Division (Gen. James Wadsworth) along with the 2nd Maine Battery (Capt. James Hall) to reinforce Buford and when a new Confederate threat arose south of the Chambersburg road, he personally led the Iron Brigade (of Wadsworths Division) forward to stem the Confederate approach. Rushing down towards Herbst Woods, they startled the Confederates who had just crossed Willoughby Run. The Confederates fired a volley. As Reynolds turned to look for other reinforcements, a bullet struck him behind his left ear. According to one Union account: Reynolds was, of course, a shining mark to the enemys sharpshooters. He had taken his troops into a heavy growth of timber on the slope of a hill-side, and, under their regimental and brigade commanders, the men did their work well and promptly. Returning to join the expected divisions, he was struck by a Minnie ball, fired by a sharpshooter hidden in the branches of a tree a[l]most overhead, and killed at once..

Whether Reynolds was shot by a sharpshooter or hit by a stray bullet is subject of dispute. It has also been said that the bullet was fired from McPhersons barn which is about 1,500 yards away.

Old Fuff
July 1, 2005, 10:21 AM
I have a Sharps carbine bullet and a round of iron grapeshot that were found by a farmer on the battlefield over a half-century ago when my family visited Gettysburg shortly after World War Two.

I wonder what stories they might tell ...

P95Carry
July 1, 2005, 12:57 PM
More fascinating stuff Gary - since my visit to Gettysburg last year and touring the battlefields I have a particular interest - assisted by I guess an ability to ''picture'' the locations by name.

4v50 Gary
July 2, 2005, 02:00 AM
During the 2nd of July, a detachment of Berdans sharpshooters, using very heavy, long-range telescope rifles, with a sort of tripod rest, were placed on our main line with instructions to stop this annoyance. The method adopted was somewhat peculiar. The enemys sharpshooters soon discovered, and only that we were using rifles that had sufficient range, but also that they were being used with remarkable precision. With a field-glass it was easy to observe the effect of this rifle practice. Several men were seen to fall at the openings in the barn, and the enemys sharpshooters became more and more cautious. At the flash of a rifle on our line they would instantly disappear, and upon the ball passing through the opening as instantly reappear, ready to try a shot or fall back again if a second rifle flashed on our line. To meet these tactics, new methods were adopted by the telescopic riflemen; they formed themselves into squads or partnerships of three, and when the three were ready with correct aim, number one would fire; the enemy would instantly retire from the two openings; then counting one, two, three, the remaining two partners would fire simultaneously, each at his appointed opening; the ball from number one passing through the opening, the enemy immediately reappeared, too late to see the flash of the second rifles, yet in time to receive their bullets. Alas! how little we thought human life was the stake for which this game was being played.

4v50 Gary
July 3, 2005, 01:52 AM
On this third day of Gettysburg, here's an incident of humanity:

The skirmishers on both sides lay very close to the ground, making the most economical use of any little depression, of a fence-rail or two from the fence thrown down during the night or day before, or, as in many cases relying on the doubtful shelter of their knapsacks which they unslung and pushed out before them. Little groups were gradually and spontaneously formed along the line, and these groups acted together firing by volley into any puff of white smoke that would be thrust out by the enemy, with fair chance in this way that one bullet at least of the volley would count. Midway between the contending lines was a solitary tree that in peaceful days had given its shade to the harvest hands at their nooning. Early in the morning some Confederate sharpshooters had crawled out to this tree, where they lay at its roots and were able to reckon their game with every shot. So destructive, in fact, did their fire become that the wildest imprecations were shouted at them by the Federals, and threats were made that if taken they would get no quarter. All at once there came a lull in the firing at this part of the line. A Confederate was seen to rise up from the base of the tree and advance toward the Federals with his hands raised. Shots were fired at him, but there was curiousity at his approach, and the word was wait till we see what he wants to do. Some thought he had a mind to desert and encouraged him with shouts of Come over, Johnny! We wont fire.

But if the Confederate spoke, what he said could not be heard over the din of the cannonading and musketry, then growing heavy and continuous as the day wore on. Forward he came still, and all eyes were now strained to see what it could be that he meant to do. There can be no truce on a battlefield till the battle is lost or won... Suddenly the Confederate dropped upon the grass and for an instant was lost to the sight. It was thought he had been hit. But only for an instant for a thrill of enthusiasm passed through the Federals, murmurs of admiration were heard, and then a cheer, as hearty as if given in a charge, burst forth from their throats, and the cheer, repeated and increased in volume, proved that unselfish, noble actions are possible, and that there are noble hearts to appreciate and to respond.

The Confederate sharpshooter, who had been doing his best to destroy his antagonists, had seen in front of him a wounded federal lying helpless on the ground between the lines and begging in his agonizing thirst for a drink, and, at the almost certain risk of his own life, had gone forward to give some comfort to his distressed enemy. This it was that caused the federal cheer and for a few moments checked the work of death in that neighborhood. When the sharpshooter had performed his act of mercy he hastened back to the tree and with a warning cry of Down Yanks; were going to fire the little unpremeditated truce was ended and was soon forgotten in the grand events that followed almost immediately after.

The next day the Fourth of July - a heap of Confederates was found under that tree. Whether the hero of the day before was one of the ghastly dead will probably never be known.

The three days of Gettysburg are excerpts from Chapter 9. The Gettysburg portion is over 20 pages out of the 60 plus page chapter.

4v50 Gary
July 9, 2005, 09:30 PM
The Native Americans taught us well and we should never forget the lessons they taught.

"A Senaca Indian 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 until 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."

4v50 Gary
July 16, 2005, 05:14 PM
"'California Joe' will always be remembered as the very aspotle of sharpshooters. While before Richmond, a rebel sharpshooter had been amusing himself and annoying our General and some other officers by firing several times in that direction, and sending the bullets whistling in unwelcome proximity to their heads.

"My man, can't you get your piece on that fellow who is firing on us, and stop his impertinence?" asked the General.
"I think so," replied Joe; and he brought his telescopic rifle to a horizontal position.
"Do you see him?" inquired the General.
"I do."
"How far is he away?"
"Fifteen hundred yards."
"Can you fetch him?"
"I'll try."
And Joe did try. He brought his piece to a steady aim, pulled the trigger, and sent the bullet whizzing on its experimental tour, the officers meantime looking through their field glasses. Joe hit the fellow in the leg or foot. He went hobbling up the hill on one leg and two hands, in the style of locomotion tht was amusing. Our General was sol tickled - there is no better word - at the style and celerity of the fellow's retreat, that it was some time before he could get command of his risibles sufficiently to thank Joe for what he had done."

4v50 Gary
July 23, 2005, 01:49 AM
At the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, word of the Confederate sharpshooters activity reached Colonel Martin T. McMahon, General Uncle John Sedgwicks chief of staff. When he learned that Sedgwick planned to visit the front, he pleaded with him not to conduct his observations at an area known to be heavily infested with sharpshooters. Despite McMahons warnings, Sedgwick rode ahead and joined his men. Watching them duck in response to bullets, he called for them to steady themselves and assured them, What! 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. Why, they couldnt hit an elephant at this distance. A soldier walking by the General heard the long shrill whistle of a bullet and dropped to the ground... Sedgwick nudged him and admonished, Why, my man, I am ashamed of you. Dodging that way. They couldnt hit an elephant at this distance. The man rose, sheepishly saluted and apologized explaining how dodging had saved his life. Sedgwick laughed and let the man return to his unit. Almost immediately, another long shrill was heard followed by a thud. Struck beneath the left eye, Sedgwick fell onto Col. McMahon and toppled him to the ground.

On the Confederate side, sharpshooter Ben Powell reported to Sergeant Berry Benson that he had shot a big Yankee officer at over half a mile. Wrote Powell: I raised my sights and took the chance, and sir, he tumbled right off his horse. The others dismounted and carried him away. I could see it all well through the glass. And Powell's weapon? Benson tells us in an earlier portion of his book: Tuesday, May 10, the Sharpshooters were relieved from duty in the morning. Having nothing to do, I went across a field where Ben Powell, with his Whitworth rifle was sharpshooting. Ben was not attached to the Battalion, being independent in his movements. There had been a number of Whitworth rifles (with telescopic sight) brought from England, running the blockade. These guns with ammunition had been distributed in the army, our brigade receiving one. It was given to Powell, as he was known to be an excellent shot. In campaigns he posted himself whereever he pleased, for the purpose of picking off the enemys men. There's much more to the story and you'll find it in Chapter 11.

P95Carry
July 30, 2005, 06:34 PM
Wonder what range that was Gary - pretty remarkable shot, with I guess just a smidgeon of luck too - imagining how small the gap might have been.

Guess the two died knowing little of what happened.

4v50 Gary
August 7, 2005, 10:52 AM
It was at Kelly's Ford that Corporal Johnson of Berdans Sharpshooters demonstrated his prowess with the Sharps breech loading rifle. A remarkable instance of fine shooting occurred at this time. Corp. Johnson, of Company G, upon being urged to give the retreating Rebs a shot, although he considered the chances poor hitting his man at that distance, running off as he was, finally exclaimed: By great! Ill try him, and allowing two feet for windage, drew up his rifle at 700 yards raise the sight and fired. At the same time Lieut. Thorp of the adjoining company, K, asked George J. Fisher if he could down that fellow. Answering: I guess I can, Fisher shot just as Johnson did, and the man threw up his hands and went down. The fallen rebel was afterwards found wounded in two places, he stating that both shots came from the same instant, one through the right thigh, the other the left hip.

dbm
August 8, 2005, 03:58 PM
Re. the Crimean War, there is a new book published on sharpshooting in the period. Sharpshooter in the Crimea (http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/cgi-bin/world/0993.html) comprises the Letters of the Captain Gerald Goodlake VC 1854-56. It is well researched with much additional information on the conflict that will help the general reader.

It is published by Pen and Sword books. The above link takes you to their advert.

David

dbm
August 8, 2005, 04:07 PM
Most minie balls were good for 500 yards and thereafter weren't terribly accurate. One that seemed to stand out more than the others was the English Enfield. Hits have been recorded at 1,000 yards distance but it was very few who could achieve it and sometimes it was pure luck

Here in the UK we have a series of national rifle championship matches with the Enfield at 200, 300, 500 and 600 yards. Occassionally we go back a little further and one club I am in holds an aggregate match at 600 and 800 yards (15 shost each distance) with the Enfield.

Best I have managed on the 118" wide x 70" high 800 yard target is 50% hits. This year's winner only had one shot off target at 800 yards.

For reference the 600 yard target is 70" wide x 60" high.

It's a challenge and interesting to get a view on the capabilities of the Enfield.

David

4v50 Gary
August 13, 2005, 11:07 AM
The following are stories involving the 95th (Rifle Brigade) and wascally wabbits that have crossed their paths. It's an excerpt from Chapter 3.

Besides being good soldiers, the men were keen on sport. There is an anecdote told of the 95th. Rifleman Flinn who was aiming at a Frenchman, when a hare started out of the fern with which the hill was covered. Flinn, leaving the Frenchman, covered the hare, and fired and killed his game. On the officer commanding the company remonstrating with him, his reply was, Ah! Your honour, sure we can kill a Frenchman any day; but it isnt always I can bag a hare for your supper. Similarly, 95th Capt. Johnny Kincaid relates an incident involving yet another hare: ...I saw an amusing instance of the ruling passion for sport predominating over a soldier; a rifleman near me was in the act of taking aim at a Frenchman when a hare crossed between them, the muzzle of the rifle mechanically followed the hare in preference, and, as she was doubling into our lines, I had just time to strike up the piece with my sword before he drew the trigger, or he most probably would have shot one of our own people, for he was so intent upon his game that he had lost sight of everything else. Unquestionably the hares escape was better than losing a comrade.

4v50 Gary
August 14, 2005, 11:39 PM
Here's a response I got to the Spotsylvania post that concerned the death of Sedgwick:

"Dear Gary - the only problem I have with this is that Cpl Powell said that he shot a Union officer from his horse. Col MacMahon, who was with General Sedgwick when he died, was actually walking with him when the fatal shot struck, turning from the impact, Uncle John [a very BIG man for the day] fell on his companion, taking him to the ground. And shortly that, General Sedgwick had admonished a soldier lying on the ground, and stirred him with the toe of his his boot, uttering his famous epitaphic words. He was therefore NOT on horseback at either event.

So who did Cpl Powell actually hit on the morning of 9 May 1864?

And who really DID shoot Uncle John?

Guess that like a lot of things, we'll never know for sure.

tac

So, Tac reads a lot and caught me telling only part of the story. Here's my response:

"You're well read Tac and I've only told part of the story. Virtually all eyewitness accounts I've come across have Sedgwick on foot and not on a horse. So, we actually don't know who shot Sedgwick. It was neither Cpl. Ben Powell nor Sgt. Charles Grace (another Whitworth shooter who claimed to have shot Sedgwick).

One of the problems with any of these sharpshooting stories is that we can't really confirm who shot whom. While eyewitness accounts help, a serious hysterian would examine when it was written and the writer's motive. Was it written 40-50 years after the event and affected by "old soldier" syndrome? Unless an autopsy is performed, we can't even tell if it was a non-regulation bullet (raising an inference of a sharpshooter) who can take credit. While not American Civil War, the death of British General Ross in the War of 1812 is a good example. Was he killed by riflemen firing from a tree perch or by common musket armed infantrymen? In this case forensics would help. But, returning to the ACW, even if it was a .577 or .578 minie, how can we tell whether it's fired by a sharpshooter or not? We can't. Remember, even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut.

As for who was shot, I'm saving that for my book. Can't give away everything before publication."

4v50 Gary
August 21, 2005, 01:48 AM
Thanks David for posting the link to the Goodlake book. I bought it immediately after Bill Curtis announced its publication on an American Civil War board. It is indeed well researched and is filled with a lot of interesting information. Its limit (as well as my own limit) is that there is probably a lot of information available in Russian that awaits translation. I've been trying to get a Russian immigrant I know interested in translating their books. For modern reading, Zaistev's (of Walter Craig's, "Battle of Stalingrad" and fictionalized as "War of the Rats) autobiography has been translated. There's a free audio clipping of the first chapter that is worth listening to. It would appeal to anyone interested in 18/19th Century frontier living would enjoy that chapter. Click here for Zaistev (http://www.notesofasniper.com/)

Here's the snippet for the week. It describes an artillery company coming under sharpshooter fire.

Suddenly there burst out of the dense foliage four magnificent gray horses, and behind them, whirled along like a childs toy, the gun. Another and another followed, sweeping out into the plain. As the head of the column turned to the right to go into battery, every rifle within range was brought to bear, and horses and men began to fall rapidly. Still they pressed on, and when there were no longer horses to haul the guns, the gunners sought to put their pieces into battery by hand; nothing, however, could stand before that terrible storm of lead, and after ten minutes of gallant effort the few survivors, leaving their guns in the open field, took shelter in the friendly woods. Not a gun was placed in position or fired from that quarter during the day... A member of the battery in describing it to an officer of the Sharpshooters soon after the close of the war, said pithily: We went in a battery and came out a wreck. We staid ten minutes by the watch and came out with one gun, ten men and two horse, and without firing a shot."

4v50 Gary
August 29, 2005, 11:04 PM
It's been mentioned that the minie will carry to 1,000 yards. In most Civil War era guns, it will certainly shoot accurately out to 500 yards, but afterwards the Enfield had the advantage (with respects to a common rifle musket). Here's an example of the minie balls reaching out and touching at half a mile's distance.

"We had scarcely got into line of battle when it seemed as though ten thousand axes just across the valley were being vigorously applied to a forest. What the rebels were doing we could only guess, that they were fortifying their position. This chopping was kept up for nearly an hour and a half, when all of a sudden it ceased and not another blow was struck. There were rebel sharp shooters in the valley shooting at us at long range with their minie rifles. We sent out a small band of skirmishers who crawled up close to the rebels and from behind straggling trees and stumps exchanged shots with the rebel sharp shooters, and made it interesting for them. Some of those minie balls were fired and came all of a half a mile and wounded several horses in our skirmish line.

dbm
August 30, 2005, 03:26 AM
Gary,

The Crimean War Research Society has published a lot of translated Russian documents in the pages of their quarterly journal. I can't however recall specifics of items relating to sharpshooting, although there may well be passing references in some of the articles. More info from www.crimeanwar.org (http://www.crimeanwar.org/)

David

4v50 Gary
September 6, 2005, 11:52 PM
Thanks David. The Crimean War is very important in terms of sharpshooting. Unfortunately, it's largely overlooked here in Estados Unidos. My own book does give some coverage to that war, but it's not as extensive or exhaustive as I would like.

Anyway, here's a Whitworth story I'd like to share.

About the 19th [June], I rode out along our lines and on the left towards Petersburg, and on my way out, I passed within sight of a rebel sharpshooter, stationed up a tree, a long way off, a mile it seemed to me. He was good enough to favor me with a shot, and the ball struck the ground near me. On this ride, at a hospital, I saw a poor fellow, who while squatting on a rail, over a little stream, washing out his shirt, had been shot through both thigh bones by a Whitworth bullet or bolt (hexagonal), fired by a sharpshooter from a tree said to be nearly a measured mile and a quarter distance. The poor fellow died and the bolt is in my collection of projectiles.

I'm going away to Arizona and will be gone for a week. I doubt if I'll be on-line at all. If anyone has a good story, please share it.

Concerning the book, I'm still waiting for one reader to return the manuscript. Been waiting since April. I guess I'll work on the index since there's no more research to be done (except for a 2nd edition if I ever get ambitious enough).

4v50 Gary
September 9, 2005, 03:11 AM
If you recall the movie, Glory, it climaxed with the charge of the 54th Massachusetts against Battery Wagner on Morris Island, South Carolina (off of Charleston Harbor, Charleston). After that attack failed, the Union settled down and beseiged it. It was cheaper than risking another direct assault.

note: as a point of order, the Confederates always called it Battery Wagner and the Union called it Fort Wagner.

After the assault on Fort Wagner Company K was detailed to take charge of the Battery of Cohorn mortars nearest Fort Wagner, and our duty was the first thing in the morning to knock the sandbags off the fort, that had been placed during the night. We had a small hole through the breastworks to watch the effect of our shots. One morning the gunners were Jaques, Taylor and myself. The night before going to the front to man the gun Comrade Taylor asked me to take his money and send it home as he was detailed to go to the front and would not come back alive. I laughed at him and told him I expected to come back all right. Within one hour after we commenced firing he was killed by a sharpshooter. My hand was on his shoulder when he was shot. Word came one morning to dismount the corner gun on Fort Wagner and we would receive a medal. We had not been firing long when it was dismounted. A short time after we received our medals. I value mine very highly.

4v50 Gary
September 17, 2005, 02:49 PM
"I lost twenty-two men there in one day. All the embrasures had to be masked by thick curtains, which were only opened at the time of firing. A cap could not be shown anywhere above the parapet without instantly drawing a ball, for the sharpshooters on both sides were of dangerous address. I saw a sergeant killed near me, while looking between the gabions. The ball struck him above the eyes."

4v50 Gary
September 25, 2005, 01:31 AM
I Remember seeing an account of capt. Cresaps rifle company shooting at a shingle that was held in one of the mens hands, and shot through by his brother. This was mentioned to be a very extraordinary thing, as indeed it was; but it is no more than what has been frequently done by the Virginia riflemen. I have known many people to do it. At the distance of two hundred yards, two men have shot into the same hole, in a paper not bigger than a dollar; and this mr. S. Athawes, of London can attest, for he saw it done when he was in Frederick county, Virginia, and carried home with him that paper, through which it was but just discernible that two balls had passed. The riflemen now in our regiments declare, that they can hit a man every shoot if within 250 yards, and his head if within 150. As some proof of this, I can mention what happened a little while ago on one of the creeks near Williamsburg. A man had got into a canoe, out of a boat, upon seeing the riflemen, and was paddling off, when they hailed him. On his refusing to stop, they fired ahead of him; and the man still continuing his flight (thinking that by this time he had got out of their reach, as he has since confessed) the officer ordered his people to fire at him, which three of them did, when one shot went through the canoe, another through the mans waistcoat, brushing a button on his breast, and the third through his hat, within half an inch of his head. And last summer our riflemen under col. Lewis gave convincing proofs that their dexterity in shooting was not confined to mere butts and marks, or harmless game, but could be applied with incredible truth when aimed at the bravest and most formidable of all enemies; for in that engagement there were more Indians killed than there were of French and Indians in Braddocks defeat, and more than I ever heard were killed in any engagement during the last war. And although the Indians, according to their manner of fighting, never fire twice from the same tree, and can very seldom be seen in an engagement, and when seen discover but their head and breast, or shoulders, yet great numbers of them were killed and wounded, and it is said that all the dead were found shot through the head or breast. I wish that some abler pen was employed to celebrate the praises of our men in that engagement, and in major MDonalds. It would then be seen how much justice they said in their glorious resolves, that they could march and shoot with any troops in the world.

4v50 Gary
October 1, 2005, 01:27 AM
Here's an article of mine that was originally published in the Nov. 2003 issue of Muzzle Blasts magazine. It's rather short but fun. Siege of Fort Meigs (http://www.snipercountry.com/Articles/SiegeOfFortMeigs.asp)

4v50 Gary
October 16, 2005, 11:41 PM
OK, I was AWOL for almost two weeks and hence the lack of bedtime stories.

Just returned from an almost two week trip to the midwest. Visited St. Louis and saw the incomplete McDonald monument that dominate the city's skyline. The twin arch still needs to be built. Nice museum underneath with one particularly interesting gun. It had a hooded front sight and the tang appears to have been drilled for a rear aperture. Also visited the Historical Museum in Forrest Park. They have a percussion that has been converted to breechloading. How the breech is secured escapes me (perhaps the firing pin goes through the upward swivelling block?). My last day was spent visiting Daniel Boone's final home in Defiance, Mo. It's a three story stone structure. Boone and his son quarried the stone themselves. Guess they got tired of log cabins and wanted a fort and it could serve as one as it was built with loopholes. Afterwards it was Conner Prairie in Fishers, IN for three classes. First was lock assembly with Jim Chambers (Siler lock fame), powder horn with Art De Camp and porcupine quill with Robin McBride Scott. Many of my classmates have read my articles (Muzzle Loader or Muzzle Blasts magazine) and enjoyed them. They're all anxious for the book and I explained that I'm waiting for one reader. The delay isn't all that bad since one of my previous instructors (H. House) told me that he has a picture of a Kentucky rifleman of the War of 1812. I had written about that rifleman (check the link for The Lone Marksman Revisited) years ago. Before leaving for home, I visited the Eiteljorg Indian Museum in Indiana. Great collection of Western theme paintings (Bierstadt, Russell, Remington, etc.) as well as a scrimshawed illustration on goatskin. Nice collection of Indian art (beadwork, quillwork, pottery & baskets, kachina dolls, sculpture) too. I tried to visit Jim Dressler to see his powder horn collection but he disappeared before the appointment time. Enough gossip. Here's a bedtime story.

“Company I had three men who ranked high in the regiment as sharpshooters, skirmishers and foragers... These men were always to be depended upon. Although their guns were not the brightest at inspection, their arms and ammunition were always in good condition when needed. They were counted among the best shots in the regiment. On the skirmish line they were found among the farthest in advance and were the last to fall back. In the riflepits, where they could prove their skill, they were selected for the most difficult work on the line.” The manner in which Mattice was mortally wounded: “The sand-bar gun quit annoying us as did the cannon in the fort. But they got a small mortar that threw a twelve-pound shell, and one day when my company was in the trenches they made it very disagreeable for us. They would toss those shells up in the air, and they would come overhead and burst, and the pieces would scatter every way. All we could do was hug up against the breastworks. Fred Mattice wouldn’t hug the dirt and would laugh at us. But finally he got a piece on his head, and three days later he died. He never became conscious, just lay there and moaned. This cast a gloom over the company, as he was liked by all who knew him.”

4v50 Gary
October 21, 2005, 02:14 AM
Fred Ray, who has written several articles on the Confederate Sharpshooter for America's Civil War magazine, has finished his book. Entitled Shock Troops of The South: The Sharpshooter Battalions of the Army of Northern Virginia, it is the first modern book devoted solely to the sharpshooters in that army. Previously, only one book (Capt. Dunlop's "Lee's Sharpshooters or Forefront of Battle) has ever addressed it and Fred Ray from his articles Mr. Ray has done extensive research on the subject. Click on the below link to purchase your copy. http://sharpshooters.cfspress.com

O.K., so if you're griping that this is an ad or spam, first THR receives no ducats from Mr. Ray and secondly, so you guys don't form a lynch mob outside my house, here's your Bedtime Story for the week. I can't verify its accuracy and it won't appear in my own work. However, it's a fun read and take it as an enjoyable bedtime story. Travel back now to an era when the Brits were still here:

Chanco, the Chickahominy Indian squatted patiently at the base of a long leaf pine tree, like a bobcat near a rabbits burrow. His eyes were intent on the British encampment forty yards across the creek. Dawn was approaching and the only movement was the grey of a mockingbird and the red of a cardinal and the brown of a thrush which were flitting about in a salt water bush like fingers of a Persian girl weaving a prayer rug. As he waited his mind retraced, not only the events of the past few days but his boyhood and the purpose that brought him there.

When he was fourteen years old, the winter of 1721 was the hardest within memory if his tribe, who had their village on the edge of the big Chickahominy swamp. Food was scarce, the corn crop had been poor and sickness had taken its toll. Even geese and ducks, which ordinately almost covered the creeks and sloughs had abandoned the area to move further south. Reduced to the flesh of an occasional muskrat and raccoon the outlook was bleak.

But one morning a crude sled, loaded with corn and side meat and drawn by two bullocks came into the snow bound village. It was driven by Samuel Geddy, a planter from the little town of Toano, Sam had graduated from the college of William and Mary and had befriended Chanco’s grandfather, who had attended the college under their program to Christianize and educate the local Indians. Even after his schooling, the citizenry never fully accepted the Indians and Yutuck returned to the ways of his tribe.

Accompanying Sam was his grandson. Timothy, equal in age to Chanco, and full of curiosity regarding the red man of the swamp. The conversation between Yutuck and Sam was brief and warmly grateful. The Indians were to receive the grain, meat and bullocks as a gift. There would be corn cakes and smoked beef to last till spring.

The two boys, one white and the other one red, though from different cultures formed a lasting friendship, fostered alternate visits, during which Timothy learned the ways of the forest and Chanco became familiar with the ways of the white man. Languages were also shared. This companionship continued, broken only in 1755. Timothy joined Colonial Washington as a part of General Braddocks march toward Fort Pitt. During the ambuscade of Braddocks troops by the French and Indians, Timothy received a ball in his left leg that crippled him and following a retreat by the British, covered by Washington’s men he was invalidated home. During the ensuing years, after the farm chores were done Timothy spent a great deal of time in the fall and winter months hunting with Chanco.

The peaceful years were brought to a halt by the onset of the Revolution and the uncertainties of this effort constantly preyed on the minds of those who lived on the peninsula lying between the York and James rivers. Since Williamsburg was the capitol of Virginia and the center of political, social and industrial life, naturally it would become the target of the British military adventure.

On October 12th, 1782 Chanco and Timothy were turkey hunting a few miles northwest of Williamsburg when it happened. A small detachment of British soldiers had been put ashore, under the cover of darkness, behind the forces of Washington and Rochambeau to try and observe the movements of the Americans and her allies, the French. However, they became lost and were in great haste to try and join Cornwallis who had entrenched himself at Yorktown. They needed a guide.

Timothy had been surprised by the soldiers and being handicapped, was unable to outdistance his pursuers and was taken prisoner. Knowing that he was a local hunter he was pressed into service and commanded to lead them through the American lines. Timothy refused to cooperate with his captors. Chanco returned to their appointed meeting place, correctly read from the scuffled ground that Timothy was in trouble. He discreetly trailed the soldiers and upon coming within sight of them, beheld a picture that would forever remain with him. Timothy was tied to a tree and was being interrogated by a huge red-headed sergeant, who after several refusals to supply information. Brutally beat the helpless prisoner with his fists. This scene was repeated twice a day for the next three days with Chanco a distant witness. Knowing that rescue for the time being was out of the question, Chanco bore this mental burden of bestiality with outward stoicism but inward seething.

On the morning of the forth day, Timothy could not be aroused, he had died during the night from a ruptured pancreas. The soldiers dug a shallow grave, unceremoniously disposed of him and at the last moment threw his rifle gun, bullet pouch and powder horn on top his body. A few shovels full of dirt and the job was done. They immediately broke camp and continued their flight southward. Time was a factor.

After a prudent interval, Chanco went to his friend’s grave, knelt down and after murmuring an apology in his own dialect, took out his hunting knife and began to dig. The recovery of the rifle and its accouterments took only a few moments and then Chanco gently replaced the fresh earth like a grey squirrel patting the ground over next winter’s acorns. After cleaning the barrel and lock of Geddy’s rifle he hid his own trade musket beneath a blown down tree and started after the British detachment. There was no need of following their trail which blundered through the woods. Chanco knew every creek crossing and ford between Williamsburg and Old Point Comfort. He could intercept them.

It was the morning of October 17th, 1782 as Chanco forced himself out of his reverie and as the mist arose it revealed the camp breaking activities across the creek. The soldiers did not suspect that on the next day the entire armies of Americans and British would be drawn up, facing each other in peaceful formation while General Cornwallis’s sword was being offered in surrender as the band played “The world turned upside down”.

But this moment was Chanco’s. as the officers huddled in conversation regarding the day’s movements, Chanco raised Timothy’s rifle and disdaining the sight picture of the higher officers, he waited. In a moment the big red-haired sergeant approached his superiors and with a sweep of his arm indicated the men were ready to move. This motion exposed the intersection of his hanger and cartridge box straps.

The rifle spoke, and the recoil against Chanco’s shoulder seemed like and endearing nudge from the fist of the ghost of Timothy Geddy.

Here's the problems I have with the story. How did Chanco know the pancreas was ruptured? This raises the inference that Chanco removed the pancreas from Timothy and If Chanco did remove the pancreas, was there an Indian word for that internal organ such that Chanco could describe exactly what it was? Remember that the Indians passed down their lore via the oral tradition (like Homer) and while this could be reliable (as demonstrated by modern cultures that rely heavily on the oral tradition), the precise description of a specific organ makes me want to raise an eyebrow. Secondly, if Chanco was 14 years old when Tim & his Grandfather came through in 1721, wouldn't Chanco be 74 or 75 when this event took place? That's kinda old and while possible, longevity wasn't that common in those days. Finally, I've only found it in one book which did not attribute the story to any other source from which I could at least attempt to verify its accuracy. Darn good reading but suspect.

stevelyn
October 21, 2005, 12:12 PM
The date is a year off. Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown Oct. 19, 1781. Although there were skirmishes fought between the Brits and Americans for a few months after the surrender, I kinda doubt they would have been wandering around causing trouble near where the surrender occurred.

Old Point Comfort is where Ft. Monroe now sits in Hampton, VA.

4v50 Gary
October 29, 2005, 03:55 PM
The following is an account shows why it's good to bring all your friends who have guns with you to the gunfight. It was a close call for the writer.

We shot until we got the range so we could make the dust fly just on top of the works. But they wouldnt shoot back, so we waited for them to show themselves. About noon we saw the relief coming. We could see their guns glisten above the works, and took a shot at them. Two men got out of the works and started to the rear. One had a red shirt, the other a white shirt. The one with the red shirt was a little ahead and to the left of the other. I told Pat to take the white shirt, and we fired together. The red shirt went down. The other cut and run, and was out of sight before we could change guns. We soon got a shot from them which went between us and clipped the leaves on our shade. We both shot at the smoke of his gun, which must have been what was called a squirrel rifle, as the bullet slipped through the air as if greased. He must have known the range to perfection too, as every shot came mighty close to the center of our rail pile and just over it. One shot came so close to my right cheek as to make a red streak across my cheek. After that we had more respect for him and ducked our heads as soon as we saw the smoke of his gun, but kept shooting at where we saw his smoke until he quit shooting and wouldnt shoot anymore. I told Pat if that fellow had known how close he was shooting he wouldnt have quit; but we may have got him, as I know we were putting them close and were shooting four balls to his one.

Round ball guns are generally limited in range. If the bullet made a peculiar sound that was distinct from the minie, it could have been a round ball gun or a "squirrel rifle" of some sort, but more likely than not it was a target rifle.

4v50 Gary
November 5, 2005, 10:33 PM
Thanks for dropping in and visiting this site. I know the title, Bedtime Stories, is deceptive and at first glance, most folks would pass it up. The title could be something more generic like "dynamics of force mutlipliers" which would allow for discreet reading. However, "Bedtime stories" sounds like something you'd tuck your kid into bed with and in that sense, it works for those of us who are older (and yes, anyone who has met me can tell you that my hair is grey).

Here's an excerpt:

"‘I got five more this time,’ said he; ‘and that makes 117.’ Turned round and looked at him inquiringly, ‘One hundred and seventeen what?’ said I. ‘One hundred and seventeen rebels,’ replied the old gentleman in black. ‘Ah, don’t you know me!’ he continued. ‘I am the old sharpshooter and while out in front of the city during the last fight I fetched down five more rebels. I don’t count those I shoot in partnership, because I can’t tell whose shot it was. I only count those I am sure of myself.’"

There are more details including the identity; but I'm omitting that for now. You'll learn his identity and more details about him in Chapter 7.

Old Fuff
November 5, 2005, 11:19 PM
Thanks for dropping in and visiting this site.

Ya got'ta be kidding ... your fans would never miss a single page ... :D :D

4v50 Gary
November 10, 2005, 10:16 PM
Not kidding. There are some new timers whom I've invited over from several other blackpowder forums. Anyhow, here's a piece of advice from the olde days:

“Be not sparing of a little extraordinary shot and powder to make them mark-men, especially your gentlemen, and those you find most capable for shot must be your best weapon; yet this will not do unless you have at least 100, or as many as you can, of expert blooded, approved good soldiers, who dare boldly lead them, not to shoot a ducke, goose or a dead mark but at men, from whom you expect such as to send.”

The advice given is from a period that predates the scope of my work, but as it is highly relevant, it's worthwhile sharing.

To all Veterans and servicemen/women, THANK YOU! Uou and others like you have made the blessings of liberty possible.

4v50 Gary
November 19, 2005, 01:43 PM
As American muzzleloaders, we are naturally drawn to our own historical figures. Who amongst us has not heard of Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Lewis Wetzel, Samuel Brady, Tim Murphy, Daniel Morgan or the many others who created our nation and contributed to our frontier lore? However, marksmanship, bravery and deeds worth of retelling are not exclusive to our soil, and if we look across the pond hard enough, we will find worthy men. In examining the early history of the British 95th Regiment, later stylized as the Rifle Brigade, one rifleman, Tom Plunket, stands out.

Tom Plunket was born in Newton County, Ireland and at the age of 20, enlisted at Dublin into the Rifle Brigade on May 10, 1805. Described as a smart, well-made fellow, about middle height and in the prime of manhood; with clear grey eye and handsome countenance, he was believed by some to be the best shot in the regiment. Kincaid described Plunket as: ...a bold, active, athletic Irishman, and a deadly shot... Initially sent to South America with Whitelocke, Plunket began his reputation as a rifleman there.

Whitelocks reinforcements of four companies of the 1/95 were united with the three companies of the 2/95 and placed under the command of Major McLeod as a provisional battalion. Along with the rest of the army, they pushed onto Buenos Aires and quickly stormed the town. However, poor leadership failed to consolidate the victory and the Spaniards rallied, and isolating the scattered British units, forced them to successively surrender. Among the isolated British units was Tom Plunket who was kept very active. In an action to retake Buenos Aires, he and Fisher, another rifleman, were hoisted onto the roof of a low building to act as sharpshooters. Some years later, when asked by an officer of the 95th how many men he had killed from this position, Plunket replied: Twenty, sir, then added: I shot a gentleman with a flag of truce, sir. Not understanding the situation, that is exactly what he had done, and the man had died of his wounds.

Along with the rest of his makeshift battalion, Plunket was captured and returned to England. Rejoining the First Battalion, he was sent to the Peninsular under Sir John Moore where he again distinguished himself. 95th Lt. Johnny Kincaid describes a frequently cited incident:

The regiment was formed in front of Calcabellos covering the rear of the infantry, and on the first appearance of the enemy they had been ordered to withdraw behind the town. Three parts of them had already passed the bridge, and the remainder were upon it, or in the act of filing through the street with the careless confidence which might be expected from their knowledge that the British cavalry still stood between them and the enemy; but in an instant our own cavalry, without the slightest notice, galloped through and over them, and the same instant saw a French sabre flourishing over the head of every man who remained beyond the bridge - many were cut down in the streets, and a great portion of the rear company were taken prisoners.

The remainder of the regiment, seeing the unexpected attack, quickly drew off among the vineyards to the right and left of the road, where they cooly awaited the approaching assaults. The dismounted voltigeurs first swarmed over the river, assailing the riflemen on all sides, but they were met by a galling fire which effectively stopped them. General Colbert next advanced to dislodge them, and passing the river at the head of his dragoons, he charged furiously up the road; but, when within a few yards of our own men, he was received with such a deadly fire, that scarcely a Frenchman remained in the saddle, and the general himself was among the slain. The voltigeurs preservered in their unsuccessful endeavors to force the post, and a furious fight continued to be waged, until darkness put an end to it, both sides having suffered severely...

General Colbert (the enemys hero of the day), was, by all accounts, (if I may be permitted the expression,) splendid as a man, and not less so as a soldier. From the commencement of the retreat of our army he had led the advance, and been conspicuous for his daring: his gallant bearing had, in fact, excited the admiration of his enemies; but on this day, the last of his brilliant earthly career, he was mounted on a white charger, and had been a prominent figure in the attack of our men in the street the instant before, and it is not, therefore, to be wondered at if the admiration for the soldier was for a space drowned in the feeling for the fallen comrades which his bravery had consigned to death; a rifleman, therefore, of the name of Plunket, exclaiming, thou too shalt surely die! took up an advanced position, for the purpose of singling him out, and by his hand he no doubt fell.

I'll share more about Plunket later.

4v50 Gary
November 27, 2005, 10:10 PM
Costello places the battle at Astorga and elaborates:

[A] French General named Colbert, conspicuous on a grey horse, was remarkably active. Although frequently aimed at by our men, he seemed to bear a charmed life, and invariably escaped. In one of the French charges headed by this daring officer, General Sir Edward Paget rode up to the rifles and offered his purse to any man who would shoot him. Plunket immediately started from his company. He ran about a hundred yards nearer to the enemy, threw himself on his back on the road (which was covered with snow), placed his foot in the sling of his rifle, and taking deliberate aim, shot General Colbert. Colberts Trumpet-Major, who rode up to him, shared the same fate from Toms unerring rifle. Our men, who had been anxiously watching, cheered, and Tom began running in upon the rearmost sections. He was just in time to escape some dozen troopers who had chased after him.

Our General immediately gave Tom the purse he had promised with encomiums upon his gallantry. He promised to recommend him to his Colonel, which he did in high terms to Colonel Beckwith. A few days afterwards, when the French attacked Sir John Moores position at Corunna, Plunket was again noted for his cool bravery and daring, especially in making admirable shots, by which they lost many officers.

(Note: Moorsom credits General Colberts death to artillery. Two British guns, which were posted on the high-road leading to Villafranca, on the slope of the hill, played upon the French column as it advanced; amongst others, the French General Colbert fell, by the well-directed fire of those guns.)

While the first historian of the Rifle Brigade, Sir William Cope, doubted whether General Paget would order a rifleman to deliberately aim and shoot down an enemy officer, officers being gentlemen and their lessers were not supposed to harm them, Marshal Soult complained in one letter (below) that it was British policy to shoot down officers. If Paget had indeed bartered for Colberts death, he certainly was not alone among British generals as we shall see. Incentive to shoot officers also arose from desire to gain plunder which came not only from the purse and jewelry worn by the officers but also the lace that adorned their uniforms. Historian Scott Mylerly points out that lace could be used as barter for food. Realizing that fancy uniforms could attract unwelcomed bullets, the British Clothing Board suggested in 1811 that caps and jackets for officers could be adapted after that worn by the men. The practice of removing items from an officers uniform items was not limited to the British either. John Malcom of the 42nd Regiment reports that before being driven off by their officers, French soldiers attempted to remove his epaulet. While Mylerly asserts that there was little to distinguish between officers and their men during the Peninsular Campaign, this may be more to the difficulties of campaign than by design. For instance, Kincaid reports that his green jacket had faded to a brown color.

The Retreat to Corunna saw the Rifle Brigade and Tom Plunket return to Hythe, England and for the better. The campaign had been a hard one and many suffered from starvation during the retreat. Weapons were rusted and had to be repaired or replaced. Their lice infested clothes were thrown into a pile and burned. Plunket received recognition during a parade during which Colonel Beckwith promoted him to corporal. Having been depleted, the Regiment went on to recruit and Plunket was among those chosen for this task. One stunt he demonstrated was the ease with which his green uniform could be kept. Unlike the red-coat of most British infantry with its white crossbelts that were difficult to keep spotless, Plunket descended a chimney, brushed himself off and presented himself ready for inspection by his recruits. The Regiments recruitment efforts garnered enough men to flush out not only the ranks of the existing two battalions but also to raise a third battalion. All three accompanied Wellington back to the Peninsula.

Plunket rose to Sergeant but falling victim to drink, defied the order of a more senior sergeant. Captain James H. K. Stewart (1st Company, 1st Battalion, 95th), confined Plunket to his quarters under arrest. Angered, Plunket loaded about a dozen rifles and placing himself at a window, waited for Capt. Stewart. Another officer intervened and convinced Plunket to surrender. When sobered, Plunket fully appreciated his actions and expressed regrets. However, the gravity of his crime could not go unpunished and sentencing included demotion and 300 lashes (he received only 35 before Colonel Beckwith ceased the administration). Plunket recovered soon enough and regained his status as a favorite of the officers and became a corporal again. He survived the Peninsular campaign unhurt and fought at Waterloo where he received an injury on the forehead.

Discharged for bad character from the 95th on Nov. 10, 1817, he purportedly enlisted into a red coat regiment and came across his old Colonel, now General, Sir Sidney Beckwith. Plunket emigrated to Canada in response to a government offer to settle pensioners there, found it not to his liking, and returned to England where he died in 1850.

4v50 Gary
December 4, 2005, 04:15 PM
During the Civil War, it was written that [sharpshooters] are not likely often to be taken prisoners, as death is considered their just penalty; for as they very seldom are in a position to show mercy, so, in like manner, is mercy rarely shown to them. Another soldier explained it more fully: There was an unwritten code of honor among the infantry that forbade the shooting of men while attending to the imperative calls of nature, and these sharpshooting brutes were constantly violating that rule. I hated sharpshooters, both Confederate and Union, and I was always glad to see them killed.

I just submitted an article that discusses this esoteric issue more fully to a magazine and the editor is interested. :D

P95Carry
December 4, 2005, 04:18 PM
Probably Gary - very little different fron modern day attitudes toward snipers - they are the guys who for sure do NOT want to be found by enemy forces!!!!

4v50 Gary
December 11, 2005, 04:10 PM
It took two weeks, but I just finished an article about the French & Indian War that I will submit to Muzzle Blasts magazine. It's the publication of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association and is based out of Friendship, Indiana. It discusses something about aimed fire versus volley fire and mentions the need for riflemen. I'm sending it along with pics on Monday.

Anyhow, here's the bedtime story for the week: "Cain was 17 years old when enlisted. He was made fourth corporal for his gallantry in battle, and was killed by a sharp-shooter at Petersburg, Virginia, June 26, 1864. We were behind breastworks. He made a little fire just in the rear of the line, and was making some coffee in a tin cup. I was looking at him, and saw him fall forward in the fire, before I heard the report of the gun, which was fired from a point at least three-quarters of a mile distant. The bullet passed through poor Frank’s head."

4v50 Gary
December 18, 2005, 11:56 AM
The following is a newspaper report of General McClellan's advance up the Yorktown Peninsula (April, 1862):

"The army, under the immediate command of General McClellan, left camp at daylight, the advance being as far as Cockesyville. Soon after starting, the heavens became black with large, heavy clouds, heavy shower of rain. Very soon it began to rain, flooding the roads - especially those through the woods - so as to be almost impassable. The infantry pushed on, overcoming all obstacles. The cavalry and artillery dashed on pell-mell through, all anxious to get ahead. General McClellan and staff were but a short distance behind the advance.

About 10 o'clock, on the morning of the 5th, the boooming of the first gun was heard. It electrified the whole line. Overcoats, blankets, haversacks, &c., were thrown away by the anxious soldiers, each regiment vying with the other to be first in. The roads became terrible for locomotion the further we advanced; mud holes, ruts, sloughs, &c., seeemed to go far towards making up the road.

The line of battle was formed about 10 o'clock, Berdan's Sharpshooter in the advance. As the various columns arrived on the ground, they at once began to take their respective positions. Gen. Porter's Division had the center, Gen. (John) Sedgwick the extreme right, Gen. (Charles Smith) Hamilton and Gen. ("Baldy") Smith the extreme left.

A heavy pine forest intercepted the troops, except occasional clearings, which gave a distinct view of the enemy's entrenchments. These entrenchments seemed to be of the first-class style, and mounted with heavy guns, supposed to have come from the Norfolk Navy Yard.

Soon after the firing commenced, the enemy recognized Gen. Porter and staff, and at once opened upon him with shell, one of which burst within twenty feet of the General.

The fight was carried on almost entirely with artillery, with the exception of Berdan's Sharpshooters. Weeden's Battery opened first, followed by Martin's on the left. Sooon Griffin's Third Rhode Island and Fifth Massachusetts were in position, and the battle commenced in earnest. The discharges were rapid on the Union side, answered, at intervals, by the enemy.

The first man struck was J. Reyonolds, of the Rhode Island Battery. Poor fellow, he was struck by a piece of shell. Two of Col. Sam Black's men were next hit by a round shot - a thirty-tow (pounder) - tearing the knapsack off one one. One was wounded slightly; while the other was mortally wounded.

The heaviest firing commenced at half-past twelve; Morell's brigade, on the left, advanced with in three-quarters of a mile of the entrenched enemy.

The sharpshooters, with their telescopic rifles, kept the enemy away from their guns. They crept within half a mile of the rebels. For one hour they did not reply, our sharpshooters popping them off as soon as they attempted to load.

At one o'clock Capt. Martin's battery had two men killed, five wounded, and three horses dead. The two men killed were named Lewis and Lord.

Three of Berdan's Sharpshooters were at this time wounded, and one killed - a man from New Hampshire. He was shot through the forehead by a musket ball. Lieut. Colonel Ripley killed the man who shot him, thus avenging his death. Mr. way, of company C (Berdan's) was shot in the arm, a bad flesh wound; Corporal Pech, shot in the leg; Mr. Wilcox, of company C, bruised by a shell.

About seven o'clock Allen's 5th Massachusetts relieved the 4th Rhode Island, the Rebels all day, when opportunity offering, trying to shell out the sharpshooters, without avail. Griffin's Battery received no loss, although batteries at their side lost several.

During the day the Rebels fired a small piece of ordnance, of one-inch bore, rifled, at the Berdans.

After Griffin's battery was brought into action it silenced three guns of the Rebels.

The artillerist acted nobly during the whole engagement. They took their position, and maintained it until ordered to move.

D. H. Phelps, of Company H, Berdan's Sharpshooters, was brought in about dusk, wounded in the shoulder by a piece of shell.

Butterfield's and Martindale's brigades acted nobly during the day - both reclining on their arms, within range of the enemy's guns throughout the day.

Heavy firing closed with the day; but during the night the pickets occasionally could be heard banging away, far in advance.

Prof. Lowe at the close of the day, sent his balloon up, for the purpose of a reconnaisance."

(Gary's Commentary: The Berdan sharpshooter fatality was Private John Ide of Company E. Lt. Col. Ripley braved the storm of bullets, walked over to Ide's rifle, picked it up, adjusted the scope, and fired one shot that brought the Rebel down from his tree perch.)

4v50 Gary
December 24, 2005, 03:14 PM
This post is dedicated to Jesse & the Dep. Marshal gang at the Federal Building @ 455 Golden Gate.

And now for the (old) news:

"The heavy skirmishing in front of Fort Stevens in the vicinity of the Seventh street road, yesterday afternoon, continued until after dark.

The rebels held a position in the woods, from which they threw out skirmishers, who crept along the ground or fired from behind trees. At one time, they succeeded in getting within range of the fort, and their sharpshooters were enabled to pick off our gunners, two of whom were wounded. The rebels used no artillery, but their movements indicated that they were endeavoring to plant a battery to bear on Fort Stevens, and in order to frustrate their designs the fort threw shells occasionally amongst them...

The house of F. P. Blair has not been burned out as reported yesterday, the rebels appear to be using it as a hospital, as they were seen to carry some of their wounded into it. The houses of Mrs. Reeves and Mrs. Carberry, on either side of the Seventh street road, were occupied by rebel sharpshooters, who annoyed our troops somewhat. During the afternoon they picked off three of our sergeants, shooting them through the head.

It was found necessary to destroy quite a number of houses on either side of the Seventh street road to prevent them being occupied by the rebel sharpshooters."

4v50 Gary
January 2, 2006, 03:52 PM
On the 9th of May my orders were to march the division from near Chancellorsville to a place named Gate on the map, on the north side of Nye river, and near where the Fredericksburg pike crosses that river toward Spotsylvania Court-House. Finding the enemy in small force at the bridge, I drove his skirmishers across, and Christs brigade leading, crossed the division and took position within 1 1/4 miles of Spotsylvania Court-House, where we repulsed repeated assaults of the enemy, and finally entrenched ourselves. I was re-enforced by the First Division about 12 pm, after the fighting was over, except sharpshooting, in which, the next morning [May 10], the gallant Brigadier-General Stevenson, commanding the First Division, was killed.

Before the war, Thomas G. Stevenson was involved in the states militia where he was commissioned as a major and enjoyed a reputation as a drillmaster. At wars outbreak, he raised the 24th Massachusetts and participated in Burnsides Carolina Expedition along with other coastal operations. He was involved in the reduction of Battery Wagner on Morris Island. Afterwards, he was sick with malaria (63-64). Upon recovery, he returned to duty under Burnside as a division commander. Stevensons Division was pushing forward when he decided to break for lunch. Seeking shelter beneath the shade of a tree, Stevenson and his staff were eating when one of his officers suggested in jest that they exchange places. Before Stevenson could respond, a bullet struck him in the back of his head and blew out his temple.

4v50 Gary
January 11, 2006, 12:16 AM
We all know how many close calls George Washington had during his career. As a young officer serving as an aide to General Edward Braddock, he was shot at numerous times and his clothing pierced, but fortune's hand saved Washington for noble reasons yet unknown to him. A little over 20 years later, he would lead the Continental Army during which time he came under fire but again emerged unscathed to help forge a nation.

Another future president would also enjoy very good fortune. General U. S. Grant was almost an early war casualty when, at the Battle of Belmont (Nov. 7, 1861), he rode within 50 yards of approaching Confederates before realizing it. Confederate General Leonidas Polk spotted him and instructed his men, “There is a Yankee; you may try your marksmanship on him if you wish.” Despite Polk’s suggestion, Grant rode away unmolested.

Unpretentious, Grant learned to disdain the fancier trappings of an officer and often wore a private’s coat with his shoulder straps being the only suggestion of his rank. Resting his elbows on the top of an observation tower, Grant was studying the Confederate lines through his binoculars when one Johnny Reb spotted him. Mistaking Grant for a common line officer, he used obscenities in warning Grant not to expose himself needlessly. A Confederate captain caught Johnny yelling at the “Yankee” officer and instead of ordering him to shoot the “Yankee,” he chastised Johnny for speaking offensively to an officer - albeit an enemy one surveying their lines. His dignity undisturbed, Grant heeded the warning and didn’t expose himself any further.

4v50 Gary
January 24, 2006, 11:19 PM
Been busy and just learned that an article I wrote has been tentatively scheduled for release in the May, 2006 issue of Muzzle Blasts magazine. It's the third confirmed article for this year and I'm still waiting for word on another five. Anyhow, here's a statement from an allied soldier who served on the side of the Rebels during the American Revolutin: 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. The outsider who came to America and supported our fight for liberty is Lafayette.

4v50 Gary
January 31, 2006, 02:35 AM
Sharpshooters, like snipers, should use their ballistic advantage and engage their opponent from a distance. The possibility of close quarter combat was one reason why some British snipers in WW II also carried a Sten submachinegun. Here's an account of a sharpshooter whose company went out to engage artillery and were suddenly flanked by infantry. Fighting from as close as 50 yards, they would have been better off with shotguns than target rifles. Not surprisingly, they suffered heavy casualties and were overrunned.

“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 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."

4v50 Gary
February 7, 2006, 12:30 AM
Concerning the book, I touched based with my editor last week who says that a schedule is being worked out on it. Goodie, but I still don't know when the manuscript will be back.

Anyhow, not everyone who qualified to be a sharpshooter enlisted in a sharpshooting unit. Some marksmen preferred to serve alongside their neighbors and fought in regular units as a common infantryman. There's no dishonour in it and if it gives a unit an edge, all the better. Not all marksmen need place their leaden bullet into an opponent to serve their side. Today's story concerns a marksman who served in another way. In fact, this bedtime story has no real battefield lesson from which an aspiring or experienced sniper could learn anything. Still, it's fun and while this definitely won't be in the book, I thought you might enjoy it.

"Those of my readers who get their rations at Culver's meat shop know 'Billy Bunker,' and know that he can cut a steak or roast in the most approved style. And you may perhaps know that Billy is a dead shot, and can bring down a deer, a duck, or a turkey, every time. But you may not know that Billy was one of the brave boys of the 100th, and once cracked his rifle at the enemies of the Union, as cooly as he would at a turkey; for Billy is a modest man, and unless you have drawn him out, he has not told you. On the march of our army to Chattanooga, he got sick - had a run of fever. When he was convalescing, as the regiment was about to move, Surgeon Heise gave hm his choice, either to go back to a hospital, or to keep up with the regiment riding in an ambulance. Billy is not one of those who like to go back, and so he choose the latter, and kept on to Chattanooga, and out to the front at Gordon's Mills. He was in the divison field hospital when the fight began, and lay there a long time, listening to its grim music, until he could endure it no longer, and seizing his musket, took his place in the ranks, and put in a couple of hours hard work, by which time he was so exhausted that he had to lay down, and when the regiment fell back, he was left. Surgeon Woodruff, coming along with his ambulance, picked up the wounded, saw Billy lying there, and asked him what he was there for, and telling him that the enemy would soon have the ground, it behooved him to be on his travels. When he found that Billy was used up, he told him to creep into the ambulance. He did so, and was taken back to the hospital again. Well, the hospital came within the enemy's lines next day, as we have related, and, after two or three days, a rebel officer came around to parole those who were not disabled, to go to Atlanta, and await further orders. Bill did not want to travel in that direction, and he manged to keep out of sight while the rebel officer was around. A few days after, an arrangement was made by Rosecrans with the rebel authorities, to have the seriously wounded sent into our lines, and accordingly, a rebel officer came around to parole them, and to see that everything was done according to the terms of the agreement. Billy got wind of the matter, and, with the surgeon's consent, he had crawled into a vacant cot, and got covered up. Being still thin and pale, he was supposed to be a wounded man, and was paroled as such. When the ambulance came around for the wounded, he was helped in by two men - his leg and footh swathed with blankets - while another great blanket hung over his shoulders, beneath which he had concealed a half dozen canteens which he had filled with whisky from the hospital stores, and was bound to keep from the rebels; and so he got back to Chattanooga, and escaped the horrors of Andersonville, and save me the necssity of writing his obituary.

"I have only one criticism to make on Billy's conduct. Whatever casuists might say, I think he did perfectly right in humbugging the rebels, but, in my opinion, he ought to have left them the whisky, as the more they had of that commodity, the worse off they would be! I am afraid, too, that Billy never reported it at the commissary's, and can't show Sergt. Garnsey's receipt for it."

4v50 Gary
February 19, 2006, 03:27 PM
Well, one article was rejected but I'll submit to another magazine instead. I've also been working all week to summarize one 40 page chapter into a magazine length article. Talk about tough work.

Here's something to ponder. Can you guess who they're talking about?

The whole male... had been trained the use of firearms from youth upwards.... Accustomed to exertion and to privation, the[y] possessed all the qualities which form the foundation necessary for success in war...

Thus was strengthened the self-confidence of the individual rifleman who, in the field, remained always more a hunter than a soldier. The idea was that, in a fight, it was only necessary to defeat the adversary while securing his own safety, and that a hand-to-hand struggle at all costs to be avoided. The tactics was based solely upon the employment of individual and independent riflemen who, owing to the peculiarities of their race, were only unwilling subordinates, unless the objective were immediately plain to all eyes... [T]hey had learned, what a terrible weapon a rifle with sufficient ammunition in the hands of an experienced shot.

Preacherman
February 20, 2006, 09:35 AM
Not necessarily sharpshooting, but certainly "sharp shooting" - received this via e-mail from a friend:


Submitted without comment from the Perspectives column of Military History magazine, March 2006 issue, by Wayne Austerman:

"During the Union siege of Port Hudson, La.,in the early summer of 1863, Captain Richard M. Boone, commander of a Confederate battery, lost a leg just below the hip when shrapnel from a shell burst ripped into him. As he lay rapidly bleeding to death from his grievous wound, he ordered his men to pick up the severed limb , load it into a howitzer and fire it back at the Yankees..."

Old Dragoon
February 20, 2006, 10:38 AM
4V50Gary,
Would they be talking about the Americans in the revolutionary war?

4v50 Gary
February 20, 2006, 12:51 PM
No, it's not our own riflemen. BTW, the organization of the book is as follows:

Chapter 1 French & Indian War (still trying to get a couple of articles printed)
Chapter 2 American Revolution (excerpts published in Jan. & Oct. 2005 Muzzle Blasts magazine).
Chatper 3 Napoleonic Wars including the War of 1812 (excerpts published in Aug & Nov. 2003 Muzzle Blasts & in May-June (?) 2005 MuzzleLoader magazines).
Chapter 5. Interwar Wars (article to be released in May, 2005) Note: Chapter 5 does has a different title but "Interwar Wars" sounds awfully funny to me at this moment. Maybe "Wars during the years of Peace is better."
Chapters 6-13 Mother of American Family Feuds/Civil War (articles to be released in Fall & Winter's The Military Collector and Historian, publication of The Company of Military Historians.) Still trying to condense one chapter into a magazine length article and from forty pages to six is TOUGH. Of these chapters, Chapter 7 (90 pages), is the most important chapter and is likely the only one that will be interesting to a professional historian. The articles are excerpts drawn from Chapter 7.

There's also a post ACW chapter and a chapter on firearms, three appendices, a 34 page bibliography and index. It's a book written with the shooting community (especially snipers) in mind. It might also be of interest to the blackpowder community and the Civil War enthusiasts. Thanks for asking.

4v50 Gary
February 28, 2006, 09:33 PM
I finished reading Fred Ray's book last Saturday and wrote this review which you can also read at Amazon.com. If you're going to buy it, please buy it direct from him at his website (link posted above) rather than through Amazon. More prophets (sp :p ) to the author.

Not since a century ago when in 1899 Maj. W. S. Dunlop penned, Lee’s Sharp Shooters or the Forefront of Battle, has a book been written on the Confederate Sharpshooter battalions. Until now. Author Fred L. Ray, himself a descendent of a sharpshooter, devoted years of research into the Confederate sharpshooter and the sharpshooter battalions in the Army of Northern Virginia. His book, Shock Troops of the South, begins with a brief discussion linear warfare beginning with the hoplite armies of ancient Greece and moves quickly onto early riflemen both in America and abroad and finally, the European influence on antebellum officers who rose to positions of prominence in the Confederacy.

Mr. Ray discusses how the need for a more professional skirmisher capable of screening the line of battle led to raising of sharpshooter battalions in the Confederacy. He identifies the early proponents of whom Major Eugene Blackford, Fifth Alabama, figures prominently. In describing their battles, the author shows how they influenced battles and in so doing, influenced Lee into raising similar battalions throughout his army. What follows is a exhaustive but highly readable study of the actions of the sharpshooter battalions in the Overland Campaign, Early’s Raid on Washington and the Siege of Petersburg. Shock Troops of the South fills the gaps created Dunlop’s work of a century earlier.

Shock Troops of the South does not neglect their Union counterparts nor the Confederate sharpshooters who fought in other theatres. While not as extensively researched, Mr. Ray does leave the reader with an adequate appreciation of what happened elsewhere. He concludes with a discussion of the open order used by the Confederate sharpshooters and how their tactics came to be used by later armies in World War I. A worthy addition to the shelf of any student of the Civil War, Shock Troops of the South was worth the hundred year wait.

Without further adieu, here's the bedtime story for today. Enjoy. The following is an account of one frontiersman who shot an Indian from 500 yards distance.

“One day my Uncle P. saw an Indian up by the rock on the hill across from the house. He always kept a rifle just inside the door for emergencies, and there were rifles in every corner of every room of the house. My uncle knew just where to aim at the rock, because he often shot at it for target practice and he never missed. He was standing just outside the door at the time, and the door was open. All of a sudden the Indian saw my uncle in the doorway, and jumping up on the rock and turning his back toward Uncle P., he bent over and flipped up his breechclout. By this time my uncle had picked up his rifle, and when the Indian bent over he killed him right where he used to sit down. God rest his soul.”

Now, our hero in this story, P., did something similar to what many modern snipers would do. He would identify a tree or rock or even drive a stake into the ground as a marker so that he would know the hold for various distances. That way, he didn't have to guess and adjust his sights. He'd know the exact distance, adjust and shoot. Who was P? Well, his story is in the book.

4v50 Gary
March 8, 2006, 11:21 PM
Bravery does not compel one to expose himself to marksmen. Here's the story of one fellow who was given the order to lay down by a marksman who delivered his message in the form of a lead minie ball.

We had a little excitement this morning. About half past eleven oclock a small boat with between 15 & 20 Yankees left the shipping in the sound and was rowed towards the landing where Wrights legion is camped, near the lookout on the bay tree which I showed you. From the lookout the pickets saw them approaching and permitted them to come within 800 yards. The boat commenced to turn back & the pickets commenced to fire with their Enfield Rifles and scattered their balls all about the boat. As soon as the first shot was fired the Yankees all lay flat in the boat except one fellow who had a glass looking toward the shore. Deliberate aim was taken at him, and at the crack of the rifle he fell forward on his face, quite likely he was killed.

4v50 Gary
March 16, 2006, 08:03 PM
Sieges can be both tedious and dangerous with the slightest careless exposure being rewarded by instant death in the form of a sharpshooter's bullet. While sitting in the trench, men amused themselves by playing cards or somethings even checkers. Two soldiers were engaged in the latter and one became irate when his opponent took an inordinate amount of time to move. Finally, he could not wait any more and prodded his opponent to MOVE. The fellow didn't respond and when the irate player looked at his opponent, he saw why. His opponent was dead, struck by a sharpshooter's bullet.

4v50 Gary
March 22, 2006, 11:56 PM
The reason why the book is so long is because it relies extensively on quote from the combatants. It could be shortened if I summarized everything, but hearing it firsthand and allowing the reader to interpret it himself makes for better reading (in my opinion). The following is an incident by an officer who survived being hit by a Federal sharpshooter.

"The afternoon before the battle, our command was ordered to take position in line. A force of dismounted cavalry occupied the field, and were lying behind a low ridge of earth they had hastily thrown up to protect themselves from the enemy's sharpshooters. We were ordered to relieve them, which we did, under a galling fire from concealed riflemen. Again was our position unfortunately chosen, being too far back from the brow of the slight eminence where we were posted, and an angle or salient about the centre of the line occupied by Edgar's battalion was thrown too far forward and exposed our part of the line to a concentrated fire from the enemy. But we now had to make the most of it and stand or fall where we were.

"No sooner had we settled ourselves in our position than our men, who were handy with dirt--being most of them farmers and laboring men--set themselves to strengthening our breastworks, and it was not long before they presented a pretty fair protection against the constant fire from the enemy's pickets and sharp shooters, who were strongly posted in a piece of wood land immediately in our front. So galling did this fire become, that Colonel Edgar determined to dislodge the force of pickets if possible, and ordered out a skirmish line consisting of two companies. But they met such a well-directed fire from the protected enemy, that they could not proceed far, and had to throw themselves flat upon the ground and behind logs and stumps to escape annihilation. One by one they made their way back to the breastworks, many of them wounded and several left dead in the timber; among the wounded were Captain Read and Lieutenant Patton.

"The day wore on, the sun was getting down in the west, and the enemy were evidently massing in our front, while his sharpshooters were so vigilant and expert at their business that a head could hardly show itself above our earthwork without getting a ball through it. A hat put on a ramrod and raised a little would be perforated in a jiffy. It was evident that the enemy was thus endeavoring to prevent his movements from being seen, and I felt sure that he was massing troops under the hill in the woods, with the design of charging our exposed position, and determined to risk a peep at them. I ordered the men to keep low while I cautiously raised my head, and at one quick glance saw a heavy column of men in blue flanking towards our left, though partially concealed by the timber. At the same time I saw a puff of smoke issue from behind a big pine, perhaps four hundred yards in my front. I instantly ducked my head; the next second a minie-ball cut the dirt just behind me. Satisfied that the fellow was far enough away for me to dodge his ball by the flash of his gun, I again raised my head, took a good, long look, and saw more troops moving to the left, but another puff of smoke warned me to duck again, and again a ball cut the earth where my head had been.

"I then dispatched a runner to my commanding officer to tell him what I had seen, and that our line was too weak to withstand the anticipated charge, and subsequently heard that Finnegan with his Floridanians were ordered up within supporting distance in our rear. Then calling the best riflemen in my company to me, I pointed out the place where my enemy stood behind the tree and told him to watch. Soon the man's head moved cautiously around the tree, and my man fired. He disappeared instantly, and thinking he had been settled, I raised and looked in another direction, when instantly I felt a shock, like a red-hot iron had pierced my brain. I experienced a great jar, saw a thousand stars, and then all was blank, and I saw no more of that fight."

4v50 Gary
April 1, 2006, 03:49 PM
I rode out one day about a week ago with our wagon after hay, - came to where our pickets were stationed, -they were in full view of the Yankees, a few hundred yards off on the opposite hill. The Yankees were firing at our men with long range guns, but ours could not return it, as they have only old muskets. I have a splendid Sharps carbine, which will kill at a thousand yards. I dismounted...and turned loose on them...I had to fire at them most of the time in a thick field of corn, - of course, could not tell the effect, - but once, when a fellow ran out into the road (in which I stood) to shoot at me, it took several to carry him back.

The writer is quite a famous person and there's a lot of stories and myths told about him to this day. He's identified in Chapter 6.

4v50 Gary
April 9, 2006, 04:51 PM
On Friday I received a large box from a museum supply house. I had ordered 250 mylar covers like the type used by libraries to protect dust jackets. So far 50 have been used up and I'll concentrate on covering another 50 today. For those of you who didn't know, protecting a book's dustjacket helps to preserve the value of the book - especially if the book has been autographed by the author. A lot of my modern books have been autographed too by the professors or researchers with whom I've corresponded over these past years. I should get three books back from a former writer of Strategy & Tactics magazine who is editing one of my articles for publication. Enough dry talk. Here's a bedtime story for this week. Enjoy!

“A sergeant discomoded by shot, while cross the bridge, took refuge in a ditch on the other side, but heard a bullet whistle whenever he raised his head: he put his hat on a ram rod just showing it above the edge, moved ten feet to the right and watched. A rebel peeped from the leaves of a tree top, rose up higher and took aim; a good shot for the sergeant, and down came Mr. Rebel with a yell; he was afterwards dragged away by his comrades..."

sm
April 9, 2006, 05:03 PM
Gary,

Been awhile since I simply said Thanks!

Thanks!

Steve

Duncaninfrance
April 9, 2006, 06:16 PM
Tom Plunket ended his days in London selling matches and the best efforts of his old commanding officer to obtain a good pension for him did not save him from alcoholism.
Duncan

4v50 Gary
April 16, 2006, 03:53 PM
"About 2 p.m. the enemy opened fire on us before we saw them, and a perfect hurricane of bullets rushed over our heads and around us... Our reinforcements arrived slowly and theirs came by the thousands... At this time, three shots fell between Capt. B. and myself, evidently aimed at him from the tree-tops, and I discovered the fellow by the smoke from his gun. Capt. B. gave me leave to go and pick him off, which I did. In loading his piece he exposed a portion of his body; I fired and down he came, a dead man..."

Now, time wasn't exactly a precise thing back in the 19th Century. It's not like everyone synchronized their watches before battle (yet alone carried watches). Most folks went by the clocks on their town hall or the train station(s) which had to be coordinated since accidents could happen if they weren't. So, in reading about "time" during a battle, remember that it wasn't necessarily precise and this gives some rise to conflicting accounts.

More importantly, there is a significance to this one sharpshooting incident. But I won't tell it here.

muzzlegun
April 22, 2006, 12:31 PM
In his book, "Our Rifles", written in 1920, Charles Winthrop Sawyer describes
nearly every long and short arm used by and against our armies from the
time of the American Revolution through "The Great War". He insists on
calling rifles used for killing at long range as snipper rifles, saying:

"The modern pronounciation "snipe-er" and "snipe-ing" is incorrect. There is
no verb "snipe" from which to derive these words. The verb snip, meaning to
cut quickly, to clip, originally furnished the words snipper and snipping, and
snipping expresses exactly the performance of taking deliberate aim from
ambush and clipping the life of an unsuspecting victim. It is all right in the
interest of brevity to omit the second p in spelling, but it is all wrong to
pronounce these words inanely."

Any thoughts on his etymology?

4v50 Gary
April 22, 2006, 01:58 PM
Sawyers makes a good point, but recall when the term was coined by the English, spelling in those days left a lot to be desired. Phonetics is not a new thing and I've read letters written by English noblemen/officers who spelt the same name two different ways in the same paragraph. That said, the term "sniper" as currently used is now the accepted form and "snipe" today is a verb. BTW, Sawyers is cited in my work.

And now for the bedtime story of the week: A soldier, whose term of enlistment had expried, went about in the trench bidding the boys good-bye. [Gary's note: Obviously he's a Union soldier since the Corn-fed army didn't let anyone muster out unless he was transferred to another unit, discharged for disability or dead] [He] was going to get out of the trench and march to the rear. We advised him to wait until after sunset when the sharpshooters couldn't see him, but he was anxious to get away. He said just before mounting the bank, "I hope to meet you all when the war is over." He jumped out of the trench and faced us as he bid us his last good-bye. We all heard a thud and the soldier dropped dead before us without a groan or a movement of a muscle. It saddened us to think that if he had been more patient, and could have waited until night, how different might have been the result. The Rebel bullet struck the comrade in the forehead.

I'm leaving for Virginia next week, will be off-line and won't be back until mid-may. I'll spend a couple of days in the National Archives to research just one soldier for a photospread in my book (yes, the manuscript has been finished and this is one of those extras that will add to the book's appeal) and to meet with the editor (and find out what is going on). Then I'll run about the countryside, lollygag and visit battlefields. Will be meeting with one notable park ranger (and perhaps a few more). Behave yourselves and if you have a bedtime story, please share it here.

4v50 Gary
May 14, 2006, 07:22 PM
Spent some more time in the National Archives in Washington. You can never spend too much time and everytime I've been there, the scope of the search expands and then they kick you out because they're closing the doors at night.:rolleyes: I guess the staff wants to go home and have supper and get some sleep. So, I'd catch the Metro back to my quarters and read books at night.

Also ran around the Ole Dominion and the sights around the Yorktown Peninsula. Unfortunately, no one knew where the tree was that the black-Confederate sharpshooter used as a hide until California Joe put a bullet into him. The good news is that the Crater at Petersburg hasn't been filled in by vandals (OK, erosion has filled it from the days when it was a deep hole). After swinging by Appomattox Court House and crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains, I reached Lexington where Jackson and Lee are both buried. The Lewis & Clark airgun at the Virginia Military Institute was not displayed because the Museum is getting a face-lift. Dropped into Harper's Ferry for a day as well as Gettysburg. At Chancellorsville, I met one fellow, C., whose great-grandpappy served under Jeb Stuart. His grandpappy fought in the 5th Virginia Cavalry, a unit mentioned in my book. That same day at nearby Spotsylvania I caught two out of three ranger led talks (one talk covered a battle that is discussed in the book).

Since Petersburg was mentioned, here's a bedtime story from that battlefield:

"On June 29 I made a remarkably good shot. I was in the trenches, a little to the left of the path, & I saw a man walking from the enemys middle line back to the rear line in a direction straight from me. I was in DuBoses Georgia brigade, & I said, Look at that fellow! Lend me a gun & let me try him. I fixed the sight at 800 yards, took a very careful aim & fired. The man fell & the men around me, looking over [the] parapet gave a little hurrah at the shot. I think he was shot through a leg, for he did not lie there, but managed to scramble over a parapet which he had nearly reached when I shot.

Shanghai McCoy
May 15, 2006, 02:10 AM
Welcome back from your travels Gary,good story.I enjoyed the article in Muzzleblasts.Glad we got a chance to meet out at Sutters Fort.All the best,Paul

sm
May 15, 2006, 02:25 AM
Welcome back Gary.

Sounds like a fun and productive trip.

Steve

4v50 Gary
May 17, 2006, 09:00 PM
I spent some time at Colonial Williamsburg and met some nice folks who work as interpreters there. Turns out that we all read the same books including those by Tarleton, Simcoe, Lamb, etc. I gave them the address to this website and if you guys find it, Hello from the West Coast of the Colony of Virginia (according to the 1750 map this side of the Pacific was claimed by Virginia).

Here's something I dug up. It concerns the denied application for a widow's pension by Mary Murphy, wife of Tim Murphy. As we know, Tim Murphy was the famous rifleman who served with Morgan at Saratoga and is credited with shooting General Fraser from his horse. Read it and weep.

Pension Office
April 10, 1862

Sir,

The Declaration + proofs, of Mrs. Mary Murphy, widow of Timothy Murphy of N. Y. for a pension under the act of 3d February 1853 have been examined by this office.

The certificate of service of a man named Timothy Murphy, from the Comptroller's Office of New York, is dated February 9th 1857. and the Declaration + Affidavits for five years, and the retention of the declaration of Mrs. Murphy for one year + a half after execution, before presentation, without any explanation of the delay being offered, are facts not calculated to produce a favorable impression on the merits of her claim.

Nor is the claim itself supported by testimony in amy respect sufficient to secure a favorable action upon it. She is not identified as the widow of the soldier in Col. Harper's Regiment Capt. Bogart's company, to whom the pay certificates were issued for service in the year 1780. The fact that her husband bore the same name with that soldier is no proof that he was the same individual, and unless evidence of this is addressed, directly connecting him with that soldier she cannot receive the benefit of that service. It should be made to appear that that soldier + claimant's husband were both from the same town, and that there was no other person of the same name in it capable of bearing arms, or it should be shown by documentary evidence that her husband was the soldier.

The proof of the marriage is not satisfactory. Record evidence, public or private, should be prosecuted, on it must be shown by affidavit that none such is attainable + that there are no witnesses living who were present at the ceremony, before proof of the marriage relation of by general representation can be admitted as satisfactory.

A. G. Shaw, Esq.
Oncouta
Otsego County
New York

4v50 Gary
May 21, 2006, 10:02 PM
I've shared a lot of sharpshooting anecdotes here. Perhaps it's time to look at another aspect of the blackpowder sharpshooter. Modernly, to become a sniper today one must first be a good soldier. Marksmanship must be excellent, service record equally excellent and the candidate must be in top physical form and pass a psychological to ensure that they're fit. It's a long arduous process and even if accepted into sniper school, some don't make the grade (kudos for trying though).

Well, during the American Revolution the standards were quite different and here's one German's description of the American riflemen: "As for the mountaineer, or the wild Scotch-Irish, this is a species of poor folk gathered from all the nations of the world. They dwell in miserable log cabins, in the mountains three to four hundred miles from the seacoast, and live from the chase. Since these people usually maintain relations from the Indians, who are their neighbors, they take pains to assume a wild appearance, which results naturally from their rough manner of living. They are excellent and dangerous shots, and can easily bring a folded bayonet off their leg. They choose their own leaders and pay no attention to discipline. He who falls into their hands as prisoners seldom keeps anything more than what nature gave him at birth."

muzzlegun
May 25, 2006, 11:49 PM
I found this nugget in a book called "One Night Stands With American History"
by Richard Shenkman and Kurt Reiger.

Several days before the Battle of Brandywine Creek, in September 1777, George
Washington and a French officer reconnoitered the area of land and water that
stretched between the American camp at Chad's Ford and the British camp at
Kennett Square, four miles away. George Washington always preferred doing
his own reconnaissance, especially in a case such as this, where only a few
paltry maps of the region were available. Of course, it was dangerous for the
commander of the American army to take to unprotected fields, but
Washington was the kind of man who willingly took risks when he had to. At
times he was downright reckless. A few days before, on another reconnoit-
ering mission, he slept in a house that a friend suspected was filled with
British sympathizers.

As he travelled about, Washington seemed completely oblivious to the threat
of attack. He took few precautions and galloped everywhere. At one point,
following the Frenchman, he rode into a clearing in the woods - where he
would be an easy target for even the worst rifleman.

Unfortunately, hiding nearby was a band of four British shapshooters who
had thrown themselves to the ground at the sound of approaching horses.
The leader of the soldiers was one Patrick Ferguson, a master marksman,
who had invented a deadly accurate rifle that weighed only seven and a
half pounds. Ferguson was on his very first campaign, having convinced
the government, after an amazing performance before King George III, of
the usefulness of sharpshooters.

When the Frenchman and Washington rode up, Ferguson saw a golden
opportunity to prove the worth of his outfit. Obviously the pair were
important. One was wearing Hussar, the other a buff and blue uniform and
"a remarkable large cocked hat," as Ferguson later noted. Instantly Ferguson
notified his men "to steal near to them and fire at them." But as his men
readied, Ferguson peremptorily withdrew his order. He had suddenly decided
it would be better to capture the stately pair than to kill them. Without
hesitating, he shouted out to the Frenchman, who was nearer, ordering him
to dismount. The Frenchman ignored the command, however, and called out
a warning to his friend in buff and blue. Washington promptly wheeled his
horse around and made off, with the Frenchman close behind. The two men
then sped back to the American lines, safe and unharmed.

During the Battle of Brandywine, Ferguson was wounded in the elbow of his
shooting arm and sent to a hospital. There he told of his encounter with
the two enemy officers and aroused curiosity as to the identity of the
escaped men, whom he descibed in detail. One morning, as Ferguson sub-
sequently recalled, a surgeon, "who had been dressing the wounded rebel
officers, came in and told us they had been informing him that General
Washington was all that day with the light troops, and only attended by a
French officer in Hussar dress, he himself dressed and mounted in every
point as described."

Ferguson afterwards remarked, "As I was within that distance at which in
the quickest firing, I could have lodged half a dozen of balls in or about him
before he was out of my reach, I had only to determine; but it was not
pleasant to fire at the back of an unoffending individual who was acquitting
himself coolly of his duty, and so I left him alone."

In 1779, Ferguson lost his life in a battle he might well have prevented from
ever taking place had he, on September 7, 1777, killed the commander of
the American army.

Source: Reginald Hargreaves, "The Man Who Almost Shot Washington,"
American Heritage, December 1955, pp. 62-65

4v50 Gary
June 1, 2006, 08:02 PM
Can a single shot determine the outcome? Read and judge for yourself:

“Well, we started, and the long line of sabre bayonets came down together... as we crossed the crest and with a roar of cheers... dashed on. It was an ecstasy of excitement for a moment... The foe, breathless from their long tug over the heavy ground, seemed to dissolve all at once into a quivering and disintegrating mass and to scatter in all directions. Upon this we halted and opened fire, and the view of it through the smoke was pitiful. They were falling everywhere; white handkerchiefs were held up in token of surrender. No bullets were coming our way except from a clump of trees in front of our left. Here a group of men, led by an officer whose horse had just fallen, were trying to keep up the unequal fight, when... The crack shot of Company D ran forward a little and sent a bullet crashing through his brain. This was Lieutenant Colonel B and at his fall all opposition ceased. We gathered in some three hundred prisoners.”

I've a lot more to say about it, but that'll have to wait for later. For those of you who get The Skirmish Line (magazine of the N-SSA), the April-May-June edition has my article about the first day's battle of Fredericksburg beginning on page 38. MuzzleBlasts (May) has my article on sharpshooting in the percussion era right before our Civil War.

4v50 Gary
June 10, 2006, 11:59 AM
Chapter 14 actually goes into WW I and discusses sniping. Chapter 14 ties in the past with sniping in WW I. You'll meet people who have been long forgotten here and learn of their contributions to sniping.

Now, onto our bedtime story that involves a blackpowder cartridge rifle right here in the USA. It's not quite a long range hit, but under the stress of an oncoming target is noteworthy.

As the Indians were coming in an oblique direction toward us, and as not a man in the company had yet fired a shot at an Indian from the new breech-loading fifty-caliber Springfield rifles with which we had just been armed, I sat down and adjusted my sights to seven hundred yards, and laying my rifle on top of a stone breastwork, took steady aim at the Indian in advance and fired. My bullet struck a stone in front of the Indian, ricocheted off and wounded his pony. The Indian was thrown off, but immediately sprang to his feet as his pony fell, and was taken up behind a mounted warrior who was following closely to his rear.

4v50 Gary
June 18, 2006, 02:40 AM
Trench warfare in WW I made the periscope a popular item among officers who wanted to observe or study the enemy lines. Both the Allies and the Central Powers resorted to them. Not surprisingly, they became targets of bored snipers. This was not unprecedented and it happened before during the American Family Feud (ACW):

[A]s it was impossible to look through a loop hole, he decided to try a mirror. Keeping his head below the level of the parapet, he cautiously stuck up one end of a small glass, held at such an angle as to reflect the enemys parapet down to his eye. In a minute a bullet smashed the glass in his hands & the marksman in the Federal trenches shouted out to him, Set it up again, Johnny!

4v50 Gary
June 24, 2006, 11:09 PM
It doesn't pay to distinguish yourself. I mentioned earlier that anyone riding a white horse and waving a sword tends to attract the attention of the men - including those of the enemy whose bullets will be drawn to the rider. Well, it's the same with sharpshooters. Don't draw attention as this one fellow did.

[O]n December 13th, our corps was attacked by Franklins 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 enemys 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.

The above will be included in my next article to be released in The Skirmish Line.

4v50 Gary
June 26, 2006, 11:49 PM
I've been the Gettysburg twice and the first time I spent 5 days there. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote about the battle around Devil's Den & Little Round Top:

"The terrain from Plum Ridge to Devils Den and all the way up to the Round Tops provided numerous places of cover for sharpshooters. These afforded lurking-places for a multitude of Confederate sharp-shooters whom, from the difficulties of the ground, it was impossible to dislodge, and who were opposed by similar methods on our part; so that at the close of the battle these hiding places, and especially the Den itself, were filled with dead and wounded men. This kind of warfare was specially destructive to Hazletts battery on Round Top, as the cannoneers had to expose themselves in firing, and in one case, three were shot in quick succession, before the fourth succeeded in discharging the piece.

Dr. Brady of the 16th Michigan recalls the fight: On this bare ledge they perched with no protection against the murderous fire of the Texas sharpshooters who were well concealed behind rocks and tree and in treetops, filling the broken ground in front and reaching to the well named Devils Den. Their Brigade Commander, Col. Strong Vincent, rushed over to rally them. While watching his troops from atop a boulder, his conspicousness made him a prime target. He was quickly shot down, his final command was, Dont give an inch! The Confederate line surged up to Little Round Top and hand to hand fighting ensued.

The guns mentioned earlier belonged to Lt. Charles E. Hazletts Battery D, 5th U. S. Artillery. Charles Edward Hazlett entered West Point at age 16 in 1855 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. A cavalryman for less than two weeks, he transferred to the artillery as a 1st Lieutenant. Before going into battle, Lt. Hazlett spoke with his commander, Captain Augustus P. Martin, V Corps Artillery. Capt. Martin recalls their conversation: For the first time during the year or more that Lieut. Hazlett had been under my command as division and corps Chief of Artillery, he hesitated., and turning to me said, I have just received bad news from home and I would rather someone else lead off today, besides, he said, I have a premonition that this will be my last battle. It didnt help that prior to the battle, Lt. Cog Hazlett had been warned by Col. Martin Harding, 12th Pennsylvania Reserves: Cog, a fight is shaping up; dont wear that white hat into battle. As there was no road on Little Round Top, the guns were manhandled up the hill. They arrived as part of General Stephen Weeds 3rd Brigade to reinforce Vincents beleaguered brigade. While Little Round Top was not the ideal artillery position, Hazlett fired upon the Confederates to encourage the wavering Federal infantry.

The intensity of the fire, along with the close-quarter fighting and ensuing confusion, on Little Round Top led to a partial collapse of the 16th Michigan. The Confederate break through was short lived as General Stephen Weeds brigade arrived almost immediately and restored the Union line. After being briefed by Cog Hazlett, Weed turned to direct his men. He was standing atop a rock at the crest to observe the effect of Hazletts battery. I had rather die on this spot than to see those rascals gain one inch of ground, he told Capt. Augustus Martin. Shortly after he spoke, he was struck in one shoulder. The bullet passed through his spine and exited out of the opposite shoulder. Falling to the ground, General Weed cried out: I am cut in two. I want to see Hazlett. Hazlett served under Weed when the latter was still an artilleryman and the two were friends. Hazlett immediately rushed to Weeds side and bent over him but never heard a word. He didnt have a chance as he was shot in the head. When Col. Harding next saw Cog, he was being carried away on a stretcher. Command of Hazletts battery fell on Lt. B. F. Rittenhouse who noted, most of the killed were shot in the head by sharpshooters.

P95Carry
June 26, 2006, 11:59 PM
Gary - since you bring up Gettysburg, always fascinating to me - let me show the link to my trip in 2004 to visit there. Some may find it of interest re some pics etc.

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?p=1226243#post1226243

It is in the old Round Table but still readable to me - hopefully also still to general membership, tho not sure.

4v50 Gary
July 6, 2006, 12:34 AM
I'm going to Washington this weekend. There's some books I'd like to see at the National Archives and also some things to see at the Library of Congress. I'm even going to catch Spamalot at the National Theatre. Also, the Editor will be returning Chapters 1-3. I'll be scouring it with a jaundiced eye to see what's left. :uhoh:

"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 of the Eighty-sixth 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.

4v50 Gary
July 16, 2006, 01:38 AM
When I arrived in Washington (actually, Ronald Reagan Airport), I hopped on the Metro and went to the National Archives. It had just reclosed :( and a couple of things I wanted to research would have to wait. Plan 2 called for going off to the Library of Congress which done with all speed (considering I was carrying at least 30 pounds on my back since I wouldn't reached my abode on the East Coast until the evening). Thankfully the Library of Congress (like the National Archives) has a place to drop off all your personal belongings (you may bring in a notebook computer but no paper - they provide the latter). I found quite a few items but for one I had to check the copyright to ensure that it wasn't renewed (it wasn't).

On Saturday I ran around with some friends there and even saw Spamalot. Finally figured out that dread French taunt, "You silly English Ka-neg-gits" meant "You silly English Knights." ;) Went briefly to the American History Museum to see if they corrected a gun exhibit which I informed them was incorrectly labelled. Well, the entire exhibit was gone with the wind (thanks to remodelling) so that's taken care of. Afterwards I went to the Natural History Museum and was delighted to find a Lewis & Clark exhibit there. They had an airgun which wasn't the Lewis & Clark airgun. It was more along the lines of a Girandoni (think Austro-Hungarian military repeater airgun). A docent heard me describe the airgun and then engaged me conversation about airguns of the period. Thanks to my research, I could speak authoritively on it (see Chapter 3 when it comes out).

On Sunday, I visited the Smithsonian's American Indian Museum. They have quite a nice collection of guns there including Geronimo's, Chief Joseph, one hobbled together by an Indian gunsmith and some modern guns like the M-16A1 and the German G-3 (how did that get there?). More importantly, they had a lot of pipe tomahawks on display (yay!) but some of the exhibit drawers couldn't be opened all the way. :mad: I wish they had more exhibit space so that more tribes could participate (some are permanent displays and others are rotated with guest curators from a particular tribe). After that museum, I went to the Renwick Gallery and had to walk by the Whitehouse (of all the times I've been to D. C., this was the first time I walked by that place). Two whole protestors out there. Yawn. :) Wanted to see the Grant Wood painting, American Gothic, but it had returned to Chicago. His dentist posed for the father and his sister Nan for the spinster daughter (and her face isn't as pinced as in the painting).

Monday was back to the Library of Congress where I found a pamphlet that I didn't have time to fish out on Friday. It was by a key player and I'm grateful to say that of that topic, NOTHING was learned. That confirmed that my research in that area was exhaustive. :D I barely got back to Ronald Reagan to catch my flight home.

Anyway, today I went to Duncan Mills in CA to see Civil War Days. It was fun to speak with a lot of reenactors and see their toys. Enough rambling. Now, here's our bedtime story:

“[A] detachment under First Sergt. Barrett was sent across the ‘Nine-mile Road’ to look after a part of the regular picket line, where several of our infantry men had been shot. Locating the enemy’s position, four of our Sharpshooters deployed, two on each side of the road, and advanced carefully through the brush some 200 yards where they lay quietly watching for further developments; but seeing or hearing nothing they rigged up a stick with a hat and coat, and shoved it out across the roadway, when instantly a report was heard and a bullet passed through the coat. The puff of smoke seeming to issue from the center of a tree 100 yards distant, the Sharpshooters then crawled forward to either side of the road, keeping under cover as much as possible, firing at the right and left side of the tree, the result being of a very damaging character to the concealed Johnny, he receiving his quietus. The company was frequently called on to perform service of this kind, to locate lurking foes and silence their guns.”

4v50 Gary
July 23, 2006, 01:36 AM
One Union lad decided to take upon himself to sharpshoot a Johnny. As we shall see, the would-be hunter became the hunted. This has been the longest day I ever knew. Early this morning I crept out beyond our lines, which were in the woods, to get a shot (at a Rebel) before breakfast. But the Rebels spied me and everyone within shooting distance opened on me. The consequence was that I had to stay behind a tree all day until dark. The sun was awful hot and I didnt have a mouthful to eat or drink. The soldiers on both sides were yelling at me: Do you want some water? old Butternut would ask. Well, we have a kettle on the fire heating for you, my friends would say.

sm
July 24, 2006, 02:40 PM
Gary,

Just wanted to say thanks again for not only posting on THR, TFL ,also for all the behind the scene research, writings and works you do.

Steve

swoter
July 26, 2006, 05:41 PM
By the way, when's the book coming out?

4v50 Gary
July 30, 2006, 11:33 PM
The question was raised, when will the book be out? I want it out this year, but am waiting for the editor. :scrutiny: I can tell you this much, there are at least 50 pages you won't have to read. :p Why? The 50 represent the bibliography and index. :eek: The index hasn't been reviewed yet either and I'm hoping I haven't left anything out from it.

No decided effort was made during the day to break our lines, but a heavy cannonading was kept up all day by the Federals, and their sharp-shooters did us much harm by occasionally killing and wounding our men along the line. Their whereabouts were hard to discover, as they were shooting from the tops of trees in a belt of wood that bordered the clearing just in our front. To the right, in front of our position, was the residence of Bishop G., and beside his dwelling house there were a number of small houses, all enclosed in a hedge of thorn bushes and vines. These served as forts for the Federal sharp-shooters, from which they were annoying us very much. It was dangerous for a man to show his head above our breastworks. Throughout the day, or a part of it, they continued their work effectively. Quite a number of our men had been killed by them.

I'll be leaving for N' Clina this week and won't be back until Sunday night. Take care and if anybody has a story, please share it.

4v50 Gary
August 13, 2006, 12:54 AM
Recall what you've learned during rifle instruction about the significance of a steady shooting position? The more wobbly you are as a shooting platform, the greater the likelihood of a miss. Offhand of course is the most difficult to shoot accurately from and kneeling is preferred since it offers greater steadiness. Thus, even sitting is preferred to kneeling and prone the most favored position for shooting. The lower you are to the ground or the more you stabilize the rifle, the more accurate your shot will be, right?

Well, today's story concerns a lucky man who was missed because his foeman had an unsteady rest. Read about it here at THR's own Bedtime Stories (like the Rod Sterling touch?):

We fell in with the enemy on our route, and a partial engagement took place, and we had one man killed; -- and I had a narrow escape myself. I was standing in the angle of a fence [think crooked Virginia rail fence], a rifleman was in the opposite field on horseback, at the time we were forming along the fence. He dismounted, placed his rifle across his horse, fired. The ball struck direct in the angle of the fence opposite my face, and the splinters flew about my head and eyes.

This concludes our Bedtime Story for the week. Be good, behave and don't forget to put in some range time.

4v50 Gary
August 23, 2006, 12:25 AM
A good sharpshooter can make life miserable to the opposition. Here's a unit that wrestled unsuccessfully against a skilled sharpshooter. On the 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 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 of the boys going out to the skirmish line. To fire at the cabin was useless and he was left undisturbed. Once or twice a gun from the fort was turned upon the cabin and a few shots would quiet him for a time, but he soon resumed his vocation.

If I was the commanding officer, I would have found my best hunters and told them to go out at night to wait for the enemy to show up.

4v50 Gary
August 26, 2006, 02:45 AM
[Sharpshooters] are not likely often to be taken prisoners, as death is considered their just penalty; for as they very seldom are in a position to show mercy, so, in like manner, is mercy rarely shown to them.

Fred Ray, author of Shock Troops of the South, asked me whether sharpshooters were ever taken prisoners. Well, there's an article of mine that will appear in the Fall 2006 issue of The Military Collector and Historian. The epigraph above is the opening statement and the topic is examined thoroughly. Fred participates in a blog which is worth reading. It covers a lot of ground that has been examined by myself. A very brief answer to the above statement may be found in Fred's Blog found at this link: Fred Ray's Blog (http://brettschulte.net/ACWBlog/) If you would like to read the entire article, join The Company of Military Historians. Their website is at Military-Historians (http://military-historians.org/) There is much more to the article than what I'm giving here. Fans of this thread should subscribe (mention my name please) as there will be two more articles on sharpshooters that will appear in that magazine.

BTW, the issue of death by concussion arose. I recall an event during the Siege of Yorktown during the American Revolution. Here's one from the ACW:

... A battle exhausted infantryman stood behind a large oak tree. His back rested against it. He was very tired, and held his rifle loosely in his hand. The Confederates were directly in our front. This soldier was apparently in perfect safety. A solid shot from a Confederate gun struck the oak tree squarely about four feet from the ground; but it did not have sufficient force to tear through the tough wood. The soldier fell dead. There was not a scratch on him. He was killed by concussion.

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