Quantcast
  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

A collection of bedtime stories - or sharpshooter tales

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by 4v50 Gary, Jan 3, 2003.

  1. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    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!
     
  2. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    Stopping a convoy, Civil War style

    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.
     
  3. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    For you Scotsmen out there

    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. :(
     
  4. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    Ye damn Rebels

    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 gard 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.
     
  5. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    The Dummy

    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. 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.
     
  6. Shanghai McCoy

    Shanghai McCoy Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,559
    Location:
    The,sort of, Free state
    Gary,I must say that I have enjoyed these stories ever since I found this site.Pity that you "Hide" them here.Rgds,Paul
     
  7. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    Why, you're welcomed Shanghai McCoy

    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.
     
  8. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    Link to the Lone Marksman Revisited

    The Lone Marksman Revisited

    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.
     
  9. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    Riflemen at Fort Moultrie

    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.
     
  10. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    OK, not a sharpshooting story at all...

    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.
     
  11. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    Beware the woman

    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.
     
  12. BHPshooter

    BHPshooter Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2002
    Messages:
    3,451
    Location:
    Utah
    Gary, this thread is great. It makes work go much faster.

    Wes
     
  13. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    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.":eek: In inspiring his men, poor Uncle John received a bullet in his face.
     
  14. M67

    M67 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2002
    Messages:
    768
    Location:
    Norway
    Hey Gary. Is this a private thread, or can others play too? Even if it isn't British colonial history...

    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.)

    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...
     
  15. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    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.
     
  16. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    Not a sharpshooter story, but one which shows the value of marksmanship - Part I

    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.
     
  17. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    part II: Fox and his comrades capture a boat

    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.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2004
  18. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    A twofer

    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."
     
  19. M67

    M67 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2002
    Messages:
    768
    Location:
    Norway
    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.
     
  20. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    Similarities between sniping and sharpshooting?

    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.
     
  21. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    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."
     
  22. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    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.
     
  23. Shanghai McCoy

    Shanghai McCoy Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2004
    Messages:
    2,559
    Location:
    The,sort of, Free state
    Sure do enjoy these stories Gary.Looking forward to that book you've been talking about.
     
  24. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    Marksmen don't always win (or bring a bigger gun)

    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.
     
  25. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    18,946
    Marksmanship is not exclusive to we Americans...

    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.
     

Share This Page