Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by 4v50 Gary, Jan 3, 2003.
Have a good trip. It sounds like fun. Hopefully we'll see pictures when the project is done.
Keep 'em coming !
Don't get smacked or Victory at Sea.
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.
Meet the Bucktails
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.
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."
Great stuff, Gary!
Please sir, can we have some more?
Death rides a pale horse
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!
Gary, these are Great!
Please keep this up.
Thanks again for the info you provided and the suggestions - including this thread!
I second the motion ....
Tell me a "buck and ball story" please .
Breed's Hill - dedicated to Steve (SM)
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.
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.
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...
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."
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.
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.
[/Rod Sterling Twilight Zone voice off] Come back for more Bedtime Stories or Sharpshooter Tales here only at THR.
***** Deleted by Oleg Volk ******
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."
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.
A Yankee's impression of one Confederate sharpshooter
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."
Now that is "good reading".It sometimes amazes me how well written these old stories can be.
Woodman spare that tree!
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.
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.
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.
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 ). 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.
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.
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
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...
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