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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

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    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."
     
  2. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    The promised Gettysburg Story

    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."
     
  3. P95Carry

    P95Carry Moderator Emeritus

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    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.


    devil-den-sharpshooter-s.jpg


    sharpshoot-txt-01.jpg


    sharpshoot-txt-02.jpg


    Thx again.
     
  4. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    The Swiss in the flintlock era

    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:
     
  5. P95Carry

    P95Carry Moderator Emeritus

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    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.
     
  6. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
  7. stevelyn

    stevelyn Member

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    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.
     
  8. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Now that I've climbed out of my storm cellar (read that as out-house)

    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).
     
  9. P95Carry

    P95Carry Moderator Emeritus

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    I've been enjoying these Gary - many thx. :)
     
  10. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
  11. P95Carry

    P95Carry Moderator Emeritus

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    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!!
     
  12. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Incident from the past with applicable lessons for today

    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!;)
     
  13. sm

    sm member

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    Gary -

    Thanks for sharing !

    When you get back, we expect a report on that engraving class by the way. :)
     
  14. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Royal Americans in the Peninsular Campaign

    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.
     
  15. goon

    goon Member

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    Gary, your stories rock.
    May you never run out of them.:cool:
     
  16. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    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."
     
  17. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    The Old 60th or Royal Americans

    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."
     
  18. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Afro-Confederates?

    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.
     
  19. Shanghai McCoy

    Shanghai McCoy Member

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    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.
     
  20. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Another look at the Afro-Confederate Sharpshooter

    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.
     
  21. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    The Indians didn't always have it their way

    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!
     
  22. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Story of a siege (& your introduction to 2nd Grade 19th Century English)

    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.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2004
  23. goon

    goon Member

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    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. ;)
     
  24. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Not quite the Zaistev-Koenig duel

    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).
     
  25. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
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    Sharpshooting in the blackpowder era...

    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."
     

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