Berdan Sharpshooter collection at Gettysburg NBFP
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Author:  Bill Skillman [ Sun Feb 18, 2024 11:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Berdan Sharpshooter collection at Gettysburg NBFP

Fellow Sharpshooters.

This video presents Garry Adelman, Douglas Ullman Jr. and Kristopher White of the American Battlefield Trust and are joined by Greg Goodell of the Gettysburg National Military Park to examine an impressive collection of artifacts from the U.S. Sharpshooters led by John Henry Hobart Ward. Watch now to discover what artifacts were left behind by Hobart and the U.S Sharpshooters, as well as what part they played during the battle of Gettysburg.

The first artifacts presented belonged to the brigade commander of the 2nd US Sharpshooters, Hobart Ward.

After Army of Northern Virginia escaped across the Potomac (following the battle of Gettysburg), the footsore and hungry Sharpshooters crossed the Potomac on a pontoon bridge and arrived in Harper’s Ferry. Nearby were Commissary wagons filled with boxes of hardtack. The Sharpshooters spied the General riding by and began to shout “Hardtack! Hardtack!” According to Wyman White (and other Sharpshooters), Ward flew into a rage and ordered them to stop. As he turned his horse around, the chant resumed. Ward, swung his horse around and drew his pistol, threatening to “blow a hole through Bill Sweet’s (Co C 1st USSS) heart”. Suddenly the sound of a dozen Sharps rifle hammers sounded-‘click,click’. There was a long pause as both parties considered what could happen next; the “ball” was In General Ward’s court. He holstered his pistol and rode off swearing.

The Sharpshooters got their hardtack, but General Ward got his revenge. When the Sharpshooters reached their bivouac for the night, Ward ordered the regiment to remain in formation for two hours before he released them. Afterwards, Ward paid them an apropos compliment: They are the hardest marchers and fighters in the whole damn army, but they are so saucy no one can do anything with them.

A few years ago, Dan Wambaugh and Brian White received special permission to examine a number of rare uniforms in the Museum collection. During a break, they were handed the Co. F, 1st USSS Company book for 1863-64. Listed on each page was the name of a Sharpshooter, followed by the number and type of item issued to them; ordnance (bayonet, scabbard, cap pouch, cartridge box, waist belt, cross belt, plates), uniforms, shelter halves, etc. But what really jumped off the page was the serial number of the Sharp rifle issued. This invaluable information can elevate a rusty and neglected Sharps into a highly desirable relic

Brian used the last hour to examine a rare Schuylkill Arsenal USSS uniform coat, that was worn by Michigan Corporal William Henderson (Co. I 1st USSS).

The reenactment scenes were a disappointing distraction, with none showing scenes of modern Berdan Sharpshooters so the viewers could see how they were uniformed, armed, and operated on the battlefield.


The Berdan Sharpshooter collection is accessible with prior arrangement with the NPS.

Bill Skillman
Michigan Companies
Berdan Sharpshooters Survivors Assemble

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