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PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:26 pm 
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I was told by a friend of mine, a 1st Sgt. of Company G 1st USSS (based in Northwest Ohio), said C.A. Stevens book Berdan's United States Sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac, states that each 1st Sgt. in every company were given Target Rifles towards the mid-late war period.

Now I've read this book a couple of times and tried to skim thru it. But I can't remember/find this passage. I had questions about what he said from the start, like why would they give men on the line who where guides, markers, and had a lot of responsibilites than taking his time loading a target rifle. Plus I thought each company had 1-2 heavies in the wagon and they were reserved for the best shot in the company.

I know that some people did still use Target Rifles until they mustered out of service, but again with the responsibilities that a 1st Sgt. has a Sharps would be better suited.

Any help on this would be appreciated, before he starts buy Target Rifles within his ever so zebra unit.

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Joseph Edwards
The Deadeye Mess
Company C 2nd United States Sharp Shooters


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PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 9:18 am 
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Joseph and Fellow Sharpshooters:

I wrote about Special Service sharpshooting and Dave has been kind enough to post it in the Historical Tactics section of this forum.

This is Steven's exact quote: “as a sharpshooter thus armed was considered an independent character, used only for special service, with the privilege of going to any point of the line where in his own judgement he could do the most good”.

Notice that he did not designate that the sharpshooter was required to hold a specific rank to perform this duty. Granted, the rank of Orderly Sgt. reflects the multiple talents of a man who proved himself to be 'cool under fire', able to handle the men under his supervision (junior NCO's and enlisted; act as 'go between' with the officers), be knowledgable of school of the soldier, company and battalion evolutions, bugle calls, and finally skirmish duties; not to mention keep up with the paper work required; this did not automatically make him qualified to carry out the duties (modern terminology alert) of a 'sniper'.

Orderly/NCO stripes would have made it easier to deal with nosey infantry officers the sharpshooter might encounter while making their way to a choice shooting spot. An example of this occurred when Wyman White (on special service near Spotsylvania) encountered a pre-War friend who was a sargeant in a Massachusetts infantry company. The friend implored White to silence a CSA sharpshooter who had methodically killed 4 of his men. A 'shoulder straps' showed up and started to grill White about why he wasn't with his regiment, etc. etc. It was not until the Mass. Sgt. explained the nature of White's duty and pointed out the dead bodies of his own men that 'Shoulder Straps' was satisfied and strutted off. I always kind of wished that the Reb sharpshooter who had been so effective picking off poor enlisted men had taken one more shot that day.

Major Buckbee (1st Michigan Regiment Sharpshooters) wrote in his post-War memoirs that the Indians of Co. 'K' were generally not assigned to perform special service. Despite their significant talents as marksmen, fieldcraft, experts with camouflouge, etc., etc.; many of enlisted men spoke little or no English. However, Co. K. researcher, Chris Czopek, has noted that most of the sargeants (who were often chiefs of their band before the war) were fluent in both their native language as well as up to 2 others (English, French). Wyman's book has a chapter entitled "Sharpshooting with an Indian" that describes his exploits performing 'special service' with an Indian of Co. 'K'. White learned a valuable lesson from the Indian how to incorporate camouflouge to his 'bag of tricks'. White admitted that the "Indian had little to say" but was a good companion.

From my reading of research of both USSS and other SS histories, the choice 'heavy' target rifles were assigned to those men who possessed the marksmenship, talent and nerve to carry out the duty assigned them.

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess
Hudson Squad (150)


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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 9:55 am 
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KangViper wrote:
I was told by a friend of mine, a 1st Sgt. of Company G 1st USSS (based in Northwest Ohio), said C.A. Stevens book Berdan's United States Sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac, states that each 1st Sgt. in every company were given Target Rifles towards the mid-late war period...


I think that Stevens mentions this on page 233.

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D. Bolda
Co. F, 1st USSS "F-troop"
Great Plains region


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2009 8:46 am 
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Correction-
Page 335.

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Co. F, 1st USSS "F-troop"
Great Plains region


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2009 10:45 pm 
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Bolda and Fellow Sharpshooters.

Correction: the quote you were looking to cite was on page 235, last paragraph. C.A. Stevens reports: The first sargeants of each company had been furnished with a telescope rifle, to be used only upon special occassions; which were afterwards turned in, being too heavy to carry around, and as prevously stated, unfit for general use on the skirmish line. These rifles were all right in a fixed posiiton-a good rest-and did great work at long range, particularly among the enemies batteries. But for hurried off-hand shooting, skirmishing or in line of battle, the open sights could be brought to the eye quicker, and even the muzzle-loading muskets with which the infantry were armed could be loaded quicker, while the breech-loading Sharps were far ahead of all, for rapid firing.

Among the men specificially cited in the Regimental history (1st USSS) for being issued telescopic rifles during the Petersburg campaign are:

"One of the first men struck was James Heath of Michigan, who carried a 34 pound telescope rifle, the heaviest in the regiment, and which, as he went down, fell with a heavy blow in the middle of the road. This rifle was immediately turned over to James Ragin, of Wisconsin, who was sent to the rear by Capt. Wilson, to put in in thorough repair before attemptingto use it..."

"Emery Munsell, who was seated in an arm chair (in the basement of O.P. Hare's estate 'Newmarket') with his 28 pounder, making long range shots, several which were thrown at random towards Petersburg, in hopes of attracting the notice of the editor of the Express (who had published false accounts about the Sharpshooters when they were at Yorktown) while seated in his evidently uneasy chair..."

"The following day, Ragin got "barked". A rebel rifleman in a pit 400 yards off commenced shooting through a small opening to the great annoyance of the Union soldiers moving about in rear of the breastworks. Ragin getting range on the fellow, a few shots silenced him effectually, and for several hours afer no shooting was done from that qauarter when Ragin noticed that another man was sent to the pit to take the place of the one he had already 'shut up'. This fellow proved to be a tough customer, evidentally a splendid marksman. The contest soon commenced, and for a long time the Wisconsin man exchanged shots with him, Ragin putting his balls into the opening almost every time, throwing the dirt down the back of the pit, while his oppoenent dusted Jim repeatedly.... Finally, an almost simultaneous exchange took place, Ragin shooting through the opening and recieving a clip through the hair close to the scalp, and inflicting no injury. It was a close shave for the veteran, but he was used to such things,...his opponent never fired again".

During the Crater operation, Stevens notes the loss of "...James Ragin of Wisconsin, shot in the left arm. The 34 pound telescope rifle I then turned over to Frederick H. Johnson of Co. B, another deserving soldier. He was always with is company, did effective service at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and was one of it's "reliables", therefor the compliment of the regimental commander having turned over to him one of the telescope guns, which he invariably used with good effect".

I haven't had a chance to review the company records to determine the ranks of the men when they were issued the treasured telescope rifles, but despite their rank they were recognized by peers and superior officers alike as men who were worthy of carrying a 'heavy' and using it effectively.

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess


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