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 Post subject: Sharpshooter gunsmiths
PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:12 am 

Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:36 pm
Posts: 2

My name is Jay Strite. I own Ravens Roost Gunsmithing in Gatesville Texas, a shop specializing in 19th century firearms. I am also a gunsmithing instructor for the gunsmithing program at Lassen College in Susanville California and an avid gunsmith historian.
The reason I have joined your forum is that I have several questions for the membership.

I was reading the post "1st Sgt Givin Target Rifles" and found an interesting quote in one of Bill Skillman's replies

"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 it in thorough repair before attemptingto use it..."

my questions are
Did the Berdan Sharpshooters have dedicated gunsmiths attached?
If so what uniforms did they wear? Berdan green? Ordinance?

I am also interested in any info on gunsmiths associated with sharpshooter units.

Jay Strite

PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 10:14 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 9:33 pm
Posts: 266
Location: Old Northwest (Michigan)
Greetings Jay,

Welcome to the Forum.

Each of the Sharpshooter regiments had a NCO designated as armorer (Ordnance Sgt.) to make simple repairs to arms rendered disabled. I will have to go back to Caspar Trepp's records to find the name of the armorer mentioned in his Ordnance reports, but that would only cover the period of 1862-3. The materials available to the Ord. Sgt. were primarly parts to repair NM1859 Sharps rifles (he also had on hand 6 rifles that could be issued to men whose rifles became disabled).

Any Sharps that required more extensive repairs, from what I can deduce, were packed up and returned to the Arsenal>Sharps Mfg. Co. A few arms, (one Sharps was run over by a wagon during the Bull Run campaign), were condemned and used for parts.

The Ordnance Sgt. had to account for all of the rifles, slings, brushes/cleaning rods, accoutrements, cartridges/caps/pellet primers and tools on a quarterly basis and forward his written report (later on there were printed forms that made his job easier) commanding officer. This information was added to the regimental Ordnance report completed by Trepp/Stoughton or their clerks. Copies were sent to Division and Corps Ordnance officers and the War Dept in Washington. Unfortunately, I only have a single report of this type filed by an USSS Ord. Sgt.

Perhaps another member of the forum who has access to the regimental staff records could provide the names of the Ordnance Sgts. who served throughout the term of service.

The problem with the target rifles was that each one was hand made and often designed to the original owner's specifications. I have no doubt that many of the old time shooters who joined the USSS in 1861-2 and who brought their personal weapons with them into service knew how to perform basic maintanence and repairs. However, trying to repair broken mainsprings, hammers, set trigger springs, etc. would most likely exceeded the ability of those men and the Ord. Sgt.

The USSS retained a supply of 10-12 'heavy' or target rifles for long range work, these were carried in the regimental wagons until needed. It is possible additional target rifles were stored at the Washington Arsenal that could be sent forward in the event target rifles were lost or severely damaged. The 1st and 2nd USSS regimental records are at the US Archives; but haven't heard of anybody locating or searching for this (accounting of target rifles 'on hand' at the Washington Arsenal) tidbit.

FYI-Brian White recently showed me an image taken sometime after the War of a group of grizzled old Michigan men posing with their target rifles in front of a shooting club. Many of them proudly hold muzzle-loading target rifle used by the USSS during the CW for 'special service' shooting. So far we have not been able to identify any of the men as former members of the Michigan USSS companies, but research continues.

Ordnance Sargeants would have been attired the same as the rest of the regiment. Depending upon the time of service: Regulation/dress uniform of Rifle green coat/cap/trouser. Field use would show them attired in (based upon division/regimental orders for 'lesser tenue') blue blouses/green or blue kersey trousers, caps/hats. They would have worn the Ord. Sgt. chevrons on both sleeves.

Bill Skillman
Randolph Mess-USSS

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