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 Post subject: Sidearms
PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:05 pm 
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how common it would have been for sharpshooter to carry sidearms?

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Michael Larson
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 Post subject: Re: Sidearms
PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2011 10:25 pm 
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I'm only aware of one photograph showing an enlisted sharpshooter with a sidearm. Sergeant Ariel Peabody, Co. H 2nd, in a photo dating from between June 1862 and April 1863, is wearing an unidentified smallish pistol in a holster. There are some other enlsited men holding pistols but the distinction must be made that these are likely photographer's props. Officers of course are a different story.

I think Wyman White mentions carring a pistol sometime in 1862...don't have his memoir handy to verify but if he did he would have been a private at the time.

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Randolph Mess, U.S. Sharpshooters


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 Post subject: Re: Sidearms
PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:50 pm 
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Location: KOP, PA
I should believe to be fairly unusual for two very good reasons...

1) The practice of enlisted men carrying sidearms was frowned upon so much that a regulation was enacted making it a military crime to be found with one. A Fall 1862 order from Braxton Bragg (AoT) officially prohibited wearing of pistols by enlisted men, unless specifically authorized to do so, and requiring they turn in their arms to their friendly neighborhood Ordnance Sergeants. Troops doing so would, in turn, be financially compensated for their arms according to a fixed schedule.


2) That there smoke wagon is HEAVY. Soldiers would go through extreme lengths such as trimming an extra inch or two off their blankets to save weight. So....the private purchase pistol, extra powder, bullet mold, powder flask. This is a decent amount of weight and space taken up in a blanket roll.



That being said....I'd would love for it to be the other way so I had an excuse to buy and wear a Remington :-)

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Pvt. Jeremiah Boring
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 Post subject: Re: Sidearms
PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2011 10:02 am 
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Location: Old Northwest (Michigan)
Brian, Jboring and fellow Sharpshooters

In terms of images, I would suggest you also view Truman Head, aka California Joe's image with Hiram Berdan. He is fitted with both a sword bayonet/ scabbard/frog for his personal NM1859 Sharps infantry but also a flap holster at his right side for a pistol.

Brian is also correct; be leery of accepting as 'gospel' early war images of soldiers festooned with multiple pistols and knifes; as many of these were photographers props, or loaned by the others waiting in line to get their image struck. Now, if we are talking mounted partisans, like Moseby's boys, then we have plenty of documentation to support carrying as many as 4 revolvers (with at least 2 attached to the saddle) for rapid firepower during raids.

Wyman White mentions fellows arriving at Camp of Instruction armed with pistols for personal protection, but these were gradually dispensed with by the men themselves due to their weight and emcumbrance. However, (it has been a couple of years since I read Wyman in his entirety) I vaguely recall that some members of his squad still carried knives or pistols for personal defense when on Veterans leave during the winter/spring 1864..

Because they were 'private purchase' arms, pistols carried by sharpshooters would not appear in any of the USSS Ordnance records, so we will likely never know exactly how many men carried pistols for 'close in' defense or personal protection.

Also, Colt and Remington Arms or their contractors manufactured prepared cartridges for sale or issue. 12 cartridges were fitted into pasteboard boxes. Like the Sharps, the prepared cartridges were tubes of waterproof paper or linen filled with powder and glued to the base of the conical ball. One only had to take the prepared cartridge from the pasteboard or cartridge box, insert it into the mouth of the chamber and gently seat into the chamber by lowering the loading lever. Then percussion caps were placed on 5/6 chambers and you were ready for a night in the Bowery or Stafford Court House.

Bill Skillman
Randolph Mess-USSS


Last edited by Bill Skillman on Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Sidearms
PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2011 12:47 pm 
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So...what you are saying is....the independant and slightly unorthodox manner of the USSS doesn't completely preclude the use of "personal" purchase sidearms?

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Pvt. Jeremiah Boring
Company B, 1st USSS Regt.


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 Post subject: Re: Sidearms
PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2011 2:15 pm 
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From the letters I have read from co H., Bill (as usual), hit the nail on the head. A lot of the recruits had, or talked of others having brought private purchase pistols to weehawken and, that they soon got rid of them (I don't recall seeing mention of the ordnance sgt taking them- most just use the term discarded) mostly due to weight.

My guess is that since they brought their rifles to test with, perhaps they just naturally assumed they'd bring their pistols as well?


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 Post subject: Re: Sidearms
PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2011 4:59 pm 
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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 1:50 am
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Location: KOP, PA
That's kinda what I was driving at. Glad I was on the correct track.

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Pvt. Jeremiah Boring
Company B, 1st USSS Regt.


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