Second Company Minnesota Sharpshooters
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Author:  KangViper [ Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Second Company Minnesota Sharpshooters

What my question is the about the Second Company Minnesota Sharpshooters. I understand that they arrived after the 2 regiments left C.O.I. with the 1st Regiment on the way to the Penisula by sea and the 2nd Regiment being attach to King's Division of Mcdowell's Corp heading towards Richmond by land. No I have always wondered why the Second Company Minnesota Sharpshooters joined up with the 1st Regiment on the Penisula instead of joining up with the 2nd Regiment that was in between Manassas and Falmouth. Also what made the Gen. McClellan order the now Company "L" of the 1st Regiment to the 1st Minnesota.?

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Sat Apr 11, 2009 5:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Second Company Minnesota Sharpshooters

Joe and Fellow Sharpshooters.

I thought you might enjoy an article that was published in the Co. C 2nd USSS newsletter a number of years ago. It will give you an excellent description of the Second Company Minnesota Sharpshooters service at Gettysburg. However, the information you are about to read has never before been published in any history book, and is at odds with the 'official record'. You be the judge!!

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS

Who were they & What did they do at Gettysburg?”
The Second Company Minnesota Sharp Shooters
Bill Skillman

While visiting the Minnesota Archives with my uncle 9 years ago I discovered a remarkable report hidden among the papers of Josiah B. Chaney. Chaney had served with the Second Minnesota Sharp Shooters until he became ill and was discharged in October 1862. He later became Chief Librarian of St. Paul and active in the post War USSS/GAR activities.

The Second Company Minnesota Sharpshooters was mustered into service in 1862 and destined to become the eleventh company, (designed letter “L”) with both regiments they served: the 1st USSS; and 1st Minnesota Vol. Infantry. Their primary duty was skirmishing and sharpshooting. Originally Co. “L” was assigned, like her sister company (First Company Minnesota Sharpshooters-aka Co. 'A') to the 2nd USSS; but owing to their late arrival at Washington, D.C. (because frozen lakes prevented the steamboats from reaching the city until April) they were directed to report to Col. Hiram Berdan's command on the Peninsula instead.

The Company arrived at White House Landing on May 5th, and reported for duty to the 1st USSS; they were issued Sharps rifles (May 8) and underwent rudimentary skirmish and company drills under the instruction of Capt. Edward Drew (May 12). The Company were engaged in a couple skirmishes when they unexpectedly received orders that transferred them to the 1st Minnesota Vol. Infantry on May 30th (2). The following account describes the actions of the Company during the Battle of Gettysburg. But, as I will show later, this account is at odds with what you will find in the “history” books. And that makes it even more interesting....

Copy of Capt. Burger’s Report of the part taken by the SecondCompany Minnesota Sharpshooters in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2 &3 1863

“Battlefield, near Gettysburg, Pa., July 5, 1863
Adjutant General, Oscar Malmros, St. Paul, Minn.

General- I have the honor to report that, on July 2d and 3d, a heavy battle has been fought by the Amy of the Potomac, resulting in the defeat of the rebels; and that my Company took an active part in it. The report of Capt. Coates, at present in command of the Regiment (1), will show how far this Company was engaged previous to its being detailed by order of Brigadier-General Gibbons, commanding the Division, to the support of Battery “I” 1st U.S. Artillery. The detail was made sometime on Thursday afternoon, about 2 or 3 o’clock, and I reported immediately to the above named Battery, which was posted in a grove (Ziegler’s Grove-WES) on the right of the centre. No attempt on the part of the rebels to make an assault on that Battery was made on July 2d, and it was, therefore, our only duty to rid ourselves and the cannoniers of rebel Sharpshooters. I think my men did this pretty effectually.

On the next day (July 3d), a body of infantry having taken position on both sides of the Battery, supporting the same, I was thrown to the front with my Company, as skirmishers, to assist 4 companies of the 39th N.Y. Vols., (Garribaldi Guards), in a charge on a barn and farm house (William Bliss farmstead-WES), out of which rebel Sharpshooters kept up an annoying fire. I advanced about 400 yards, deploying my men across an open field, and keeping up a sharps and well directed fire, and drove the rebels out of an orchard, which surrounded said barn and farm-house. This being accomplished, 4 Companies of the 39th N.Y. advanced in double quick on the buildings, took them, and set them on fire. It was then my duty to cover the retreat of these men, and to prevent the rebels from advancing too near to our line under cover of the smoke of burning buildings. In attempt of the enemy to drive my men back, by throwing shell and canister at them, failed, our batteries silencing those of the enemy, after a short combat. After having been out about two hours, I was relieved my ammunition getting short. Osias B. Baker was the only one wounded in this skirmish. Shortly after my return to the Battery, the rebels opened a tremendous artillery fire on our whole line. All kinds of missiles did they throw-solid shot, canister, grape, shell, shrapnel, and even railroad spikes. Though this cannonading lasted for two hours, and though the Battery I was supporting had to withdraw their pieces on account of the great number of shells thrown at it, none of my men were injured. I had previously taken the precaution of building a low barricade of stones and chord-wood, behind which the men found shelter at the time of the cannonading. This cannonading was followed by a charge of rebel infantry. They advanced in three lines of battle to within about 40 yards of the barricade mentioned above. Not one of my men left his place, but, keeping up a rapid fire, they did great execution on the rebel ranks, which broke, and ran back in confusion. Here Sylvester Brown was killed and Wilber M. Coleman wounded severely in the head. Some of my men getting out of ammunition took muskets of those killed or wounded, and kept their position till the last”.

I have the honor to be, General, your Obedient Servant,
Emil A. Burger, Capt. Co. “L”, 1st Minn. Vols. (2d Minn. Co., U.S.S.S.)"

Written along the margin of this report is the following inscription: "This report of Capt. Burgers was written on note paper with a pencil, and is almost illegible, now, but with the aid of a powerful glass, I deciphered it, Aug. 30, 1889-more than 25 years after it was written and reproduced it in ink for use in the Adjutant General’s office, and afterwards made this copy from that for myself. JB Chaney."

(1) This would be the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, who gained immortality after being ordered by Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock to buy time and attack CSA forces threatening to pierce the Cemetery Ridge line (following the collapse of 3rd Army Corps). During the estimated 20 minutes they were engaged with Cademus Wilcox’s (CSA) brigade, the 1st Minnesota sustained 80% casualties. However, their sacrifice bought enough time for Hancock to bring up Union reinforcements and close the gap.

(2) Special Order 153. I located the Minnesota Adjutant General documents for this period for the purpose of discovering the reason behind the sudden and unexpected transfer of the Second Minnesota Company of Sharpshooters away from Hiram Berdan’s command. Remarkably, the records show an orderly progression of orders flowing from St. Paul to the front until Order # 151. The next 2 entries are blank until they resume at Order #154. I have yet to this day been able to ‘fill in the blanks”, and so the question as to who sent the orders and what exactly they specified remains open to speculation.

(3) The Minnesota Sharpshooters still retained their Berdan Contract (set trigger) New Model 1859 Sharps rifles that had been issued to them in 1862. While the men were issued green uniforms early in their service (when they were to be assigned to the USSS), Chaney notes that when he arrived at Washington D.C. the men were issued blue flannel blouses to wear. While I lack the Quartermaster records of the 1st Minnesota (something I plan on doing next time my wife wants to visit her relatives outside St. Paul, and Mall of America), I suspect that the Minnesota Sharpshooters would have been indistinguishable from their counterparts in the infantry, except for the Sharps rifles.

"The puzzling saga of the Minnesota Sharpshooters at Gettysburg.”

As stated in Captain Burger’s account of the role of the Second Minnesota Sharp Shooters, on July 2nd was detached and assigned to protect Battery “I” while the 1st Minnesota Infantry made their famous charge about 500 yards to the south. I have wondered why Burger did not submit his report, or it did not accompany the official report submitted by the commanding officer (Coates) of the 1st Minnesota Infantry to the Adjutant General’s office in July of 1863. Even more curious, why Chaney chose not to publish Burger's account in it's entirety when he wrote the Narrative of the Second Company of Sharpshooters published by the Minnesota Adj. Gen. Office 20 years later? As you will discover, reader, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

At Gettysburg, the Second Minnesota Sharpshooters participated in the skirmishing for the William Bliss Farm. The foundations of the house and barn can be found midway between the Emmitsburg Pike and Seminary Ridge. If you walk West along the fence that runs adjacent to the Home Sweet Home Motel (property was purchased by the NPS and the hotel since razed-WES) and the Park, you will soon discover a small rise overgrown with a cluster of sumac saplings in an open field about 100 yards to your left, (my old comrade, Steve Partlow, nearly fell into the basement when tramping out there a few years ago). That will be the remains of the Bliss Farm. Regrettably, the orchard is also gone. Unfortunately there are no period photographs of the buildings.

If you read the book, Gettysburg the Second Day by former NPS Chief Historian Harry Pfanz, relied upon regimental histories and the Official Records to summarize the actions of the Minnesota Sharpshooters and the 39th NY (a four company battalion under the command of Hugo Hildebrandt). Phanz acknowledges that they were engaged at the Bliss Farm; but places them there on the morning of July 2nd, not the 3rd! Pfanz wrote additional Union reinforcements (1st Delaware Infantry, Co. “I” of the 12th NJ, and three companies of the 126th NY and the 106th Pennsylvania) alternately advanced, took possession of, and were driven from the Bliss buildings by Mississippi sharpshooters. During the afternoon assault by Posey’s brigade (Anderson’s Division, A.P. Hill’s Corps) in support of Longstreet’s attack rolling up Emmitsburg Pike, these Union units were forced to withdraw back to the protection of Cemetery Ridge.

According to Phanz, it was not the Minnesota sharpshooters to attack the Bliss farm on the morning of July 3rd, but Major Ellis and 8 companies from the 14th Connecticut instead. Ellis and his men reportedly burned both buildings to the ground and then returned to Cemetery Ridge. Neither Pfanz nor Winchell record the presence of the Minnesota Sharpshooters at the Bliss buildings on the third day.

Obviously, Captain Burger’s account and those used by Phanz contradict each other. Who is right? What strengthens Burger's report is that he wrote his account of the actions of his company 48 hours after the events had transpired. Phanz relied on regimental histories that were compiled and published 10-20 and even 30 years after the Battle of Gettysburg.

What is even more curious is what Chaney wrote in the Narrative: “the company took an active part on the second and third days (July 2 and 3, 1863), In the afternoon of the 2d it was detailed to the support of Battery I, First United States Artillery, and remained with it until the close of the battle. On the 3d it was for several hours subjected to a terrific cannonade. This was followed by a charge by a body of rebel infantry, which advanced to within forty yards of the company’s line; but they found a difference between breech and muzzle loading rifles, and broke and ran back in confusion. In his official report of the battle, Captain Coates of the First Minnesota says this company “did very effective service. General Hancock's in a letter to the governor, spoke in high praise of the excellent appearance and soldierly bearing of this company." Chancey had discovered Burger's original after action report and transcribed it in preparation for the Narratives. Instead of a sweeping and illuminating discovery, Chaney largely diluted the report. Why???

Unfortunatey, the reasons behind Chaney's decision not to record Burger and the Second Company Minnesota Sharpshooters actions at Gettysburg in their entirety in the Narrative is destined to remain a mystery.

Names featured in the July 5th, 1863 after-action report:

Emil A. Burger, age 29, mustered in on Jan 1, 1862 as 1st Lieut. Resigned from service November 23, 1863. Chaney reports: on that date the entire company was detailed as provost guard at division headquarters, and remained on that duty until mustered out. This assignment ended the company's connection with the First Minnesota Infantry, for that regiment returned home in February 1864 and was mustered out at Fort Snelling.

Osias B. Baker, age 19, mustered in on Jan. 6, 1862. Captured at Savages Station, June 29, 1862; exchanged. Wounded in action, July 3, 1863.

Sylvester Brown, age 20. Mustered in on Dec 3, 1861. Captured Savage Station, June 29, 1862. Killed in action July 3, 1863

Wilber Coleman, age 18, mustered in on Dec. 18, 1861. Wounded in leg, badly, Antietam Sept. 17, 1862. Wounded in head at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863.


Burger, Emil A. Report of the part taken by the Second Company, Minnesota Sharpshooters in the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa. July 2 & 3, 1863. In J. B. Chaney files, Minnesota Archives. St. Paul, Minnesota.

Chaney, J.B. Narrative of the Second Company of Sharpshooters in Minnesota in the Civil War and Indian Wars.

Pfanz, H.W. Gettysburg, the Second Day

Winchell, T. Posey’s Brigade at Gettysburg Gettysburg Magazine July 1991, Pages 89-103

Author:  KangViper [ Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Second Company Minnesota Sharpshooters


Thanks for the great article! I now give me a great perspective to where they were, as I never knew before. But it does have to put something on your mind of the differences of actions that took place as who burnt the Bliss Farm. As I have always read about the 14th CT, but as you stated since that's what everyone else what saying. But are their accounts within the 4 companies that attended the 2nd Co. MN SS to the Bliss Farm on July 3rd?

But with this new light I think we should look into it much deeper. Also where is a good place to get the Narrative of the Second Company of Sharpshooters ?


Author:  Bill Skillman [ Thu May 21, 2009 8:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Second Company Minnesota Sharpshooters

Joe and Fellow Sharpshooters,

Minnesota in the Civil War and Indian Wars is the title produced by the Adjt. Gen. Office of Minnesota that lists the various infantry, cavalry and sharpshooter organizations who served from that state. Josiah Chaney wrote the chapter for Co. 'L' entitled: Narrative of the Second Company of Sharpshooters . You might find this information on line by checking the Minnesota archives or just typing in the title into your search engine and see what shows up. Reports that only a few years ago had to be obtained by going to the Archives are now readily available online.

Berger notes that his command was posted as skirmishers to help clear the way for the 39th New York Infantry to advance to the buildings, burn them and then cover their withdrawal. This means, to the generals at least, Co. 'L' was just another thin blue line popping away out beyond the Emmitsburg Rd. Considering the dozens of casualties suffered by 2nd Corps officers from the company to Corps level (these being the guys who write the reports), during the Gettysburg battle, it is not to surprising to find little Co. 'L' contribution to be forgotten. General Hays wrote his account of the regiments/details he ordered forward to burn the Bliss Farm; and Capt. Berger had his perspective from the skirmish line. This may be another incidence where the truth is 'a little bit of both' men's observations and experiences on July 3rd.

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess
Hudson Squad (150)

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Second Company Minnesota Sharpshooters

Fellow Sharpshooters

Posted on the Civil War Forums is a new article by Tom Elmore.

For those of you that have followed the discussions about the Second Minnesota Company at Gettysurg, Elmore's post provides both visual perspectives and a pre-post war account of the Bliss family and the sweeping devastation wrought on their humble homestead. The lead picture is a painting that shows what the original farm and house looked like (I've been looking for this for the past 20+ years--COOL!). The Bliss house is where the Colt Park subdivision now stands, while the barn foundation is just a few dozen yards south from Long Lane.

Here is the link: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/burnin ... -3.156974/

Bill Skillman
Hudson Squad Mess

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