"In '62, Gen Lee received thirteen fine English Whitworth rifles that were warranted to kill at 1,800 yards. These were the best guns in the service on either side. Thirteen of the best marks men in the army were detailed for this special service, and I was the only Georgian that was selected." The design improvements incorporated into the Whitworth rifle reportedly resulted in 12-inch groups at 1800-yards. John "Kildee" West utilized that accuracy as one of the elite "Whitworth Sharpshooters." West enlisted July 9, 1861 as a Private in Co C 4th Georgia Infantry and was surrendered April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse. [Fold 3]
In an interview with the Irvington Southerner, December 1885, Kildee provides these interesting reminiscences.
The Famous Sharpshooter of the Confederacy
From the Irvington (Ga.) Southerner
It was our good fortune a few days ago to meet in Twiggs county, John West, better known during the war by the sobriquet of "Kildee," the most noted sharpshooter of the Confederate service. In response to our inquiry, he gave us some interesting facts connected with himself in that perilous service.
"I was born and reared in Twiggs county, Georgia," said he, "but went to the war from Louisiana as a private. At my solicitation I was transferred to the Twiggs County Volunteers, my home company, which I found in Virginia. The Twiggs Volunteers were nicknamed the 'Jorees' because of their uniforms having three black stripes upon the tail of the coat, resembling the three black feathers on the bird called 'Joree.' I was nicknamed 'Kildee' because of my slenderness and agility, and because I was in the 'Joree' company.
"In '62, Gen Lee received thirteen fine English Whitworth rifles that were warranted to kill at 1,800 yards. These were the best guns in the service on either side. Thirteen of the best marks men in the army were detailed for this special service, and I was the only Georgian that was selected.
"We were placed under the command of a Colonel Brown, who had no other duties than to command us. We were practiced three months before going into service. A score of every shot was kept during this three months, and at the end I was one hundred and seventy-six shots in the bull's eye ahead of the rest. The last day of the practice, our marksmanship was tested by our superior officers. A white board, two feet square, with a black diamond about the size of a hat in the centre, was placed 1,500 yards away. The wind was blowing stiffly, and it was very unfavorable for good shooting, but I put three bullets in the diamond, and seven in the white of the board. I beat the record and won the choice of horse, bridle, saddle, spurs, gun, revolvers and saber. Our accoutrements were the best the army could afford. Then we entered active service, and I have been thro' scenes which have tried men's souls. I soon became indifferent to danger, and inured to hardships and privations. I have killed men from ten paces distant to a mile. I have no idea how many I killed, but I made a good many bite the dust.
"We were sometimes employed separately and collectively; sometimes scouting then sharpshooting. Our most effective work was in picking off the officers, silencing batteries, and protecting our lines from the enemy's sharpshooters. I am certain I killed Gens Banks and Shields. I was the only confederate sharpshooter on our lines on the days when those generals were killed. The enemy were fourteen and fifteen hundred yards away, and my rifle was the only gun that could reach them. I was shooting at officers, and I know that I killed them.
Artillerymen could stand anything else better than they could sharpshooting, and they would turn their guns upon a sharpshooter as quick as they would upon a battery. You see we could pick off their gunners so easily. Myself and a comrade completely silenced a battery of six guns in less than two hours on one occasion. The battery was then stormed and captured. I heard Gen. Lee say he would rather have those thirteen sharpshooters than any regiment in the army.
We frequently resorted to various artifices our warfare. Sometimes, we would climb a tree, and pin leaves all over our clothes to keep their color from betraying us. When two of us would be together and a Yankee sharpshooter would be trying to get a shot at us, one of us would put up his hat on a ramrod and poke it up from behind the object that concealed and protected us, and when the Yankee showed his head to shoot at the hat, the other one would put a bullet thro' his head. I have shot 'em out of trees, and seen 'em fall like coons. When we were in grass or grain, we would fire and fall over and roll several yards from where we shot at, and the Yankee sharpshooter would fire away at the smoke.
I was captured once. Col. Brown and I got caught inside of the Federal lines at Cold Harbor, and Sheridan's wagon train was between us and liberty. We had on Yankee coats, and we rode along up the wagon train for some time trying to head it, and escape. But we couldn't do it. Finally, Col. Brown rode up to a driver and ordered him to turn out to one side and let us pass.
"By whose authority?" asked the driver.
"By my own," replied Brown authoritatively.
"Who are you?" asked the driver.
"Col. Coleman," answered Brown who had found out the name of the colonel who was in command of the train.
The driver then began to question Co. Brown pretty closely, and was about to catch up with us. Col. Brown drew his revolver, and sent a ball crashing through his brain. We turned our horses and dashed down the lines of wagons at full speed, and we ran right into a company of Federal cavalry who were protecting the train. A shower of bullets whistled around us. We wheeled to the right, jumped a stone wall, and just as my horse cleared the wall, a bullet struck him behind the ear, and down we came. Brown's horse was shot from under him about 20 steps ahead, and we were both captured. TO BE CONTINUED
[Savannah Morning News. (Savannah, Ga.), December 14, 1885, Page 5. Reprinted from the Irvington Southerner.]