Sharpshooter at Devils Den

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blue_zouave

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
It just shows to what lengths people will go to prove their pet theories...
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A good many Civil War photographs were staged and the subjects tidied up. This doesn't mean that they were faked. One of the classics is flipping the bill of the kepi up to let the light shine on the soldier's face.

I remember as a kid seeing this picture in National Geographic in the 1960s, during the Centennial. What I remember most was the caption saying that the photographer had returned months later and seen a skeleton in a moldering uniform... and I was disappointed that he hadn't taken a picture!

Zou
(Old enough to remember the Centennial, but not the War)
 

gary

Captain
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
While there were many Confederates who were skilled in the use of the rifle, Lee's Army of 1863 had very few "designated" sharpshooters. There were a units that did have sharpshooters (and sharpshooter battalions) including Rodes Division, Pender's (McGowan's Brigade, Lane's Brigade). Even if a soldier was designated as a sharpshooter, he may not have received any specialized training that characterized the ANV sharpshooter of 1864.

The term "sharpshooter" is loosely applied by the soldiers and the identity of the opponent wasn't generally known (no one marched around with a special sign announcing they were skilled marksmen or some webfoot sent out to skirmish). Besidees, isn't it more glorious (
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) to be killed by a sharpshooter than a bespectacled clerk who had a lucky shot?

I'm under the impression that Devil's Den was held (on the 2nd day) by the 1st Texas and 3rd Arkansas. I've found no evidence suggesting that they were designated as sharpshooters. They were just regular webfoots (ahem, superb webfoots) who were capable of sharpshooting.
 
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8thvacav

Cadet
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Gary, What about the sharp shooter rifle found at Devils Den. It had a scope on it. I thought the Guy made a good case on the sharp shooter.
Martin
 

gary

Captain
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Martin, I didn't realize that a telescope rifle was found at Devil's Den. What book, O. R. did you find that in?

BTW, if the Confederates had a chance, they would have skedaddled with any prized rifle. I know that some were captured by Berdan's Sharp Shooters, but no mention was made in their regimental history of capturing a telescope rifle. Nor did I read anything in any book regarding Gettysburg or Devil's Den that cites it. Please enlighten me. Thanks

Gary

(Message edited by Gary on May 12, 2004)
 

johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
South of the North 40
Martin, I see how you are... now I'm going to have to go digging in my references and I think I just took the cussed book back to the library. The reference to their being a scoped rifle found at Devil's Den are dubious at best. It is important to remember that the scopes of the day were 1. extremely expensive. 2. rare (in the CSA almost all were UK imports) 3. fragile, almost too fragile for active field use. 4. It's important to realize that the Whitworh w/ a scope were really not any better at 400 yards than a standard Enfield.

I'm really going to have to dig but IIRC it's in Swords work on Berdan's. Berdan's men carried no scoped rifles onto the field at Gettysburg and there was no evidence that the CSA had more than a dozen in the entire ANV and most if not all were on Whitworth or Kerr Rifles (I'm not sure the ANV had any Kerrs at that point).

A recent collector show had a man selling an original Whitworth w/ scope... the price... lets just say I ain't selling my house. They were rare in 1860-65 they are all but extinct except in museums now.

The modern term "sniper" really has little to do w/ what Sharpshooters of the ACW did. For the most part they were skirmishers who knew how to shoot and were generally utilized as such. THey were generally reviled by the men of both sides as what they did was seen as murder. A captured sharpshooter often would fail to make it to a POW camp as a rope might find itself around his neck on the way to the nearest tall tree. There are also several cases were Sharpshooters were never given the option of surrender.

Of note look into the 4th Alabama, they reeived a reputation as a Sharpshooter unit from the Union but were never awarded the title by any in the CSA. Though some did carry Kerr & Whitworths they did just fine in general w/ their Enfields. During the siege of Chatanooga they were making some increadible shots at extreme range, they were killing mules & horses instead of men which gave them a bit of a good rep... Ironically they were driven from their position by a Spencer armed "Sharpshooter" Regiment. An interesting study of firepower vs range & accuracy...
 
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8thvacav

Cadet
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Gary and Shane,My info came from the article above. There are pictures of the rifle and scope and its in a museum in Gettysburg.
Have you read about the snipers in the Bleak House tower in Knoxville, Tenn.? The story goes that he killed Gen. Sanders with a shot of 1600'. Take the time to read the article I posted. I'm not saying it's true but he makes a good case. Is there a good book out there on Sharp Shooters? I'm a x va}rmint hunter and the shots the sharp shooters made blows my mind. If I could get a hit at 500' I was tickled to death and that is with a rifle with a 24 power scope.
Martin}
 

johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
South of the North 40
I thought the telescope rifle, a Whitworth, if memory serves was from the 1st NC.

Martin, there are a couple really good books out there. Swords look at Berdan's men is a good read for a shooter, his book on the Enfield is informative. Edwards & Fullers books are pretty much the end all be all of CW small arms and have a lot of good info. I would actually suggest avoiding Katchers book as it isn't worth the money asked; particularly as I've been able to identify a couple of rather blatant errors and am afraid of the errors I may have missed...

There are a couple books out there specifically on the Sharpshooter of the ANV that might be up your alley, Bensons <u>Confederate Scout Sniper</u> is an intriguing read as is Dunlops <u>Lee and his Sharpshooters in the Forefront of battle</u>... (I think I may have that title slightly off). There are a half dozen published memoirs &amp; diaries from Sharpshooters as well. 3-4 came out right in a row in the early 90's.

Of note General Grant was walking near some entrenchments and noted a man he recognized; he was a Tennessee man that Grant was rather certain had family on the other side of the lines. This Tenn. man and another Sharpshooter were armed w/ M1859 Sharps rifles and were actively silencing a battery in the Confederate works. That battery was all of 700 yards distant and the guns could not be loaded or moved due to the expert fire from the two men. There is more to the account but is not needed here.

Keep in mind the Sharps rifle wasn't supposed to be very accurate past 400-500 yards...

There are accounts of men of the 4th Alabama killing, not wounding, horses &amp; mules during the siege of Chatanooga from better than 1200 yards. They were using standard Enfields w/out the benefit of any kind of optical assistance.

Of coarse there is also the story of the CSA Sharpshooter in a tree, the 3" Ordnance rifle used to silence him missed him, but dropped the tree...

IIRC the men in the Bleak House were of the 4th Alabama...

Here are the details of some of the boks I mentioned.

Sword, Wiley, <u>Sharpshooter: Hiram Berdan, his famous Sharpshooters and their Sharps Rifles</u>, Andrew Mowbray Inc., 1988.

Sword, Wiley, <u>Firepower from Abroad The Confederate Enfield and the LeMat Revolver</u>, Andrew Mowbray Inc., 1986.

Katcher, Philip, <u>Sharpshooters of the American Civil War 1861-65</u>, Osprey Publishing, 2002.

Edwards, William B., <u>Civil War Guns</u>, The Stackpole Company, 1962.

Fuller, Claud E., <u>The Rifled Musket</u>, The Stackpole Company, 1958.
 

gary

Captain
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Dunlop's book is "Lee's Sharpshooters or Forefront of Battle" and a good hardback is published by Morningside House Press in Dayton, Ohio.

Another good book is Charles Stevens' "Berdan's Sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac." Also published by Morningside.

Benson's Confederate Scout-Sharpshooter (alternatively called Confederate Scout-Sniper) is a must read and is perhaps the singularly the best account by an individual sharpshooter on the Confederate side.

William Green's book "Letters of a Sharpshooter" is OK, but I really didn't find much useful or interesting anecdotes from it.

Wyman White (2nd USSS) is my favorite book by an individual Union sharpshooter. It's a must read and is comparable to Benson.

Katcher's book is a so-so "peanut butter" book which is OK, but there are some inaccuracies in it.

William B. Edwards book is still one of the best. Published in 1962, it is well researched and has good photos. BTW, I met the man once.

Roy Marcot's book "Civil War Chief of Sharpshooters Hiram Berdan" is a very well researched book on Berdan, his men and to some extent the guns. Hard to find though.

Go to http://www.thehighroad.org and drop into the blackpowder forum. Look for a thread entitled "Bedtime Stories or Sharpshooter Tales" for a disjointed presentation of some vignettes/snippets.

BTW, I saw that photo of the telescope rifle at Gettysburg but there's nothing in the provenance (that I saw) that shows it was used at that battle. There is certainly nothing proving it was captured at Devil's Den.

Concerning the Bleak House in Knoxville, I'm very well acquainted with it and was under the impression that the soldiers were South Carolinians. The distance was more like 750 yards from the tower to where Gen. Sanders was shot. Love to see your article and can you provide the link?

Shane - where'd you read that story about Grant from? I don't recall that in his memoirs or Porter's Campaigning with Grant.
 
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gary

Captain
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Martin, I enjoyed your article. I thought maybe you also had one on the Bleak House and Sanders.

On the rifle you examined, could that have been a "tube" sight?
 

8thvacav

Cadet
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Gary,
I didn't write that article and I've never seen the rifle. I found the article on the net. As to the Bleak House I bought a book from thr Tenn. Historical Soc. and I will look in it for the article.
Thanks guys for the list on books. BTW I was at the Bleak House about three weeks ago. They had a wedding going on so I couldn't go inside. I also saw the spot where Gen. Sanders was killed. If it was the sniper in the Tower at the Bleak House that killed Gen. Sanders it was a great shot.
Martin
 
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gary

Captain
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
BTW, did you also visit the East Tennessee Historical Society in Knoxville? They've got Davy Crockett's first rifle on display there. It's a loaner and unfortunately, no post cards are available (can't take pics with the plexiglass in the way).

The Bleak House has one great docent (Margo or Margaret?) who is really well read on the battle. She's read everything there is on that battle and can converse for hours on end.
 

8thvacav

Cadet
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Gary, as my luck holds true about everything was closed when I was in Knoxville. I had a reenactor that I that I talk to on Chat on another board, give me a tour of Knoxville. He also works at the Bleak House. Here is one of his stories. http://civilwar.aaquaria.com/
Martin
 

8thvacav

Cadet
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Gary, Sorry that link will only take you to the board. Here is the story.Divided Loyalties is the book I bought.

Well last night I got to do something that I have been wanting to do for sometime with mixed results. I got to spend the night in Bleak House. This home is named after the Dickens book of the same title. During the second battle of Knoxville, Longstreet used this home as his HQ. The house did take fire and several soldiers were killed in the tower of the house. There may well have been others who died; the home was also used as a hospital. I got to stay at the house as a result of a local radio station. One of the radio personalities was dared to stay in a supposedly haunted house all night. Somehow or another someone they new had heard about the house. So in the end they ended up staying at Bleak House. I was invited to stay as well. They needed people to help watch the house while this was going on, and they new I wanted to stay in the house. Anyway, I have mixed feelings about how well the whole thing went off, but I did get to stay in the house. I actually slept in the tower. The house also got a lot of publicity out of it. Additionally I am now freed from having to worry about talking about ghosts in the house. Previously they were afraid of some of the people who might show up at nigh if the house had a reputation as being haunted. Therefore that kind of thing was not supposed to be talked about outside of those who worked there.

Sorry for not saying more, but I only got a few hours sleep that night, and my mind was dead. I volunteered at the house from my senior year in high school through the beginning of this semester. I had to stop working there because it interfered with school and paying work. I did not believe in ghosts before I started working here, but I am sure of their existence now. Because the house was afraid of some of the weirdoes who might start snooping around the house at strange hours they have tried to keep the ghost stories to a minimum. I was told that I should not talk about the ghosts outside the house. Generally when I have said anything about the ghosts at the house I have not told people where I was talking about. Because of this radio thing I no longer have to worry about it. The house has now decided to be more open about its ghost presence.

I may say more about my ghost experiences later, but for now I will just talk about that night. I said it was mixed results because of the radio people. I was glad to have the chance to stay in the home over night, but the two radio people there started to get on my nerves. The first thing they did that I did not expect was drink all night. They had so much alcohol it was not funny. Secondly, all they wanted to talk about was there work gossip and politics. They were also a little disrespectful in my opinion. The last thing was how they did the radio presentation in the morning. Most of what she said was a lie just to impress the audience.

Total six people were at the house that night. The two radio people slept in the room Longstreet used has his HQ. The lady representing the UDC slept on a couch in the front hall, a security guard who stayed in his car outside; this was necessary because this thing had been promoted on the radio and they did not want any unexpected guests, and one other reenactor and I who slept in the tower. I am not sure I experienced much of anything that night. I am familiar with the ghost there, and in some ways it is like I know them. I felt welcome in the tower that night. Additionally, I asked the ghosts to bother the radio people, not me. Hey, that is what they were there for and they deserved it. The radio lady in charge asked me in the morning if we had been up and down the stairs all night, we had come down once, but that was it. She said that they heard noises. I think the ghosts may have done their job lol.

As for the picture on the wall I am trying to put up a picture out of the book Divided Loyalties by Digby Seymore. If you want a good book on East TN and Longstreets trip west, this is the best you can get in my opinion.

I forgot to mention that the next morning the lady did one broadcast from the tower. She made a comment about how her equipment was acting funny. It just so happend that she was standing in the spot where one of the ghosts is commonly seen in the tower. The ghost in the tower are often seen in the same spots. I then asked her to stand just to the right of where she was and here equipment worked fine. I asked her to move to the one of the other spots where one of the ghosts is often seen standing and her equipment started acting up agaian.
 
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