The Art of Skirmishing

AUG

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Retired Moderator
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Location
Texas
SkirmishlineP_31-2.jpg


A skirmish line typically consisted of one or two companies, sometimes an entire regiment, deployed in extended open order. Each man was spaced five paces apart and organized in groups of four, or "comrades in battle" which consisted of two files in the two-rank line of battle. Each group was spaced 20 to 40 paces apart. The men were allowed to fight from any position they felt comfortable - standing, kneeling, lying down - and duck and dodge behind what cover they could find, all while maintaining the ragged line.

The essential role of the skirmish line is to advance ahead of the main line of battle, fan out and cover a large area of ground in order to detect the whereabouts or movements of the enemy, and/or screen the main line in the rear. Their place was not only in the front, they could also cover the flanks or serve as a rear guard in a retreat. In an attack, the skirmishers would usually be in the lead, driving back the opposing skirmish line and harassing the enemy's main line of battle. Skirmish lines were also utilized for tasks such as silencing an enemy battery from a safe distance or raiding the enemy picket line.

Early in the war, most regiments had two flank companies to serve as its designated skirmishers. As the war progressed there were more efforts to organize sharpshooter units, mainly for the purpose of having an experienced and highly-trained body of men who could readily serve as skirmishers or pickets for their brigade or division. The art of skirmishing was something not cut out for every soldier; anyone could learn skirmish drill, but to actually fight as a skirmisher effectively they had to be quick, nimble, reliable, and be able to think and act more on an individual basis. Unlike when fighting in line of battle - often firing blindly into the smoke in the general direction of the enemy - skirmishers had to be good shots because they had to fire at individual targets, sometimes at greater ranges than that between two battle lines. That is one reason why most sharpshooter units trained in range estimation and were made up of hand-picked men.

Skirmishers didn't only fight in major, fluid battles of manuever. While the lines were static, both armies opposite each other, the skirmishers would usually be in no man's land, taking pot shots at the opposing skirmish line or other targets on the field. They were often under fire for long periods of time. Sometimes these fights would get pretty intense, to the point where it was almost a regular battle with advances, retreats, and counter-attacks. The Atlanta and Overland campaigns saw this fighting on almost a daily basis.


Skirmishers 2.jpg


There is nothing in this world that is more exciting, more nerve stirring to a soldier, than to participate in a battle line of skirmishers, when you have a fair field and open fight. There it takes nerve and pluck, however, it is allowed each skirmisher to take whatever protection he can in the way of tree or stump. Then on the advance you do not know when to expect an enemy to spring from behind a tree, stump, or bush, take aim and fire. It resembles somewhat the order of Indian warfare, for on a skirmish line 'all is fair in war.'
- D. Augustus Dickert, History of Kershaw's Brigade, 421-22.

Skirmishing, as it became reduced to a science, depended on two general rules: every man must keep concealed as much as possible behind trees, logs, fences, buildings, or what not, and each party must run upon the approach of its opponent with anything like determination. If a skirmisher should show himself unnecessarily he stood a great chance of getting hit, and if he waited until the enemy came within forty or fifty yards, it was exceedingly dangerous either getting away or staying. The skirmish line was conducted on principles that looked to personal safety in a great degree, and was the favorite position of the experienced soldier. If however the holding of the position was essential, which was seldom the case, the men knew it intuitively, and the skirmish line required a battle line to drive it.
- Aldace F. Walker, The Vermont Brigade in the Shenandoah Valley, 56-7.

The sharp shooters have a very peculiar duty in action. They are the skirmishers who go ahead and "kick up the muss" as they say. In fact it is almost a new branch of service. . . . We have some fancy movements in skirmish drill. . . . I was always fond of skirmish drill, but never more so than at the present time. . . . They understand skirmish calls on the bugle so well that it is rare sport to drill the battalion.
- Philip Racine, ed., Unspoiled Heart: The Journal of Charles Mattocks of the 17th Maine, 111, 126.

This kind of fighting gave excellent opportunities for the display of individual bravery and address, and the manoeuvering of the boys to get good shots at times created considerable amusement. When some enterprising “Confed.” was well posted and annoyed us much, two or three would arrange their plans to knock him over, and creeping up cautiously from different directions, one of them would draw his fire, while the other on his flank would shoot him.
- E.M. Woodward, Our Campaigns, 270-71.

At the battle of Corinth, Oct. 4, 1862:
Day finally broke, and soon after the sun rose bright and clear, while the artillery thundered from the town, and ours replied in deep and muttering peals. Skirmishing began now between us and the enemy's sharpshooters. Both parties kept well concealed behind trees and other shelter, at the distance of seventy-five or a hundred yards apart; but the woods were overgrown to such an extent with high weeds, trailing vines and other foliage, that an occasional glimpse of a blue-coat shifting his hiding place, or the flash and smoke of the guns, were all that was discernible. Now and then, their line would advance rapidly fifteen or twenty paces, firing as they came, to feel our position and ascertain the exact situation. Whenever visible, they were subjected to a well-directed fire, and never showed themselves but a moment at a time.
- Ephraim M. Anderson, Memoirs: Historical and Personal: Including the Campaigns of the First Missouri Brigade, 235-36.


This thread is to compile any and all information on skirmishing in the Civil War. Any other good first hand accounts, images, etc., are welcome.
 
Last edited:

amweiner

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Feb 8, 2017
Location
Monterey, CA
Thank you for sharing this @AUG351! Very informative material.

During my reenacting days, the guys running the unit insisted we learn skirmish drill and I was grateful to learn something that doesn't get as much attention as it should. Consequently, we were the brigade skirmishers because we were the only ones who could represent it properly at our events. The history of the War recorded a number of disasters that came about because one army or another didn't employ skirmishers.
 

pfcjking

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jan 15, 2014
Location
Memphis
It seems to me that the skirmish line became pretty much the standard as technology enabled faster and faster fire.

I imagine that if you had handed a Civil War brigade 1,500 1903 Springfields, they would have had the equivalent effective firepower of a division or even more, and the battle line formation would have gone been forgotten right then.
 

AUG

Major
Retired Moderator
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Location
Texas
Could someone explain exactly what this means? I thought it was just a single line of spaced men.
One file in an ordinary two-rank line of battle was the front rank and rear rank soldier. "Comrades in battle" (the smallest subdivision of the company) was two of those - four men. For one, it was essential for moving the company from a two-rank line of battle to a skirmish line. A skirmish line would still fight as a single, strung out line, but the groups of four men could support each other and allowed for better overall control and organization of the line. It also allowed for what was called "Rally by Fours," a defensive maneuver for skirmishers against a mounted threat in which the four men would fix bayonets and form a square with their backs toward each other.
 

amweiner

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Joined
Feb 8, 2017
Location
Monterey, CA
Thanks for posting! As with all of your posts, this is so informative!



Could someone explain exactly what this means? I thought it was just a single line of spaced men.
I might get this wrong, so please feel free to correct me!

My understanding of this (and experience) is that a skirmish line can get a little wonky, especially in rough terrain - forest, rocks, streams, etc. The "comrades in battle" worked as a team, and if your 4 man team got a little separated from the others, so be it, but you stuck with your team no matter what. If advancing, two men would move a few yards ahead to decent cover but not too far ahead of the skirmish line (maybe 10-15 yards?). They would then fire in turn and immediately reload while the other two men would advance past them to cover. When ready, the men reloading would communicate with their comrades, who would stop, fire, and reload. The process would repeat until halted by the sergeant or officer in charge of the skirmish line.

Doing this on the retreat was harder, and I'll be danged if I can remember the process. We also learned how to do it by the flank, but I will be similarly danged if I remember any part of it other than it looking cool.

Hope I got it mostly right!
Adam
 

pfcjking

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jan 15, 2014
Location
Memphis
So the skirmish line was suppose to be 500 yards ahead of the main body... that seems like a long way off... I would think the skirmishers would be very vulnerable to enemy cavalry.
Well, they were, which meant that in the presence of cavalry, they stayed closer to the line of battle.

Skirmishers were usually supported by artillery as well, which could wreak havoc on cavalry. To be frank, even a 200 man line of skirmishers could tear up a cavalry assault. Skirmishers almost always had rifles, and they were always happy to empty a saddle. In the event of a full-on cavalry charge, they would do what they do best: fire their last round and run like hell back to the battle line. Once they get clear, the battle line would release a volley. Cavalry charges are great in theory, but the rifled musket really put an end to them as effective tools against infantry.
 

AUG

Major
Retired Moderator
Joined
Nov 20, 2012
Location
Texas
It seems to me that the skirmish line became pretty much the standard as technology enabled faster and faster fire.

I imagine that if you had handed a Civil War brigade 1,500 1903 Springfields, they would have had the equivalent effective firepower of a division or even more, and the battle line formation would have gone been forgotten right then.
Some regiments armed entirely (or almost) with repeating rifles - such as the 64th Illinois "Yates' Sharpshooters" and 66th Illinois "Western Sharpshooters" armed with Henry repeaters, or the 37th Massachusetts armed with Spencer repeating rifles - specialized as designated skirmishers for their brigade or division. As you can imagine, they were quite effective because of the amount of fire power they could generate just on the skirmish line alone. The 37th Massachusetts played critical role in the April 2 breakthrough at Petersburg, spearheading the attack alongside the pioneers ahead of the main columns.
 

AUG

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Joined
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Location
Texas
In his memoirs, George W. Nichols of the 61st Georgia Infantry describes skirmishing at Cold Harbor:

We built excellent earthworks and formed our lines. About the last of May or the first of June Companies D and H were put on skirmish with the Twelfth Georgia Battalion and ordered to advance. We had a very heavy skirmish line, for we were placed about two and one-half spaces apart. We were afraid that the battalion would not do its duty, for we saw that some of the companies were about 160 strong, with a great many boys in them, and they had a fine silk flag with the words "Fort Sumpter" on one side and "Battery Wagner" on the other. They were also fixed up in better garb than wc were, and some of our boys said that some of their officers looked too proud and dudeish for soldiers, and they were afraid they would give way and the enemy would flank us.

The skirmish line was commanded by their colonel, Henry D. Capers. He was ordered to drive in the Yankee skirmish line and find out the strength of their battle line. We advanced and soon saw that the battalion boys kept in excellent line, and I have never seen better behavior in officers or men. We soon found that they "had no flies on them," and we had to do our best to do as well as they did.

We advanced and soon found a very heavy skirmish line, composed entirely of New York zouaves, who wore red shirts, pants and caps, and blue coats trimmed in red. They all seemed to be very large men and were very hard to drive at first; but we kept advancing on them till we got within about thirty yards of them. They turned and fought us all the way back to their line of battle; but they were poor marksmen, for they seldom ever hurt one of our boys. We killed a good many of them. We drove them through and out of a piece of woods, through an open field, across a creek or branch and up a hill.

I was a little in advance of the line, and went a little way up the hill. I saw a very strong line of works and a battery of several pieces of artillery. The skirmish line was getting over their works. While one was standing on their works in a daring way, I fired at him, but I do not know that I hurt him; but I do know that he fell from the works.

I could see thousands of heads and guns and the cannoneers in readiness, though no one shot at me. They were probably holding the fire till more could come in view. I was about one hundred and fifty yards from their works. I went back down the hill and told Captain Kennedy what I saw, and begged him not to go further up the hill, but he would go in spite of my entreaties.

They saw him, and I am sure more than one thousand guns fired at him. A peachtree that he was standing under was shot to pieces and Captain Kennedy covered up in the limbs. He came back looking very pale. I went and asked him if he was hurt. He said, "No."

The Twelfth Georgia Battalion was on our left, and did not have as good a hill for protection from the enemy's works as we had, and they advanced to a more exposed place, though not as near the enemy's line as we were. Colonel Capers was in advance and leading his men like a noble hero and commander. He was severely wounded and carried off the field. . . . We never had any doubts about the fighting qualities of the officers and men of the Twelfth Georgia Battalion again. They won the respect of the brigade at once. We had accomplished what we were ordered to do — to find out if the enemy had left our front — so we fell back some distance. We had nearly exhausted our ammunition. We were soon relieved and returned to the line.

In about two or three days our regiment was again put on skirmish duty. The night was very dark, and I was put on vidette duty. I had to advance about two hundred yards in front of our skirmish line to find out whether the enemy was moving or not. I heard a Yankee crawling in the leaves. I was by a large oak tree, and remained very quiet. He came in a few feet of me, but I could not see him and did not shoot at him. He turned and crawled back.

The next day the skirmish line was in the thick woods and not more than one hundred yards in advance of our line of battle. We had good rifle pits about twenty-five yards apart, with about five men placed in every pit. We had a good line of works and plenty of artillery, though our troops were so scarce till General Gordon's division only had a half line in the works. The boys in the pits had to keep firing to keep the enemy from advancing near us. The pit that I and four others were placed in was in an old road, which was an avenue to the battery which we had driven the Zouaves in a few days before.

We thought it was about one thousand yards to it, and the avenue was about twenty feet wide, and there was one limb projecting out a little further in the road than the rest. We decided that if we would shoot about as high as that limb we could pitch our balls just about to the enemy's battery. Our orders were for every man to shoot once in every five minutes, so, instead of shooting in the woods as we were ordered, we pitched our balls at the battery. The enemy pretty soon opened fire on us with their artillery and we got a terrible shelling. Our batteries, right in our rear, replied, and we had to lie very low. They cut a limb from a tree and it fell on Ziba Collins, of Company K, and hurt him, so he had to go to the rear. We pitched our balls at them several times during the day and they would shell us every time. Our officers found out what we were doing and stopped us.

- G. W. Nichols, A Soldier's Story of His Regiment, 162-65.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
I think this were the rapid improvement in firearms made a big impact on casualty rates, especially out west.
The difference between rifles and smoothbore muskets had some impact. But the steady shift towards breach loading weapons and repeaters and the improvement in logistics to support these weapons had a big impact on Confederate units that came in contact with veteran, well armed units of the United States army.
Winchesters sold well after the conclusion of the war and even the Lakota wanted them after experiencing them at the Fetterman fight.
A commander whose unit did not face a regiment armed with advanced weapons could have little idea how high casualty rates could be just a small distance away in the same fight.
Franklin and Nashville come to mind.
 

KansasFreestater

1st Lieutenant
View attachment 149444

A skirmish line typically consisted of one or two companies, sometimes an entire regiment, deployed in extended open order. Each man was spaced five paces apart and organized in groups of four, or "comrades in battle" which consisted of two files in the two-rank line of battle. Each group was spaced 20 to 40 paces apart. The men were allowed to fight from any position they felt comfortable - standing, kneeling, lying down - and duck and dodge behind what cover they could find, all while maintaining the ragged line.

The essential role of the skirmish line is to advance ahead of the main line of battle, fan out and cover a large area of ground in order to detect the whereabouts or movements of the enemy, and/or screen the main line in the rear. Their place was not only in the front, they could also cover the flanks or serve as a rear guard in a retreat. In an attack the skirmishers would usually be in the lead, driving back the opposing skirmish line and harassing the enemy's main line of battle. Skirmish lines were also utilized for tasks such as silencing an enemy battery from a safe distance or raiding the enemy picket line.

Early in the war regiments typically had two flank companies to serve as its designated skirmishers. As the war progressed there were more efforts to organize sharpshooter units, mainly for the purpose of having an experienced and highly-trained body of men who could readily serve as skirmishers or pickets for their brigade or division. The art of skirmishing was something not cut out for every soldier; anyone could learn skirmish drill, but to actually fight as a skirmisher effectively they had to be quick, nimble, reliable, and be able to think and act more on an individual bases. Unlike when fighting in line of battle, often firing blindly into the smoke in the general direction of the enemy, skirmishers had to be good shots because they had to fire at individual targets, sometimes at greater ranges than that between two battle lines. That's one reason why most sharpshooter units trained in range estimation and were made up of hand-picked men.

Skirmishers didn't only fight in a major, fluid battle of maneuver. While the lines were static, both armies opposite each other, the skirmishers would usually be in no man's land, watching for any movements by the enemy and taking pot shots at the opposing skirmish line or other targets on the field. They were often under fire for long periods of time. Sometimes fights between the opposing skirmish lines would get pretty intense, to the point where it was almost a regular battle with advances, retreats, and counter-attacks. The Atlanta and Overland campaigns saw this fighting on almost a daily basis.

View attachment 149359

There is nothing in this world that is more exciting, more nerve stirring to a soldier, than to participate in a battle line of skirmishers, when you have a fair field and open fight. There it takes nerve and pluck, however, it is allowed each skirmisher to take whatever protection he can in the way of tree or stump. Then on the advance you do not know when to expect an enemy to spring from behind a tree, stump, or bush, take aim and fire. It resembles somewhat the order of Indian warfare, for on a skirmish line 'all is fair in war.'
- D. Augustus Dickert, History of Kershaw's Brigade, 421-22.

Skirmishing, as it became reduced to a science, depended on two general rules: every man must keep concealed as much as possible behind trees, logs, fences, buildings, or what not, and each party must run upon the approach of its opponent with anything like determination. If a skirmisher should show himself unnecessarily he stood a great chance of getting hit, and if he waited until the enemy came within forty or fifty yards, it was exceedingly dangerous either getting away or staying. The skirmish line was conducted on principles that looked to personal safety in a great degree, and was the favorite position of the experienced soldier. If however the holding of the position was essential, which was seldom the case, the men knew it intuitively, and the skirmish line required a battle line to drive it.
- Aldace F. Walker, The Vermont Brigade in the Shenandoah Valley, 56-7.

The sharp shooters have a very peculiar duty in action. They are the skirmishers who go ahead and "kick up the muss" as they say. In fact it is almost a new branch of service. . . . We have some fancy movements in skirmish drill. . . . I was always fond of skirmish drill, but never more so than at the present time. . . . They understand skirmish calls on the bugle so well that it is rare sport to drill the battalion.
- Philip Racine, ed., Unspoiled Heart: The Journal of Charles Mattocks of the 17th Maine, 111, 126.

This kind of fighting gave excellent opportunities for the display of individual bravery and address, and the manoeuvering of the boys to get good shots at times created considerable amusement. When some enterprising “Confed.” was well posted and annoyed us much, two or three would arrange their plans to knock him over, and creeping up cautiously from different directions, one of them would draw his fire, while the other on his flank would shoot him.
- E.M. Woodward, Our Campaigns, 270-71.

At the battle of Corinth, Oct. 4, 1862:
Day finally broke, and soon after the sun rose bright and clear, while the artillery thundered from the town, and ours replied in deep and muttering peals. Skirmishing began now between us and the enemy's sharpshooters. Both parties kept well concealed behind trees and other shelter, at the distance of seventy-five or a hundred yards apart; but the woods were overgrown to such an extent with high weeds, trailing vines and other foliage, that an occasional glimpse of a blue-coat shifting his hiding place, or the flash and smoke of the guns, were all that was discernible. Now and then, their line would advance rapidly fifteen or twenty paces, firing as they came, to feel our position and ascertain the exact situation. Whenever visible, they were subjected to a well-directed fire, and never showed themselves but a moment at a time.
- Ephraim M. Anderson, Memoirs: Historical and Personal: Including the Campaigns of the First Missouri Brigade, 235-36.


This thread is to compile any and all information on skirmishing in the Civil War. Any other good first hand accounts, images, etc., are welcome.
Wish I'd read something like this years ago. Might have made some of the battle accounts clearer to me. Thanks for this thread!
 
Last edited:

Blessmag

Captain
Joined
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Location
Minnesota
After Jo. Shelby's rebs sunk the Queen City June 1864, Gen Carr arrived with infantry:frown:Thank you Mark K. Christ)

. Skirmishers of the Eleventh Missouri rode forward about three-fourths of a mile before encountering their counterparts in Shelby’s force, and the Illinois infantrymen rushed to their relief. The Eleventh formed to the left, and their left anchored on the swampy ground along the Cache River, elements of the One Hundred Twenty-sixth to their right and soldiers of thee Fifty-fourth Illinois completing the line. Carr’s little army moved forward, forcing Shelby’s cavalrymen to stubbornly give ground before them in what one Yankee soldier described as ‘a smart scrimish.”

The Earth Reeled and Trees Trembled, Civil War Arkansas, 1863-1864. A Collection of Essays and Reflections on Life in Civil War Arkansas. Edited by Mark K. Christ. The Old State House Museum, 2007. Pp. 139-140.
 

Blessmag

Captain
Joined
Jun 19, 2010
Location
Minnesota
“June 26.—Started early in the morning. Reached Clarendon and landed at 8 a.m. We were the first regiment (12th Michigan) to land. Four left companies were sent forward as skirmishers. Company H was soon sent as a reserve. Skirmishers soon found Rebels under [Joseph Orville] Shelby. The regiment moved forward and formed on the right in the woods. After waiting here some time, Company A was sent forward through a swamp with water knee deep and formed in a cornfield. Here several shells came near the regiment. One burst in close proximity and wound Sergeant [Robert ] A. Walton, Company F, in the shoulder. Company F was here detached to assist the skirmishers and moved forward.”

Supplement to the Official Records, Michigan Troops (Union) –Infantry. Janet Hewett. P.71.
 

WJC

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Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
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View attachment 149444

A skirmish line typically consisted of one or two companies, sometimes an entire regiment, deployed in extended open order. Each man was spaced five paces apart and organized in groups of four, or "comrades in battle" which consisted of two files in the two-rank line of battle. Each group was spaced 20 to 40 paces apart. The men were allowed to fight from any position they felt comfortable - standing, kneeling, lying down - and duck and dodge behind what cover they could find, all while maintaining the ragged line.

The essential role of the skirmish line is to advance ahead of the main line of battle, fan out and cover a large area of ground in order to detect the whereabouts or movements of the enemy, and/or screen the main line in the rear. Their place was not only in the front, they could also cover the flanks or serve as a rear guard in a retreat. In an attack the skirmishers would usually be in the lead, driving back the opposing skirmish line and harassing the enemy's main line of battle. Skirmish lines were also utilized for tasks such as silencing an enemy battery from a safe distance or raiding the enemy picket line.

Early in the war regiments typically had two flank companies to serve as its designated skirmishers. As the war progressed there were more efforts to organize sharpshooter units, mainly for the purpose of having an experienced and highly-trained body of men who could readily serve as skirmishers or pickets for their brigade or division. The art of skirmishing was something not cut out for every soldier; anyone could learn skirmish drill, but to actually fight as a skirmisher effectively they had to be quick, nimble, reliable, and be able to think and act more on an individual bases. Unlike when fighting in line of battle, often firing blindly into the smoke in the general direction of the enemy, skirmishers had to be good shots because they had to fire at individual targets, sometimes at greater ranges than that between two battle lines. That's one reason why most sharpshooter units trained in range estimation and were made up of hand-picked men.

Skirmishers didn't only fight in a major, fluid battle of maneuver. While the lines were static, both armies opposite each other, the skirmishers would usually be in no man's land, watching for any movements by the enemy and taking pot shots at the opposing skirmish line or other targets on the field. They were often under fire for long periods of time. Sometimes fights between the opposing skirmish lines would get pretty intense, to the point where it was almost a regular battle with advances, retreats, and counter-attacks. The Atlanta and Overland campaigns saw this fighting on almost a daily basis.

View attachment 149359

There is nothing in this world that is more exciting, more nerve stirring to a soldier, than to participate in a battle line of skirmishers, when you have a fair field and open fight. There it takes nerve and pluck, however, it is allowed each skirmisher to take whatever protection he can in the way of tree or stump. Then on the advance you do not know when to expect an enemy to spring from behind a tree, stump, or bush, take aim and fire. It resembles somewhat the order of Indian warfare, for on a skirmish line 'all is fair in war.'
- D. Augustus Dickert, History of Kershaw's Brigade, 421-22.

Skirmishing, as it became reduced to a science, depended on two general rules: every man must keep concealed as much as possible behind trees, logs, fences, buildings, or what not, and each party must run upon the approach of its opponent with anything like determination. If a skirmisher should show himself unnecessarily he stood a great chance of getting hit, and if he waited until the enemy came within forty or fifty yards, it was exceedingly dangerous either getting away or staying. The skirmish line was conducted on principles that looked to personal safety in a great degree, and was the favorite position of the experienced soldier. If however the holding of the position was essential, which was seldom the case, the men knew it intuitively, and the skirmish line required a battle line to drive it.
- Aldace F. Walker, The Vermont Brigade in the Shenandoah Valley, 56-7.

The sharp shooters have a very peculiar duty in action. They are the skirmishers who go ahead and "kick up the muss" as they say. In fact it is almost a new branch of service. . . . We have some fancy movements in skirmish drill. . . . I was always fond of skirmish drill, but never more so than at the present time. . . . They understand skirmish calls on the bugle so well that it is rare sport to drill the battalion.
- Philip Racine, ed., Unspoiled Heart: The Journal of Charles Mattocks of the 17th Maine, 111, 126.

This kind of fighting gave excellent opportunities for the display of individual bravery and address, and the manoeuvering of the boys to get good shots at times created considerable amusement. When some enterprising “Confed.” was well posted and annoyed us much, two or three would arrange their plans to knock him over, and creeping up cautiously from different directions, one of them would draw his fire, while the other on his flank would shoot him.
- E.M. Woodward, Our Campaigns, 270-71.

At the battle of Corinth, Oct. 4, 1862:
Day finally broke, and soon after the sun rose bright and clear, while the artillery thundered from the town, and ours replied in deep and muttering peals. Skirmishing began now between us and the enemy's sharpshooters. Both parties kept well concealed behind trees and other shelter, at the distance of seventy-five or a hundred yards apart; but the woods were overgrown to such an extent with high weeds, trailing vines and other foliage, that an occasional glimpse of a blue-coat shifting his hiding place, or the flash and smoke of the guns, were all that was discernible. Now and then, their line would advance rapidly fifteen or twenty paces, firing as they came, to feel our position and ascertain the exact situation. Whenever visible, they were subjected to a well-directed fire, and never showed themselves but a moment at a time.
- Ephraim M. Anderson, Memoirs: Historical and Personal: Including the Campaigns of the First Missouri Brigade, 235-36.


This thread is to compile any and all information on skirmishing in the Civil War. Any other good first hand accounts, images, etc., are welcome.
Thanks for starting this thread posting this interesting information.
Every book on the Civil War mentions 'skirmishing' and 'skirmish lines' with little additional information. Until now, I thought that skirmishers were simply selected by a noncom from the general body of soldiers as the need arose....
 

AUG

Major
Retired Moderator
Joined
Nov 20, 2012
Location
Texas
Thanks for starting this thread posting this interesting information.
Every book on the Civil War mentions 'skirmishing' and 'skirmish lines' with little additional information. Until now, I thought that skirmishers were simply selected by a noncom from the general body of soldiers as the need arose....
Sometimes that was the case, but usually it was the two flank companies or any number of companies chosen by the regimental commander, or an entire regiment by the brigade commander.

At Malvern Hill, the Texas Brigade held in reserve but under heavy artillery fire, Capt. Ike Turner of Co. K, 5th Texas Infantry asked permission from Hood to take a detail and harass a certain battery to their front. He apparently used his own company and a few volunteers from others - 160 men according to one account. On the night before the battle of Antietam Capt. Turner was said to have called up one volunteer from each of the regiment's ten companies to serve as skirmishers/scouts. And on another instance, during the Second Manassas Campaign, Lt. Col. John C. Upton of the 5th Texas utilized 150 picked men to serve as skirmishers and clear the Federals from the town of Haymarket, Va.
 
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