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 Posted: Mon Jul 25th, 2011 10:19 am
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Hellcat
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Ok, was able to get some of my books out. The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference (editors Margaret E. Wgner, Gary W. Gallagher, and Paul Finkelman) actually has an article dedicated to the Whitworth on page 494 of the 2002 publication. It states that in the hands of skilled Confederate marksmen a Whitworth could hit a target at over a 1,000 yards distance and that the rifles graduated sights went up to twelve hundred yards in range. They also were eqquipped with the Davidson telesopic sights and the sharpshoorters used them to pick of Federal signalmen, artillerymen, pickets, and anyone foolish enough to stick their heads up out of a trench. It goes on to say that during the assault on Fort Sumter in 1863 Confederate sharpshooters were picking off targets at thirteen hundred yards with a hundred percent accuracy (actually it says they picked off every man who stuck his head above the sandbags at that distance). Only Confederate toops used the Whitworth, Federal troops prefered the Sharps rifle for the same purpose. And the article starts off by saying the Whitworth is generally considered to be the most accurate of the small arms used in the war.

Philip Katcher in his The Complete Civil War does give an idea what was required to become a Federal sharpshooter. You had to put ten shots into a ten inch circle at two hundred yards. No mention about what was required to become a sharpshooter on the Confederate side but as Katcher says the first such unit was structed much like the 1st and 2nd USSS then I'm guessing they may also have been required to hit a ten inch target at two hundred yards ten times.

More interesting though is that Katcher gives us an article on what could be seen as a sharpshooter team during the siege of Port Hudson. A Coropral W.E. Halladay as spotter and a Samuel O. Horn as the shooter of a Company B. The snippet talks about them being in a pit together and Halladay having a telescope which he used for amusement. Spying an enemy movement at a tent he told Horn the position and Horn sighted his Enfield on the position, ask Halladay to tell him when the man was there again. He did and Horn fired, about 15 to 20 minutes later the ambulance arrived at the tent so they knew they'd at least wounded somebody. What makes it most intersting book wise is that it's not until you get down to the bottom and see the source that you find out they were from Company B, 8th Vt VI. I assumed since this snippet was in the section discussing Confederate forces that they were Confederates themselves, but the source is George N. Carpenter's History of the Eighth Regiment, Vermont Volunteers. It is kinda interesting to think of them working at least in this one instance as a sharpshooter team, though I'm not sure if either was a sharpshooter.

Katchers book is a little contradicted in Encyclopedia of the American Civil War (edited by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T Heidler). There it says in order to become a USSS you had to hit a ten inch circle at two hundred yards, but instead of ten shots it was only seven. Here it does say in the paragraph discussing the Confederate sharpshooters had to be able to hit a target at at least six hundred yards with open or field sights.

This book does agree with the Library of Congress Civil War Desk Refernce on the Whitworth being the most accurate and states it could hit a target in excess of 1,200 yards.

 

 

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