Colonel Berdan's Sharpshooters

Support for the 1863 shooter. Discussions of powders, loads, bullets, etc.
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Mike Hansen
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Joined: Tue Oct 01, 2002 11:36 am
Location: Alcester, SD

Colonel Berdan's Sharpshooters

Post by Mike Hansen » Tue Jun 08, 2004 6:18 am

I just finished reading “Sharpshooter – Hiram Berdan, his famous Sharpshooters and their Sharps Rifles,” by Wiley Sword. In paperback, the ISBN is 0-917218-37-X.

An interesting historical account, it paints Colonel Berdan in less than glowing colors. Those familiar with the current mini-series “Band of Brothers” can compare Colonel Berdan with Easy Company’s Lt. Norman Dike -- but that’s for another thread.

One fascinating item was a reference to a rifle used by one of the Sharpshooters. In describing some of the soldiers in the two Sharpshooter regiments, it’s said some brought their privately owned weapons with them. On page 40, reference is made of a Private George H. Chase of Company E, 1st Sharpshooters, who carried a 32-pound telescopic target rifle. The rifle isn’t specifically called a Sharps, but what could it have been? Granted, the telescopic sight would have added to the total weight, but thirty-two pounds? YEOW!

I was unable to find any reference of a heavy Model 1859 or 1863 rifle in Sellers’ book, “Sharps Firearms.” Perhaps someone can shed light on this.

Anyway, the book on the Sharpshooters is quite interesting and an enjoyable read.

Mike
from Shiloh:
1874 "Military Carbine" (7 1/2 lb, 22" bbl) in .45-70
1874 "Sporter #1" (25 lb, 34" bbl) in .45-70, rechambered to .45-110

Rich Siegel
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Joined: Thu Sep 26, 2002 7:53 am
Location: Maine

Post by Rich Siegel » Tue Jun 08, 2004 7:31 pm

Mike,

It was my understanding, but I can't remember a specific book or magazine to site you, that some of the men in the 1st Sharpshooters Reg carried their own target muzzleloading rifles shooting a paper patched bullet. These are usually referred to a picket bullet rifles.

One other thing. There were more then just Berdans' sharpshooter units in the Union army. The 7th Ohio Company of Volunteer Sharpshooters were armed with Spencer rifles. They were finally detached to General Sherman to be his bodyguard.

Rich

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abenson
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Location: Randolph, MA

Post by abenson » Tue Jun 08, 2004 8:11 pm

The 22nd Massachussets Vol Infantry was raised in 1861 with a company of sharpshooters (known as 2nd Company Sharpshooters or Andrew's Sharpshooters) and a battery of artillery (3rd Light Battery) attached.

The men of the Andrew's Sharpshooters provided their own weapons, in each case a heavy barreled muzzleloader, usually scope sighted, firing patched round balls. The sharpshooters were forced to give up their favorite weapons for the new Sharps in July of 1862 and weren't at all happy about it, though according to the regimental history the men came to agree that "...the new rifle was better for general service than the old."

From the regimental history of the 22nd MVI, published in 1887:

"Colonel Barnes of the 18th [MVI] commanding the brigade, July 14th ordered Lieut. Stiles [commanding Andrew's Sharpshooters] to make a requisition for Sharp's rifles to replace the old ones. This was done because fixed ammunition for this arm was always on hand in the ordnance train, and could be served easily and quickly. It was also decided that a lighter arm would be better for the health of the men, as they could drill with it, carry it on marches and so keep in better physical condition. The news of the exchange threw the Sharpshooters into a state of excitement."

"July 28th the Sharp's rifles were received in camp, and the excitement among the Sharpshooters, which had been smoldering for two weeks, broke out afresh. The company fell in, and were marched to the quartermaster's tent, where the old rifles and equipments were turned in. The Sharp's rifles were then offered, but only one man took one, and he threw it down when he found himself alone. The men were then marched to quarters, to give them time to reflect upon the situation and get some supper. Again they were ordered on the line, and Col Griswold [commanding 22nd MVI] made a speech to the men, and gave them five minutes in which to take the Sharp's rifles. Before the time was up, Col. Griswold asked for the objections to the new arm, and several of the members stated the position assumed by the Sharpshooters, after which the company was dismissed. In a few minutes however Col. Barnes commanding the brigade came down to camp and the Sharpshooters were again ordered into line. A guard was placed around them, and Col. Barnes addressed them at considerable length. He accused them of being in a state of mutiny and rebellion towards their officers, and of being a disgrace to the State they came from. He did not spare his epithets, and threatened them with court-martial and Dry Tortugas, and reminded them that he might even order the guard to shoot them. He finally said 'All those who are willing to obey all lawful orders of their superior officers, step six paces forward.' The men stepped forward and they were dismissed. Nothing was done about the matter the next day, and on the 30th the new rifles were distributed in the tents, and the men took them under protest, and the trouble ended."
A gun in the hand beats a cop on the phone.

Sporter #3 in .45-70 w/ 30" standard weight barrel, semi-fancy wood w/AA finish, pewter tip, steel buttplate and bone & charcoal pack finish.

gmartin
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Hiram Berdan's Sharpshooters

Post by gmartin » Tue Jun 08, 2004 9:36 pm

Abenson, Mike, Rich,
Thanks for the time to enlighten us with great history! Berdan's men were not at all happy with having the Colt Revolving Rifles! As far as the 32 lb. rifle with telescopic sight, Rich is correct, as I read it from Sword's book, individually owned and cared for patched round ball rifles. I as well remember discussion of several sniper contests in the order of "Enemy At The Gate." Also on many occasions the snipers with their own rifles found themselves in great trouble with no bayonent to defend themselves with. Can't help but wonder if the men of the 22 nd. MVI who finally surrendered their rifles had them stored away safely for the duration.
Best, Gregg

Mike Hansen
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Location: Alcester, SD

Re: Hiram Berdan's Sharpshooters

Post by Mike Hansen » Wed Jun 09, 2004 11:33 am

[quote="gmartin"]Abenson, Mike, Rich,
...As far as the 32 lb. rifle with telescopic sight, Rich is correct, as I read it from Sword's book, individually owned and cared for patched round ball rifles...
Best, Gregg[/quote]

The thought of a rifle weighing that much was what caught my eye. I was unaware *any* muzzleloader was that heavy. The 25 pound 1874 Sharps referred to by Sellers was amazing enough.

Thanks guys,

Mike
from Shiloh:
1874 "Military Carbine" (7 1/2 lb, 22" bbl) in .45-70
1874 "Sporter #1" (25 lb, 34" bbl) in .45-70, rechambered to .45-110

gmartin
Posts: 359
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2004 9:55 pm
Location: Boise Id

Berdan's Sharpshooters

Post by gmartin » Wed Jun 09, 2004 1:18 pm

Mike,
Got you. Kind of like carrying around the the 90mm Recoiless Rifle, another single shot, but...
Gregg

Rich Siegel
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Joined: Thu Sep 26, 2002 7:53 am
Location: Maine

Post by Rich Siegel » Wed Jun 09, 2004 7:03 pm

Mike,

A fellow at Friendship 10 years back had a 90 pound muzzleloading bench gun. Talk about a personal cannon but only 50 caliber if I remember right.

Rich

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JAGG
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Post by JAGG » Mon Jun 14, 2004 12:20 pm

The rifle was an under hammer muzzleloading slug gun ! Made for target shooting in that era before the war started ! JAGG
JAGG

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