A Most Uncivil War

by Fred Ray on February 8, 2017 · 0 comments

There was gallantry during the conflict and the larger armies generally observed the rules of war. However, in smaller actions the conduct of both sides was often extremely brutal.

Here’s a letter from Thomas J. Bond of the 2nd Ohio, who describes how some suspected guerillas were summarily dealt with. The letter is up for sale at HCA Auctions.

…there was a man hung on Friday and one today. It was a short distance from camp. I went over and saw him but did not go to see that [man hung] today for one was enough. They murdered a man. They cut his ears off and pulled his tung out and then cut his throat but I think they [those hung] got what they deserved…they belonged to a band of guerrillas. I would like very much to be their to attend to them pick nicker’s but it would not [have] done for me…to been to the one where Stant [was.]…I would have got in a fuss with some of the Butternuts for I hate them worse than the vilest…Rebels.

And another from a soldier in the 97th Illinois, writing from New Orleans about the Copperheads back home in the spring of 1864. It too is up for bids if you’d like to have an authentic letter.

I was very glad to hear …that Mr. Sturgis had abandoned the notion of going into the service again…[and that] there had been some Copperheads killed by the soldiers in the county. I was glad to hear of that. It serves them right. I would rather kill a Copperhead than a rebel…the news from old Grant is glorious…Richmond will fall this time and the rebs be driven from Virginia …Grant can do up the job if any body can…

As Sherman put it, “war is cruelty and you cannot refine it.”

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More on the Origins of “Sharpshooter”

by Fred Ray on February 7, 2017 · 0 comments

As part of the continuing quest to find the origins of the term “sharpshooter,” I directed a query to the Museum of Military History (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) in Vienna, Austria. The Austrians, after all, were the first to employ rifle units and true light infantry in the 18th Century, and Central Europe (the Tirol, southern Germany, and Switzerland) was the birthplace of the rifle. Their reply is worth quoting at length.

While they were unable to definitely say when the term “Scharfschütze” came into to use, “your assumption regarding the origins in German language and the transfer to the United States via German mercenaries in the American War of Independence seems to be totally plausible. Furthermore I’m able to confirm that the term “Scharfschütze” was established in German language long before 1795 and that it had already been employed as part of the official designation for military units before that date.”

In the military of the Hapsburg empire the term “Scharfschütze” meant those soldiers who were armed with rifles in contrast to flints [i.e. smoothbore muskets]. The origins of the employment of so called “Scharfschützen” for military purposes lie in the improvised formation of companies of professional hunters (“Jäger”) or members of shooting associations (“Schützenvereine”) in times of war. Shooting associations were sometimes called (in their own right and not to be confused with the nowadays military connotations of this term) “Scharfschützenvereine”. ….

The usage of the term “Scharfschützen” as designation for whole units is documented at least for the beginning of the 18th century (as far as I know, while there might have been even older incidents). As part of the system of homeland or territorial “militia-like” defense of Tyrol (“Landesverteidigung”), companies of “Scharfschützen” were raised in 1702 in order to be employed against a Bavarian invasion during the Spanish War of Succession. Later on in 1704 “permanent” “Scharfschützen-Compagnien” were raised to support the units of the homeland defense. In 1713 they were even turned into two regiments. …. However for the time being still no real permanent “Scharfschützen” or “Jäger” units existed, which were kept under arms even in times of peace. Several temporary units were however again formed during successive wars—for example in the Austrian War of Succession (1740-1748)  or in the Seven Years War (1756-1763).

A major step towards the creation of a permanent branch of service of “Jäger” (light infantry, partially or completely armed with rifles) happened in 1769 when it was decreed that in times of war “Jäger-Corps” staffed with “Scharfschützen” should be established. Such units came into existence during the Bavarian War of Succession which saw a “Tyroler Scharfschützen-Corps” and a “Mährisch-schlesisches Feld-Jäger-Corps” (Moravian Silesian Feldjägerkorps). Both units were rather of battalion than corps size. In the War against the Ottoman Empire (1788-1790) again there were raised a “Deutsches Jäger-Corps” and a “Tyroler-Scharfschützen-Corps”. Both roughly in the strength of weak regiments (each with 10 companies). The first “Jäger” regiment ever that was created as formal and supposedly permanent unit, was the “Tyroler Jäger-Regiment Nr. 64” however, established in 1801 and staffed with “Scharfschützen” hitherto employed in other units. Out of this regiment from 1808 onwards the system of “Feldjägerbataillone” (Battalions of light infantry) developed, which was the basis of the branch of light infantry in the Army of the Hapsburg Empire until 1918 (while of course losing their specialty of being armed with rifles with the general introduction of rifles in in the infantry in the mid-19th century). ….

Worth remembering that the term “Scharfschütze” was used in the German military context to distinguish rifle-armed soldiers (who were specialists) from the infantry of the line who carried smoothbore muskets.

 

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Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!

What are your Top 10 Gettysburg Books? See what a panel of bloggers said recently.

Want to read some interesting Civil War content from amateurs and pros alike? Check out the Top 10 Civil War Blogs and Top 10 Civil War Blogs: 11-20.

Sherman Takes the Super Bowl

by Fred Ray February 6, 2017

Did you watch the Super Bowl? Atlanta had the best first half since Gone With The Wind. I didn’t, but the jokes are thick and fast on the ‘net today. and my favorite:

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Berry Benson, How Much Shooting, and The Sniper’s War

by Fred Ray January 29, 2017

Joe Bilby has another excellent article in American Rifleman on Confederate sharpshooter Berry Benson. I first saw the monument in downtown Augusta, Ga., in 1966, as a young second lieutenant at nearby Fort Gordon. It was an impressive sight, and even though I was a Yankee from New Jersey, I was drawn to it. Statues […]

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New Whitworth, Buck & Ball vs. Minié

by Fred Ray January 24, 2017

Cap and Ball tries out the new Pedersoli Whitworth rifle reproduction. Unfortunately this rifle remains vaporware here in the US. It was supposed to become available in mid-2016 but no one has actually seen one for sale. Too bad, since I think there’s a ready market for them out there. Suggested retail was to have […]

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More on the Origins of “Sharpshooter”

by Fred Ray January 11, 2017

I’ve addressed the origins of the term “sharpshooter” several times, and it seems to be a popular one for commenters. Lately I’ve dug up a few more comments on its origin and first use in America. One of the more intriguing units in the Revolutionary War is the Althouse Sharp-Shooters, which was a spin-off of […]

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Reflections of Glory

by Fred Ray January 6, 2017

Watched Glory and parts of it several times before the holidays, AHC was pretty much showing it non-stop, which gives you time to dissect things more completely. Conclusion: made in 1989, it holds up pretty well, and I think it’s one of the best Civil War movies from Hollywood. It also got Denzel Washington into […]

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