A Georgia Sharpshooter

by Fred Ray on December 18, 2008

I came across some letters from a Georgia sharpshooter, Milton Barrett, in The Confederacy Is on Her Way Up the Spout, published in 1992 by University of Georgia Press. This is how I’ve gotten a lot of my information, by going through the letters and diaries of men like Barrett. Since most sharpshooters were detailed and not part of a permanent unit, it’s often difficult to tell who served as such. Barrett (who was actually from Pickens Country, SC) enlisted in the Eighteenth Georgia (part of Wofford’s brigade) but transferred to the Third Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters when that unit was formed in May, 1863. Unlike most sharpshooter battalions, the 3rd Georgia Battalion was a regularly constituted unit with its own roster, and its men did not go back to their parent regiments in between battles.

Corporal Milton Barrett

Corporal Milton Barrett

Barrett served with the unit at Gettysburg and went West with Longstreet’s First Corps to Tennessee, where he fought a Chickamauga and the assault on Fort Sanders. In August 1864 he was captured by Union cavalry at Guard Hill, just outside Front Royal and sent to Elmira prison, where he died of smallpox in February, 1865, just weeks before the end of the war. He never returned home and lies today in Grave #2108, just outside where the prison stood.

Guard Hill was a confused action where Wofford tried to throw his sharpshooters across a stream to cut off a Union retreat, but was surprised by the arrival of Custer’s cavalry. Twenty-four officers 176 men were captured, many of them from the Georgia sharpshooters. I should mention here that sharpshooters or indeed any infantry who operated in open order were especially vulnerable to being ridden down by cavalry, and that’s exactly what happened here.

Barret’s letters do not throw much light on his training or service as a sharpshooter, but there was a photo of him, which I’ve added to the Post of Honor section on my web site. I’ve tried to put as many of these brave men on there as possible, so if you have photos of sharpshooters from either side that you’d like posted let me know.

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