Drei US Sharpshooter im Einsatz. (Berdansharpshooters)

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Berdan sharpshooters were trained to fight as individuals and groups of individuals. On the skirmish line, the sharpshooters would work with a firing partner; one would load while the other fired, so half of the rifles were always loaded on the line


Berdan's Sharpshooters "Deadeyes For The Union"

In the 15 years before the war, rich inventor Hiram Berdan was known as the top rifle shot in the United States. In the summer of 1861, Berdan sent agents all over the North to recruit the best marksmen in each state to form a unit of sharpshooters. Special benefits were offered to the potential soldiers: they would receive Sharps breech-loading target rifles, be reimbursed if they brought their own rifles, get extra pay, and avoid pulling battle-line or picket duty.

The sharpshooters were to be utilized as snipers and skirmishers to demoralize the Confederate troops by picking off their officers and artillerymen at long range. Before being accepted as a sharpshooter, a recruit had to prove that he could shoot by putting 10 bullets within five inches of the center of a bull's-eye at 200 yards.

On November 30, 1861, Berdan was commissioned a colonel in command of the 1st Regiment of U.S. Sharpshooters, more commonly called Berdan's Sharpshooters. When another regiment of sharpshooters, with eight instead of the usual 10 companies, was formed, the camp of instruction at Washington became a fashionable stop for capital society, for Berdan was quite a showman. Dressed in regulation-cut army uniforms in forest green, the soldiers put on dazzling shooting exhibitions. The green color was chosen as camouflage to make the lone soldier less conspicuous as he went about his deadly business.

Berdan's Sharpshooters received their baptism of fire during the 1862 Peninsular Campaign and served prominently on many battlefields with the Army of the Potomac. The units were noted for the high quality of their battlefield commanders. Of the 2,570 sharpshooters, 1,008, or 40 percent, were killed or wounded during the war.

Fascinating Fact: Getting Sharps rifles was the only one of Berdan's promises to the recruits that was kept. They did not get extra pay, were not reimbursed for using their own weapons, and were not exempt from battle-line duty.