Sharpshooting (sniper)

This was primarily long range shooting at high value targets or to harass enemy troops.

They were often called upon to act as individuals, who equipped with rations, water and ammunition sallied forth in the morning to the front line, where hidden by the terrain, foliage and trees, they looked for worthwhile targets such as enemy sharpshooters, Officers and artillery (men and horses).

Artillery Suppression.

WARWICK RIVER. - Berdan's United States Sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac: by Capt. C.A. Stevens

"In the middle of April, Maj. Trepp received orders to report with Companies A and C to Gen. W. F. Smith for duty.
Smith's division formed the extreme left wing of the army. It appeared that the generals had learned to appreciate the usefulness of the Sharpshooters, for these two companies were called for, as the troops on the left flank were very much annoyed by the enemy's artillery.
Here our duties were very disagreeable and extremely dangerous. On this flank, Warwick creek, a sluggish, unfordable stream, separated the two armies.
The enemy had their side strongly fortified, and where a dam crossed the stream, being their weakest point, had planted a battery of artillery flanked by rifle pits, which menaced the position Gen. Smith's artillery had taken, and endangered the picket line in their front. During the night of our arrival, we constructed a rifle pit flanked by fascines as near as 100 yards from the enemy's works. While in this, we had to remain during the day, and could only leave it at night owing to the proximity of the enemy's batteries.
Every morning before dawn a detachment of Sharpshooters occupied the rifle pit, and, remaining 16 hours on duty, were retired at night.
From this position we watched the movement of the enemy's artillery, and made it impossible for them to serve their guns any longer.
We were all the time in a most dangerous position, and lost while performing these duties several of our men, among whom was our second sergeant, N. Sauer, a  most excellent soldier, who was killed in the rifle pits April 25th. Success in war demands sacrifices, but we accomplished our purpose, and thereby earned the thanks of our generals."

 Engage Enemy sharpshooters - Berdan's United States Sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac: by Capt. C.A. Stevens


The 3d corps had been kept in reserve as a support to both 1st and 2d corps, Birney's division behind the 1st. Gen. Newton commanding 1st corps, says: "I made arrangements with Gen. Birney to draw upon him for such support as might be needed, and express my obligations for the cheerful and handsome manner in which he responded to every call made on him." Although the corps rested on their arms subject to call, the Sharpshooters were out to the front in different positions. Companies C, I, and K, under Capt. Baker were protecting batteries of the 5th corps, on our left, and Col. Trepp says: "On this occasion, Corp. Wellington Fitch, of Company C, distinguished himself by making a bold reconnaissance alone, which resulted in capturing a squad of rebel sharpshooters that greatly annoyed our artillery."

Lieut. E. A. Wilson, who was in command of Company C, says Baker's orders were to clear the front of Little Round Top of the enemy's sharpshooters, which was done, driving them off and capturing a lieutenant and 30 men.


THE "DEVIL'S DEN." This forbidden spot was situated in the hillside fronting Little Round Top about 300 yards distant, with a marshy interval or swamp intervening; and consisted of a hole in the rocks, or cavern, with a small opening, with blasted, barren surroundings. A fitting resort for witches,  freebooters — and rebel sharpshooters, who occupied it that day, with whom the Michigan men scattered behind the boulders at the foot of Little Round Top were kept busy exchanging shots for a long time, as also with other Johnnies lodged behind boulders in the vicinity of Devils Den.

Finally, having expended a great deal of ammunition, it was determined to stop their firing at all hazards, our artillery above being considerably annoyed, suffering loss from this continual shooting. For this purpose a detail of 20 men was made by Richard W. Tyler, at that time a sergeant of Company K,  a gallant soldier who had distinguished himself on previous occasions. "With a rush these brave fellows ran across the marsh, and having routed the  enemy's pickets in front of the hill, closed in upon them capturing the entire party. There were 20 of them caught in the cave, a number being wounded, and they assured our men that their fire from the Little Round Top had made them prisoners all day. It was made too hot for them to attempt an escape.

They were a sorry looking crowd, being very hungry and about famished for want of water. They were much alarmed at being caught, because as sharpshooters they expected no quarter, and begged lustily for their lives, nor would they scarce believe Sergt. Tyler's assurance that they would be treated as fairly as other prisoners ,until they learned that their captors were Berdan Sharpshooters, when a sudden change came over their dejected spirit to one of undisguised happiness.

That old idea that sharpshooters would be strung up, was discarded by our men after the Peninsula campaign.

This sortie by our boys (every one of whom would be mentioned if I knew their names) was a most gallant and dangerous undertaking,
and it was singular that not with-standing the brisk fire under which they advanced none were hurt, but narrowly escaped the fast-flying bullets, one man being saved by his frying pan (for they carried their cooking kit always), another by his rifle stock, the ball flattening on the barrel, while others "just missed it." But our Sharpshooters were fleet travelers— to and fro— and recked not of danger, when the order came to "go."
As it afterwards transpired, they incurred a still greater risk than most of them ever knew