The Confederate sharpshooters were formed from 1862 to 1865. General Robert Rodes was instrumental in recognizing the need for the Confederacy to have sharpshooters. He directed Major Eugene Blackford to organize such a battalion to train and command. Blackford trained the best marksmen of various regiments to improve on their abilities, and they served as skirmishers before the main Confederate regiments; they were very mobile and moved around as necessary to support other regiments and units in need of help. They also worked as snipers. One of their jobs was to pick off Union officers, especially generals. Some Union generals made the mistake of not taking them seriously, like General John Sedgwick, who lost his life to a sniper.
Fred L. Ray’s research for this
entertaining book began when he was working on his genealogy and found a sharpshooter in his family tree, Lieutenant Jason O. Patton. Discovering that little was written about sharpshooters and their contributions to the war effort, he wanted to investigate more of the public record about Confederate Army sharpshooters. He found many documents on them, as well as information about Union sharpshooters, and though his main focus is on the Confederates, he also includes a lot about their Union counterparts.
During General Jubal Early’s raid on Washington, the sharpshooters picked off privates and officers to keep the Union Army hunkered down. They even had a chance to get Abraham Lincoln, but missed him; imagine what might have happened had they succeeded. The Confederates came close enough to Washington to see the unfinished dome on the capitol. The Union was able to reinforce its positions with troops from the Army of the Potomac, which was near Richmond at the time, and although Early’s raid scared the people in Washington, they were forced to retreat. The Union Army followed Early and pushed him further back into the Shenandoah River Valley.
Ray’s website www.cssharpshooters.com has corrections to the book, more illustrations, articles, and other material. There are some errors in the text such as missing words, but these do not prevent the reader from following the story. There are 43 maps and over 60 black-and-white photographs and illustrations, including a four-page photo section which is duplicated on the website. There are a bibliography, endnotes and index. Four Internet articles are included in the bibliography.
Fred L. Ray is the president and CEO of CFS Press, Inc. and author of several books on flood and swiftwater rescue and some articles. He is also a Vietnam veteran. This book is recommended to Civil War enthusiasts and those researching the Civil War.