Article ID: CBB973312512

“The Greatest Terror to the Enemy”: The Combat Debut of Berdan’s U.S. Sharpshooters during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign (May 2014)


In the spring of 1862, the Army of the Potomac deployed a unique regiment, Colonel Hiram Berdan’s 1st u.s. Sharpshooters. The previous winter, Berdan had recruited the Union’s best volunteer marksmen hoping their long-range skills could vitally aid the Union cause. Some U.S. Army officers doubted Berdan’s experiment. Pessimistically, they guessed that northern sharpshooters could neither hit targets at extreme range nor could they provide any tactical worth on the battlefield. Contrary to expectations, Berdan’s U.S. Sharpshooters performed splendidly during their first major campaign, helping the Army of the Potomac break the Confederate hold on Yorktown. Glowing reports from northern newspaper reporters inflated tales of the sharpshooters’ skills, but the combination of unexpected talent and encouraging media coverage transformed sharpshooting from a despised craft into a permanent army tactic.

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Authors & Contributors
Kundahl, George
Li, Ting-ting
Zhu, Ya-zong
Haydon, Frederick Stansbury
Crouch, Tom D.
Bennett, Natasha
American Heritage of Invention and Technology
Journal of Dialectics of Nature
Arms and Armour Society Journal
IA. The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology
Johns Hopkins University Press
University of Tennessee Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press
Basic Books
University of Alabama Press
Military technology
Confederate States of America
Balloons and ballooning
Mallory, Stephen Russell
Wampler, John Morris
Lincoln, Abraham
Gorgas, Josiah
Fox, Gustavus Vasa
Welles, Gideon
United States
Arabian peninsula
Indian Ocean
19th century
18th century
17th century
20th century, early
United States Navy
Great Britain. Admiralty
Springfield Armory, Springfiled, MA
Harpers Ferry Armory
Macon Arsenal, Macon, GA
West Point Foundry

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