Recruitment ad for Berdan’s Sharpshooter Regiment.
During the American Civil War, inventor and industrialist Hiram Berdan recruited two regiments of sharpshooters. They had to pass rigorous marksmanship tests, one of which included firing ten shots at two hundred yards while keeping a grouping under five inches. Remember, this was back when telescopic sights were rare new technology, and for the most part open sights were used. Once recruited Berdan’s Sharpshooters were issued the most advanced in firearms technology. They were also unique in that they dressed in field green uniforms (for camouflage) rather than the standard Union Army blue.
Perhaps their finest hour was at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2nd, 1863. The Union Army occupied fortified positions on Little Round Top Hill and the Confederate Army was preparing to attack. Union Gen. Daniel Sickles, whose stupidity cannot be measured in quantifiable terms, decided to leave his position on Little Round Top and head for what he thought was a better position at the Peach Orchard. Separated from the rest of the Union Army, his entire corps was surrounded and obliterated.
With the departure of the entire 3rd Corps, the Union position on Little Round Top was precarious at best. A company of only 100 Berdan Sharpshooters took up positions near Seminary Ridge and were able to delay the Confederate assault until reinforcements could be brought in. Many other Sharpshooters were also present at Little Round Top, picking off officers and enemy soldiers from sniper positions on the hill.