Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Confederate Sharpshooters and the Whitworth Rifle


So last month I began telling you a bit about my most recent release—Union Pacific Princess, found in the Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection. I filled you in a bit on my socialite heroine and the hardship she faced when she set foot in the gritty world of a Hell-On-Wheels railroad camp.

This month, I get to tell you a little about my hero. Gage Wells is his name, and he is a former Confederate Sharpshooter who, at the end of the Civil War, heads to parts unknown in hopes of leaving war and conflict behind. Of course, I’m sure we all know how that went for poor Gage. I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world we can go that will be conflict-free. But can you blame the poor man? I think I’d want to get as far away from the war as I could if I’d faced the things he might have faced.

So…what was a Confederate Sharpshooter? Here’s a bit about them.

The implementation of Confederate Sharpshooters came about in early 1862, when “General Orders Number 34” was passed by the Confederate Congress. This act made it possible for the Confederacy to create sharpshooter (or, as we would commonly refer to them today—sniper) battalions within each brigade. For various reasons, the battalion idea didn’t work well at first. In those early days, the sharpshooter battalions were more often populated with overflows from other areas, or new transfers. They weren’t much—if any—better marksmen than the average Confederate soldier. But over time, the truly spectacular marksmen became known. That knowledge, coupled with changes in leadership, meant that the leaders made the appropriate moves to get their sharpshooter battalions populated with the right talent.

By 1863, the sharpshooter battalions were becoming more specialized, and by late that year, the officers in charge were training their marksmen extensively each day. These gifted shooters were taught—and expected—to consistently take out man-sized targets from 1000 yards away. Many were able to make deadly shots from farther.
A Confederate Sharpshooter killed at Gettysburg, 1863

These men would be deployed well ahead of the rest of the troops, taking out their enemies among the Union ranks to make the Confederate soldiers’ missions easier. But this highly-specialized position came at a high cost. Those volunteering to become Confederate Sharpshooters were thought to have a death wish. And many did die in their service as old-time snipers. 
   
For the most part, sharpshooters used the same Enfield Rifle that the rest of the Confederacy was issued. However, a lucky few were issued a British-made Whitworth Rifle, a .451-caliber, single-shot, muzzle-loading rifle that had one distinct advantage above other guns. The Enfield had standard rifling inside the barrel, which allowed the bullet to remain fairly accurate once fired. But the Whitworth had a hexagonal barrel with special bullets to fit. Due to the shape of the barrel, the spin of the fired bullet would be much tighter and more accurate, allowing the shooter to hit his mark far more often than with the other option.


A Whitworth Rifle


A Whitworth bullet and barrel
were hexagonal in shape
Most of the Whitworth Rifles purchased by the Confederacy were equipped with standard sights, but a few came with a special telescopic sight, a crude version of today’s sights. One big difference between that early telescopic sight and today’s version is that the Davidson sight, as it was called, was mounted on the left side of the rifle, rather than on the top like today’s versions. As an interesting side note, the Whitworth rifles were not heavy guns, which caused them to have a lot of kick when fired. The Confederate Sharpshooters who fired Whitworth rifles equipped with the Davidson sights often would leave the battlefield with a black eye because the kick of the gun would drive the end of the scope into their face. 

I can only imagine the difficulty, fear, and nightmares these men would have experienced from their wartime exploits. In writing Gage’s character, I didn’t delve too deeply into the psychological trauma of such soldiers, but he does get to show off his shooting skills in a couple of scenes.

It’s your turn: Is the Civil War a time period you enjoy learning about? Why or why not? If not, what era do you prefer?

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the Of Rags And Riches Romance Collection if you haven’t already. For one reader, I’ll be giving away a paperback copy. Answer my questions above, leaving your email address as well, and I’ll draw the winner tomorrow!

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won and finaled in numerous writing competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. She currently writes historical novellas of the American West for Barbour Publishing and works as a Content Editor for Firefly Southern Fiction. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.
 

Journey along in nine historical romances with those whose lives are transformed by the opulence, growth, and great changes taking place in America’s Gilded Age. Nine couples meet during these exhilarating times and work to build a future together through fighting for social reform, celebrating new opportunities for leisure activities, taking advantage of economic growth and new inventions, and more. Watch as these romances develop and legacies of faith and love are formed.



14 comments:

  1. Hi Jennifer.

    Yes, I love reading and learning about the Civil War period. I think the reason I do enjoy reading about it is because it was such a terrible time during our Nation's history, family fighting against family, friends against friends. Our country was torn apart and yet the Nation was able to rebuild.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.
    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

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    1. That's a great point, Cindy, and when you see all that we overcame in that era and season of our nation, it gives us hope that we can overcome again with all the problems we face today. ;) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  2. The Civil War era is my favorite period to read about. It was a struggling and transformation time for America. President Lincoln was an inspiration of what could be accomplished even with humble beginnings. I enjoy visiting Lincoln's Historical Log Cabin Park, his home, tomb, etc all here in Illinois.

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    1. I was born in the land of Lincoln, Marilyn! I don't recall going to those places as a child (I was 7 when we moved from Illinois), but we went back to visit friends years later, and I so enjoyed seeing Lincoln's home on that visit. He truly was a wonderful president!

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  3. I do love reading about this time period. Poignant stories about families so divided over a single issue that they would literally fight each other? One would hope that history wouldn't repeat itself. Also I love stories about President Lincoln. I'm sure he's been romanticized but I love reading his quotes. Thanks for the info.

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Connie. It certainly is mind-boggling to think of so many families at war with each other, isn't it?

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  4. As a matter of fact, the Civil War era is one of my favorite time periods in history. I love reading about the strength of women, and men, had to find within themselves to survive. Thanks for the giveaway and good luck everyone.

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    1. You're right, Debbie. War time would certainly cause people to have to draw deep on their inner strength to survive such horrors.

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  5. I love the Regency time period as my favorite or anything in between 1800-early 1900! I think it's a fascinating fact that the Sharpshooters could take out a man at 1000 yards away & many were able to do it from farther out...wow! That's some fancy shooting :-)

    Interesting article for sure. Thanks for sharing and for the giveaway Jennifer!

    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. You bet, Trixi. I was amazed to find out the distances they could shoot in that era! Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. I find reading about the Civil War very interesting. How hard it must have been...brother against brother....they stood strong and fought hard. Thank you for yor interesting post and thank you for the giveaway opportunity.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks so much for adding your thoughts to the discussion, Melanie! Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  7. Cindy W., you are my winner! I will contact you shortly via email. And as always, thank you, everyone, for the comments!

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  8. Thank you so much Jennifer. I'm excited about reading this collection.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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