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
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.