Sunday, October 11, 2009


Gerald L. Earley's The Second United States Sharpshooters in the Civil War: A History and Roster (McFarland, 2009) is a compact organizational, service, and roster history of the unit. The section discussing the unit's formation and training focuses on the extended struggle to obtain arms, as well as target practice. Initially settling for Springfields, the men later fought with Colt Revolving Rifles before finally ending up with the much desired Sharps rifle. There is little in the text in the way of detailing the regiment's specialized tactical training.

Present on the Peninsula, the 2nd USSS experienced significant combat during the 2nd Manassas battle. From there, the regiment fought at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Mine Run, the Overland Campaign, and Petersburg [the 2nd was consolidated with the 1st in December 1864]. Beginning its service with only 8 companies, the unit was depleted by casualties and disease, its effectiveness going into general decline from late 1863 onward. On February 20, 1865 the 2nd was broken up for good, its companies singly redistributed to existing line regiments. Earley's battle descriptions, and the specific role played by the 2nd USSS in them, are fairly general, but the reader nevertheless gains some understanding of the battlefield use and misuse of the sharpshooters. At less than 200 pages of narrative, minute tactical examinations are beyond the scope of the study. A unit roster (with name, age, birthplace, and occupation for each member) follows the service history.

Four maps are provided, as well as numerous illustrations. The bibliography includes a range of materials, to include the expected manuscripts, newspapers, books, and articles, but is limited in overall depth. While not a definitive work, The Second United States Sharpshooters in the Civil War is a serviceable regimental history.

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