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American Civil War Living History & Battle Re-enactment 
With Co H 2nd US Sharpshooters

  Berdan : The Man With A Dream About the US Sharpshooters About Co H 2nd US Sharpshooters
Organisation of the Sharpshooters The Sharps Rifle Uniform & Equipment of the Sharpshooters
Re-enactment with Co H 2nd US Sharpshooters How to Contact Us The Guest Book Some useful links  
 

Uniform & Equipment

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Unidentified Sharpshooters with the Colt Reapeating Rifle

It was the practice for regiments to establish their own uniform, when raised. Some were quite outlandish, the sharpshooter's uniform however which set them apart, was also quite serviceable. Berdan's original vision of the sharpshooter's uniform on June, 14th 1861 was a "loose fitting" heavy, dark blue sack coat with metal buttons, with black fringe around the bottom and black velvet collars. Their heads were to be covered with soft crowned hats of felt, ornamented with small black feathers. The uniform would have a single breasted vest of the same heavy cloth and loose fitting trousers. On July the 20th 1861 Berdan mentioned uniforms of green cloth for the first time.

Sharpshooter's uniforms consisted of a frock coat resembling the regulation infantry pattern, except the colour was a dark forest green and had black buttons (which were either gutta-percha or a thermo-plastic rubber no test has been done to date to find out which). The soft crown hats had turned into a green forage cap with a black leather visor peak with a black ostrich feather plume (some later disposed of the plume or replaced it with a feather from the local countryside, though Vermont men where known to wear a sprig of evergreen). Trousers for the 2nd regiment were originally blue, purely because off the demand on the manufacturers for green material that there was not enough for both regiments, the 1st regiment acquired the whole batch of green. The 2nd later changed to the same green Kersey wool trousers to match the frock coat as per regulation. Trousers were held to their shoes by leather gaiters that buckled high to the knee these were originally made by Lexain, 359 Broadway, N.Y. & offered at $2.25. Sharpshooters were also issued with grey great coats with green collar and cuffs the grey late changed to blue, due to the fact that if you wore the grey one you were in distinct danger of being shot in the back by your own troops. Complete grey uniforms where considered for a time to use in conjunction with the green uniforms, and for the same reason camouflage, the grey being winter camouflage, but this was never adopted, probably for the same reason as the grey great coat.

Another unusual piece of equipment distinctive to the U.S.Sharpshooter's was the Prussian style knapsack they used, this consisted of tanned leather with the hair on the outside. It was heavier than regulation yet fitted the back well, was roomy and appreciated by the men, the first consignment of knapsacks had been ordered from "Messrs. Tiffany" of New York City at a cost of $3.75each, the first lot evidently was insufficient to equip both regiments, thus necessitating the search for 500 more.

When fully uniformed and equipped the sharpshooter's were said "To have made a very handsome appearance, more so on the whole than many others".

In his "Regimental Losses of the Civil War", Col. Fox speaks " of The unique regiments of the war,Berdan's U.S Sharpshooter's were the best known of any regiment of the army. It would have been difficult to have raised in any one state a regiment equal to Berdan's requirements.The class of men selected were also of a high grade in physical qualifications and intelligence. They were continually in demand as skirmishers on account of their wonderful proficiency as such, and they undoubtedly killed more men than any other regiment in the army.In skirmishing they had no equal.".

 

Uniform Descriptions

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Forage Cap

The forage cap is made of a forest green wool, with a black leather McDowell peak. On top is the Corps,Company and Regimental insignia, which for Co H 2nd USSS is a red lozenge (3rd Corps), H (Company) and 2 (Regiment)

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Frock Coat

The nine button frock coat is of the regulation pattern, but with some slight differences, it is made of the same green material as the cap, also piping is a pale emerald green.   The difference in the buttons is that the buttons are not of the usual brass, but were made of a black thermo-plastic or ghutta-percha material.

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Enlisted mans shirt

The enlisted men were issued with heavy coarse white or grey shirts, made of flannel, had a fold down collar and pulled of over the head. Though if they were lucky a more comfortable plaid or cotton shirt would be received from home.

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Trousers

The trousers were of the same green Kersy wool, cut full and uncreased. They had a button fly with buttons on the high waist ban for braces, even though braces were not issued.

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Jefferson Boot

The enlisted men were only officially issued with the 'Jefferson boot', a laced Brogan type ankle shoe. They were made as left and right shoes, the army made the shoes with the rough leather on the outside.

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Gaiters

The Sharpshooters Gaiter was made of pig skin and buckled high to the knee, they fastened with buckles up the leg and under the boot.

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Cartridge Box

The Sharpshooters used the Sharps pattern cartridge box but they also used the M.1855 cartridge box, because it was larger than the Sharps box ( We use the Model 1858 box as re-enactors for exactly the same reason).

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Bread Bag

The Haversack or 'Bread bag' was made of cloth or canvas, painted black on the outside. All soldiers were issued with one, it was worn over the right sholder on the left hip, it was used to carry everything from food to small personal items. Inside the haversack was an integral cloth bag which was fastened to the inside by 3 buttons.

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Great Coat

The Great Coat was of regulation sky blue with green collor and cuffs, 6 large brass buttons on the coat front, 9 small brass buttons on cape and 2 on adjuster on back of coat.

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Canteen

 

Bulls eye canteen made of pewter and covered with blue wool cloth. Worn over the brad bag.

    

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2002 Andy Sherlock & Daz Selby
Webmaster Andy Sherlock


Many thanks to Darren Selby for contributing the main body of text.  1999 Darren Selby   No reproduction of text without the express permission of the author Darren Selby.