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Andrews Sharpshooters

 First Company Massachusetts Volunteer Sharpshooters. "Andrew Sharpshooters" 

Attached to Fifteenth, Twentieth, and Nineteenth Regiments, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

For three years, the 1st Company Sharpshooters, known as the Andrew Sharpshooters, was organized at Lynnfield, Mass., in August, 1861. The original company numbering 98 men, under Capt. John Saunders of Salem, and was mustered into the service and left the State Sept. 2, 1861. The men were armed with telescoped rifles. The company was first assigned to Gen. Lander's Brigade, which formed a part of Gen. Stone's force at Poolesville, Md. In a skirmish near Edwards' Ferry, Oct. 1st and 2nd, the company demonstrated its efficiency in action. It remained on the upper Potomac under Gen. Lander until his death in March, 1862, then served for a time under Gen. Shields. During the siege of Yorktown in April, 1862, the company became attached to the 15th Mass. Regt. of Gorman's Brigade, Sedgwick's Division, Sumner's (2d) Corps. With this command the sharpshooters served through the Peninsular campaign, the Antietam campaign, and until the following spring. 

At Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862, it shared the fortunes of the 15th Regiment, losing Captain Saunders and let Lieutenant Berry and 8 men killed or mortally wounded. 
By the end of December the company had been reduced by casualties to 18 men present for duty. On Dec. 9, William Plummer of Cambridge, Mass., arrived with 40 recruits and took command of the company. When the pontoon bridges were laid Dec. 11, at Fredericksburg, the 1st Sharpshooters did valuable service in keeping down the fire of the Confederate marksmen on the enemy's side of the river and on the 13th were deployed on the outskirts of the city, their fire directed toward the artillerists on the heights. At Chancellorsville the sharpshooters were attached to the headquarters of Gibbon's (2d) Division, Couch's (2d) Corps, and with that division remained at Fredericksburg, skirmishing, but meeting small loss. At Gettysburg on July 2 and 3, 1863, they were again attached to Gibbon's Division and were engaged with loss on the Union left center. 

About the middle of August, 1863, the company was attached to the 20th Mass. Regt., whose fortunes it followed until June, 1864, being engaged at Bristoe on Oct. 14, 1863, under 1st Lieutenant Gilbreth, at Robertson's Tavern in the Mine Run campaign in late November, at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and in front of Petersburg in May and June, 1864. At Petersburg, June 18,1864, it lost Lieutenant Gilbreth, its only commissioned officer. 

Soon after this, the remnant of the Sharpshooters was attached to Co. " K ", 19th Regiment, and was mustered out June 30, 1865, near Munson's Hill on the outer defenses of Washington.


Arms of Andrews Sharpshooters

Arms carried by Andrews Sharpshooters

The Target Rifle

These were custom-made rifles, designed for accuracy in competition. Although there was significant variety in these arms, perhaps no two exactly alike, the most common having some or all of the following characteristics:

Heavy, reinforced octagonal barrels.

Blued or browned metal, rather than shiny bright finish.

Shorter barrel length than a military musket. 

Smaller caliber bore than a military musket (the Springfield, for example, was .58 caliber), some being as small as .45 caliber, or even smaller.

Double-set triggers.

Sharp drop to the gunstock.

Half stocks instead of full stocks.

Scopes, often as long as the barrel itself.

Probably the closest modern reproduction model is the plains rifle. The Lyman Great Plains Rifle is a fair representation. Navy Arms used to produce a fine looking plains rifle, but it does not seem to be offered by them at the present time. The Lyman has a blued barrel, and the Navy Arms a browned barrel (some say a more authentic look). The Lyman is less expensive than the Navy Arms, and is available from several sources. The Navy Arms rifle might occasionally be found at a gun shop.

A Hawkins rifle might make an acceptable substitute, particularly if equipped with a scope. The plains and Hawkins rifles were related in design and history. Note, however, that there is a strong prejudice against Hawkins rifles in reenacting, probably attributable to earlier days of the hobby when they were likely seen as a cheap but inaccurate alternative for re-enactors thinking of portraying line infantry, for whom such an arm would be inappropriate and unsafe. There is also a wide variety of Hawkins reproductions on the market, varying significantly in quality, look, and price. . 

Sharps Model 1859 Infantry Rifle 

Andrews were forced to turn in their Target Rifles in exchange for Sharps Rifles at Harpers Ferry WV in the spring of 1864 It is unlikely that the men were issued versions with double set triggers, as very few double-set rifles were provided to the Federal armies, and almost all of these were issued to the Berdan's Sharpshooters. When looking for a Sharps reproduction, then, it would be best to steer away from the double-set trigger versions. Several Civil War Sharps reproduction rifles are available on the market. Be careful to get the Model 1859 version; the Sharps rifle continued in Federal service after the war in later models that would be anachronistic for Civil War reenacting. Look also for the full length rifle, not the cavalry issue carbine; a longer rifle and a full stock are keys that will help you distinguish the two. Also note that, being privately manufactured for the Army by contract, the Sharps rifles all came with blued barrels, not bright steel. 

Model 1855, 1861, 1863 Springfield Rifle and the Enfield Rifle 

No record has been located showing that the Andrews Sharpshooters were provided standard issue rifles. The 15th and 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, to which the Andrews Sharpshooters were attached, were issued Springfield rifles, along with a few Enfield rifles (about 4% of the rifles issued to the regiment). Since the regiments were organized in 1861, it is fair to conclude that these would have been the model 1855 and model 1861 Springfield's. It is not unreasonable to assume that some of the men of the Andrews Sharpshooters might have, at least on some occasions, or for certain reasons, taken up the same rifle as the men with whom they were surrounded. For example, were a Andrews Sharpshooter to lose his rifle or if it were to become inoperative, it would be likely that he would take up the standard arm of the regiment. Given the precision nature of the target rifle, and therefore vulnerability to damage, it is not hard to imagine that such a need might have been common. There are a variety of sources for reproduction Springfield rifles. Again, the 1855 and 1861 versions would be likely to be the most appropriate, and of these, the 1861 are more easy to find on the market. An 1863 model could be appropriate for a later war impression. It is not totally unreasonable to carry a Civil War era Enfield, since these weapons were very common among Federal armies throughout the war. Enfield reproductions are equally commonly found on the market.


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