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The Green Mountain Riflemen

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The Green Mountain Riflemen
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Author(s): William Y. W. Ripley
Date Published: 2011/03
Page Count: 172
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-536-0
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-535-3

The Union Army's green riflemen at war

The important role of sharpshooters on the battlefield had been recognised by armies since the time when firearms were developed with a greater degree of accuracy. This key factor combined with a soldier of higher intelligence, capable of independent thought and action and skilful in the use of his weapons, made for a highly effective light infantryman, skirmisher and scout. Green was often their uniform colour irrespective of the nation they served, for it referenced the 'hunter' from whose origin their service developed in spirit and action. In the British Army the 60th and 95th (Rifles) became famous during the Napoleonic Wars, though the senior regiment, the 60th, had grown from the Royal Americans who had proved their mettle on a battlefield where the skills of this kind of infantryman were entirely applicable—the French and Indian War. Warfare in the great North Eastern forests of America brought forth many green clad riflemen and those raised in the cause of the Union by the state of Vermont were among its most notable. With their distinctive uniforms, high leather leggings and hair covered knapsacks they were the very epitome of their forebears, the Jaegers. This immediate account takes the reader on campaign throughout the Civil War on the Peninsular Campaign, at Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. Available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

After some minutes of brisk firing, the sharpshooters, by a sudden rush on their flank, succeeded in compelling the surrender of the entire force, which was found to consist of the Twenty-third Georgia regiment, consisting of three hundred and sixty officers and men, which had been charged by Jackson with the duty of preventing any advance of the Union troops at this point which might discover his march towards Hooker’s right, hence the tenacity with which they clung to the position.<br>
In this affair Co. F lost Edward Trask and A. D. Griffin, wounded.<br>
The obstruction having been thus removed, the Third Corps, led by the sharpshooters, pressed rapidly forward to the southward as far as Hazel Grove, or the old furnace, some two miles from the place of starting, and far beyond any supporting column which could be depended on for early assistance should such be needed. It had now become apparent to all that Jackson, instead of being in full retreat as had been supposed, was in the full tide of one of the most violent offensives on record; and at five o’clock p.m. Sickles was ordered to attack his right flank and thus check his advance on the exposed right of the army. But at about the same time Sickles found that he was himself substantially cut off from the army, and that it would require the most strenuous efforts to prevent the capture or destruction of his own command. Furthermore, before he could make his dispositions and march over the ground necessary to be traversed before he could reach Jackson’s right, that officer had struck his objective point, and the rout of the Eleventh Corps was complete. The most that Sickles could now do, under the circumstances, was to fight his own way back to his supports, and to choose, if possible, such a route as would place him, on his arrival, in a position to check Jackson’s further advance and afford the broken right wing an opportunity to rally and regain their organization, which was hopelessly, as it appeared, lost. In the darkness and gloom of the falling night, with unloaded muskets (for in this desperate attempt the bayonet only was to be depended upon), the two divisions of the Third Corps set their faces northwardly, and pressed their way through the tangled undergrowth to the rescue of the endangered right wing. <br>
As usual, the sharpshooters had the advance, and received the first volley from the concealed enemy. They had received no especial orders concerning the use, solely, of the bayonet, and were at once engaged in a close conflict under circumstances in which their only superiority over troops of the line consisted in the advantage of the rapidity of fire afforded by their breech loaders over the muzzle loading rifles opposed to them. Closely supported by the line of Birney’s division, and firing as they advanced at the flashes of the opposing guns (for they could see no more), they pushed on until they were fairly intermingled with the rebels, and in many individual instances, a long distance inside the enemy’s line, every man fighting for himself—for in this confused melee, in the dense jungle and in the intense darkness of the night, no supervision could be exercised by officers and many shots were fired at distances no greater than a few feet. So they struggled on until, with a hurrah and a grand rush, Birney’s gallant men dashed forward with the bayonet alone, and after ten minutes of hand to hand fighting, they succeeded in retaking the plank road, and a considerable portion of the line held by the left of the Eleventh Corps in the early portion of the day and lost in the tremendous charge of Jackson’s corps in the early evening. Sickles had cut his way out, and more, he was now in a position to afford the much needed aid to those who so sorely required it. Both parties had fought to the point of exhaustion, and were glad to suspend operations for a time for this cause alone, even had no better reasons offered. But the Union army was no longer in a position for offense; the extreme left, with which we have had nothing to do, had been so heavily pressed during the afternoon that it had been with difficulty that a disaster similar to the one which had overtaken the right had been prevented on that flank, and in the centre, at and about Hazel Grove and the furnace, which had been held by Sickles, and from which he had been ordered to the support of the right as we have seen, an absolute gap existed, covered by no force whatever. This, then, was the situation, briefly stated.