The North Carolina in the Civil War Message Board

Call for sharpshooter photos

Was your ancestor a sharpshooter? If so I’d like to know more about him, especially if you have a photograph.

I’m doing a web site (and a book as well) on the sharpshooters that has a gallery section in which I feature those who served in this elite corps. I’d like to put your ancestor there.

The web site is at, the gallery at

and you can drop me a line at

But, how do I tell if my ancestor was a sharpshooter?

It can be confusing – many Confederate units bore the title of sharpshooters but were really line infantry (i.e. Palmetto Sharpshooters, First NC Battalion, Sharpshooters) and some that served as sharpshooter outfits (e.g. Third South Carolina Battalion) did not use the name.

To further muddy the issue, each brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia had a sharpshooter battalion of 150-200 men, but only one or two of these men were actually snipers in the modern sense. The rest were light infantrymen who specialized in scouting, skirmishing, and picketing. Unfortunately, since these were composite units drawn from across the brigade almost no rosters survive, nor does it often show up on the soldier’s service record.

Clear enough? The easiest way to figure it all out is to read the book, but there’s a lot of information on the web site, too (read Captain Young’s article).

Still, there are ways to find out if your ancestor was a sharpshooter.

1) Unit histories. Clark’s multivolume North Carolina regimental series, for example, names many of the officers and men who served in the corps of sharpshooters. The same goes for many other unit histories. Officers are more likely than enlisted men to get a mention.
2) The Official Record. Reports usually mention officers, but may also call attention to outstanding soldiers.
3) A soldier’s Compiled Service Record. Available at the National Archives or various state or regional repositories, the soldier’s record may or may not say anything about his service in the sharpshooters. Most often the evidence comes in ancillary papers like letters, court martials, etc.
4) Pension applications. For Confederates these will be at the state archives. A soldier may or may not say that he was a sharpshooter.
5) Letters, diaries, reminiscences and personal papers. These are probably the best sources for information, if you have them. I’ve gotten a great deal of information from the letters of soldiers who describe their experiences to their families, often in great detail. If you have something like this, I’d love to see it, whether or not you have a photograph.