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Civil War Snipers

When the subject of snipers of snipers is brought up, most people think of the sniper against sniper battles of Vasily Zaytsev in World War Two. While his feats were impressive, the history of snipers does not begin with Vasily Zaytsev. In truth, the idea of using snipers in combat occurred to British troops after observing the way games keepers used camouflage to track game. American forces were not hesitant to use this new form of combat against their own countrymen during the American Civil war.

During the civil war , Confederate armies commonly dispatched snipers armed with accurate rifles to travel on the outskirts of moving troop formations as scouts. These early American snipers were called "skirmishers" and they were closer in operation to a scout or sharpshooterthan what we recognise as a modern day sniper. While they did employ camouflage and natural cover to accoplish their goal, the primitive sharpshooters of the Civil War had none of the extensive training available to modern day snipers. Their job was to engage the enemy and protect the troop formation. These scouts were chosen on the basis of skill and/or experience. Older, more experienced men were preferred, but young men were also selected on the basis of talent and fieldcraft.

There are specific examples of civil-war-era snipers. One of these is Colonel Hiram Berdan who commanded the first and second US sharpshooters. He trained them and equipped his Union soldiers with a fifty caliber Sharps Rifle. It is rumored that the unit commanded by Berdan's killed more confederate troops than and other other regiment in the Union Army.