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History of Snipers

While the the use of camouflage and stealth have probably always been a part of the hunting techniques of ancient man, the idea to use these same techniques in combat is a relatively new idea.

The term "sniper" was originally used to describe a person who was skilled at hunting snipe. The snipe was a notoriously wary and skittish bird with excellent eyesight. In order to hunt snipe, one had to not only be a master marksman, but also be skilled in the arts of subtlety and camouflage.

Armed forces in the late eighteenth century were commonly adorned with bright, flashy, easily distinguished uniforms. It was the thinking of the military leaders that the bright uniforms would attract new recruits, foster troop cohesion and morale, and reduce the instances of friendly fire in conditions of low visibility. As weapons gained range and accuracy, these gaudy uniforms only served to make a better target for the enemy. British troops in India found that by soaking their white summer uniforms in tea, that they were able to dye them a light tan color that stood out far less than the previously used red uniform.

The british thought of the idea of using snipers in combat from observing the way gamekeepers used camouflage ghillie suits to stalk and hunt game. The first British sniper group was Lovat's Scouts, who were recognized for their work during the second Boer War.

During the American Civil War, but the Union and Confederate forces employed "skirmishers" who were scouts positioned on the outskirts of a moving regiment of troops. These scouts were charged with protecting the troops while they moved.