Shock Troops of the Confederacy

Shock Troops of the Confederacy
The Sharpshooter Battalions of the Army of Northern Virginia

Fred L. Ray

Fred Ray has given students of the Civil War a most welcome and long overdue study of a neglected subject—the sharpshooter units of Robert E. Lee’ renowned Army of Northern Virginia. He recounts their story in detail and with authority.

Jeffry D. Wert, Author, The Sword Of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac; From Winchester to Cedar Creek; Mosby’s Rangers

Fred Ray adroitly tells the story of the Army of Northern Virginia's sharpshooter battalions here for the first time, based on a very strong range of primary material. The sources include some thirty manuscript collections, scores of arcane articles and narratives, and numerous obscure contemporary Southern newspapers.

Robert K. Krick, Author, Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain; Lee's Colonels; The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy: The Death of Stonewall Jackson and Other Chapters on the Army of Northern Virginia

There was a time in warfare when it was considered ungentlemanly to take deliberate aim at a specific foe, hence lines of men fired barely aimed volleys at each other and did mercifully little damage. By the time of the Civil War, however, the gentlemanly business of war had become very personal and very deadly, nowhere more so than on the battlefields where trained and experienced sharpshooters very much took deliberate aim at specific foemen. In Shock Troops of the Confederacy, Fred L. Ray provides our first and most detailed to date look at the development of the concept and practice of sharpshooting, its goals, the men who became killers, and their impact on the course of battle. In Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia it reached its highest state of development, paving the way for specialist marksmen in the military of the world.

William C. Davis, Author, The Orphan Brigade: The Kentucky Confederates Who Couldn’t Go Home; Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America; Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour

Shock Troops of the Confederacy is without doubt the most significant small unit tactical analysis of the Army of Northern Virginia ever written.

Joseph G. Bilby Author, Civil War Firearms; The Irish Brigade in the Civil War; Three Rousing Cheers: A History of the Fifteenth New Jersey

The Army of Northern Virginia's sharpshooter battalions, authorized for every brigade in the army, were armed for the most part with two-band Enfield rifles, and were among the few units in either army that actually practiced long-range rifle shooting. The sharpshooters served as shock troops for Lee's army in the campaign of 1864, were first into the fight and last to withdraw, and no doubt assured the army's survival that bloody year.

Although badly battered, the sharpshooter battalions were still functioning through Appomattox. I am eagerly awaiting the publication of Fred's book, which, like Regimental Strengths and The Bloody Crucible will be another "must buy" for the Civil War scholar interested in the nuts and bolts of how its armies functioned and fought.

Civil War News August 2005

The maps and text are also used to illustrate certain tactical improvements that sprung from the minds of innovative junior officers. The capture of an enemy picket line by use of a brilliant movement they called "seine-hauling" was particularly interesting. Other officers developed variations on this tactic and the Confederate sharpshooters became an absolute terror on the Union picket line.

In terms of production values and visual presentation issues, Shock Troops is well-written and well-edited, not something commonly seen with POD books. Maps, drawings, photos, and illustrations are numerous and well chosen. All in all, it is a quality production. I would recommend this highly original and truly groundbreaking study to anyone interested in Civil War military history, specialists and generalists alike.

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Drew Wagenhoffer Civil War Books and Authors blog

Mr. Ray discusses how the need for a more professional skirmisher capable of screening the line of battle led to raising of sharpshooter battalions in the Confederacy. He identifies the early proponents of whom Major Eugene Blackford, Fifth Alabama, figures prominently. In describing their battles, the author shows how they influenced battles and in so doing, influenced Lee to raise similar battalions throughout his army. What follows is an exhaustive but highly readable study of the actions of the sharpshooter battalions in the Overland Campaign, Early's Raid on Washington and the Siege of Petersburg. Shock Troops of the Confederacy fills the gaps left by W. S. Dunlop's work of a century earlier.

Gary Yee, author of Sharpshooters (1750-1900), The Men, Their Guns, Their Story

CFS Press Copyright 2005