In camp

The first camp of the US Sharpshooters was about a mile and a half from the US Capitol building in Washington. It was an unusual mixture of tents that had been supplied by the different states, with mostlv either Indian-teepee-like Sibley tents or "A" tents. Company D was especially proud of the circular wall tents that their state quartermaster provided. The men were assigned to their tents, 20 men to each Sible\ tent and four to each A tent. That first evening the men got acquainted with each other. "It goes without saying," Aschmann recalled, "that there were men of diverse kinds and characters in our company, and each one

Aschmann Sharpshooter

made use of his (alent to divert himself and others. One was a storyteller, another played some musical instrument, a third delighted everybody with the work of his pencil, and it was amusing indeed when such a person drew one or the other or several of his colleagues in the most comical postures."

Aschmann later described this first camp:

The fields were cleared of stubble, the rocks removed and the ground smoothed. Since the companies still missing from our regiment were expected soon to arrive the camp was laid out right then for an entire regiment. The tents were arranged in ten long parallel rows. One row each was to serve one company. At the upper end of the streets formed by the tents, about 35 steps removed from the others, the officers' tents were put up, one for each captain or two lieutenants. In between these and the enlisted men's tents the mess kitchens were set up. A large field next to the camp was turned into a parade ground. Colonel Berdan and his staff took up headquarters in a nearby dwelling.

Before the USSS received arms, camp life was slow indeed. Private a pnvato holding his Colt William Greene 2nd USSS. wrote home on January 18, 1862, revolving rifte. (Kean wiicox collection)

What we have to do ... is nothing - only read, write, mend clothes. I have not done enough in the last two weeks to hurt a mosquito. I suspect I shall be lazier when I come home than I was when I left. I do some of my washing and some I let the washwoman have. She charges 6 cents a piece. Our bread we draw by the loaf and have meat for breakfast, dinner and supper with coffee for breakfast and supper. We eat in our tent.

This is not to say that Greene had no complaints. He found that he could not sleep in mornings or retire early:

You have to wait for roll call at 8.30 and you have to get up to answer roll (all at 6.30 in the morning but then we don't have much to do in the day time. We have a little stove in our tent which heats up good. I tell you it rained tonight and the mud is two inches deep but I am as comfortable as it 1 were at home. I don't have the conveniences for writing as I should if I was there. I have to sit on a pile of blankets with a knapsack on my knees for a writing desk.

Once the camp was set up and weapons were issued, a busier routine set in. Stevens recalled:

I'lie general routine of duty ... was as follows: The day began with "buglers' call" at daylight, to be followed by "reveille". ... Then the orderly-sergeants order their companies to "fall in for roll-call,"

Company A, C, G. ctc. Every member was expected to turn out and take bis place in the ranks, excepting the sick and those otherwise detailed. The company falls in, in two ranks facing outward - to the right - comes to a "front." and to "attention to roll-call." which is called in alphabetical order, usually by the last name. ...

After calling the roll, details were made by the Orderly [sergeant], such as guard duty, police, water squad, etc.; members dilatory in turning out being put on these details; otherwise they were made up in regular order. ... After roll-call, streets were cleaned up. tents put in order, all before breakfast call. With us, the instructors required the company cooks, two in number, who were located with fire, |>ots and kettles, at the foot of the company streets, to have coffee ready and served in the first thing after roll-call. to guard against malaria in the winter weather.

Guard mount was held at nine in the moming, and drills were held once in the morning and again after dinner in the afternoon. A regimental dress parade was held in the late afternoon, followed by retreat at sunset, tattoo at 9pm, and taps, when all lights were to fx- out, at 9.30pm.

The main work at this first camp would fx* the preparation of the sharpshooters for action, and this would take long hours. "When one considers that drill was rigorous, that guard duty had to be performed, ¿nd that each man had to do his own laundry, also that tents and camp streets had to bcf'kept clean and neat at all time, one can understand that we had our hands full," Asclunann wrote. "After a hard clay's work we rested comfortably, or a few comrades got together and passed the otherwise often dismal evenings having fun and enjoying card games." Of course the men had to eat:

The rations were brought in from the city and consisted of 1'/ lbs of fresh or corned beef or '/lbs of bacon and 1'/ lbs of bread daily for each man. For each 100 men we received 15 lbs of beans or 10 lbs of rice, 8 lbs of roasted and ground coffee or 1'/ lbs of tea and 15 lbs of sugar. Vinegar, salt, syrup, soap and candles were distributed twice a week. Occasionally we had potatoes and other vegetable instead of peas or rice.

"On Sundays we had. besides our regular cleaning up, Sunday ting inspections, which included dress, general appearance, packed knapsacks, etc.." Stevens wrote. "Also, during the forenoon church call I brought the entire regiment, excepting those on duty, to the parade j ground, where the chaplain officiated. In bad weather these duties and | «rvices were dispensed with."

A sergeant of tho USSS In frock coat showing the goat skin leggings and Sharps riflo. Tho trousors appear to be sky blue, while It is impossible to say if tho coat is dark blue or green. (Richard Carllle collection)

This Sharps rifle was carried by an officer in the 1st USSS. (West Point Museum collections)

Relatively plentiful rations continued whenever the sharpshooters camped. For example, Greene wrote home from camp at Falmouth. Virginia, in August 1862. "We have potatoes just when we want them. We have eggs and ham. a butcher comes into camp most every day. We have tea or coffee every meal. Fresh bread every day. Sugar and milk. Beans, and in fact, most everything you can buy there in R[aymond. New Hampshire]."

Each regiment was authorized a sutler, a civilian merchant who followed the unit into the field with a wagon filled with items for sale to the soldiers. These items ranged from cigars and smoking tobacco, to tinned sardines, wooden combs, soap, cheese, pocket mirrors, toothbrushes, needles, watch keys, pencils, sausages, pickles, pens, ink. pens, and paper. W.T. Brown was the sutler of the Michigan Battalion of Independent Sharpshooters; W. Leach was sutler to the 1st New York Sharpshooter Battalion; James G. Taylor was sutler to the 1st Maine Sharpshooter Battalion. The 1st L'SSS had three sutlers during its career: James M. Miller, C.G. Walsh, and E. White. A.J. Sweet/er was sutler to the 2nd USSS.

Most men thought ill of sutlers, accusing them of exorbitant prices. Private Greene, however, called the 2nd's sutler "a nice man. I think he asks a fair price for his goods and he sticks to one price which is the only way a man can get along with such a body of men as there is in any Regt."

In December 1863, however, Greene complained about high costs. "Tobacco is very dear here," he wrote. "Navy is worth $2.00 a plug. He suggested home folks should send him eight pounds, obviously for resale to his comrades. Sergeant White thought that sutlers' goods were sold "at prices that were the next thing to robbery."

At the same time. White wrote, soldiers often got revenge for being overcharged. "One of the most decisive ways to get square for some mean trick worked on a soldier was for one wronged to give the call, 'Rally, rally' and make a run for the tent of the offender and in less lime than it takes to tell, the tent would come down and the goods would be going in all directions. The crowd of excited soldiers striving to get all they could and not be caught by the guard or the officers." In addition, soldiers often stepped up to the counter and took what they requested without paying for it.

Soldiers had to be paid in order to patronize the sutler, unless of course they didn't pay for what they obtained there. Aschmann recalled that:

This sharpshooter with hit Sharps rifle appears to wear the issue leggings and dark green trousers of the USSS, but oddly had himself photographed in an undershirt. (Richard Carlile collection)

Privates and noncommissioned officers were paid from 13 to 21 dollars monthly, officers upward of 105 dollars. Payments were made every two months but often only every four months, and a few times it even took six months before we received our pay. In May 1864 Congress approved an increase of three dollars a month for the rank and file. A soldier had a yearly allowance of 12 dollars for clothing. If he needed more clothes their cost was deducted from his pay while in the reverse case the balance was paid out to us.

A reproduction of one type of USSS officer's cap badge. The other style had the letters USSS in silver in Old English script within a wreath on a black oval. (Author's collection)

The men kepi busy in camp even after actual lighting had finished with the surrender of Lee's Army in April 1865. Major Charles Mattocks, commander of the 1st USSS, wrote from this final camp, "We now have battalion drills in the afternoon and company drills in the forenoon. Dress Parade comes off at 5 o'clock, the Band gives us music at sunset, and our guard duty is being done very fairly."

During his enlistment each man was bound to spend some time in hospital, disease sweeping through the camps as a result of poor sanitary conditions and bad cooking. Private Greene was in the Lincoln General Hospital in December 1864, which was staffed by:

the Sisters of Charity. There is about fifty at this hospital. All young ladvs & I assure you it looks queer to see them around without hoops, with their long brimmed linen bonnets. It seems like home to have their soft hands to smooth ones pillow, to feel & wet our heated brows. They wear a gold cross & a string of beads by their side & twice a day a bell is rung & they retire in solitude to pray.

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