Letter from Berdan’s 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters – William B. Greene Writes from “Camp of Instruction, Washington D.C. Feb 7th, 1862”

Toward the end of 1861 two units comprised of handpicked marksmen were mustered. Col. Hiram Berdan recorded each perspective recruit to place 10 shots within a 10 inch circle at a range of 200 yards. These 2 regiments were issued dark green uniforms and special rifles. Green’s letter is fascinating because it concerns the controversy over their rifles. 

Here is the content: 

• Camp of Instruction Washington Feb. 7th (’62) Brother Marlon, I received your letter of the 4th and was glad to hear that you had got my letter and that you knew I had received the box. You said you were tickled because I had got it. I guess you were not more so than I.

• I answered mother’s letter this morning, and you probably know before this that WE ARE ARMED AGAINST OUR WILL WITH COLT’S RIFLES AND COL. BERDAN AND COL. POST ARE UNDER ARREST FOR OBLIGING US TO TAKE THEM.

• I don’t know how they will get out of it. One of Gen. McClellan’s body guard was here today, and the boys told him just how the thing stood. He said the officers had no right to force us to take them, but that it was Gen. McClellan’s request for us to take them until Sharps could be made, and he said that we should have Sharp’s rifles sure by four weeks, so you see we are going to have the guns we enlisted for and go for the same purpose as skirmishers.

• Tell mother I am not transferred to any other Company but went in to that Company for one day. Tell her she need not worry about my being dead for I am coming home before that happens.

• I have been over to the city today and had my miniature taken. I had to borrow money. I am to have them next Wed. so I shall send them as soon as I get them. I hope all those that get cold that as you call it will not get it so cold that it will not warm well. Do you get any such?

• Sat., Feb. 8th we got our bayonets today. It has been a pleasant day for this country. I sent you two papers this morning. Captain is the officer of the day today. From you Obedient Servant and Brother William.

• I send to mother with this letter a Dutch paper. Tell her to read it if she can, but if she can’t, of course, she won’t read it. W. • You need not send the box until I write again. W.

• Sunday, Feb. 9th, ’62. Marlon, I have something more to tell you yet. I stood by the Captain’s tent this morning, and I looked over into Co. E St. and saw a crowd gathering around a tent then, and I ran over to see what was the trouble.

• I went and looked into the tent, and I saw a sight there enough to make a man’s blood turn cold. There struggling in the hands of two men was a man with a big wound in his breast, and the blood gushing out every time he made a jump. I inquired into the case and found that he had stabbed himself with one of his tent mate’s bayonets. He is alive now (2 o’clock), but I don’t think he will live long. The cause was unfaithfulness of a wife. Goodbye. W.

The letter is 4 pages in nice dark ink. 

#L751 – Price $395