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Duties of the Field and Staff Officers on the Skirmish Line

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  • Duties of the Field and Staff Officers on the Skirmish Line

    Hello,

    I have been reading up on the duties of various field and staff officers in the field, Adjutant, Sergeant Major, ect. I have found some pretty good answer to these questions online but what if we are dealing with a unit who spends the majority of it's time in a skirmish line, such as a Sharpshooter Battalion? One in particular Sharpshooter Battalion I am looking at was tiny, only being composed of three companies. They were commanded by a Major and excluding surgeons and other medical staff, only had 5 field and staff officers and that is including the Major... The other F and S officers were Adjutant, Sergeant Major, Quartermaster, and Ordnance Sergeant. Quarter Master and Ordnance Sergeant are pretty straight forward but what about the duties of the Adjutant and Sergeant Major on a skirmish line? I know that the Sergeant Major usually lined up on the left of a line of Battle and helped guide the line and helped fill the wholes and keep the men in line...with a skirmish line these duties are not as important. The Adjutant of this Sharpshooter Battalion was wounded and captured in the 1st Battle the unit was engaged in. The 1st Lt. of Company B then served as the acting adjutant for the remainder of the war but was never officially promoted. The Battalion only had a Sergeant Major for a very brief period. He was the nephew of one of the Company Captains and didn't enlist until the Army was in it's winter encampment in Dalton during the winter of 1863. He was killed in action during the operations around Dallas Georgia and no other person was promoted to this position and I have found no mention of another man preforming the duties of Sergeant Major afterwards. This just makes it sound like perhaps the Sergeant Major was not a vital officer for this Battalion to have. So this leads me to the question, would would the duties of a Sergeant Major and an Adjutant on the skirmish line? I assume the Adjutant would help the Major issue orders down the line to the various companies commanders. Any information would be greatly appreciated.
    Vance Harris

  • #2
    Re: Duties of the Field and Staff Officers on the Skirmish Line

    What Sharpshooter battalion are you looking at? Just curious, I have info on the three organized Mississippi sharpshooter battalions (1st, 9th, and 15th)

    Will MacDonald

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    • #3
      Re: Duties of the Field and Staff Officers on the Skirmish Line

      I've done a fair amount of research on McGowan's Sharpshooter Battalion (organized in early '64) led by Major Wm. S. Dunlop of the 12th SC. Three companies of men of about 60 each. The book, "Lee's Sharpshooters" written by Dunlop, is a pretty interesting read but very little is written on the staff officers; in fact, I don't recall a reference to either a Sgt. Major or Adjutant at all. I am sure the battalion had these positions, but there is little to say about them, at least in that book. You must remember also, that the Sharpshooters were not always deployed as skirmishers. I would say the duties of Sgt. Major and Adjutant would be assisting with deployments and assisting the C.O. in echoing orders on the Skirmish line. Just my two cents....
      Ben Cwayna

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      • #4
        Re: Duties of the Field and Staff Officers on the Skirmish Line

        Article V of the Instructions for Skirmishers in Casey's has the Major commanding the reserve of a battalion deployed as skirmishers, the Lt. Colonel overseeing the deployment on the right, the Adjutant on the left, and the Colonel supervising the whole from the rear. Once the battalion is deployed, the Adjutant and Lt. Col. rejoin the Colonel.

        You may need to improvise in applying that to a battalion of three reenactor companies. If they're the size of most sharpshooter companies I've seen at events, the superfluous staff officers and NCOs would form a healthy reserve in and of themselves...
        Michael A. Schaffner

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        • #5
          Re: Duties of the Field and Staff Officers on the Skirmish Line

          Thank you for the replies. I have been researching the 4th Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters for past four years or so and plan to write a book about their history. The 4th Batt'n Ga SS didn't have a Sergeant Major on the roster when it was first formed and fought in the Battle's of Hoover's Gap, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge without one. They only had a Sergeant Major for their actions at Mill Creek Gap, Resaca and the first part of the operations around Dallas. The Sergeant Major William W. Gary who was the son of a sister of the Captain of Company B, is buried in a Marked grave in an old abandoned family cemetery in Meriwether County Georgia. I have as of yet been unable to get a photograph of it...there is no listed for the cemetery on findagrave. But based on the historical societies cemetery transcriptions, he died on June 1, 1864....he also appears on a list in the Chattanooga Daily Rebel as being killed in Action for the month of June. The service records are very clear that 1st Lt. John T. Hunt served as the acting adjutant after the capture of John R. Youree, the Battalions Adjutant at the Battle of Hoover's Gap..but there is not indication in the service records of any soldier preforming the duties of Sergeant Major after the death of William W. Gary, nor is anyone promoted to the rank. William W. Gary was the only person with the rank of Sergeant Major during the entire history of the Battalion.

          And you are correct, the 4th Batt'n Ga SS, didn't always form a skirmish line, but they did most of the time and were used as the main skirmishers for their division...sometimes men from other units and even other brigades were added to the skirmish line as well bot boister the numbers but command of the Skirmish line always fell to Major Caswell, commander of the 4th Batt'n Ga SS. At Chickammauga for instance, the 4th Batt'n Ga SS was in Bate's Brigade, Stewart's Division, Buckner's Corps. Stewarts at advanced his three brigades one behind the other with Bate's Brigade being last in line. Since Bate had two brigades in front him, he had no real need for skirmishers and so lined the 4th Batt'n Ga SS up on his extreme right in a line of Battle. At Missionary Ridge, Bate did not deploy skirmishers so the 4th Batt'n Ga, SS were again on their brigades extreme right manning the entrenchments. At Spring Hill however, Bate had the 4th Batt'n Ga SS out in front of his entire division as Skirmishers and they thus became the only members of Bate's Division to fire a shot at Spring Hill. I just find the Field and Staff makeup of this unit very odd and am trying to make sense of how the command structure would have worked in the field with only a Major, Adjutant and for part of the time, a Sergeant Major.
          Last edited by Barnesville Blues; 07-07-2015, 09:22 AM.
          Vance Harris

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          • #6
            Re: Duties of the Field and Staff Officers on the Skirmish Line

            There is a book about Georgia Sharpshooters, "Cox's Wild Cats: The 2nd Georgia Battalion Sharpshooters at Chickamauga and Chattanooga," by Dana Mangham. He is a friend of mine, but I'm embarassed to say I haven't read the book so I don't know if it would be helpful...
            Frank Siltman
            24th Mo Vol Inf
            Cannoneer, US Army FA Museum Gun Crew
            Member, Oklahoma Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission
            Company of Military Historians
            Lawton/Fort Sill, OK

            Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay -- and claims a halo for his dishonesty. Robert A. Heinlein

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            • #7
              Re: Duties of the Field and Staff Officers on the Skirmish Line

              Thanks for the information. I had not heard of Mr. Mangham's book but I do believe I have heard of Mr. Mangham before. The 4th Georgia Sharpshooters was the smallest of Georgia's 4 Sharpshooter Battalions at three companies. I do know that the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Batt'n Ga SS Battalions were all commanded by Major's. The 3rd Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters was the only one in the Army of Northern Virginia and was a different animal entirely with the men being hand picked from the entire brigade...they were also a huge Battalion and were close to a Regiment in size. I don't know anything about their command structure though as my primary interest is the western theater.
              Vance Harris

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