Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My third Civil War News custom: sharpshooters

I've just completed my third custom card in the format of Topps 1962 Civil War News.

You can see my previous creations in my blog entries of July 11 and Aug, 3. On Dec. 18, 2014, I detailed the background of my interest in Civil War history and collectibles. On Dec. 20, I presented by Rails and Sails customs of the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia.

I'm finding the creation of Civil War News-style cards to be a welcome palate cleanser from my usual work in baseball and football cards. Doing the research for my CWN card backs reminds me how into "The First War for Southern Independence" I was during the Centennial.

It was no different in working up this latest custom card.

The inspiration was a photo I found on line of Dale Gallon's 1994 paining "Breechloaders and Greencoats".

His painting depicts soldiers of the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters engaging the enemy at Gettysburg. Technically, my card describes action by a Vermont company of the 1st regiment, but I'll claim artistic license.

As a Civil War buff from Wisconsin, I was aware that the 1st USSS had a company of Wisconsin volunteers, so I was vaguely familiar with the history of the units formed by Col. Hiram Berdan shortly after the commencement of hostilities in 1861.

Berdan himself is an interesting historical figure. He was an accomplished inventor and a champion marksmen. He also knew how to navigate the muddy waters of Washington, D.C. wartime politics.

To get approval for his concept of units comprised of the finest marksmen in the Union, armed with the finest long-range rifles, Berdan invited President Lincoln to his training grounds outside the Capital and gave the president the opportunity to test fire the Sharps breechloader. That tableau would make a wonderful subject for Gallon or one of the other Civil War artists now working. It would also make a great Civil War News card.

In doing my research I read tales of the sharpshooters' prowess with the rapid-firing Model 1859 Sharps, including reported kills at 1,000 or 1,500 yards. 

To be accepted as a volunteer in Berdan's unit, a soldier had to place 10 out of 10 shots into a 10-inch target at 200 yards from his choice of firing position. He also had to put 10 out of 10 shots into a five-inch target at 100 yards, firing off-hand,

At the beginning of the war, members of the sharpshooters were invited to bring their own weapons on the promise -- fulfilled only sporadically -- of a $60 allowance from the army. When the impossible logistics of supplying ammunition for a wide variety of rifles became apparent the troops were first provided with Colt five-shot revolving rifles. These were, in turn, replaced by a specialized version of the .52 caliber Sharps rifle -- to the great relief of the sharpshooters.

While the soldiers carried the Sharps into battle, they were usually followed by a wagon carrying state of the art target rifles, some weighing as much as 30 pounds, equipped with telescopic sights.

"A Good Shot" by Dale Gallon.

Gallon has done another painting of Berdan's sharpshooters employing such a long-range weapon. It's titled "A Good Shot".

If you like my Civil War News custom cards, I'm sure you'd enjoy seeing more of Dale Gallon's art. You can find his web site at: Dale Gallon's website . When I finally get to Gettysburg, I'm going to make it a point to visit Gallon's studio there.

As I've said before, because the front of my card is basically lifted wholesale from Gallon's painting, I won't be offering examples for sale. 

At this point I don't have any further Civil War News customs on the drawing board, but that could change at any time.

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