There was, however, a serious difficulty in the way of constantly employing a regiment on this kind of duty; for, while one regiment, taken as a whole, were always safe to be relied on for line fighting, it was well-nigh impossible to find such an organization in any division as combined all the qualities found necessary for single and determined picket fighting.
Besides, at this time, it was considered a duty, not only extra dangerous, but otherwise specially onerous and distasteful; and regimental commanders were inclined to stand on their rights of only acting in their regular routine on the brigade roster.
Therefore, it was decided, after long deliberation, to adhere to the old plan of details, but to introduce such improvements as would remedy the most obvious defects, especially that of having raw men and officers on every occasion that presented itself.
To accomplish these ends an order was issued from division headquarters for the formation of battalions, or corps of sharpshooters for each brigade.
This order organized a body of troops that gained no little renown in the service.
How often they stood before the fierce advance of the enemy, the unwritten history of the Army of Northern Virginia will attest; while their unmarked graves that fringe the lines from the Wilderness
, and the thinned ranks they paraded on the last muster at Appomattox Court-House, will prove that in heroic devotion to duty they were second to none in an army that challenged the admiration of the world.
The organization and operation of the corps of sharpshooters of the Army of Northern Virginia will possess, if not for the general public, at least for the intelligent military student, the interest that naturally attaches to every movement new in the details of the service — a service the necessities of which developed many expedients before unknown in the annals and science of war. There were incidents connected with its manner of independent and advanced operations which cannot fail, from their unique and striking character, to possess a common interest for all. It was the fortune of the sharpshooters to experience all the romance and glamour of war; and to these was added enough of danger to make the service exciting and exhilarating.
Placed between the lines of two great armies, they saw at least the beginnings of all movements, and had the first intimations of that pleasurable feeling — the gaudia certaminis
-which battle ever brings to the heart of the true soldier.
Their time was not spent in weary waiting for the order to advance; nor were they, except in rare instances, subjected to the trying ordeal of remaining quiet under fire, with no power to return the compliment.
From the earliest opening of battle to its tragic