20 April 2008 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 8 comments

Fred Ray was kind enough to send along a review copy of his excellent book Shock Troops of the Confederacy: The Sharpshooter Battalions of the Army of Northern Virginia. Fred is the descendant of one of those sharpshooters, which is what got him interested in the subject.

To be candid, before Fred’s book was published, I was not aware that such special duty battalions even existed in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, other than references to Eugene Blackford’s sharpshooters in the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg. The book has changed that misperception of mine.

Fred Ray has written an exceptional book. It’s a comprehensive tour de force of its subject, and one that should probably stand as the definitive word on its subject for a very long time. It’s an extremely valuable and useful addition to the existing body of knowledge about the Civil War that was probably long overdue. The book is thoroughly researched and well-written. From my perspective one of the book’s best features is the abundance of detailed, useful, and quality maps. Those maps address actions that have not been previously mapped. Fred drew the maps himself, and he did an excellent job it.

Of most value to the book for is its emphasis on the critical role played by the Confederate sharpshooters on many battlefields of the Eastern Theatre of the Civil War. Of particular value to me was the focus on the role played by the Confederate sharpshooters during the fighting for the Jug Bridge during the July 9, 1864 Battle of Monocacy. Before reading Fred’s work on the subject, I had never seen any discussion of the role played by the sharpshooters in the fighting for the stone bridge on the National Road. Fred’s analysis is detailed and comprehensive, and helps us to fill a big hole in our study of Jubal Early’s raid on Washington.

I can’t say enough good things about Fred Ray’s book and can highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in the subject. I guarantee you that you will learn something new. I certainly did.

Scridb filter


  1. mike Peters
    Sun 20th Apr 2008 at 3:35 pm


    You’ll be pleased to know that Mr. Ray will be speaking to our Central Ohio Civil War Round Table in August.

    It’s a great book!


  2. Rick Allen
    Sun 20th Apr 2008 at 6:02 pm

    I could’nt agree with you more Eric. A really enlightening book, top notch stuff.

  3. Sun 20th Apr 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, Eric, especially about the maps. It is proof, I suppose, that if enough monkeys get their hands on Corel Draw that one of them will produce some Civil War maps.

    The truth is that I ran out of money (this is a self-published work) and could not afford to hire a “real” cartographer. However, it does show that I’m a fan of maps and think that most CW books don’t have nearly enough of them.

    Finally, I remain mystified how the Confederate sharpshooters managed to drop so completely from the historical record.

    More on the sharpshooters at my web site (www.cssharpshooters.com), and I’m doing a multi-part review of Roy Marcot’s recent book on Berdan’s Sharpshooters at the TOCWOC blog.

  4. PHW
    Sun 20th Apr 2008 at 10:16 pm

    I concur, “Shock Troops” is a GREAT read! I’d never heard of these Batt’ns before either.

  5. HawkeyeJohn
    Mon 21st Apr 2008 at 9:23 am

    Eric, you are correct. I have read this book and it is amazing that this part of CW history receives so little attention. Hopefully, with Mr. Ray’s fascinating book, more of it will come to light.

  6. Dave Powell
    Wed 23rd Apr 2008 at 6:56 am


    I have long wanted to thank you for your work. It’s not every day that something truly new about ACW tactics is unearthed. Before I got your book I was becoming aware of the use and deployment of some of these battalions, but there aren’t that many sources about them. I have been looking for western theater units, and note that the Army of Tennessee did have a similar battalion in each brigade in the core army (some of the troops that came in from the east or from Mississippi in 64 did not) but these troops did not always function in the same way.

    Again, Thanks for a really original work.

    Dave Powell

  7. Wed 23rd Apr 2008 at 11:35 am

    Thanks, Dave. The Confederacy made an effort to put a sharpshooter battalion with every infantry brigade in 1862, but never did a very thorough job of it. Many “sharpshooter” units (e.g. Palmetto Sharpshooters) served as line infantry. Only the Army of Northern Virginia did a consistent job of implementing the concept.

  8. Dave Powell
    Wed 23rd Apr 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Yeah, the AOT guys, often as not, just took their place in the line. I do have some stuff suggesting a more tactical role, but I feel that the AOT, with less professionals in the command ranks at the brigade and divisional level, never really “got” the concept.


Comments are closed.

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress