A very well-rounded look at the evolution of light-infantry, the effect of "sniping" and the fear that both instilled. -- Michael Aubrecht, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star on July 22, 2006
I would recommend this highly original and truly groundbreaking study to anyone interested in Civil War military history. -- Drew Wagenhoffer, Civil War Books and Authors blog, February 10, 2006
Ray has woven together the story of the organization, training, and actual combat experiences of these unique units. -- Jerry Holdsworth, Civil War Times June 2006
Ray keeps the reader interested throughout, never losing sight of the main picture. -- Brett Schulte Civil War Gaming and Reading blog
Sharpshooters were all volunteers, and performed some of the most vital, and dangerous, jobs: picket lines, skirmishing and scouting. -- Val van Meter, Winchester Star July 20, 2006
Shock Troops demonstrates an impressive level of research....his use of these sources is adept. -- Noah Andre Trudeau, America's Civil War magazine July 2006
From the Inside Flap
Whether screening Stonewall Jackson's flank march at Chancellorsville or leading the last desperate assault at Fort Stedman, the sharpshooters led the Army of Northern Virginia in the attack, protected it at rest, and covered its retreat.
At the beginning of the Civil War the Army of the Potomac had, thanks to Hiram Berdan, an advantage in sharpshooting and light infantry, which came as a rude shock to the Confederates during the 1862 Peninsular campaign. In response the Confederates organized their own corps of elite light infantry, the Sharpshooters. Building on the ideas of an obscure Alabama colonel, Bristor Gayle, General Robert Rodes organized the first battalion of sharpshooters in his brigade in early 1863, and later in each brigade of his division. In early 1864 General Lee adopted the concept for the entire Army of Northern Virginia, directing each infantry brigade to field a sharp-shooter battalion. These units found ready employment in the Overland campaign, and later in the trenches of Petersburg and in the fast-moving Shenandoah campaign of 1864. Although little has been written about them (the last book, written by a former sharpshooter, appeared in 1899), they played an important and sometimes pivotal role in many battles and campaigns in 1864 and 1865. By the end of the war the sharpshooters were experimenting with tactics that would become standard practice fifty years later. Although most people think of Berdan's Sharpshooters when the subject comes up, the Confederate sharpshooter battalions had a far greater effect on the outcome of the conflict. Later in the war, in response to the Confederate dominance of the skirmish line, the Federals began to organize their own sharpshooter units at division level, though they never adopted an army-wide system.
The book tells the story of the development of the sharpshooter battalions, their tactical use on the battlefield, and the human story of the sharpshooters themselves.