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Shock Troops of the Confederacy Hardcover – February 15, 2006

4.9 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


A "must buy" for the Civil War scholar interested in the nuts and bolts of how armies functioned and fought. -- Joe Bilby, Civil War News, August 2005

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

Shock Troops of the Confederacy tells the story of the elite troops of the South -- on the picket line and in the thick of the battlefields of Virginia.
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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: CFS Press; First Edition edition (February 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0964958554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0964958555
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,527,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Miles Krisman on April 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recently had the pleasure of reading Fred L. Ray's new book, "Shock Troops of the Confederacy - The Sharpshooter Battalions of the Army of Northern Virginia". It offered a great deal of new information whereby the author outlines the changes that took place within the Confederate army that led to a new style of warfare, a warfare in which the intelligence, skill, and courage of the individual soldier became paramount. In a book that takes the reader on a journey of discovery, out between the battle lines, Fred successfully illustrates the factors that brought about these developments.

Largely forgotten in the annals of time, the story of the Sharpshooters of the Confederacy begins with two Virginians, Robert Rodes and Eugene Blackford. Both men were from Lynchburg, Virginia, but through a quirk of fate, both entered Confederate service as members of the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment. During the winter of 1862, Rodes and Blackford formulated a new military unit to serve the Confederacy that would change the course of the war and in doing so, change warfare itself. Invaluable lessons were learned by both men at the Battle of Boonsboro, also known as the Battle of South Mountain, where Rodes' Brigade successfully fought a delaying action against an entire Division of the Union army, thereby allowing General Lee to consolidate his army and fight the Battle Of Sharpsburg, or Antietam, three days later. These Confederate troops on South Mountain, primarily dispersed as a line of skirmishers, held off the advance of the Army of the Potomac by fighting from behind the rocky outcrops and the heavily wooded slopes as they slowly fell back.
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Format: Hardcover
For years, the work of the sharpshooters of the Army of the Confederacy has been largely ignored in favour of the more glamorous Berdan's Sharpshooters of the Federal army. They have been the subject of several books and countless articles but finally Fred Ray's book has redressed the balance. Because of their infantry organisation and lack of post-war records, the southern regiments of sharpshooters have been difficult and in some cases near impossible to document. Shock Troops has managed to provide a balanced and very well researched account of their use, organisation and training from 1861-1865. Much of the text uses first-hand accounts from hitherto little known accounts and it is a credit to Fred Ray that he has managed to gather so much material from such a paucity of sources. For anyone who wants to know more about the Confederate use of sharpshooters and the tools of their trade, this book could not come more highly reccommended.

Martin Pegler

Author of Out Of Nowhere, A History of Military Sniping.
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Format: Hardcover
Not since a century ago when in 1899 Maj. W. S. Dunlop penned Lee's Sharp Shooters or the Forefront of Battle has another book been written on the Confederate sharpshooter battalions. Until now. Author Fred L. Ray, himself a descendent of a sharpshooter, devoted years of research into the Confederate sharpshooter and the sharpshooter battalions in the Army of Northern Virginia. His book, Shock Troops of the South, begins with a brief discussion linear warfare beginning with the hoplite armies of ancient Greece and moves quickly onto early riflemen both in America and abroad and finally, the European influence on antebellum officers who rose to positions of prominence within the Confederacy.

Mr. Ray discusses how the need for a more professional skirmisher capable of screening the line of battle led to raising of the early sharpshooter battalions in the Confederacy. He identifies the early proponents of whom Major Eugene Blackford, Fifth Alabama, figures prominently. In describing their battles, the author shows how they influenced battles and in so doing, influenced Lee to raise similar battalions throughout his army. What follows is a exhaustive but highly readable study of the actions of Lee's sharpshooter battalions in the Overland Campaign, Early's Raid on Washington and the Siege of Petersburg. Shock Troops of the South fills the gaps created Dunlop's work of a century earlier.

Shock Troops of the South does not neglect their Union counterpart nor the Confederate sharpshooters who fought in other theatres. While not as extensively researched, Mr. Ray does leave the reader with an sufficient understanding of what happened elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover
"Shock Troops of the Confederacy" is a somewhat misleading title as what is on offer is actually two books in one!

The treatment of the Sharpshooter record and legacy (both sides) is certainly well covered, it is in fact a broad ranging and compelling testimony of the efficacy of shock and open order tactics in the midst of a war in which often the blind led the blind; especially when they had the means to do otherwise. The battle narratives are tightly-written and coincides nicely with the maps provided.

However, the unaware reader who merely thinks of this book as a focused "Confederate Army" unit or battle study is in for so much more; one is unexpectedly offered an historical and international study of the rifle...Open order..evolution and impact on modern warfare. Therefore, I would have titled it something like - "The Rise of Modern Infantry - the Evolution of Rifle, Sharpshooter, and Shock Troops from the Civil War to the First World War."
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