Looking for the opportunity to use your target or repeating rifle?
Our focus is to historically and accurately portray the soldiers of the Western Theater, that served as the sharpshooters, skirmishers, light infantry and shock troops of the western armies. We strive to bring to the forefront, their arms, that through their own initiative, that of their officers or the fortunes of war, that they found themselves to be armed with. These arms were the most technologically advanced of the conflict. Among these, were the Dimick Target, Sharps, Henry and Spencer rifles.
(Image depicting the transition from Dimick target to Henry rifles)
The Western Sharpshooters are also members of the National Henry Rifle Company.
Our reenacting unit's primary impression is Birge's Western Sharpshooters, later to be designated as the 66th Illinois Infantry, hence the name. But our impression does not stop there. Out of a joint effort of several reenactors and reenacting units, that have a common desire to portray the "sharpshooters" and "shock troops" of the western armies, we have expanded into a multi-impression unit, that allows us to portray a number of the regiments armed with target and repeating rifles. To put it plainly, we wanted to portray the boys of the 1860's that were armed with state of the art rifles using light infantry and skirmish tactics. Our strong and ongoing relationship with the First Federal Division allows us to do just that.
With that said, historical accuracy has always been paramount. Our impressions and use of weapons are based on the research of the OR's, regimental histories and personal diaries of the men that carried these weapons. We have poured over the campaigns and orders of battle to find the units that carried these particular weapons, and if it cannot be documented, we will not stretch history to fit our impression, but rather we mold our impression to the documented history.
We accept the fact that some reenactors believe that only muzzle-loaders should be utilized at events and that they frown on target and repeating rifles. However, we believe that the original soldiers that carried these unique weapons should also be recognized for their foresight, initiative and contribution in the war.
Our members enjoy utilizing the weapons and portraying the soldiers that had the good fortune to be armed with a repeating rifle, such as a Henry or Spencer, or the mystique of a Dimick Target rifle. We pride ourselves in using the same tactics, that these advanced weapons allowed the boy's of the Western armies to use. However, the lack of a repeating rifle or target rifle does not exclude any of our members from falling in with us. In fact there have been many events, where our impression mandated the use of muzzle-loaders, but where we still portrayed a skirmish company. And to be historically accurate not every soldier in the 7th and 66th Illinois carried a Henry rifle. There were mid-war recruits that were issued a standard muzzle-loading Springfield or Enfield or a veteran who choose not to purchase a repeating rifle with his veteran bonus. Even during the Atlanta Campaign, some of the Western Sharpshooters still retained their Dimick Target rifles from early 1862.
It is the mindset of an 1860's rifleman, not the weapon that we desire. However, after witnessing a company of Henrys in action, it doesn't take long for that member to desire something else other than a muzzle-loader.
It is also our hope to dispel the sharpshooter and repeating rifle myths. We don't act as the "lone wolf sniper", but as an organized sharpshooter, skirmish or light infantry company. We do not endorse the "cowboy" persona when it comes to the use of repeating rifles at reenactments. The hip firing and working the lever at a wrist breaking speed is not condoned or allowed within our ranks. But with that said, it is the repeating rifle's rate of fire that gives it the advantage.
The core of our unit resides among the states of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, which coincidentally had the greatest contribution of Henry and Spencer rifles in the war. However, we have members from all across the country that make up the Western Sharpshooters and in turn are also members of The National Henry Rifle Company.