October 24, 1861
As Portland’s Neal Dow continued to prepare the 13th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment for war, he barraged Maine Governor Israel Washburn and Adjutant General John Hodsdon about administrative matters great and small.
When he could, Hodsdon would answer.
Dow petitioned Gov. Washburn and Hodsdon to add a company of marksmen to the 13th Maine. (See 1861-10-21 story.)
The Governor let it be known that the marksmen, Sharpshooters, would not be assigned to Dow, but instead would go to Hiram Berdan, a wealthy engineer, inventor, entrepreneur, and expert marksman from New York. Berdan was authorized by the federal government to raise two regiments of sharpshooters. The company that Dow wanted,"that it is to be attached to Col. Berdan," became Company D, 2nd Regiment, United States Sharpshooters.
Dow, however, persists.
"A company of Sharpshooters" he writes, "would do far better service added to each Reg’t than they could if collected in Reg’ts and Brigades by themselves."
The Sharpshooters were not intended by the U.S. Army to work as massed units in regiments or brigades. Instead, they were deployed, as needed, as snipers, and placed often as single individuals in concealed positions.
The Governor and Adjutant General deny Dow’s Sharpshooter request – but that was hardly the only campaign Dow waged. He responds to Hodsdon that he is "very much obliged" for his "kind note about servants, horses, forage, feed and pay."
In an October 24 letter, Dow advises Hodsdon about uniforms, claiming that the soldier’s pants "ought to be dark blue and not light blue."
Dow’s concern is that light blue pants might be confused with Confederate uniforms once the men reach the battlefield.
He closes his letter by acknowledging that his volume of correspondence will result in a mailing expense. He asks about reimbursement.
"My postage will be quite an item – Do I give that as well as my time and travelling expenses to the Government?" Dow writes.
Within weeks, Dow and the 13th Maine embark for Boston, then Mississippi. They travel without the Sharpshooters, without the battery of artillery that Dow wanted, and without an answer to his question about postage.
- How does the Army use Sharpshooters today?