“I Got One Mark of Merit”
by Phil Spaugy
This evening,in preparation for some Overland Campaign 150th blog posts, I was doing a bit of reading in Four Years with the Iron Brigade, the Civil War Journal of William Ray, Co F, Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers, edited by Lance Herdegen and Sherry Murphy.
Ray’s diary entry of April 27th struck a particular chord with me:
“And a fine day. We have Co. drill in the forenoon. In the afternoon battalion drill. We had target firing this afternoon also. I got one mark of merit. Among some 20 men, not half the company hit the board. We shot 200 yards and the wind was sideways and blew pretty hard. This was disadvantageous to me.”
A couple of thoughts come to mind. Like my “pard” Lance, I am a long time member of the North-South Skirmish Association and have fired thousands of live-fire rifle musket rounds over the last 37 years. I can certainly attest to the fact that the wind plays hob with the large relatively slow-moving Burton (or Harpers Ferry) Ball used in the rifle muskets of the 7th regiment. And one has to wonder just how effective their 200-yard musket target practice was, when just eight days later the 7th Wisconsin, along with the other regiments of the Iron Brigade, met the hard-fighting rebel infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia in that particular tangle of smoke-filled woods and brushy hell that was the Wilderness!
Source: Herdegen, Lance J. and Sherry Murphy Four Years with the Iron Brigade, the Civil War Journal of William Ray, Co F, Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers, DeCapo Press, 2002