Monday, August 22, 2016

Morgan's Riflemen, the first generation snipers

"Morgan's Riflemen were an elite light infantry unit commanded by Daniel Morgan in the American Revolutionary War. They were equipped with what was then the cutting-edge rifle instead of muskets, allowing superior accuracy at an up to ten times the distance of the typical troops of the day.

Daniel Morgan was a wagoneer by occupation and a bit rough around the edges, he wasn’t known for being “gentlemanly.” A veteran of the French & Indian War, he got his start in the Revolutionary War in 1776 as the captain of a small rifle unit set up by the state of Virginia and commissioned by Congress. Morgan's had 69 men, and quickly got the nickname Morgan's Sharpshooters.
Morgan's most significant action in this period was support for the invasion of Canada, and the Battle of Quebec in which he was seen as a hero, despite General Benedict Arnold's overall failure and their subsequent capture.
In early 1777, when Morgan was freed from captivity, he was commissioned as a Colonel and assigned command of the 11th Virginia Regiment. Not long afterward he was instructed by George Washington to form a Provisional Rifle Corps consisting of men skilled with the use of the long rifle.
Having done so, his first assignment was to harass Colonel William Howe as he retreated through New Jersey. Morgan did so by having his 500 riflemen snipe the enemy troops as they moved, using their longer range to do so from safety, an unusual tactic for that day.
Sent to join the northern army headed by General Horatio Gates, Morgan's Riflemen helped establish better conditions for the coming Battle of Saratoga. A series of quick attacks on the British Indian allies drove them back to the main force which interfered with British ability to gather intelligence of the American troops' movements.
After a series of similar successes, Morgan left active service for a year, then re-joined the southern army with Nathaniel Greene. There his Riflemen's string of successes were capped when they were again pivotal in a key victory, the Battle of Cowpens.
Facing a superior British line commanded by Colonel Banastre Tarleton, they met it head-on to fire three rounds (before the marching British muskets were in range), conducting a planned withdrawal to another location and duplicating the effort, then joined the main force against the now-depleted and disheartened British lines, who quickly fell into retreat. This was seen as the worst British defeat since the battle at Saratoga, both victories credited to Morgan's Riflemen and described as key turning points in the Revolutionary War".