SKIRMISHERS, SHARPSHOOTERS, AND CIVILIANS
There was firing somewhere at Gettysburg throughout the battle's daylight hours. Even in the periods of relative calm, a soldier who bothered to listen might have heard the bark of cannon, the more frequent cracking of rifles, and occasional flurries of shots that marked a firefight somewhere in the no-man's-land between the armies.
There were some actions that seemed to demand the response of a cannon shot or two, such as the appearance of a sizable body of enemy troops or the threatening fire of an enemy battery, but prudent battery commanders kept their gun crews in check. Artillery ammunition was too precious to be wasted by the gunners of either army. On 3 July General Meade took time from his major concerns to demand the name of a battery commander of the Eleventh Corps who "shamefully wasted" ammunition by firing all of his battery's guns at a reconnoitering Confederate officer. There is no knowing if Meade ever got the culprit's name (in theory at least it could only have been one of four men), but the request in itself was a warning against waste and might have done some good for a while. 1
But infantry fire during lulls in battle was quite another thing. Both armies used skirmishers and pickets (small outpost guards) as a matter of course, and they seem not to have limited the amount of ammunition that they might expend. The War Department drill manual, U.S. Infantry Tactics, defined a skirmish as a "loose, desultory kind of engagement, generally between light troops thrown forward to test the strength and position of the enemy." Both armies used essentially the same manuals and deployed infantrymen as skirmishers as their texts prescribed. Skirmishers screened and protected the main positions on front and flank from
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Publication information: Book title: Gettysburg--Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. Contributors: Harry W. Pfanz - Author, Gary W. Gallagher - Editor. Publisher: University of North Carolina Press. Place of publication: Chapel Hill, NC. Publication year: 1993. Page number: 129.