...At sunrise on May 2nd, 1863, the sharpshooters' corps
commander, Major General daniel Sickles, rode out with General Hooker to inspect the Federal lines to the west of Chancellorsville.
From this it is obvious that Hooker intended to wait for Lee to make the next move. On returning to headquarters,Hooker ordered
Sickles "to make a reconnaissance in front and to the left of Chancellorsville." The combative Sickles was happy to comply,
sending out the 11th Massachusetts and 26th Pennsylvania. "A detachment of Berdan's Sharpshooters, from Whipples division,
accompanied each regiment." The accompanying sharpshooters were apparently from companies E and K of the 1st U.S.S.S. The
remainder of Berdan's two regiments remained in the lines near Chancellorsville that morning.
...This reconnassaince encountered Lee's skirmishers
and pickets fronting his position east of Chancellorsville. There was some sharp skirmishing during the reconnaissance and
differing accounts of the sharpshooters' performance emerged after the battle. According to sharpshooter Charles Stevens years
after the battle, the infantry pressed too close to the enemy and suffered "considerable," but the two detachments of sharpshooters
actively dodged through the woods and "wonderfully escaped."
...However, this story does not match the account from
the battle report of Lt. Colonel Porter Tripp of the 11th Massachusetts Infantry. According to Colonel Tripp, "the sharshooters
sent with the regiment, shamefully ran away from the enemy's fire," so the colonel was forced to "advance his own men, armed
only with smooth-bore Springfield muskets, to take thier place." This report was echoed by Colonel William Bliasdell in his
report for the 1st Brigade. Bliasdell noted that the sharpshooters were impossible to keep at the front and were censured
in "the highest terms" for thier conduct during the reconnaissance. The massachusetts men were armed with Model 1842 Smoothbore
Muskets, little better then shotguns, putting them at a greater disadvantage as skirmihers. This would explain why in Stevens's
account pressed so closely with the enemy.
...This was not the first or only time the !st U.S.S.S.
drew criticism when operating with infantry. There was increasingly dislike for sharpshooters from both armies as the war
progressed. Most mention of the sharpshooters in official reports was favorable, but the Federal army never fully developed
and utilized the sharpshooter concept. It is possible that the unfavorable perception of infantry commanders, unfamiar with
sharpshooter techniques, ultimately hindered the expansion and developement of sharpshooter units in the Federal Army.