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Hiram Berdan
Personal Information
Born: September 6, 1824(1824-09-06)
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Died: March 31, 1893 (aged 68)
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Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
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Branch: Union Army
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Rank: Brevet Major General
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Battles: American Civil War
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Hiram Berdan (September 6, 1824 – March 31, 1893) was an American engineer and military officer, world renowned marksman, and guiding force behind the famed United States Sharpshooters during the American Civil War. He was the inventor of the Berdan rifle, the Berdan centerfire primer and numerous other weapons and accessories.

Early life[]

Berdan was born in Phelps, a small town in Ontario County, New York. A mechanical engineer in New York City, he had been the top rifle shot in the country for fifteen years prior to the Civil War. He invented a repeating rifle and a patented musket ball before the war. He had also developed the first commercial gold amalgamation machine to separate gold from ore. His inventions had brought him wealth and international fame.

Civil War[]

In the summer and fall of 1861, he was involved in the recruiting of eighteen companies, from eight states, which were formed into two sharpshooter regiments with the backing of General Winfield Scott and President Abraham Lincoln. Berdan was named as Colonel of the resultant 1st and 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters on November 30, 1861. His men, who had to pass rigorous marksmanship tests, were dressed in distinctive green uniforms and equipped with the most advanced long-range rifles equipped with telescopic sights. Even when assigned to a brigade, the regiments were usually detached for special assignments on the field of battle. They were frequently used for skirmish duty. Berdan fought at the Seven Days Battles and Second Bull Run. In September 1862, his sharpshooters were at the Battle of Shepherdstown. Berdan commanded the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 3rd Corps, Army of the Potomac in February and March 1863, then he commanded the 3rd Brigade at the Battle of Chancellorsville.


At the Battle of Gettysburg, his two regiments of sharpshooters played an important role in delaying Confederate attacks on Devil's Den and the Peach Orchard. In a sharp encounter in Pitzer's Woods on Seminary Ridge, the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters stalled the advancing Alabama brigade of Cadmus Wilcox. Berdan assumed command of J. H. Hobart Ward's brigade when the latter became acting division commander - David B. Birney having become acting corps commander following the wounding of Daniel Sickles, and led the division throughout the rest of the campaign, as well as during the subsequent Bristoe and Mine Run Campaigns.

Post-War career[]

Berdan resigned his commission January 2, 1864, and returned to his career as an engineer and inventor. In 1865, he was awarded the brevets of brigadier and major general for Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, at each of which he led a brigade.

He was considered by many to be a crack marksman and innovator, but unfit for field command. Berdan subsequently invented numerous engines of war, including a twin-screw submarine gunboat, a torpedo boat for evading torpedo nets, a long-distance rangefinder and a distance fuse for shrapnel.


Berdan died unexpectedly in 1893 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Recently there was a film created by Silver Domino Productions based on Berdan and his men.

See also[]

32x28px United States Army portal
32x28px American Civil War portal

References and links[]

pl:Hiram Berdan ru:Бердан, Хайрем uk:Хайрем Бердан