Sergeant Lipscomb Payne of the 2nd US Sharpshooters


One of the colorful characters in the Myscal Taylor series is Sergeant Lipscomb Payne of the 2nd US Sharpshooters Regiment.

The 2nd was attached to J.C. Ward's Brigade in the Army of the Potomac. The 20th Indiana was also in Ward's Brigade. A civil war brigade comprised several regiments. An experienced combat brigade would have comprised approximately 1500-2000 soldiers. The fighting strength of the 2nd US Sharpshooters in the fall of 1863, after Gettysburg loses, would have been about 250-350 men.

First, a note from Wikipedia:

The most notable aspect of the Berdan Sharpshooter uniform is the green color, rather than the standard Union blue. They were one of only a few regiments that went outside the typical Potomac Army's uniform. The green uniform gave the sharpshooters the clear advantage of camouflage, but also sometimes was a disadvantage because they were easy to distinguish against the rest of the Union soldiers for Confederate marksmen to spot and target.

Sharpshooters were high-priority kills amongst the Confederate army, because they had such high skills and good salvageable equipment. Sharpshooters used more guerrilla warfare battle tactics than the rest of the Union infantry. Along with the green uniform, a soldier was to have no brass on any of their buttons. Their shoes were standard Union issue, but their pants were made of green wool just like the frock coats, with a pair of gaiters. Furthermore, Sharpshooter knapsacks were a Prussian-style fur sack fitted over a wooden frame, as opposed to the usual tarred canvas.

However, as the war went on the men were not reissued this clothing and many of the men received standard federal clothing making them harder for rebel troops to notice their elite capabilities. By the Gettysburg campaign most of the men were wearing modified blue uniforms. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_United_States_Sharpshooters

Below is a selection on Lispcomb Payne from the novel "Arise from the Dust". It lays out the first conversation between Sergeant Payne and Myscal Taylor. Payne is on assigned recruitment duty in northwest Indiana in October 1863. He meets Myscal for the first time on a 20 mile road march where Myscal is marching after he has been fraudulently enlisted and forced into the Union Army as a substitute recruit for his cousin.

Their mutual story continues throughout the Myscal Taylor series:

"What is your name, Sergeant?"

“Another damn question! Martin said that you could be a talker once you got started."

"Please... I am in debt to you...I would like to know your name," said Myscal. "Perhaps someday I can return the favor."

Actually, he felt deeply ashamed of his prejudgments. The rough treatment he had received since he got off the train in Lafayette had calloused him. Not every human being he encountered had ill intent towards him, he reflected honestly to himself. Still, he could not let his guard down.

"Lipscomb Payne," said the sergeant monotonously, trudging, his head scanning a fair distance up the road for hidden threats.

"Really? That is a peculiar name," Myscal said with some amusement.

"Not really. The Stranges lived just down the road!" the now-named Payne said dryly. "I just like to say when folks find my name amusing that I am half Jewish and half Payne. If you don't appreciate the Jewish slice, then the Payne half will be pleased to teach you proper manners."

Myscal snickered. This man was not coming across as the gruff humorless sort he appeared at first.

"So what unit are you with?"

"Detached recruin' duty from Company D, 2nd US Sharpshooters. From Maine originally by latter way of California. Some brigade officer figured out that we pretty boys in green do better at recruitin' than the ugly blue-suited soljers who look like you."

"Where abouts were you in California?" Myscal asked.

"Gold fields north of the Sacramento until the war broke out. Took a steamship down to Panama, crossed over to the Atlantic. Caught another steamship to Boston where I made my way to Portland. Joined up and here I be, safe, sound and chewing the fat of life with you."

"I thought all the goldfields were played out north of the Sacramento," said Myscal.

"They was," Payne responded curtly, still scanning the road up ahead.

"So you weren't tin panning or rockin’ for gold?"

"Nope. Spent my days hunting deer, elk, and God knows what else in the high mountain forests. Sold the meat to the placer pocket miners studying for what gold remained. They were the fools, spending all their stakes looking for gold that's been stripped for 10 years. I got them meat, they gave me what little gold they found. Even trade."

"Why are you outfitted in green?" asked Myscal with interest, examining Payne's uniform.

"I spose' you don't know about the 2nd US Sharpshooters?" replied Payne.

"Nope. Never heard of it. Sorry," responded Myscal.

"Best regiment in the Army of the Potomac. Started up by Colonel Hiram Berdan. Wanted the finest shots he could find to act as skirmishers ahead of the main body of troops. Take out Reb officers and sergeants to disrupt companies, also regiments."

"Finest shots?" asked Myscal.

"Yep. I spose' you seen how most of the boys shoot around here," responded Payne with more grunts.

"Not had a chance to see it."

"Well…you will today. Most of these boys would be lucky to plug an oak bucket from 30 paces with their eyes open. And a bucket don't shoot back. Most of them close their eyes before they pull the trigger, send lead scattered all over the place 'cept directly at the Rebs. You shoot some, being a candid Western man and all?" the sergeant inquired with some interest.

"Some... get a deer now and then. Shot my neighbor's cow when I was a boy in Illinois. That count?" Myscal asked dryly, inserting his own brand of wit into the conversation.

"Nope. Only if the neighbor thought someone else did it," Payne responded now with a genuine grin.

"He did. It was the one time I thought it best not to be honest with my Pa when the neighbor came calling madder than a hornet."

"Your pappy find out?"

"He did a couple of years ago when I finally worked up the nerve to tell him."

Sergeant Payne guffawed at that, slapped Myscal on the back with a rough, calloused hand.

"You are all right Taylor, even though you are a damn deserter and a hard-punchin' nose buster," he said with another broad grin....


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