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Guide to the Caspar Trepp Papers
1858-1863 (bulk 1861-1863)

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Susan Kriete. Machine readable finding aid created by Susan Kriete.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on August 12, 2014
Description is in English

Biographical note

Swiss-born Caspar Trepp (1829-1863) served in the Foreign Legion before emigrating to the United States. He first appears in the New York City directory as a "carpenter" in 1859 (according to his obituary, he was a professional architect). In 1861, he joined the Union Army, serving first as Captain, and later Lieutenant Colonel, of Company A, 1st US Sharpshooters (also known as Berdan's Sharpshooters).

The US Sharpshooters were a celebrated unit of expert marksmem recruited from various states. The unit was officially organized by Hiram Berdan, a talented inventor and one of the country's top marksmen. But some scholars have suggested that it was Trepp who originally proposed the idea of a rifle regiment, while Berdan supplied the clout and influence necessary to win political approval. Support for this idea is found in the writings of Trepp's fellow Swiss sharpshooters, and in the European-style tactics and camouflage uniforms of the unit.

Whatever its origin, there was growing friction between the two men which culminated in Colonel Berdan filing charges of cowardice against Trepp in 1863. Aside from his own testimony, however, Berdan could produce no evidence to support the charges against Trepp, who was acquitted of all charges at his court-martial. Trepp then filed counter-charges against Berdan, who had been separately charged with cowardice by another officer. Although Berdan was likewise acquitted, the consensus seems to be that there was some foundation for the charges against him.

Trepp was killed by a Confederate sniper's bullet at the Battle of Mine Run (Virginia) on November 30, 1863. He is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.