Former Union officers, who had led the costly battlefield effort to free 4 million Americans from bondage, chartered the National Rifle Association (NRA) in New York City on this day in history, Nov. 17, 1871.
Civil War veterans Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate created the organization after they were “dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops,” states the NRA in its online history.
The association was determined to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis,” Church wrote in a contemporary magazine editorial, the NRA reports.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY, NOV. 16, 1907, OKLAHOMA JOINS UNION AS 46TH STATE
Ambrose Burnside was the first president of the fledging organization.
General Burnside led federal troops in many of the early encounters of the Civil War. He served as governor of Rhode Island after the war, from 1866 to 1869.
Following his stint as NRA president (1871-72), Burnside served as a U.S. senator from Rhode Island from 1875 to 1881.
Several other Union officers shaped the NRA during their stints as president of the organization in its earliest years.
Among them: General Alexander Shaler, who earned the Medal of Honor for heroics at the Second Battle of Fredericksburg; General Winfield Scott Hancock, whose troops repelled Pickett’s Charge in the dramatic final encounter of the Battle of Gettysburg; and the Union’s greatest officer, Ulysses S. Grant, who led the NRA in 1883 and 1884 after serving two terms as presi