Manufactured as part of a 2,000 rifle contract executed by the Ordnance Department on January 27 and February 6, 1862 to arm the 1st and 2nd United States Sharpshooter (USS) Regiments. Composed of expert marksmen selected by Colonel Hiram S. Berdan, the two USS regiments (Berdan's Sharpshooters) fought with the Army of the Potomac for most of the Civil War. The two USS regiments claimed to have inflicted more Confederate casualties than any other regiments in the Army of the Potomac. The Berdan Sharpshooter's Model 1859 Sharps rifles were specially fitted with double set-triggers and had angular socket bayonets. Most of the Berdan Sharps Rifles fall in the 54374-57574 serial number range. The majority of the Berdan Sharps rifles are stamped with script "JT" final inspection mark of Ordnance Inspector John Taylor on the left side of the stock wrist and the initials of the Ordnance sub-inspector on the left barrel flat. This rifle’s serial number, 54976, is listed on page 98 of "SHARPSHOOTER" by Wiley Sword as one of 47 Sharps Model 1859 Rifles identified as having all of the characteristic Berdan Sharps features. The rifle has a blue barrel with casehardened barrel bands, forend tip, receiver, patch box and buttplate. The forend and stock are oil finished walnut. The barrel has a block bayonet lug/front sight base with nickel silver front sight blade and R.S. Lawrence patent folding leaf rear sight with 900 yard center notch. The receiver has a Lawrence patent pellet primer device and factory fitted double set-triggers. The casehardened iron patch box door is stamped on the inside with an Ordnance punch-dot inspection mark. The top of the barrel is marked "SHARPS RIFLE/MANUFG. CO/HARTFORD CONN." ahead of the rear sight and "NEW MODEL 1859" at the breech. The Ordnance sub-inspection mark "C.W.H." is stamped on the left rear barrel flat. The rear sight base is stamped with the R.S. Lawrence patent markings. The left side of the receiver is stamped with the two-line Sharps 1844 patent marking. The lock plate is stamped with the 1859 Lawrence patent dates below the pellet primer and the 1852 Sharps patent dates behind the hammer. The serial number is located on the upper tang. A script "JT" Ordnance final inspection mark is stamped on the left side of the stock wrist. In addition to the Model 1859 rifles issued to Berdan's Sharpshooters, a few double set trigger rifles were issued to the 42nd Pennsylvania (Bucktails). The serial number of this rifle falls between two of the rifles documented as issued to the Bucktails, serial numbers 54974 and 54979. A pair of period sharpshooter's glasses are also included. The lenses are tinted amber to help shield the shooter from the sun and have are clearer section in the center to help aid in focusing on the sights.
Fine. The rifle is completely original and in outstanding condition for a Berdan Sharps Rifle. Nearly all of these rifles were issued, and their condition typically reflects hard field service. The barrel, receiver, patch box, buttplate and smaller components retain 30% of the faded original blue and casehardened finish. The blue finish on the barrel has aged to a smooth plum brown patina. The barrel markings are crisp. The case colors on the barrel bands and forearm tip have faded to a mottled gray patina. The receiver and lock plate have a mottled dove gray patina with significant amounts of case colors in protected areas. The patch box and buttplate have a dove gray patina with traces of the original case colors. The receiver and lock plate markings are sharp. The stock and forearm are very good with sharp edges. Handling wear is limited to several scattered minor nicks in the left side of the stock. The "JT" inspection mark on the left stock flat is light but fully legible. The glasses are very good and have some verdigris and aged patina. This rifle is in outstanding condition for an original Berdan Model 1859 Rifle. The Berdan Sharps Rifles are among the most desirable Civil War longarms. It would be very difficult to improve upon this fine rifle.
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