Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1205: Civil War Berdan's Sharpshooters Sharps New Model 1859 Rifle

Auction Date: December 4, 2021

Historic Civil War Berdan's Sharpshooters Sharps New Model 1859 Percussion Rifle

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $13,000 - $19,000

Historic Civil War Berdan's Sharpshooters Sharps New Model 1859 Percussion Rifle

Manufacturer: Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company
Model: New Model 1859
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 52
Barrel: 30 inch round
Finish: blue/casehardened
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 1117
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 91
Class: Antique

Sharps New Model 1859 rifle manufactured c. 1862. This is one of 2,000 Sharps Model 1859 rifles purchased by the Ordnance Department for issue to the 1st and 2nd U.S. Sharpshooter Regiments organized and recruited by Col. Hiram Berdan in 1861-62. Berdan was a prominent New York businessman and target shooter. Berdan's two U.S. Sharpshooter regiments (U.S.S.) were composed of experienced marksman from Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wisconsin. The regiments were intended to serve as skirmishers and light infantry modeled on the famous British Rifle Brigade. Like their British counterparts the U.S.S. were issued dark green uniforms with non-reflective black buttons. Berdan selected the New Model 1859 Sharps rifle to arm the Sharpshooters, replacing the originally issued Colt Model 1855 rifles. After considerable lobbying by Berdan, the Ordnance Department agreed to supply the Sharpshooters with 2,000 Sharps rifles. Genuine examples of the Model 1859 rifles manufactured for Berdan's U.S. Sharpshooters fall within the reported serial number range of 54374-57567. Berdan rifles are known to have factory double set triggers, a 30 inch barrel with a block front sight that serves as a socket bayonet lug, Lawrence patent ladder rear sight with readings graduated to 800 yards and a 900 yard center notch at the top, and a casehardened iron patch box. On pg. 82 of the book "Sharpshooter" by Wiley Sword it states, "...a detail of sharpshooters cut small sticks to fit to the sight in order to increase the elevation while at the Po River in 1864. Their shots at an estimated 1,500 yards distance caused a Confederate signal station to be abandoned, reported an observer." The U.S.S. regiments were assigned to the Army of the Potomac and saw extensive action at the battles of Yorktown, Gaines Mill, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Grovetown, and Antietam in 1862. In 1863 the regiments were heavily engaged at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Mine Run. By autumn of 1863 most of the surviving members of the 1st U.S.S. completed their three-year enlistment and were mustered out of service. The survivors of the 2nd U.S.S. continued to serve until February 1865 when the regiment was disbanded. The Berdan's Sharpshooters served with distinction in some of the most important battles of the Civil War and claimed to have inflicted more casualties on the Confederate Army than any other Federal regiments. The left barrel flat at the breech is marked with the inspector initials "O.W.A." (Orville W. Ainsworth). The underside flat of the forearm ahead of the trigger guard is marked with the inspector initials "N.S.P." The top of the barrel is roll-stamped: "SHARPS RIFLE/MANUFG. CO./HARTFORD CONN." in three lines ahead of the rear sight and "NEW MODEL 1859" behind it. The underside of the barrel is marked with the matching serial number "56970". The receiver is fitted with the Lawrence pellet primer. The right side plate is roll-stamped with the Sharps 1852 patent markings and the R.S. Lawrence 1859 patent markings. The left side of the receiver is stamped with the Sharps two-line patent markings. The serial number "56970" is stamped on the upper receiver tang. A faint circled script "JT" (John Taylor) inspection cartouche is marked on the left of the wrist of the stock. The middle barrel band and stock are fitted with factory sling swivels. The barrel and breech block are blued, and the barrel bands, receiver, hammer, lever, patch box and buttplate are color casehardened. The stock and forearm are straight grain American walnut. "GDM" (George D. Moller) collection initials marked at the toe of the stock. Includes a period leather sling with initials "ND" carved into it. Most of these rifles would see hard use in the major battles of the Civil War and be dropped in battle, and are seldom found in this condition! Provenance: The George Moller Collection

Rating Definition:

Very good exhibiting signs of genuine period battlefield use with gray/brown patina overall, scattered patches of mild spotting, and crisp markings in the metal. Wood is also very good with scattered scratches and dents, a crack behind the lock and ahead of the buttplate tang, and a few cracks at the toe. Mechanically excellent. A solid representative example of a historic Berdan Sharps rifle that certainly played its part in some of the most important historical battles of the U.S. Civil War!

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