Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 79: Civil War Sharps New Model 1859 Percussion Military Rifle

Auction Date: August 26, 2022

Historic Documented Civil War Martially Inspected Berdan Sharpshooter Sharps New Model 1859 Percussion Military Rifle with Double Set Triggers

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $18,000 - $27,500

Historic Documented Civil War Martially Inspected Berdan Sharpshooter Sharps New Model 1859 Percussion Military Rifle with Double Set Triggers

Manufacturer: Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company
Model: New Model 1859
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 52
Barrel: 30 inch round
Finish: blue/casehardened
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 1298
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 102
Class: Antique

This Model 1859 Sharps rifle is in the correct configuration of the special ordered rifles produced for the 1st and 2nd U.S. Sharpshooter Regiments (Berdan's Sharpshooters) in 1862 and falls within the correct serial number range, especially the 54390-55574 "primary range" for Berdan Sharps into which this rifle falls. The Ordnance Department's initial order was for standard Model 1859 rifles, but Colonel Hiram Berdan contacted the factory and requested a dull barrel finish and double set triggers. The factory assumed Berdan had permission for the changes and began producing rifles for the unit to his specifications, but once the Ordnance Department got word, they insisted that they would not pay for additional rifles in the altered configuration. However, given that the specifications Berdan requested did not actually cost more due to the use of a socket bayonet rather than a sword bayonet, Sharps may have just continued making the rifles as Berdan requested. Many of the rifles were used by the Sharpshooters, but others were diverted and used by other units such as the Bucktails (13th Pennsylvania). This rifle has a nickel-silver blade front sight, Lawrence patent notch and ladder rear sight, standard markings, adjustable double set triggers, long military style forearm, sling swivels on the middle barrel band and buttstock, an iron patch box, and is correctly not fit with a lever latch. The left side of the barrel has an "OWA" (Orville W. Ainsworth) inspection mark, and the left side of the stock has a "JT" (John Taylor) cartouche. Taylor inspected all 2,000 of the Berdan special contract rifles between April 11 and May 24, 1862, per Wiley Sword in "Sharpshooter." Sword lists "54478" in his "List of Surviving Sharps Berdan Rifles - Correct Profile" on page 98. This may have been a misreading of the serial number of this rifle. The right side of the buttstock has seven kill notches, and the left side has carving "I killed at Cock Robin." The "Cock" is a bit hard to read and could be a similar word. Unfortunately no information concerning the marking is available to provide more details.

Rating Definition:

Very good with strong original finish in the protected areas and otherwise a smooth brown patina overall appropriate for a Civil War sharpshooter's rifle along with some light oxidation, minor scratches, and mild overall wear. The wood is also very good and has mild scrapes and dings, some edge wear, minor flakes, lightly visible boxed cartouche, and similar mild overall wear as the metal. Mechanically excellent. Overall, a very unique and historic Civil War Berdan Sharpshooter Sharps New Model 1859 with U.S. inspection marks and the highly desirable special order double set triggers.

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