While all Sharps Model 1853 carbines are desirable due to their rarity and historical connections to the turmoil and sectional strife during the antebellum era, those that are documented as being directly connected to Bleeding Kansas in the 1850s are particularly desirable, and that is certainly the case for this fascinating carbine which is accompanied by factory documentation listing it by serial number among 100 carbines ordered from Sharps in 1856 for the Free State settlers in Kansas through the New England Emigrant Aid Company. This model was manufactured from 1854 to 1857. This example was made prior to March 19, 1856. The barrel has a small brass blade front sight, a "squirrel ear" rear sight, and "SHARP'S RIFLE/MANUFG. CO./HARTFORD CONN." marked on top. The lock is marked "SHARP'S/PATENT/1852." The upper tang has the "SHARPS/PATENT/1848" marking and the serial number. A long saddle ring bar runs from the left side of the brass barrel band to the rear of the frame. The buttplate and patchbox are also brass. The stock and forearm are smooth walnut. There appears to be a "JPC" mark on the left side of the stock by the saddle ring bar. The breechblock is an earlier style with the platinum band removed. This may be related to this carbine being shipped by the Emigrant Aid Company separately from the original breechblock as discussed below. As they aren't serial numbered components, the breechblocks would have been fitted in no particular order. The most important piece of documentation that accompanies this historic carbine is a copy of the factory invoice from March 19, 1856, for 100 carbines, ammunition, and accoutrements totaling $2,773.12. It lists this carbine by serial number in case 693. The invoice is addressed to General Samuel C. Pomeroy (1816-1891), the New England Emigrant Aid Company's most important agent in the Kansas Territory from the mid 1850s to 1860. He became the mayor of Atchison and a United States senator for Kansas. Pomeroy was a former Massachusetts legislator who went to Kansas as an agent for the company both in support of the antislavery movement as well as in search of his own financial success and succeeded on both counts. He was one of the leaders of the party of emigrants supported by the company that arrived in Kansas City on September 6, 1854, and soon formed the famous Free State town of Lawrence, Kansas. He made return trips to the Northeast to raise funds to support the Free State settlers in Kansas, including in early 1856 to support the creation of a fund to support the free soilers against the pro-slavery settlers and border ruffians. The two forces had already met in armed conflict following the March 30, 1855, election in which hundreds of armed Missourians illegally voted. In response, on April 2, 1855, Charles L. Robinson (later Kansas's first governor during statehood) wrote to Eli Thayer back in New England of the need for arms for the Free State settlers who were largely unarmed in the face of armed Border Ruffians who were illegally dominating the state. He wrote, "Cannot your secret society send us 200 Sharps rifles as a loan till this question is settled? Also a couple of field-pieces? If they will do that, I think they will be well used, and preserved." George W. Deitzler later recalled that he arrived in Boston and was delivered an order for 100 Sharps rifles and headed to Hartford. He noted that the rifles were packed as books, and that he had the "cones" removed from the rifles and took them with him to prevent them from being used by the enemy if they were captured. This was in 1855. The Sharps offered a real advantage for the Free State citizens compared to their rivals who were mainly armed with muzzleloading rifles, muskets, and shotguns, but 100 rifles weren't enough, and requests for more Sharps for Kansas came in. This invoice is discussed in the included article "The Sharps Rifle Episode in Kansas History" by W.H. Isely from "The American Historical Review" Vol. 12, No. 3 in 1907. The article explains that Dr. Samuel Cabot was in charge of a rifle fund in early 1856 to purchase more rifles for Kansas, including the 100 rifles ordered in March of 1856. Isely also indicates these rifles were actually stolen by border ruffians when they were being transported on the Arabia on their way to Kansas. They were escorted by Major David Starr Hoyt (1821-1856), a Mexican-American War combat veteran from Deerfield, Massachusetts. A letter by Hoyt to his mother was seized by the captain of the Arabia, and its Free State message was read to the other passengers which included Border Ruffians. The Missourians nearly tossed Hoyt and his companion William B. Parsons overboard into the Missouri River. At Lexington, Hoyt was surrounded by an armed mob who tried to force him to sign over the arms at gun point which he refused. They were seized anyways. When Hoyt arrived in Kansas City, he informed Pomeroy what had happened. While the carbines along with four breech loading cannons had been seized, the carbines were useless to the Border Ruffians. As Deitzler had done with the nipples with the prior order, the Emigrant Aid Company had wisely had this shipment's breechblocks removed and shipped separately. Hoyt returned to St. Louis to press his case against the captain of the Arabia and received the full value of the missing arms, but the carbines remained in Missouri. After various legal maneuvers, the carbines were finally recovered in 1859. They arrived in Kansas in 1860 and were delivered to Colonel James Montgomery who led the 3rd Kansas Infantry during the Civil War in James H. Lane's brigade. By 1860, other shipments of Sharps rifles had arrived in Kansas and blood had been spilled by both sides. The were nicknamed Beecher's Bibles both because some shipments were disguised as books and because Reverend Henry Ward Beecher said, "the Sharps Rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas are concerned, than in a hundred Bibles. You might just as well...read the Bible to Buffaloes as to those fellows...but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp's rifles." Beecher also helped fund the purchase of some of the Free State Sharps carbines. On May 21, 1856, pro-slavery forces totaling around 300 men under the leadership of Douglas County Sheriff Samuel J. Jones faced off against Pomeroy and the Free Staters of Lawrence. Jones had been previously shot and wounded while trying to arrest some of the town's residents and demanded they turn over their arms, which Pomeroy indicated he did not have the authority to compel but did turn over the town's cannon. Jones and his men then attacked the Free State Hotel and also destroyed the Kansas Free State and Herald of Freedom newspaper offices and looted the town. One of Jones's men was killed by debris during the attack. None of the Free State residents were killed in contrast to the August 21, 1863, Lawrence Massacre conducted by the Confederate Quantrill's Raiders that left more than 150 unarmed men, boys, and civilians dead. While the first raid on Lawrence may have had little bloodshed, it was part of an escalation that led to further raids by both the Free State and Pro-Slavery forces, including two attacks on Franklin's Fort where Jones's men had taken the cannon and other loot secured during the Lawrence raid. The second attack was successful. David S. Hoyt, who handled the carbine shipment, was murdered near Fort Saunders on August 12, 1856, after trying to negotiate an end to the fighting. After his mutilated body was discovered, Fort Saunders was destroyed by the Free State forces, and they also attacked Fort Titus and compelled its surrender. Violence on both sides continued, including famously bloody attacks by John Brown and his men. As the Civil War loomed, Kansas was finally admitted to the Union as a Free State in January 1861 thanks to the senators of the seceding states leaving the Senate. Also included is a copy of a 1903 letter from Arthur T. Cabot, son of Dr. Samuel Cabot who was the secretary of the New England Emigrant Aid Society who handled the purchasing of the rifles and is discussed in the above article. In the letter, Cabot discusses his father's letters during Bleeding Kansas, including noting that he was "in charge of the shipments of rifles to Kansas with which the settlers might defend themselves against the border ruffians. In consequence of the technical infringement of the laws in such transactions, most of the letters were destroyed..." He also noted that among the documents that remained was his father's small book with a list of people who contributed to the purchase of rifles for Kansas. Copies of that list are included. Provenance: The Eric Vaule Collection; The Greg Lampe Collection
Very good with mottled gray and brown patina on the iron along with some patches of mild oxidation and pitting, attractive age patina on the brass furniture, and general mild overall wear appropriate for a Bleeding Kansas and Civil War era Sharps. The wood is also very good with a period tacked in repair visible on top left forward wrist at the frame juncture, some mild dings, light scratches, and a few notches visible in the bottom of the butt. The automatic primer is missing parts; otherwise, mechanically fine. This is a very attractive and rare example of a documented "Beecher's Bible" Sharps Model 1853 carbine.
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