This is a rare and antique fine condition Civil War Sharps New Model 1863 Military Rifle that remains in its original percussion configuration. This particular Rifle is in the serial number range of those New Model 1863 Rifles issued to the 6th United States Veteran Volunteers. Serial number C 37687 was issued to Daniel H. Collins in Company H, and serial number C 37696 was issued to two different soldiers, John Kuhen and Christopher Rrehr, both in Company E.
The story of all Sharps firearms begins with Christian Sharps who lived from 1811-1874. Christian Sharps learned the principals of firearms manufacturing from famed weapons designer John Hall while working at the Harpers Ferry Arsenal. Christian Sharps patented his first breechloader weapon in 1848. In 1850, Sharps entered into a contract with arms manufacturer A. S. Nippes of Mill Creek Pennsylvania. Sharps’ first two sporting rifle models were manufactured at the Nippes’ Plant.
In 1851, Christian Sharps moved to New England and entered into a contract with the firearms and machinery manufacturer Robbins and Lawrence. Sharps’ first contract with Robbins and Lawrence was for the Model 1851 “Box Lock” Carbine, which was manufactured at the Robbins and Lawrence Plant in Windsor Vermont. The Model 1851 Carbine proved successful as a military weapon for both the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy. With this successful design in production, the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Co. was formed in1851. Sharps weapons continued to be produced for a short time in Vermont until around 1854 when Sharps began manufacturing its own weapons at its new plant in Hartford Connecticut. Several successful Sharps Carbines were manufactured during this period to include the Slant Breech Model 1853 and Model 1855 Carbines. It was during this time when the Sharps Model 1855 Carbine was in production that the Robbins and Lawrence Company suffered significant losses and ceased operations. The Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company then took over all Robbins and Lawrence operations.
The earlier Slant Breech Models experienced gas leakage at the breech. Richard Lawrence began to experiment with a new gas seal, and he determined that a breech block that operated at right angles to the bore sealed gas better than one that operated at an angle to the bore. This led to the first Straight Breech production Carbine - the New Model 1859 Carbine and Rifle, the first of the Civil War straight breech Sharps firearms, which also included the New Model 1863 Carbine and Rifle, and the New Model 1865 Carbines.
These three “models” are actually all one new Sharps model with a straight breech block, but are differentiated by markings and other slight variations. A total of about 27,000 New Model 1859 Carbines were manufactured from 1858 to 1863, in serial number range 30,000 to 80,000. The major variations of this model include the addition of friction ridges on the breechblock at about serial number 30,786, and the change from brass furniture to iron around serial number 36,000. These Model 1859 carbines all had patch boxes on the right side.
The New Model 1859 Military Rifle, the direct predecessor of this rifle, was manufactured from 1859 to 1862 with only 6,989 made in the serial number range 36,000 to 60,000. The Model 1859 Rifle was produced in both .52 and .56 caliber, and it was this model that included the famous Berdan Sharpshooter Sharps Rifles.
The New Model 1863 Carbine was manufactured from 1863 to 1865, and about 60,000 were manufactured in the serial number range 71,235 to 99,999 and from C 1 to C 49,528. Early models had the patch box, but this was phased out in late 1863. The final variant carbine, the New Model 1865, was a limited production of 5,000 carbines manufactured from 1865 to 1866 and in serial number range C 40,000 to C 50,000.
The New Model 1863 Military Rifle, of which this rifle is one, were manufactured in the serial number range C 30,000 to C 40,000, and only 7,000 were produced during the Civil War. The rifles were in .52 caliber and have a barrel length of 30 inches. The Model 1863 Military Rifle incorporates the iron patch box and furniture. About 1,000 Model 1863 Military Rifles were equipped with bayonet lugs.
As noted, this New Model 1863 Military Rifle, which fires a .52 caliber paper or linen cartridge with percussion cap ignition, is in its original Civil War percussion configuration and is in fine antique condition. The barrel, which is 30 inches in length, still retains considerable original blued finish with areas of pewter and plum patina. The original steel front site base is brazed to the barrel and retains its original brass front site post, which is still secured tightly in the base. The top of the barrel just forward of the rear site is marked, “SHARPS RIFLE/MANUFG CO/HARTFORD CONN.” The top of the barrel to the rear of the rear site is stamped “NEW MODEL 1863.” The breech end of the barrel has a witness mark on top that lines up perfectly with the corresponding witness mark on the front of the receiver. The left side of the barrel, just forward of the receiver, has a serif “A.W.M.” inspection stamp. The bore has the correct six-groove rifling that is still very strong. The bore has a bright finish, but there is light pitting in the lands and grooves along its length. The rear site base retains approximately 60% of its original finish and is secured with the original single slot screw. The top of the rear site base is stamped, “R. S. LAWRENCE/PATENT PD/FEB 15TH 1859.” The rear site leaf has minor dings towards the top and the elevation slide retains the majority of its original finish.
The left side of the receiver is stamped, “C. SHARPS’ PAT./SEPT. 12TH 1848.” Forward of the breech block on the left side is a serif “M” inspection stamp. The lock plate on the right side is stamped on the lower part, “C.SHARPS’ PAT./OCT 5TH 1852,” along with a serif “P” inspection stamp, and at the top of the lock plate, “R.S. LAWRENCE PAT/APRIL 12TH 1859.” The receiver tang has the serial No. “C, 37694.” The receiver and side plate have generally a plum and salt and pepper patina throughout.
The original hammer is present with cross-hatching on the thumb piece, and it exhibits a plum and pewter patina and is secured by its original rounded head, single slot screw that has an unmarred slot. The top, right portion of the hammer has a serif “P” inspection stamp. The hammer spring remains very strong.
The right and left sides of the lower end of the breech block retain traces of the original dark oil quenched finish. The original nipple is present with a clear, unobstructed channel to the chamber. The chamber is still remarkably clean. The original lever is present and exhibits a plum finish with traces of the original color case-hardened finish present in the protected areas. The lever and breech mechanism work smoothly. The original trigger is present and retains the majority of its original finish, which is now generally a plum color. The original lever lock is also present, and the detent button correctly secures the lock to the rear. The right side of the lever lock is stamped with a “C” inspection mark. The trigger plate exhibits a plum and pewter patina and is stamped with a serif “G” at the front and a serif “M” stamp at the rear.
The stock forend is black walnut and retains what I believe to be its original oil finish. The forend screw is the correct slightly rounded single slot type that is set into an iron collar in the wood. All three original steel barrel bands are present and are secured by the original band springs, which retains the majority of their original dark finish. The lower and middle bands have serif “P” stamps on the left sides. The upper band has a serif “M” stamp on the left side. The middle barrel band has the correct upper sling swivel, and it still moves freely. The front of the forend has its original nose cap that still retains the majority of its original blued finish. The black walnut stock also appears to have its original oiled finish and has a nice, open grain throughout. The left flat has both original final inspection cartouches, but they are difficult to decipher. There are numerous minor dings and scratches on the butt stock from honest use, but no cracks or chips are noted. The original iron patch box is present, and it is in very good condition. The forwardmost portion has a serif “M” inspection stamp. The patch box spring is present and remains strong, and the patch box door remains tight when closed. The rear sling swivel assembly is present as are both original single-slot screws. The assembly exhibits a plum and pewter patina, and the swivel still moves freely. The original iron butt plate is also present and is secured by two blued convex single slot screws, both of which have unmarred slots. The backside of the butt plate exhibits a plum and pewter patina, and the tang still retains considerable original blued finish. The tang has a serif “M” inspection stamp.
As noted previously, this Sharps Rifle, serial number C 37694, is in the serial number range of those issued to the 6th United States Veteran Volunteers. The 6th Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment is a very unique regiment comprised of “Galvanized Yankees.” These were Confederate prisoners of war who took oaths of allegiance to the Union in exchange for release for the POW camps. The 6th Regiment recruited two companies from Camp Chase in Ohio, two companies from Camp Morton in Indiana, and six companies from the infamous Camp Douglas in Illinois. The regiment was assembled near Chicago and travelled to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas just after the end of the Civil War. The regiment then marched to Fort Kearny, Nebraska to guard telegraph lines and the Oregon Trail. The regiment also guarded telegraph lines in Utah and Colorado and served for a time in Idaho. The regiment was one of the only Civil War regiments that saw service during the war itself and on the frontier after the war. The regiment was mustered out of service in October and November 1866.
This is a very rare rifle that remains in its original Civil War configuration and the rifle still functions perfectly.