This is a very rare and very good condition Sharps & Hankins Model 1862 Army Carbine. This was one of only 250 “improved” Model 1862 Army carbines manufactured during the Civil War.
The history of Sharps & Hanks began when Christian Sharps left the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company in June 1854. As part of the terms for him leaving, Sharps agreed to pay Sharps a royalty of one dollar for every gun manufactured and twenty-five cents for every lock made. The agreement also required a cash payment of $4,000 and 400 Model 1852 Sharps Carbines. Once the last of the carbines were delivered as part of the deal, Christian Sharps left for Philadelphia where he established a small shop at 336 Franklin Street.
His new firearms manufacturing company, C. Sharps and Company, operated on the west side of 30th Street in West Philadelphia at the Wire Bridge. In 1860, William C. Hankins joined the company as the superintendent of the rifle works. Two of Christian Sharps’ partners, Ira B. Eddy and Nathan H. Bolles left the firm in 1861 and a year later, Hankins became a full partner. The new firm would be renamed Sharps & Hankins in 1863.
All of the models of Sharps & Hankins firearms are covered by three of Christian Sharps’ patents which relate to a “an improvement in breech-loading firearms in which a barrel or barrels arranged to slide to and fro on the stock are used…and my improvement consists in a device, described hereinafter, for locking and releasing the lever which operates the barrel.” Sharps & Hankins firearms incorporated three unique features for the time. These were a separate firing pin within the receiver, a hammer safety mechanism to keep the hammer from contacting the firing pin, and an extractor system to extract the cartridge and prevent the forward movement of the case when the breech is open.
With the start of the Civil War, Christian Sharps had his rifle tested by the Navy on July 20, 1861. After firing 500 rounds, there were only fifteen failures and all of these were caused by faulty rimfire ammunition. So successful was the test that a few days later, on July 29, 1861, the Navy contracted with Sharps for five hundred rifles at $36 each, to include saber bayonets. This contract was eventually increased by 100 rifles for a total of 600 rifles, the delivery of which was completed by September 1862. These rifles are referred to as the “Old Model” of 1861.
Simultaneous with his rifle development, Christian Sharps was developing a carbine version in .52 caliber rimfire. In May 1862, Sharps contacted the Ordnance Department with an offer to sell his carbine for $30 each. The Ordnance Department responded on May 31, 1862 that while carbines were needed for immediate issue, Sharps’ price was too high and declined the offer. Sharps then reduced the price per carbine to $25 each and the Ordnance Department accepted the offer in July 1862. This contract called for the delivery of 250 carbines plus ammunition. Delivery of these carbines were made on September 9, 1862 and most of these were of the “old model” type with a 23 3/8” barrel without leather covering or saddle ring and bar and with the firing pin located in the hammer. Many of these 250 carbines, known as Model 1861 Sharps & Hankins Carbines, were issued to the 9th New York Cavalry Regiment and were put to good use at Gettysburg by Buford on the first day of the battle.
The Ordnance Department placed another order for Sharps’ “new pattern” carbine on September 12, 1863, for 1,200 carbines pus 480,000 metallic primed cartridges. All 1,200 of these carbines were delivered by November 5, 1863. There are two distinct types of “new pattern” carbine manufactured by Sharps & Hankins under this contract. The first type, which is this particular carbine, is the Model 1862 Army Carbine. The Model 1862 Army has an overall length of 38 5/8” with a 23 5/8” blued barrel and a breech chambered for the .52.56 Sharps & Hankins rimfire cartridge. It has a sling swivel attached to the bottom of the buttstock and a brass butt plate. Only about 250 of this model were manufactured.
The second type was the Model 1862 Cavalry Carbine, which had a shorter overall length of 33 5/8” and a shorter barrel of only 19” in length. This version is characterized by the sling ring on the left side of the frame. About 1,000 of this model was manufactured during the war. Both of these Model 1862 carbines had the floating firing pin mounted in the rear of the receiver. During the Civil War, the Ordnance Department only purchased 1,467 Sharps & Hankins Carbines total along with over one million cartridges, making these type carbines some of the scarcest of all Civil War carbines.
Sharps & Hankins carbines are unique in that they have adjustable triggers. A screw in the face of the trigger can be adjusted regulates the amount of engagement between the trigger and the full cock notch and can be reduced down to a few ounces of pull.
This particular Sharps & Hankins Model 1862 Army Carbine is in very good plus condition. The receiver retains considerable blued finish with areas of plum patina and some very moderate pinprick pitting. The right side of the receiver has the serif “SHARPS / & / HANKINS / PHILADA.” The left side of the receiver has the serif “SHARP’S / PATENT / 1859” stamp. The receiver tang has the carbine serial number “2709.”
The original Hammer is the correct “improved” type without the integral firing pin and it retains considerable blued finish. The Hammer Disconnect Lever is missing but the Hammer Pin is still present. The original Firing Pin is present and functions correctly. The firing pin still floats smoothly in the spanner nut. The Extractor is still present and functions correctly. The bottom of the receiver has the matching serial number “2709.”
The original Barrel is present and retains traces of its original blued finish with the balance exhibiting a plum patina. The breech end of the barrel is very clean. The operating lever retains considerable blued finish and has the matching serial number 2709” and a serif “S” stamp on the bottom edge and assembly number “115” on the right side. The Barrel Link also has assembly stamp “115” on the right side. The bottom of the barrel has the matching carbine serial number “2709” along with a serif “S” inspection stamp. The bore is in very good condition with a shiny appearance and strong rifling with minor frosting.
The original adjustable rear sight is present and retains traces of its original blued finish. The adjustment leaf still works correctly for elevation. The left side of the base has the numbered increments from 100 to 800 yards. The Front Sight is present and remains tightly brazed to the top, front of the barrel. The original brass front sight blade is still tightly secured to the front sight base.
The original black walnut stock is in fine condition with minor dings and scratches but no cracks noted. The original sling swivel assembly is present on the bottom of the butt and it retains the majority of its blued finish. Both original sling swivel screws are present and their slots are unmarred. The Trigger Plate retains considerable blued finish and both original plate screws are present. The Lever Release is present and still functions perfectly. The original Trigger is present and retains considerable blued finish. The trigger adjustment screw is present and the trigger release is still very crisp. The original brass Butt Plate is present and all three original steel butt plate screws are also present with unmarred slots.
This Sharps & Hankins Model 1862 Army Carbine, serial number 2709, is in the serial number range of carbines issued to both the 3rd New York Cavalry Regiment and the 11th New York Cavalry Regiment. The 3rd New York Cavalry operated in Virginia and North Carolina in 1862-1863 and participated in the 1864 Siege of Petersburg. After that they participated in several raids and battles, to include Ream’s Station and Deep Bottom. Known Sharps & Hankins Army Carbines from Company A, 3rd New York Cavalry, range from serial number 1773 to 3495, with serial numbers around this carbine, serial number 2709, of 2680 and 2729.
The 11th New York operated between 1862 and 1864 near Washington, D.C. and Harpers Ferry. After 1864, the 11th New York was assigned to the Department of the Gulf and served in Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Sharps & Hankins Army Carbines are known for Company B and Company L in serial number range 1980 to 4355, and around this carbine of 2697 and 2722.
In addition to the 3rd New York and the 11th New York, Sharps & Hankins Army Carbines are known to have been issued to and present in Companies C, D, and H of the 9th New York Cavalry Regiment on July 1st, 1863, when General John Buford’s dismounted cavalry held back the Confederate assault on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
This is a very rare Sharps & Hankins Model 1862 Army Carbine, of which only about 250 were manufactured. This model of carbine was acquired almost exclusively by New York cavalry regiments and it undoubtedly saw combat during the Civil War.