“BLEEDING KANSAS” Slant Breech SHARPS Carbine
Famous for the Free-Staters v. Border Ruffians
Here we present an antique Sharps Model 1853 Slant Breech Saddle Ring Carbine manufactured in Hartford, Connecticut, circa 1854. Only about 10,500 of these carbines were made. The Sharps rifles and carbines were the pinnacle of breechloading firearm technology to this point and highly sought after. While there are records of contracts to foreign militaries for the Model 1853 Carbines, such as Peru & Mexico, most of these were purchased by civilians and the U.S. military. Most of the world was still using muskets with their ponderous loading process resulting in a rate of fire of about 3 shots per minute. The Sharps, on the other hand, proved to have a rate of fire of at least 18 shots per minute in the 1857 US Ordnance Trials.
If this carbine represents one particular conflict or movement, that conflict would be “Bleeding Kansas” and the movement the Abolitionists. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 allowed the two territories to decide the issue of slavery by a popular vote. It is estimated that over 1,200 Sharps Model 1853 Carbines were carried or smuggled into Kansas by “Free Staters”, those who violently opposed slavery, with John Brown being the most famous. Many of these Free Staters emigrated to Kansas from elsewhere in the US, mostly from the East, in order to tip the political scales toward their cause, both by voting and by threatening or killing their political opposition. Protestant Emigrant Aid Societies and famous preacher Henry Ward Beecher raised funds to purchase Sharps carbines to be sent to Kansas to aid the cause. A portion of these have come to be known as “Beecher’s Bibles” as they were shipped in crates marked “BOOKS” along with Bibles in order to evade authorities who were trying to stop the escalation of violence in Kansas and Missouri. In a famous quote, Beecher declared that he “believed that 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 were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles. You might just as well read the Bible to Buffaloes as to those fellows who follow Atchison and Stringfellow; but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp’s rifle.” On the other side of the conflict were the “Border Ruffians”, the pro-slavery element who saw that the “moral agency” of the Sharps could be theirs too! There is record of at least 300 going to a St. Louis dealer in an order for the Border Ruffians.
The serial of this carbine is 13907. Known recorded serial numbers of actual “Beecher’s Bibles” are 13897 and 13912, putting this carbine right in the middle and likely one of the actual carbines used in the abolitionist’s cause. There are two instances on this carbine’s butt stock that the Roman numerals “XXXXII” may be observed: once on the left side of the wrist and the other within the patch box on the right. While the significance can only be guessed at this time, it certainly personalizes the piece and adds to its allure.
The overall condition is very good. The iron parts have a gray patina. The markings are clear. The numbers on the receiver tang and the barrel match. The forearm is numbered “10035”. The walnut stock is in good shape. The bore is in very good condition with strong rifling. The action is excellent.
Own the original! This is a legitimate antique and not a reproduction.
Barrel is 21-1/2 inches.
Overall condition as seen in photos.
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