John Brown Sharps/BEECHER’S BIBLE’s Sharps Model 1853 SLANT BREECH Carbine
BLEEDING KANSAS Free-Staters v. Border Ruffians
Here we present an antique Sharps Model 1853 Slant Breech 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.
In 1856, after abolitionists were attacked in Lawrence, Kansas, John Brown led a raid on scattered cabins along the Pottawatomie Creek, killing five people. John Brown had another plan to bring about an end to slavery, a slave uprising. Brown contracted with Charles Blair, a forge master in Connecticut, to make 950 pikes, or spears, for $1 each. Brown would issue the pike to the slaves as they revolted. On October 16, 1859, Brown led his group to Harpers Ferry where he took over the arsenal and waited for the slaves to revolt. The revolt never happened. Two days later, Robert E. Lee and his troops overran the raiders and captured John Brown. Brown was found guilty of murder, treason, and of inciting slave insurrection. On December 2, 1859, he was hanged.
The overall condition is good. Weathered, dark patina. Numbers match. Strong action. The bore is in good shape for its age, dim with strong rifling. Solid stock with signs of honest use. The sling bar and ring are missing. The barrel band is absent. This is an incredible piece of history, which was iconic, even in its day, representing the Abolitionist cause, which in large part led to the American Civil War and the end of slavery.
Own the original! This is a legitimate antique and not a reproduction.
Barrel is 21-1/2 inches.
Caliber: .52 Percussion
Overall condition as seen in photos.
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