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Sharps Rifle
Armed Forces History, Division of History of Technology, National Museum of American History

Sharps Rifle

Catalog #: 10533    Accession #: 43533
Credit: Division of Military History and Diplomacy, National Museum of American History


Christian Sharps (Manufacturer)

Christian Sharps got his start in the gun making business by working at the Harpers Ferry Arsenal. The first Sharps firearm was patented in 1848, and by 1850, the first models of Sharps Sporting Rifles were being made in Mill Creek, Pennsylvania by the firm of A. S. Nippes. In 1851, a new breechloader was being made in Windsor, Vermont by the firm of Robbins & Lawrence. Rifle production continued in Vermont while a new Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was formed in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1855, manufacturing was moved to Hartford and continued until 1876. Operations were then moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut until 1880. Although the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company bore his name, Christian Sharps was not the principal owner. In 1854 he began his own C. Sharps & Company to make his own handguns. He formed a partnership with William Hankins in 1862. Sharps & Hankins manufactured four-barrel pepperboxes and single-shot breech loading rifles and carbines. That partnership ended in 1866. Christain C. Sharps & Company ceased operations with Sharps' death in 1874.

Dimensions / Weight

Dimensions: 7" H x 47" W x 2" D

Physical Description

United States Sharps rifle Model 1859, .52 caliber

Specific History

This type of rifle was carried by the 5th New York Zouaves.

General History

The 5th New York Volunteer Infantry, "Duryée's Zouaves," was one of the most renowned fighting regiments of the American Civil War. Their colorful Zouave uniforms were based on that of the elite Zouave battalion of the French Army, whose dashing appearance matched its fighting abilities. Their precise maneuvers, effectiveness in combat, and steady bearing under fire won them universal respect and recognition. "I doubt whether it had an equal," General George Sykes said of the 5th New York, "and certainly no superior among all the regiments of the Army of the Potomac." Many observers considered the 5th New York to be the best-drilled volunteer unit in the Federal Army.


Country: United States
State: New York
War: Civil War
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