Breechldrs Seeking Information on a Sharps NM 1859 Carbine

Howard707

Private
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
Hello,
As a new recruit, I am honored to be part of CivilWarTalk. In reviewing many of your forums, I came to realize the vast amount of Civil War knowledge possessed by the members. Being born and raised in California, I did not get very much firsthand experience at the history of the Civil War. However, I am hoping that a Sharps carbine, which has been in my family for many years, may indeed have a Civil War connection. The carbine in question is a New Model 1859 carbine, SN327XX. My grandfather was the curator of the firearm for many years before it was passed down to me. Where he obtained the carbine is a mystery. However, during the Civil War, his uncle was a member of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Regiment, Company D of the California Guard, known as the Suisun Light Dragoons. My understanding is the California Guard was the forerunner of the current California National Guard. It is my understanding that the Army's Benicia Arsenal did contain Sharps NM1859 carbines prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. Stories have it that these carbines were shipped back east to be used where the fighting was. I was able to contact the curator at the Benicia Arsenal in Benicia, California. Even though his records indicate that there was an inventory of 1859 carbines at the arsenal and in the serial number range of my carbine, my serial number was not listed on any of the inventory sheets that he had. I also checked the book Civil War Sharps Carbines & Rifles for the serial number, with no luck. On top of soliciting member's help on any information on this carbine, I am also asking for assistance in identifying two cartouches that are in the stock. One is "JT", which I have been told is for inspector John Taylor. The other cartouche is very difficult to read. The best I can come up with is "WAT".

Any information that can be passed on to me about this carbine would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.
 

ucvrelics

Colonel
Forum Host
Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
Joined
May 7, 2016
Location
Alabama
Welcome From THE Heart Of Dixie. We would love to see photos of your Sharps to included the serial #, cartouches and makers marks. In the mean time I'll check the SRS and see if its listed.
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
My grandfather was the curator of the firearm for many years before it was passed down to me. Where he obtained the carbine is a mystery. However, during the Civil War, his uncle was a member of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Regiment, Company D of the California Guard, known as the Suisun Light Dragoons.

Any information that can be passed on to me about this carbine would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Perhaps another angle of research would be on your great-grand uncle.

The SOLANO COUNTY GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY holds the muster rolls for the Co C, 1863 - it's a long shot but worth asking if they have any other supporting documentation (like weapons inventories).
https://www.scgsca.org/civil-war-muster-rolls/

ETA - p.1, initial issue of weapons were pistols and sabers. http://militarymuseum.org/Sussuin Cavalry.pdf
 
Last edited:

lupaglupa

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
Location
Upstate New York
Welcome from the Researching Your Civil War Ancestry forum. Sounds like you have already done some great research - I hope our experts can help you with information on your carbine.
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
When the US Cavalry was sent back east from California at the start of the War, they left behind the Sharps carbines. Those carbines were issued to the newly formed California state units. I believe these were all Model 1853 carbines, and none Model 1959 carbines.
Take a look in that Civil War Sharps Carbines & Rifles book for the carbine serials issued to the California units.
I think the listing in the Springfield Research Service and that book is about as far as you will get.
 

Howard707

Private
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
Perhaps another angle of research would be on your great-grand uncle.

The SOLANO COUNTY GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY holds the muster rolls for the Co C, 1863 - it's a long shot but worth asking if they have any other supporting documentation (like weapons inventories).
https://www.scgsca.org/civil-war-muster-rolls/

ETA - p.1, initial issue of weapons were pistols and sabers. http://militarymuseum.org/Sussuin Cavalry.pdf
Hi Story:
Good call on the Solano County Genealogical Society. I have been in contact with them and do have copies of their muster rolls. They list my great-great uncle as a private in Company D. The lists are not specific as far as the carbines issued, but it is good documentation that he was part of the unit.
Howard
 

Howard707

Private
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
Welcome, enjoy. WAT was William A. Thornton. He inspected some Model 1853, but no record of inspecting NM1859
Thank you for identifying WAT. With the light cartouche in the stock and the script letters, I may be wrong on the initials. The carbine had work done to it as it has a different forearm stock. I don't know if repairs at the factory would result in the additional cartouche on the stock.
Howard
 

Howard707

Private
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
When the US Cavalry was sent back east from California at the start of the War, they left behind the Sharps carbines. Those carbines were issued to the newly formed California state units. I believe these were all Model 1853 carbines, and none Model 1959 carbines.
Take a look in that Civil War Sharps Carbines & Rifles book for the carbine serials issued to the California units.
I think the listing in the Springfield Research Service and that book is about as far as you will get.
Thanks, Jeff for the response. Someone suggested contacting Dr. Richard Lebowskie at [email protected]t for information on my carbine. May be worth a try.
Howard
 

Howard707

Private
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
Welcome From THE Heart Of Dixie. We would love to see photos of your Sharps to included the serial #, cartouches and makers marks. In the mean time I'll check the SRS and see if its listed.
Thank you for your assistance. The cartouches are very difficult to see, but will try to get some photographs and then figure out how to post them!
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
The good doctor doesn't have records of civil war or pre-civil war shipments, only post war civilian shipments.
If a percussion carbine was converted to cartridge post-war, the wood was often replaced or refinished, and you will find some inspector's initials in the wood different than when first accepted by the military.
Of course, it is also correct that if the forearm has been replaced as you say, then the butt stock might have been replaced with wood that had inspector's initials from some other gun that "donated" the replacement stock.
 

Howard707

Private
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
The good doctor doesn't have records of civil war or pre-civil war shipments, only post war civilian shipments.
If a percussion carbine was converted to cartridge post-war, the wood was often replaced or refinished, and you will find some inspector's initials in the wood different than when first accepted by the military.
Of course, it is also correct that if the forearm has been replaced as you say, then the butt stock might have been replaced with wood that had inspector's initials from some other gun that "donated" the replacement stock.
Hi Jeff,
Thank you for the information on the doctor. That will save me from contacting him. For some reason, the replacement forearm was cut down from a rifle forearm. I will have to take another look at the WAT cartouche and see if it is possibly other initials.
Howard
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
I'd been in touch with him about an 1859, his specific information on military carbines is not that extensive.

I don't think he has more actual serial number info on these military carbines than is in the standard references already mentioned, meaning Civil War Sharps Carbines & Rifles and the Springfield Research Service, and there are a few serial numbers in Frank Sellers' Sharps book.
Does your Sharps have the brass furniture, meaning brass buttplate, patchbox, barrel band and trigger guard?
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
Does your Sharps have the brass furniture, meaning brass buttplate, patchbox, barrel band and trigger guard?

Nope, but the serial indicates early 1861 manufacture.
Circumstantial evidence only, but I suspect it was issued to an individual in Co I 15th PA CAV.
 

Howard707

Private
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
I don't think he has more actual serial number info on these military carbines than is in the standard references already mentioned, meaning Civil War Sharps Carbines & Rifles and the Springfield Research Service, and there are a few serial numbers in Frank Sellers' Sharps book.
Does your Sharps have the brass furniture, meaning brass buttplate, patchbox, barrel band and trigger guard?
Yes, it has all of the brass furniture. I have also checked Frank Sellers' book with no luck.
 

Howard707

Private
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
Nope, but the serial indicates early 1861 manufacture.
Circumstantial evidence only, but I suspect it was issued to an individual in Co I 15th PA CAV.
Hi Jeff,
Is this based on the serial number range? Would the full serial number help?
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
Howard:

Archive records of the actual serial numbers of carbines issued to particular units or soldiers are very scarce. That’s because such listings were not required to be kept by the military, and the rare lists surviving are examples of unnecessary recordkeeping that survived by accident and were discovered in the archives by accident.

Although the various units were required to make reports of the types and numbers of arms on hand, neither Union or Confederate military had any requirement that the serial number of a gun should be recorded as it was issued to a soldier or sailor.

Serial number lists are typically found in Cavalry Company Day Books, where the solder who was ordered to keep this written day-to-day records of a particular company had been a store clerk in civilian life and so made the sort of inventory he had kept in civilian business.

Where I have had photocopies of such lists, they were part of a cavalry unit’s lists showing for each trooper the type and amount of equipment he had (and was responsible for), most of it horse tack, such as saddles, halters, curry combs, hoof picks, saddle blankets, as well as saber, revolver and carbine.

This was not a report required to be kept of these serials, but the writer added that info, and sometimes such a list survived and is discovered.

I think of these lists as similar to the written on paper grocery lists I have made over the years. I have made hundreds of grocery lists, used them and then threw them away. A few likely have survived as bookmarks, but my hundreds of grocery lists were not required forms, were made for my own immediate use, not required to be retained, and so pretty much all gone forever. That’s the situation with the original records uncovered over the decades by researchers in the National Archives – survived by accident and discovered by accident!

This means that for military purchases, neither the manufacture nor the US Army kept any records of serial numbers of items issued to any particular unit or soldier. So, most will never be linked by serial number to any particular person.

I don't know why that other poster thought this was likely issued to a particular unit.
 
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