Breechldrs Seeking Information on a Sharps NM 1859 Carbine


Mar 16, 2021

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.
Thank you for all of the information you provided me. Very interesting and makes sense why records of individual weapons may not be available. I know it is a long shot after all of these years, but was trying to see if there was a connection between the Sharps and my family or if it was just a firearm that ended up in one of the family's collection.


Forum Host
Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
May 7, 2016
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!
Still waiting on photos of your Sharps


Mar 16, 2021
Here are the photos I just took. Please let me know if they help with your identification.