U.S. Civil War Confederate Linked Sharps 1853 type Slant Breech Rifle
Original Item: IMA has discovered some exciting evidence that may link the Sharps type rifles and Carbines to the Confederacy. For years the unmarked Sharps we found in Kathmandu, Nepal have baffled collectors. The possibility of these Sharps type weapons having any connection to the Confederacy has been a pipe dream. Well not anymore.
Clearly these weapons were not manufactured by Sharps and clearly some of the parts were made in Nepal. However, there is no dispute that the actions of these guns have always been of a far higher quality than achievable in Nepal at that time.
In early 2004 we sent samples of Sharps stock wood to The British Engineerium, part of Brighton University. There testing and an examination indicated the wood to be Honduran Mahogany. Honduran Mahogany is not indigenous to South East Asia that infers that the stock wood originated in the Americas.
In 2008 IMA found a Percussion Revolver that had been included in the Royal Nepalese Armory purchase. This pistol was of a totally unknown design, in fact, the revolver had been photographed back in 2003, the negatives sent to England for inclusion, on page 51, in John Walter's book "Guns of the Gurkhas". For whatever reason the notes taken with each photograph at the time were misdirected and when laying out the book for publication in England it was assumed the revolver bore no markings and consequently might have been a Nepalese attempt to copy a British Beaumont Adams percussion Revolver.
However, in rediscovering the revolver in 2008 it was found to bear the name and address on the top strap as follows: "D.C.HODGKINS & SONS, MACON, GA."
Hodgkins & Sons were pre Civil War firearms importers and may even have done some manufacturing. Upon the outbreak of hostilities however the State of Georgia took over the Hodgkins facility and turned it into the Georgia State Arsenal.
In itself this strange percussion revolver is quite interesting but proves nothing, perhaps only that it was imported to or made at the Hodgkins works at some time before or at the beginning of the U.S. Civil War.
What is significant, however, is that recent research has told us that late in the U.S. Civil War that the Hodgkins plant then known as the Georgia State Armory/Arsenal did undertake the manufacture of Sharps type Rifles and Carbines. Confederate Copy Sharps are rare but not unknown, however, most were the 1858 model type and manufactured in Richmond Virginia. The Sharps type Rifles and Carbines received from Nepal are of the Model 1853 Slant Breach type and cannot be confused with the Richmond 1858 type Confederate models.
So, what Sharps copies were made in Macon Georgia? We have searched and as far as we can find no examples appear to exist.
How about this speculative scenario: Due to shortage of weapons the State of Georgia decides to make Sharps Copies late in the war. As it happened the only samples on hand in Macon were the 1853 Slant Breach Models. Suppose they really did make the tooling and even produced some quantities, but this was so late that issued examples are so rare as not to have been located or perhaps identified as coming from Macon. The shortage of hard wood in the Confederacy was a historical fact but just maybe some furniture grade Honduran Mahogany which had been imported prewar for the furniture trade was pressed into service for the Sharps Stocks.
Then suppose that the war ended and some Yankee "carpet bagger" arrived in Macon and upon finding the Georgia State Arsenal with a pile of half finished breach loading Sharps type carbines and rifles buys the whole kit and caboodle. Some weapons may have been almost complete but the majority would be great quantities of partially assembled weapons and parts.
Looking for a market these items would have been shipped to some U.S. port, perhaps Savannah, Charleston or even New Orleans. The obvious market was Central or South America, however, South East Asia was an exploding marketplace especially British India.
So let us suppose the shipment ended up in Culcutta and was available to the buying agents for a myriad of Indian States who although under British rule still operated their own armed forces. Perhaps the Buying Agent for the King of Nepal snapped up the deal and shipped the entire shipment, by ox cart, up to the Nepalese border, across the pass and into the Kathmandu Valley to the Gurka National Arsenal at Nakku.
History shows us that the Nepalese with very adept at making guns so they completed all the weapons making whatever may have been needed, barrels in particular, which were constructed in the mandrel hand forging method, a practice long abandoned in the West. Some Rifles had no stocks so butt stocks based on the British Enfield design of 1853, which the Nepalese were currently copying, were adapted with their own design on trigger guard on some unusual examples.
Amazingly the Nepalese had no conception of the tape primer ignition system and consequently since no ammunition was supplied the finished weapons remained unused.
It always mystified us that such an advanced weapon, for the period, went into the old Palace of Lagan Silikana unused and although covered in 135 years of grime and dirt underneath the weapons showed no sign of use and only minor storage wear.
Now this speculation covers all the individual points of information that have arisen in the past eight years since taking delivery of the Nepalese Army material in 2003. Certainly this proposal is a bit like "making the shoe fit" however just maybe there really could be a Confederate connection with the Nepalese Sharps type Rifles and Carbines. Let us hope more definitive information develops to confirm this speculation.
We know that these rifles are well over 135 years old and that they are unmarked. Constructed in .52 caliber with a 40" barrel, and approximately 56" in overall length. Evident are the classic Sharp's lines and unique action, but were not made by Sharps (or at least they are not marked by Sharps). An extremely rare antiques variant of an American Classic that is available to collectors as a full length rifle. Offered in very good cleaned condition only a handful are available.
The initial Sharps rifle was patented September 17, 1848 and manufactured by A. S. Nippes at Mill Creek, (Philadelphia) Pennsylvania. The Model 1853 replaced the Model 1851 in production. All Sharps rifles were manufactured in Windsor until October 1856. Christian Sharps left the company in 1853; Richard S. Lawrence continued as the chief armorer until 1872 and developed the various Sharp models and their improvements that made the rifle famous.
The 1874-pattern Sharps was a particularly popular rifle that led to the introduction of several derivatives in quick succession. It handled a large number of .40- to .50-caliber cartridges in a variety of loadings and barrel lengths. Hugo Borchardt designed the Sharps-Borchardt Model 1878, the last rifle made by the Sharps Rifle Co. before its closing in 1881.
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