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Antietam Infantry Weapon

Sharps New Model 1859 Breechloading Rifle

Sharps Rifle


Manufacturer: Sharps Rifle Manufg. Co

Where made: Hartford, CT, USA

Model: 1859

Year(s) made: 1859-1862

Sharps New Model 1859 Rifle

Sharps New Model 1859 Rifle


Standard Model 1859 pictured. The Berdan Special Version (not pictured) was a double set trigger model of the Sharps rifle without the lever catch.

Hiram Berdan was a successful engineer and inventor before the Civil War. With the commencement of the war, Berdan was permitted to organize units of sharpshooters, which would consist of the most accomplished marksman from the Northern states. The result was Berdan's 1st and 2nd regiments of U.S. Sharpshooters. These units soon became legendary for their expert marksmanship and respectable battle record. From 1862, most of Berdan's men were armed with Sharps rifles. These were breech-loading rifles that were easily and quickly loaded. Furthermore, they proved to fire accurately and became the favorite weapon of the men.

(from Civil War @ Smithsonian)

Employment at Sharpsburg

Berdan Special versions were issued to the 1st and 2nd regiments of U.S. Sharpshooters earlier in 1862. Standard Sharps' were used by the 2nd Company, Minnesota Sharpshooters and the "Bucktails" - the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves (First Rifles) at Antietam.

Sturges Rifles carried a version in .56 caliber with a longer 36" (vs. 32") barrel, but only a few men of that unit were at Antietam.

Ammunition Used

Caliber .52; Weight of projectile ~475 grains; Weight of charge ~50 grains


8 pounds

More on the Web

For Specifics of the Berdan Special version. Thanks to Mr Bill Weber for helping us with the unique features of the Berdan's Special rifle and identifying the model in the Smithsonian photo above.


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