Military - Overview
The Museum's superb military collections document the history of the men and women of the armed forces of the United States. The collections include ordnance, firearms, and swords; uniforms and insignia; national and military flags and banners; and many other objects.
The strength of the collections lies in their enormous depth. Some 3,000 military small arms and 2,400 civilian firearms document the mechanical and technological history of the infantryman's weapons from the beginning of the gunpowder era to the present. Among the 4,000 swords and knives in the collection are many spectacular presentation pieces. The collections also include Civil War era telegraph equipment, home front artifacts from both world wars, early computers such as ENIAC, Whirlwind, and Sage, and materials carried at antiwar demonstrations.
"Military - Overview" showing 1 items.
- Physical Description
- This Sharps carbine, .52 caliber, was confiscated following John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry.
- General History
- As a boy of five, John Brown witnessed a slave his own age being beaten with a fire shovel. He vowed to become a foe of slavery. By the mid-1800s, Brown was fulfilling his vow. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 allowed the two states to decide the issue of slavery by a popular ballot. The fight in Kansas was so intense that the state earned the nickname of “Bleeding Kansas.” As Missouri pro-slavery “Ruffians” flocked to Kansas, New England abolitionists bankrolled “Free-Soilers” to move to the settlement of Lawrence, Kansas. Henry Ward Beecher raised money to purchase Sharps rifles for use by antislavery forces in Kansas. Rifles, said Beecher, are “a greater moral agency than the Bible” in the fight against slavery. The guns were packed in crates labeled "Bibles" so they would not arouse suspicion. Soon the Sharps rifles sent to Kansas were referred to as “Beecher’s Bibles.” In 1856, after abolitionists were attacked in Lawrence, John Brown led a raid on scattered cabins along the Pottawatomie Creek, killing five people. Kansas would not become a state until 1861, after the Confederate states seceded. John Brown had another plan to bring about an end to slavery, a slave uprising. He contracted with Charles Blair, a forge master in Collinsville, Connecticut, to make 950 pikes for a dollar a piece. Brown would issue the pikes to the slaves as they revolted. On October 16, 1859, Brown led his group to Harpers Ferry where he took over the arsenal and waited for the slaves to revolt. The revolt never came. Two days later Robert E. Lee and his troops overran the raiders and captured John Brown. Brown was found guilty of murder, treason, and inciting slave insurrection. On December 2, 1859, he was hanged.
- Currently not on view
- Sharps, C
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center