John Brown's Sharps Rifle

John Brown's Sharps Rifle

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Usage conditions apply
Physical Description
Sharps sporting percussion rifle,.44 caliber.
Specific History
This Sharps rifle bears no maker’s mark; it was made especially for John Brown. Brown carried this weapon on his Kansas campaign in 1856 and later presented it to Charles Blair of Collinsville, Connecticut. In 1857, Brown contracted Blair to forge pikes for the clandestine slave insurrection he was planning for 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 “Bleeding Kansas.” As Missouri pro-slavery “Ruffians” flocked to Kansas, the 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. Brown contracted with Charles Blair, a forge master in Collinsville, Connecticut, to make 950 pikes for a dollar apiece. 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 and was hanged on December 2, 1859.
Object Name
Other Terms
rifle; Firearms; Dp;.45 In; Rifled; 14; 03
Brown, John
Associated Name
Blair, Charles
Place Made
United States
used in
United States: Kansas
associated place
United States: Missouri
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
wood (overall material)
brass (overall material)
overall: 123.3424 cm; x 48 9/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Allen H. Johness, Jr.
Kansas Struggle
Expansion and Reform
See more items in
Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, General
Price of Freedom
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I am son of a spanish guns manufacturing family for many generations and lover of ancient weapons.I appreciate if you could inform me when the sharp muskets became got the rifled barrel to become Sharps riflesThanking in advance your newsYours siincerelyFélix Arizaga

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