Saber Bayonets
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Author:  Jean Philippe [ Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Saber Bayonets


What repro saber bayonet is best for a early war Berdan impression? I have seen several types and have tried to compare them with the original pictures, but was wondering if anyone had any better ideas or opinions on which is best to use? Since alot of the sharps rifles dont have the proper sword lug on the barrel.


Author:  David Rider [ Tue Mar 31, 2009 9:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Saber Bayonets

Truman Head (California Joe) would of been one of the only ones with a Saber Bayonet, all of the "Berdan Contract " rifles were to be fitted with Angular Bayonets.


Author:  Bill Skillman [ Sun Apr 26, 2009 5:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Saber Bayonets

Fellow Sharpshooters,

David is correct. Truman Head (Co. C 1st USSS), also known as 'Old Californy' or 'California Joe', purchased his own New Model 1859 'standard military rifle' from the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company salesman while at Camp of Instruction. The July 1862 photograph of Head with Hiram Berdan shows that his rifle has undergone a conversion to incorporate the set triggers. However, Joe still wears his saber bayonet and leather scabbard/frog combination on his waist belt.

The NM1859 'standard military' sold by the Sharps Co. featured a bayonet lug affixed below the front sight to mount a specifically designed saber bayonet. Also, the rifle featured a single trigger/loading lever lock. The sliding lock was originally designed for the Model 1852-5 Sharps carbines, the lock served to prevent the loading lever/trigger guard from accidentally jarring open (lowering the breechblock and spilling the powder charge) when the cavalryman’s mount was at a trot or gallop. This feature was incorporated into both the NM1859 and NM1863 rifles and carbines as well.

In April, 1861 the State of Connecticut purchased 600 Sharps rifles (36 inch barrels with saber bayonets) originally built for Egypt. Connecticut purchased a total of 1447 Sharps rifles (the largest ‘private’ purchase of Sharps rifes); but it is not clear how many of them were NM1859 ‘standard infantry rifles’ (30 inch barrel with saber bayonet). A Col. Bean of New York wrote to Winfield Scott on June 3, 1862: “There are 500 rifles in storage here (at Fortress Monroe) which were intended for the rejected Naval Brigade, can they not be turned over to me? 110 of the 200 rifles purchased by Bean and sent to General Ben Butler’s command were configured for saber bayonets (the remaining order was filled later). These rifles were issued to the ‘flank companies’ of Duryea’s 5th New York Volunteers.

The photograph of men at Fair Oaks twin houses are members of the 14th Connecticut Heavy Artillery. They were issued 30 inch barrel, New Model 1859 Sharps 'Infantry' rifles with the saber bayonet. Despite a photograph of the same group of men being identified as the ‘First Minnesota Squad at Fair Oaks’ this is a misnomer, made sometime after the War. A close examination of the sleeping officer located behind the ammunition chest clearly shows the crossed cannon and ‘14’ ‘H’ and ‘A’ that confirms the correct identity of this group.

Probably the single largest ‘private purchase’ of Sharps rifles by individual soldiers was by Bowen’s Independent Rifles from Medina County, New York. Described as sons of wealthy farmers, the men decided they wanted to have the best arm in the army, and selected the 30 inch barrel, standard infantry model’ equipped with the saber bayonet. The Rifles were mustered in as Company ‘A’ 151st New York, and were often detailed as the skirmish company for the regiment. Photographs of Bowen Rifles posing with their newly acquired rifles can be found in Earle Coates and John D. McCauley’s book: Civil War Sharps Carbines and Rifles (Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, PA 1996).

Reproduction 'NM1859 Infantry models' sold today by Pederosoli /Armi-Sport incorporate an unusual combination of features; they have more in common with the New Model 1863 Sharps rifle, (manufactured by the Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing Co); which featured a 800 yard improved Lawrence rear sight, and triangular bayonet. The NM1859 reproductions do retain the recessed clean out screw in the breechblock; whereas the NM1863 featured the larger filbaster screw. The only other distinquishing characteristic was the serial numbers on the NM1863 featured a 'C' prefix to the numbering system.

For those who wish to convert their standard infantry model into the Infantry Model, you will need to have somebody weld a bayonet lug under the barrel of their Sharps. Second, one needs to find an appropriate bayonet—which will be no small challenge. The Model 1863 Remington 'Zouave' rifled muskets that were popular in the early 1960’s can still be purchased with a saber bayonet and leather accoutrements. However, the reproduction Zouave bayonet’s blade runs 'straight and true', compared to the undulating configuration of an original Sharps blade.

There are reproduction saber bayonets made for both the Model 1841 Mississippi and Enfield Pattern 1856 rifle that better match the original Sharps bayonet's configuration. However, the Enfield’s grip is too small and the grips made from leather/gutta percha. The Mississippi’s brass grip requires significant modifications to get it to approach the size and shape of the Sharps bayonet--this means you would have to grind down and configure the brass--too much of a challenge for me to undertake. A simplier solution (that I have not tried myself), is to tap out the rivets in a Zouave grip, remove the blade, do the same for a Mississippi and see if the M1841 blade will fit the M1863 grip. But this sounds like WAY too much work, and way to expensive.

If you really have the fever; see if Horse Soldier or a Mansfield, OH CW Show has for sale an original Sharps Military Rifle bayonet/scabbard--and buy one.

Bill Skillman
Randolph Mess-USSS

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Mon May 04, 2009 8:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Saber Bayonets

Fellow Sharpshooters,

I had the opportunity to handle and examine both triangular and saber bayonets (and original Infantry and Berdan contract rifles-Sweet!) created for the Sharps rifles at the Ohio Civil War Collectors Show in Mansfield this past weekend. Asking price from dealers for both types of bayonets ranged in price from $700 to $900 depending upon dealer/condition of the piece.

What impressed me was the smaller size of the grip/handle of the original saber bayonets compared to the modern reproductions (Zouave/Mississippi). For anyone curious about undertaking a 'kinda-sorta' repop Sharps saber bayonet; I have concluded that this is one of those really hopeless endeavors. My recommendation is to save your coins and buy an original. An original single trigger Sharps in NRA-fair condition was going for $3500 at the Ohio show.

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS
Hudson Squad-USSS (150th)

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