Mc Pheeters Antique Militaria
Home Page About Us Ordering Information Links



MODEL 1853 SHARPS CARBINE – RECOVERED IN MEXICO THIS IS A VERY HISTORIC PIECE WITH STRONG TIES TO THE 1ST US DRAGOONS AND  INLAID WITH A MEXICAN MEDAL OF HONOR FOR THE BATTLE OF THE HEIGHTS OF ACULTZINGO:  Originating from the interior of Mexico where it was found years ago, this Model 1853 Sharps Carbine bears ample witness to the trials and upheaval that were part and parcel of Mexico’s path through the 19TH Century on the way to becoming a Republic.   

No doubt once owned by a proud Mexican soldier and veteran, this carbine’s stock is inlaid with the Mexican Medal of Honor for the Battle of the Heights of Acultzingo.  This well documented Mexican military honor was awarded to the Mexican troops led by Generals Ignacio Zaragoza and Porfirio Diaz, who resisted the French Army’s advance from Vera Cruz on Mexico City, April 28, 1862, only seven days before the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862 – now celebrated each year as “Cinco de Mayo”.   

This Medal of Honor is inlaid on the right side of the butt stock, immediately forward of the brass batch box.  The mortise appears to have been hand cut into the stock and the edges of the mortise show wear commensurate with the age of the surrounding wood, indicating the medal has been in place for many years through the service life of the carbine.  Struck from copper, the edges of the medal and the letters of the inscription show appropriate wear, however the entire inscription is very legible.  The medal is held in the mortise by two iron nails – one each at the top and bottom centers of the medal – and the style of the head of the nails is consistent with the square shanked nails in use during the 19Th Century. 

As it is inlaid in the stock, only the reverse side of the medal is visible, edged in a laurel wreath and bearing the inscription, “COMBATIO; CON HONOR; EN LAS; CUMBRES DE; ACULTZINGO; CONTRA EL; EJERCITO FRANCES; EL 28 DE ABRIL; DE 1862” (He fought with honor on the heights of Acultzingo against the French Army on the 28TH of April, 1862.)   The obverse, the side that lays against the wood in the hand carved mortise in the stock, bears the inscription within an olive branch, “LA; REPUBLICA; MEXICANA; A SUS; VALIENTES; HIJOS” (The Mexican Republic their Valiant Sons).  Below the wreath are the initials “S.N.G.” the initials of the engraver, S. Navalon Grabador.  When issued, these medals were fitted with an eye at the top of the medal for suspending the award from the honoree’s clothing.  (The full description of these medals as seen in the photographs below was obtained from a volume documenting Mexican military medals and awards and a copy of that page accompanies the purchase of this carbine.)

In spite of the obvious wear to which this carbine has been subjected, the correct and expected stamps are present and legible on the lock plate and the top of the barrel.  The serial number is still legible on the underside of the barrel; however the serial number on the tang is mostly obscured by pitting.   

According to the Springfield Research Service records, this carbine’s serial number, 14527, falls in the midst of a series of Model 1853 Sharps Carbines (between SN 14506 and SN 14552) that were issued to Companies C and E, 1st California Volunteer Cavalry.  It is historically documented that when the 1st US Dragoons were ordered to depart California for reassignment to the Eastern states at the start of the Civil War, they turned in their Model 1853 Sharps Carbines prior to leaving the west.  These same Dragoon carbines were then issued to the 1st California Cavalry in 1861, thus originally this particular carbine was most assuredly in the inventory of the 1st US Dragoons and then issued to the 1st California.   

The history of the 1st California Cavalry is of some significant interest in the context of this carbine.  As written on page 49 of Civil War Sharps Carbines and Rifles by Coates and McAulay,   “The 1st California was organized at Camp Merdiant near Oakland, and mustered in between August and October 1861.  By May 1863 they had been raised by increments to full regimental strength.  They saw action against Confederate forces in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.  Later, they also participated in skirmishes with both Apache and Navajo Indians.  The regiment was mustered out March 6 to October 19, 1866.”

The circumstances that carried this carbine to Mexico is a story that unfortunately is lost to history and it will remain a mystery, however it is worthy of serious speculation that this carbine may well have been lost during one of the actions that the 1st California participated in throughout the Southwest.  That it was eventually traded or sold across the border into Mexico was well established by its discovery there by a well known collector many years ago in Mexico, and the medal inlayed in the stock testifies that it fell into the hands of a decorated Mexican veteran of that historic battle.    

As you can see in the photographs provided below, this Sharps has “seen the elephant” – in fact, a valid argument could be made that it stayed to see the entire circus.  It has been long noted that historic guns of interest that surface in Mexico are often found in a condition that testify to their heavy and prolonged use.  After handling a fair number of guns that have emerged from Mexico, I have come to the conclusion that the political and economic history of the country simply did not provide enough of a respite for the people to allow these guns to have been put away and cared for as collectables or keepsakes as they were in the United States.  Rather, they continued in use as necessary tools of survival, and they must be viewed in that context to be fully appreciated.  

The surfaces of the steel and iron components have an even, pleasing brown patina.  The majority of the barrel surface is smooth, with some spots of heavy pitting towards the muzzle.  Likewise the receiver, to include the upper tang and trigger plate are generally smooth with some specific areas of heavy pitting where the gun was held or handled regularly.  Surprisingly, the breech block is overall smooth and still functions as it should with a tight fit and crisp lever action.  The lock is fully functional with both full and half cock notches, and the trigger let off is crisp.  The bore is dark as expected, however the rifling is consistently strong for the full length of the bore.  The rear sight is missing, likely removed to use on another gun, but the original brass front sight is present.  The brass furniture has a nice even patinated color and the patch box lid is complete and functions as well as the day it was installed.  This carbine was mounted with the early pattern long carbine sling ring bar, but it was removed at some point in the early days of its service life.  The bar hole in the receiver was plugged with a screw and the brass barrel band was anchored in place with the addition of a screw through the bottom of the band into the forearm.  The stock seems to have suffered the most from the effects of wear and age, but again it testifies to the length of constant service of this carbine.  The forearm is missing a section along the right side of the barrel, but it is still firmly held in place by the forearm screw through the brass screw hole liner and the barrel band, and is not loose at all.  The butt stock is well weathered, and shows considerable evidence of heavy use and age.  The wood is eroded along the crest of the comb, in the area of the right side above the patch box, and along the lower edge of the butt stock, however the patch box and butt plate are still well attached.  There is a crack at the in the wrist at the rear point of the upper receiver tang, but the wood is stable with very little movement.  This is an honest description of the stock, warts and all, but all being said the stock is remarkably stable and when you shoulder this carbine it is easy to imagine the aging veteran still defending his ranchito from raiding Apaches, or his pueblo from warring factions during any of the periods of revolution.  In spite of the wear, the stock retains a pleasing patina that contrasts nicely with the brass furniture. 

On occasion an artifact surfaces which captures the imagination of collectors and causes them to look beyond the production and technical data of a particular piece.  It is seldom a pristine example, and at least these days it usually emerges from an old, deep collection that was assembled years ago.  Such is the case with this Model 1853 Sharps Carbine.  The person who is fortunate enough to place this piece in their collection will be able to appreciate the long historical record represented by the age of the metal and wood that transcends years of service with the United States Dragoons at Ft. Tejon; with the 1st California Cavalry on long patrols in the American Southwest and in pitched battles with Confederates and Indians alike; and finally across the border to the south where it was carried in desperate struggles by a Mexican patriot pursuing the promise of a new Republic. SOLD


Ordering Instructions

Identified Items  


Edged Weapons

Saddles and Horse Equipment


Collectors Ammunition

Uniforms, Insignia, Hats

Canteens and Mess Gear

Gun tools, Bullet molds and Parts

Field Equipment and Artillery

Original Ordnance Manuals, and Photos 

US Army Medical

Reference Books and Reprints