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This Model 1853 Sharps Carbine, often nicknamed "Beecher's Bibles" or "John Brown Model", was used by abolitionist John Brown and his men during their 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry. In September 1856, the New England Emigrant Aid Company, a Boston-based anti-slavery immigrant transportation company, ordered 198 of these carbines, for use by anti slavery "Free-Soilers" during the "Bleeding Kansas" crisis (1855-1859). The carbines arrived during a period of temporary peace in the Kansas Territory, so they were not ultimately used in the conflict and temporarily stored in Tabor, Iowa. John Brown secured their future use, and in 1859, had them shipped to "Kennedy Farm" in Sharpsburg, Maryland. Over the next few months, Brown and his followers set up their headquarters at the farm in order to stage a planned-slave revolt in the South. The raid commenced late in the evening of October 16, 1859. Nearly two dozen men under Brown were involved in the affair. As word of their actions spread, armed citizens and volunteer militiamen from nearby states converged on the group, who had fortified themselves in the fire engine house. Among these volunteers was Augustus P. Shutt (1816-1881), a furniture maker, high constable, and colonel of the 5th Regiment, Maryland Militia. With a small volunteer posse, the B&O Railroad sent him on a 3:30 pm train to Harper's Ferry. The following day, Colonel Shutt walked out from cover under a flag of truce in a last attempt to negotiate a peaceful surrender with Brown. After this offer was rejected, U.S. Marines stormed and retook the engine house, ending the raid. Shutt took this carbine as a prize and it descended in his family before it was donated in 1920.


circa 1853-1856

Contributor(s) Notes

Christian Sharps patented his famous breech-loading rifle design in 1848. In 1851, due to increasing production order demands, he and several associates established the "Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company". While the inventor formally left the company in 1853, it continued until it dissolved in 1881.


Wood, metal, brass


4.25 H x 38 L inches

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Inscription on patch box reads: "Captured from the insurgents at/ Harpers Ferry, Va. Oct. 18, 1859/ By Col. A. P. Shutt and presented to/ his son Augustus J.O.L. Shutt."

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Augustus L. Shutt

Digital Publisher

Digital resource provided by the Maryland Center for History and Culture


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