IDENTIFIED SHARPS RIFLE – HENRY ZELLER, 39TH NEW YORK INFANTRY & 6TH US VETERAN VOLUNTEERS; WOUNDED AT GETTYSBURG!

$4,550.00
Originally $4,950.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 600-09

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Zeller’s rifle, serial number C,38247, is in the standard configuration of the Sharps “New Model 1863” rifles purchased by the Army to arm Hancock’s First Veteran Army Corps with modern weaponry. The Sharps Rifle Company received contracts for 150 rifles in December 1864; 1,000 in January and another 5,000 in March 1865 for a total of 6,150. The first 150 were of the 1859 configuration, being assembled largely from left-over Berdan parts. The remainder, like this one, were newly made, marked “New Model 1863” on the barrel, and fall into the serial number range C,30000 to C,40000. Zeller’s name with this rifle’s serial number appears in the company order books.

Zeller’s rifle has the standard 30-inch barrel secured by three barrel bands retained by band springs on the underside of the black walnut forestock and, like all but 1,000 of these rifles, is set up for a socket bayonet. The barrel and bands are smooth metal and retain about 95% of their original blue, which just thins slightly between the nosecap and the muzzle on the left. The rear sight retains strong blue as well. The ladder and bar are in place. The sight has the patent stamps and range marks graduated to 800 yards. The barrel has a very clear “New Model 1863” stamp behind the rear sight and the “Sharps Rifle / Manufg Co. / Hartford, Conn.” forward of the sight. The forestock has good color and finish, though there is a chip out of the upper left edge just behind the nose cap and a curved, shallow run to the metal just over it that are likely the result of the rifle falling at some time. Similarly, there is a small divot and pressure mark on the right just forward of the middle barrel band, perhaps caused at the same time.

The receiver is smooth metal and shows the typical mottled gray and bluish-gray of old case color. As with the barrel, all the markings are present, crisp, and correct. The right side shows Lawrence 1859 patent stamps in two lines at top, behind the hammer, and the Sharps 1852 patent stamps in two lines between the first two screwheads aft of the hammer. The left side shows a C. Sharps 1848 patent stamp in two lines. The rear of the block shows the Lawrence and Conant patent markings. The mechanism functions well. The top of the breechblock shows a little corrosion from firing, but nothing horrible. The loading groove is fine. On the underside, the trigger plate shows remnants of case, as does the loading mechanism when lowered, and the screws securing it retain a lot of blue. The screw heads on the top and sides show more of a mix of blue and gray from handling.

The wood of the buttstock matches the forestock in finish and color and fits well the receiver, patchbox and buttplate. The iron patchbox and buttplate are smooth metal, and both show the mottled gray and bluish-gray of old case color. The patchbox door functions fine. The interior cutout is crisp. The door shows a small sub-inspector’s initial and some bright case color on the inside. There are some scattered small handling dings near the base of the stock near the buttplate, and a few scratches on either side of the wrist, but the left wrist still displays two very crisp military inspector’s cartouches.

The rifle rates near excellent overall. The metal has lots of original blue, muted case color and crisp markings that shows very well. The wood needs some TLC in spots, but has good, matching color and fit, with cartouches you can see from a distance. All bands, springs and swivels are in place. This is a nice looking Sharps rifle with a dead-on identification to a veteran soldier. One of the reported enticements to enlist in Hancock’s Corps was the opportunity to take one’s weapon home after discharge. After a century and a half, this Sharps still shows why that was an effective recruiting device.

Henry Zeller was born in Kitzingen, Germany in 1835. At some unknown point he emigrated to the United States and settled in New York City.

The outbreak of the Civil War found Henry still living in New York and working as a baker. On May 17, 1861, caught up in patriotic fervor for his adopted country, he enlisted as a Private in Company E, 39th New York Infantry also known as The Garibaldi Guards. (In May of 1863 he would be transferred to Company B.) At the time of his enlistment he was described as being 27 years old, 5’ 4” tall with brown hair and eyes and a dark complexion.

Upon being mustered in, Henry and the 39th were assigned to the Department of Northeastern Virginia. Military records show that Henry deserted sometime in July and does not reappear on the rolls until early 1862. About this same time there was some trouble within the ranks of the 39th in regards to “privileges expected but not received.” Some men left the ranks in protest but later returned. Whatever the reason for Henry’s disappearance it did not prevent him from collecting a pension after the war, so his absence must have been excused.

In June of 1862, with Henry back in the ranks, the 39th saw its first major action at Cross Keys as a part of Blenker’s Division of General John Charles Fremont’s Mountain Department. During the fight the regiment suffered a loss of 3 men killed, 13 wounded, 5 captured and 1 missing.

The 39th was part of the disaster at Harpers Ferry when Stonewall Jackson captured that place on September 15th during the Antietam Campaign. Along with his comrades Henry was paroled and proceeded to Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois where he was declared exchanged in November. The regiment then proceeded to Washington, D.C. where it became part of the 22nd Corps serving in the defenses of Washington until June 1863 when it became part of the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps of the Army of the Potomac.

During the fight at Gettysburg the 39th helped to recapture the guns of Battery I, 5th U.S. Artillery on July 2nd and next day helped to repulse Picket’s Charge. The regiment also captured 3 Rebel flags but suffered the loss of 12 men killed, and 57 wounded. One of the wounded was Henry Zeller who broke two ribs after he fell to the ground dodging an artillery shell on July 3rd. Despite his injury Henry remained in the ranks.

After the Gettysburg Campaign was over the 39th took part in the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns before going into winter quarters. During the winter of 1863-1864 they took part in a covering action for a cavalry raid and were engaged in a tough fight at Morton’s Ford, Virginia on February 6 and 7, 1864 costing the regiment 20 more casualties.

Henry Zeller and his comrades marched south with General Grant at the beginning of the Overland Campaign and saw action at the Wilderness, Todd’s Tavern, Po River, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Totopotomoy and Cold Harbor. Their heaviest loss during this time came on May 6th in the Wilderness where they suffered 13 killed, 108 wounded, 26 captured and 2 missing.

In mid-June Henry Zeller, and the other members of the 39th who did not re-enlist, were shipped to New York where they were mustered out on June 24, 1864.

On April 6, 1865 Henry enlisted for one years’ service in Company C, 6th Regiment U. S. Veteran Volunteers. It was at this time that Henry was issued the Sharps rifle offered here. Eventually Henry was assigned as a teamster for his Company. An entry in his service record for August 1865 states “DESERTED AUGUST 18, 1865 FROM CAMP RETURN, PA. WITH SHARPS RIFLE AND ACC. 1 KNAPSACK, HAVERSACK, CANTEEN AND ½ SHELTER TENT…” Zeller’s military records end with this entry.

After the war Zeller moved to Illinois where he continued working as a baker. He never married. In 1890 he filed for a pension on his Gettysburg wound and surprisingly the Government clerk who investigated his claim never discovered his desertion at the end of the war nor the fact that he still owed the Government for his Sharps rifle.

Henry Zeller died on December 31, 1908 and is buried in Sunset Cemetery, Quincy, Illinois.

Full military and pension records come with the weapon.  [SR]

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