John Brown's small band of abolitionists were very well-prepared for their October 1859 raid on the National Armory at Harpers Ferry. Two hundred breechloading Sharps carbines, revolvers, and pikes were shipped to Brown in Kansas, and many of these arms had been secretly moved to staging points, including the Kennedy farm near Harpers Ferry. John Brown's attempt to seize control of the thousands of muskets and rifles stored at Harpers Ferry failed, and he and his followers were forced to fortify themselves in a small armory building near the railroad.
In the aftermath of the storming of Brown's position by U.S. Marines, some lucky bystanders acquired .52 caliber Sharps carbines like this example, engraved with the name of a Philadelphia traveler stranded in town when the abolitionists disrupted travel on the B&O railroad. Other Sharps carbines, picked up by civil and military authorities, were later issued to Northern cavalry units during the Civil War years. Some of these carbines even found their way far west and were issued to military forces in California.
The National Firearms Museum's Civil War gallery includes a recreation of the small armory building at Harpers Ferry, later dubbed "John Brown's Fort," where John Brown and his band of abolitionists took refuge. Nearby in an exhibit case filled with a variety of Union carbines rests another John Brown Sharps carbine that was also part of this historical incident.