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    Description

    A Nelson Lewis Civil War Sharpshooter Rifle Fitted With a William Malcolm Telescopic Sight Nelson Lewis of Troy, New York began manufacturing target rifles in his shop in 1843 at the corner of Congress and Church Streets. By the time of the Civil War he was adept at the production of super-accurate weapons such as this one fitted with a William Malcolm telescopic sight.

    Made famous by the Winslow Homer drawing he completed in 1862 for Harper's Weekly, this type of sniper's rifle was used for distant, impersonal killing that the new rifled technology had brought to the battlefield. This image so moved Homer that he made it the subject of his first oil painting since he had looked through the telescopic sight of one these rifles and remarked, "...the impression struck me as being as near murder as anything I could think of in connection with the army and I always had the horror of that branch (sharpshooters) of the service". A copy of this lithograph which appeared in the November 15, 1862 edition of Harper's Weekly accompanies this rifle.

    Nelson Lewis purchased his very heavy octagonal target barrels from E. Remington and Son and he rifled them himself to perfection using equal width of grooves and lands. The end of the barrel is fitted for a false muzzle giving an extra edge to the sharpshooter in accuracy. The 27½" barrel of this rifle is marked "N. Lewis, Maker, Troy, New York" on the top under the telescopic sight which extends a full 5" toward the stock. Lewis' son Kilby produced the Monte Carlo walnut stock terminated by an elaborate nickel-plated butt plate. The hammer, and double set triggers set within the elaborate scrollwork trigger guard function perfectly.

    Adding value and historical importance to the rifle is the William Malcolm 32" telescopic sight affixed to the top of the Lewis barrel. Malcolm, who had worked for a telescope manufacturer began production of his achromatic lenses and rifle telescopes in 1855 at Syracuse, New York. His optics were in standard use during the Civil War by sharpshooter units as evidenced in the Winslow Homer picture. Adjustable for windage and elevation through use of metal wheels and screws, when combined with the accuracy of the Lewis rifle, they became a deadly combination. This is a rare surviving example of the Civil War sharpshooter's weapon.

    Provenance: The Tharpe Collection of American Military History

    Exhibited: The Liberty Heritage Society Museum*****




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2007
    24th-25th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
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