This question has long perplexed us in Company D. Forums offered little information and diaries even less. Matthews only mentions once how Col. Berdan was outraged at the sorry condition of Company D's rifles early in the war. Then Pvt. Ternan blew the research door wide open! She found an original .52 caliber Sharps pull through brush for sale on ebay for $125. While I'm not in the habit of collecting cleaning accoutrements I can't use (repros are .54 cal), this posting showed an image for an incredible piece of citation! If you are serious about living history and firearms collecting like many of us are, this expensive gem of a book is for you. The book, which I recently purchased online for just over $45, is titled "Gun Tools Their History and Identification Vol. 1" by James B. Shaffer, Lee A. Rutledge, and R. Stephen Dorsey. It covers hundreds of tools from the Revolution to WWII. All proceeding images and information are credited to their stellar research.
Starting on page 29, it states that Sharps rifles were supplied with a "cone wrench/screwdriver tool, a paper cartridge rolling stick, a proportion of one single-cavity bullet mould to every five carbines, and a brush thong and cleaning rod (in place of the wiper)." It continues: "In 1855, ten Sharps carbines packed for shipment included '10 rods and wipers' among their appendages. These appear to be the 30 1/2" long hickory rod with its screw-in brass slotted tip...'wiping rods,' were always issued at a ratio of one to every 10 carbines, according to a Springfield Armory commander."
Continuing to refer to all Sharps as "carbines," on page 281 a standardized wooden rod that accepted the same bore brush as the field cleaning set and the garrison set was created. Also created was, " a sturdy, round leather thong with a captive, female-threaded brass fitting. Into this fitting could be screwed a round, natural bristle bore brush. The entire set was about 36-39 inches long assembled, and could be rolled for easy storage in the small cavalry saddlebag." The garrison cleaning rod, also with a female brass thread end measured about 34 3/8" when assembled and 29 5/8" by itself. Further, the "diameter of the wooden shaft was .476"--small enough to fit all carbines .50 caliber and larger." On the following page is a small table identifying the varying colors of brushes, their lengths, and brush diameter. They add, " The Sharps Field Cleaning Set (Thonged) is unique, in that its brush has two threaded fittings so that the thong could be attached to each end. In this way, the brush could be pulled back and forth through the bore without reversing it."
This is just a small portion of the many answers to the ancient mysteries of Sharps Civil War rifle cleaning found within the book. The book is full of hundreds of good quality, detailed photos of rifle tools along with measurements and detailed descriptions of their use and history. This book is research dense and may not be for the average reenactor or collector but is nothing short of epic to the enthusiastic student of the history of military firearms.
The answers to our old questions were all made possible by Pvt. Ternan, who, like many of us spend way too much time searching the deep corners of eBay for the next great find. And, if you are curious, their is a Vol. 2 to this book. What I've included in this article is just what I've found flipping through this evening, I'm sure there will be many more historical gems found inside.