Nebraska State Historical Society Blog

Joseph D. Gilman Rifle

1855 colt rifle [4509]

The plaque on this rifle reads: "This gun carried by Joseph D. Gilman, Falls City, Nebr. Enlisted Oct. 15, 1861, Company E, 2nd Regiment Berdan's Sharpshooters."

Gilman was born in Vermont in 1841. After attending public schools in Vermont, he studied law at Syracuse University but enlisted in the Berdan's Sharpshooters of Vermont before he finished his degree. In Late 1865 he came to Nebraska City where he entered the law office of T.B. Stephenson and continued his law studies. In 1868 he was admitted to the bar and moved to Falls City, where he practiced law. He represented his county in the Nebraska Legislature of 1876 and died in 1926.

Berdan's sharpshooters were organized in 1861 by top rifle shooter, Hiram Berdan. He sent agents all over the North to recruit the best marksmen in each state to form units of sharpshooters. These men were offered special benefits for participation, including a Sharps breech-loading rifle, extra pay, and the avoidance of battle duty. However, the only benefits they ever received were the Sharps rifles. This rifle, however, is a Colt Model 1855 revolving rifle and was issued to the Sharpshooters prior to the Sharps. Many of the soldiers, especially in the 2nd regiment, kept these because they preferred them.

Source: Joseph D. Gilman, Falls City

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