Nearly 50 years ago, James Leroy Henderson was working at the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum on a project of special significance to then-quartermaster general, Maj. Gen. Andrew T. McNamara.
“He specifically wanted us to display the carbine, which was an ordnance piece, but had Quartermaster significance,” said Henderson.
The antique carbine was a unique Civil War weapon that featured a coffee grinder in the stock. In 1958, only three original rifles were accountable – two in museum displays and another in possession of a collector. The Instructional Aids Department of the Quartermaster School was tasked with making a reproduction of the coffee-grinding rifle.
Henderson visited the Chickamauga National Park, Tenn., where the Sharp’s Carbine coffee grinder was on display at the museum. He made drawings of the grinding works and took photographs of the various parts. His contribution to the project allowed the model shop to create wooden molds from which exact replicas of the Civil War original would be fashioned. A Civil War-type Sharp’s Carbine was purchased and the stock altered so the coffee grinder would fit. According to an article published that year in the “Traveller,” the grinder was so precise that no one but experts could distinguish it from the original.
“This was innovative for its time,” said Luther Hanson, QM Museum. “It could have been used not only for grinding coffee beans, but most any grains and corn. This is an extremely rare item because it illustrates a part of history in military subsistence during the Civil War.”
Henderson resides in North Carolina, but recently returned to the Quartermaster Museum to share his history with the carbine and donate individual parts of the coffee grinder assemblage for display.
Henderson said when he last visited the museum a few years ago, he was puzzled why the carbine display had very little information pertaining to its origin and history. With his cooperation, the museum has benefited from Henderson’s historical perspective of the carbine, as well as additional parts he had saved from the caster.