Confederate Altered Model 1819 Hall Rifle
The military rifles of John Hancock Hall are some of the most intriguing of of all American arms produced in the 19th century. Historically the arms produced under John H. Hall's patent are some of the most important in American history, as they perfected the usage of mechanically produced interchangeable parts and introduced the United States Army to breechloading arms.
Production of the Model 1819 Hall Rifle commenced in 1824 at Hall's Rifle Works, an auxiliary workshop of the Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) Arsenal. From that time until 1840 a total of 25,380 Model 1819 Hall Rifles would be produced, of which 5,700 were produced under contract by Simeon North. Hall's Rifles proved to be very popular with state militias, and by 1860 almost 9,000 had been issued to the various states.
Although an innovative design, Hall's Rifles continued to face the same design problems throughout their production. Soldiers often found that the gas leak between the breechblock and barrel to be an issue. Although the leakage was minimal considering the flat faces of both parts, prolonged usage tended to increase the leak due to the erosion and displacement of the breechblock. Later production rifles and carbines were produced with larger ports under the rifles' frames to help alleviate this problem, but in the end the issue was systemic.
By 1858 Hall's rifles and carbines had been deemed obsolete by the Ordnance Department and were to be collected and sold as surplus. Indeed, by that time the rifles were thought lowly enough that no effort was made to alter them to percussion other than one example altered as a feasibility study at the Mt. Vernon, Alabama Arsenal. The start of the Civil War, and the subsequent need for arms, breathed new life into to Hall's Rifles as a great number of them were percussion altered for Civil War usage.
As previously mentioned, just shy of 9,000 Model 1819 Hall Rifles had been issued to the various state militias pursuant to the Militia Act of 1808. Of these, at least 3,369 belonged to southern states that would join the Confederacy. As those states seceded the Federal Arsenals and military posts within their borders were seized. In all, the new Confederate States claimed approximately 7,448 flintlock Hall's Rifles. Many of these rifles were forwarded to Arsenals for percussion alteration, while others would be issued in their original flintlock configuration and subject to later recall for alteration.
Thanks to the research of Mr. Michael Madaus and Dr. John Murphy the products of several Confederate and Southern State Arsenals, such as the Jackson and Holly Springs Arsenals in Mississippi and the Fayetteville Arsenal and contractor M.D. Holloway in North Carolina, have been positively identified. However, these alterations accounted for a very minimal numbe; 1,882 by the count in Confederate Rifles and Muskets, of Confederate altered Hall's Rifles. The majority of Confederate altered percussion altered Model 1819 Hall's Rifles are, as of yet, unidentified.
The Model 1819 Hall Rifle offered here is of the unidentified category. Based on the level of sophistication of the alteration and the high level of workmanship exhibited on it I am inclined to believe that this alteration was likely performed East of the Alleghenies. The percussion alteration was effected by removing the breechblock and milling its top and left side flush. It appears the the pan extension on the left side may have been removed by chisel, which is a method associated with those alterations performed at the Fayetteville Arsenal. The frizzen toe remains unfilled, as is typical with most Confederate alterations. The top of the breechblock retains a small lip the provides additional support for the screw threads of the new percussion cone, which has been installed at roughly a 60 degree angle into the existing flintlock vent. The hammer appears to be the base of the original flint cock with a striker brazed to its face. The hammer was then probably slightly milled or filed to present a more finished look. The thumb piece of the hammer shows well defined horizontal knurling.
The rifle its self is a very nice 1834 production Harpers Ferry rifle as indicated by the markings atop the breechblock. The rifle is correct in that the barrel is secured by pin fastened barrel bands, as opposed to the earlier production (and North contract) rifles. The rifle retains an astonishing amount of its original brown lacquer finish on the barrel and other iron furniture. There is some loss of browning around the muzzle and on the rear barrel band, but I would venture to say that over 70% of the brown finish is still present. The breechblock shows a dulled heat blued finish that is quite attractive. The milling of the breechblock's face did not remove the markings of J.H. HALL/H FERRY/ US/1834. Mechanically the rifle is in excellent condition. The bore is also very bright and free from pitting.
The stock rates in very good condition with only minor handling marks and a few scattered bruises. There is one abrasion between the middle and front bands that has marred the stock and barrel finish. The edges of the stock are very crisp and the grain still shows some feathering. A small "H" inspection mark is present behind the rear trigger guard projection.
I highly doubt that another Confederate altered Hall Rifle of this quality will come along any time soon. If you are a collector of secondary Confederate weapons, or of early breechloaders this gun is a must have.