Confederate altered North Contract M1819 Hall Rifle
From the onset of production of the Model 1819 Hall's Rifle at the Hall's Rifle works at the Harpers Ferry Armory the United States Ordnance Department was bombarded with requests from various states for Hall's rifles to arm their respective militias. However under the provisions of the Militia Act of 1808 arms produced at the National Armories were not to be issued to the states until they had been designated 2nd class arms. As such there were no Hall's Rifle available for issue to the states.
To remedy the situation, in 1828 Simeon North of Middleton, Connecticut arranged to produce 5,000 Model 1819 Hall's Rifles for $17.50 each. Deliveries at the rate of 1,000 per year were to begin in July of 1829. North had been involved in the production of arms since 1799 when he and his brother-in-law Elisha Cheney received a contract to produce 500 pistols based on the French M1777 pattern. Throughout the early 1800s North received several additional contracts for pistols totaling some 50,000 guns as well as contracts for Model 1817 Common Rifles in 1823 and again in 1828.
North's arms had received a reputation of being high quality. North had made several improvements to his manufacturing processes during the 19th century and had even managed to produce some of his Model 1816 pistols with interchangeable locks. However, North was a businessman foremost and always preferred profit to progress and did not push the development of interchangeable component manufacturing any further than his bottom line would allow. Still, North was well enough acquainted with the concept to make him a capable choice for the manufacture of interchangeable rifles based on Hall's patent.
John Hall, who was still superintending the Harpers Ferry Rifle Works at this time, was less than pleased with the Government's decision to use an outside contractor to produce his rifles. Hall complained that he was highly doubtful that the rifles could be made to his high tolerances at a separate facility. On its face this was a reasonable concern, but it is likely that Hall was also upset with that the terms offered to North were essentially the same he had been denied by the Ordnance Department for himself.
In any event, Hall forwarded North two rifles manufactured at Harpers Ferry in 1826 to serve as his patterns. This is an important distinction, as North would produce the Model 1819 Hall's Rifle from 1830 to 1838, which corresponds to the manufacture of the 3rd production rifles manufactured at Harpers Ferry that were produced with pin fastened barrel bands.
North, like Hall over 10 years prior, was slow to produce his first batch of rifles, and had some major difficulties in getting his machinery set up to produce rifles "made to the advantage" as required by his contract. It was not until 1830 that his first delivery of 600 rifles was made. The initial batches of rifles, although well built, had some issues with full interchangeability, a fault which likely pleased Hall. Nevertheless, North continued to perfect his manufacturing process and by 1833 had successfully delivered interchangeable rifles.
North would continue to produce the Model 1819 Hall's Rifle through 1836 and would deliver a total of 5,700 rifles. In 1833 North had been approached about manufacturing carbines based on Hall's design and had manufactured 1,529 Model 1833 Hall Carbines by the time he finished producing rifles in 1836. During that time North determined that the carbine contracts were much more lucrative than the rifles and declined an extension of his rifle contract to focus on carbine production.
The Model 1819 Hall's Rifle offered here is a very nice and correct example of one of Simeon North's produced rifles. These were very popular with state militias during the antebellum years, as a total of 8,416 Model 1819 Hall's Rifles had been drawn by the various States by 1855. This example is clearly marked with U.S. (over) S. NORTH (over) MIDLtn (over) CONN (over) 1835. The frame is struck on the right hand side with a small NWP for Nahum W. Patch who was the inspector for North's deliveries from 1832 onwards. The stock shows two clear inspector cartouches as well; a NWP on the left flat just forward of the wrist and HKC for Henry Knox Craig on the top of the comb in front of the butt plate tang. The stock is appropriately fitted with conventional type band springs which are correct for all of North's M1819 Hall's Rifles.
The percussion alteration on this rifle is quite crude and undoubtedly of Southern origin. The flint pan was milled off of the breech block. The block was not polished in any way, as the pan area is still fairly rough. A new percussion cone was then installed into the vent at a 90 degree angle. Finally, an iron striker was brazed directly onto the face of the original flint cock.
Mechanically the gun is excellent with a crisp action and a well fitted block. The metal components have an attractive medium gray turning plum patina and are free from any major pitting. The stock is quite good and is free from the endemic "Hall crack" at the wrist. The stock shows some light cleaning, but the cartouches are still very well defined. The cleaning rod is full length and threaded, but I believe to to be a period, probably Confederate, replacement. The only detractor I note is that the blade of the front sight has been smashed and is pretty much flush its base.
Hall's Rifles saw considerable use by Confederate troops early in the war and are a quite often overlooked aspect of Confederate arms collecting. This is a very interesting example of a Confederate alteration and is in quite good condition for a Confederate arm. Simeon North produced rifles are substantially rarer than their Harpers Ferry brethren, Harpers Ferry having out produced North at a rate in excess of 3:1, and this is a good opportunity to add a nice example of one to your collection.