Holly Springs Arsenal Altered Model 1819 Hall Rifle
Confederate percussion altered rifles and muskets have long been an understudied and underappreciated area of Civil War arms. These arms provide an enormously wide variety of arms to collect, often very affordably. While a rough condition Richmond rifle-musket or Fayetteville rifle may be beyond the means of many collectors, many varieties of Confederate percussion altered arms, many of which are much rarer than a Richmond, are available to the collector for often 50% or less of what a decent, more well known, Confederate made arm goes for.
The Model 1819 Hall Rifle offered here is one of those bargain Confederate arms, and shows the classic signs of percussion alteration at the Holly Springs, Mississippi Arsenal. The Holly Springs Arsenal began operation in early April of 1862 after the facilities there had been purchased by the Confederate Ordnance Department. Formerly, the arsenal had been operated by the Marshall Manufacturing Company. On July 13, 1861 the firm had entered into a contract with the Confederate Government to manufacture 20,000 rifle-muskets and 10,000 rifles, probably of a Belgian or French design. The firm was advanced $40,000 for their contract, with deliveries to start in November of 1861. After defaulting on the contract the Marshall Manufacturing Company sold their facilities to the Confederate Ordnance Department to settle their accounts.
On March 21, 1862 an assessment of the armory conducted by then-Captain Hypolite Oladowski reported that machinery for the manufacture of new arms was to be sent to Richmond and Augusta, and that the armory would function only to percussion and otherwise alter arms for military service. At that time 200 "arms" were in store at Holly Springs awaiting alteration and repairs.
On April 13, 1862 arms from Corinth were forwarded to Holly Springs for alteration. Further consignments of arms would come from Grenada. Between April and May of 1862 records show that 1,783 "sporting rifles", 195 "percussion muskets", 353 "flintlock muskets", 17 "Tennessee rifles", 68 "Mississippi rifles", 347 "double barrel shotguns", 22 "single barrel shotguns", 68 "Hall Rifles", 1 "Belgian Rifle", 1,510 "guns", along with 28 musket locks and over 700 bayonets were received by the Holly Springs Arsenal. Based on those figures it would appear that the Holly Springs Arsenal was focused solely on percussioning and repairing arms.
After their defeat at Shiloh, Confederate forces withdrew to Corinth pursued slowly by Federal forces. Fears that Federal forces would capture the Arsenal forced the relocation of its machinery, which was relocated to the Atlanta Arsenal in July.
Arms students owe a great deal of debt to the work of the late Dr. John Murphy and Howard Madaus. Their seminal work, "Confederate Rifles and Muskets" was the first to identify the Model 1819 Hall Rifles altered at the Holly Springs Arsenal. Like most Confederate altered Hall Rifles those altered at Holly Springs have had all of the external flintlock components removed and the breechblock milled flat along the top and right sides. Holly Springs alterations do however feature a filled frizzen toe, which is generally not seen on other Confederate alterations. A new percussion cone was installed into the old flintlock vent at roughly a 70° angle to the block. Lastly, the original flint cock was cut through the middle, and a new octagonal faced striker brazed onto the base.
Although Hall Rifles were produced with interchangeable parts many Confederate alterations were marked with reassembly numbers at the time of their alteration. This is true to Holly Springs alterations as well, which usually show Arabic numerals on the side and bottom of the breechblock, as well as the stock's wrist. When "Confederate Rifles and Muskets" was published the authors included 6 known examples of Holly Springs attributed Hall Rifles. One was unmarked while the remaining 5 were marked with IV, 11, 14, 27, and 35. Since then a number of Holly Springs style Hall's have turned up, one of which is known to be marked with a 47. The example offered here appears to be unmarked, as it does not have any externally visible markings; although I have not removed the breechblock to further examine the rifle. The wrist also shows no marking, although that may be due to wear.
As previously mentioned the records show that Holly Springs received but 68 Halls. Given the high number of surviving pieces I personally believe that more Model 1819 Hall Rifles were altered at Holly Springs than the records indicate. However, until a number above 68 or a duplicate numbered gun is located that is just my opinion. I will state, however, that I am aware of at least 10 examples that all show the "textbook" features of a Holly Springs altered rifle, which would be an absurdly high survival rate if 68 rifles represent all of the Halls altered at Holly Springs.
In any event the rifle shown here is a nice example of Holly Springs attributed Confederate altered Hall Rifle. This example is in about good condition. The rifle has a very dark, almost black patina on almost all surfaces, with some high point areas showing a pewter colored finish. The metal components show some light pitting over most of the surfaces, with the exception of the buttplate, which shows much more severe pitting and some erosion to the wood in the area of the buttplate. The rifle appears to be completely original, save for the cleaning rod, which looks to be a shortened Model 1816 musket ramrod. The head is too large to pass down the bore, and the opposite end lacks threads.
The wood has a matching dark patina and is in generally good condition with expected handling marks and bruises. The top of the wrist shows the endemic "Hall crack", which was probably caused by improper removal of the breechblock during the percussion alteration. The wood in that area is, however, very tight and in no danger of falling out. The other wood damage worth noting is the a fore mentioned wood loss around the buttplate.
Overall this is a nice representative example of a scarce Confederate altered Model 1819 Hall Rifle with a solid attribution in what is probably the most respected text on Confederate arms ever published. Given the low numbers of these rifles that are believed to have been altered, and their scarcity on the market today, this is a rifle that most Confederate collectors lack, and it is priced at a point that even a new collector can add it to their collection.