Relic Confederate Altered M1819 Hall Rifle Breech Block
Offered here is a quite rare excavated percussion altered Model 1819 Hall's Rifle breech block. This breech block was reportedly found near Ysleta, Texas in the 1930s.
The percussion alteration exhibited on this example is unequivocally Confederate and thanks to the wonderful research by the late Mr. Howard Madaus and Dr. Michael Murphy it is known to be the work of the Jackson Arsenal located in Jackson, Mississippi, and are covered extensively in both "Confederate Rifles and Muskets" as well as "Confederate Carbines and Musketoons".
The lack of a Federal Arsenal within Mississippi's territory at the onset of the Civil War lead to an acute shortage of arms for Mississippi State troops. Mississippi's Governor, John J. Pettus appealed to Governor Thomas O. Moore in early 1861 requesting that he send a consignment of arms captured from the Federal arsenal at Baton Rouge. Governor Moore in turn forwarded 1,000 Model 1819 Hall's Rifles to Mississippi.
The arms arrived at the Mississippi State Arsenal in Jackson in July of 1861 and were quickly percussion altered and by September the majority had been issued. The Hall's Rifles altered at the Jackson Arsenal are easily identifiable by the distinct "squirrel tail" hammer that is brazed onto the base of the original flint cock. The face of the breech blocks were milled flat on both the top and side. Like most Confederate alterations the frizzen toes were left unfilled. The percussion cones of all observed examples were installed at a 90 degree angle to the top of the breech block rather than at a roughly 70 degree angle like most other styles of percussion alteration.
In addition to the percussion alterations performed at Jackson, an unknown number of rifles, presumably a few hundred at least, were shortened into cavalry carbines.
Based on surviving examples it would appear that all of the 2,287 Hall's Rifles stored in Baton Rouge were third production Harpers Ferry rifles. These rifles were all apparently produced in the early 1830s and show manufacture dates from 1831 to 1834.
The breech block offered here is a classic Jackson Arsenal style alteration. There are, however, two relatively minor differences on this example. First, the cone on this example has been installed at a 70 degree angle. Secondly, there is a small "lip" on the front edge of the hammer. Both of these variations are fairly insignificant, but are an interesting study in Confederate altered Hall's Rifles.
This breech block is essentially intact, sans the missing release spur at the front of the block and that the trigger has about 1/2 inch broken off. The mainspring is intact and surprisingly pliable, so much as to allow the hammer to be pulled back. The tumbler is frozen in place, so that the hammer will not stay back on its own.
The top of the block shows the remnants of the original markings, which were quite difficult to photograph. The block reads, J.H. HALL (over) H. FERRY (over) U.S. (over) 1831. As no guns were delivered in 1831 this rifle would have been completed as part of the 4,360 rifles completed that year at Harpers Ferry.
Hall relics are few and far between, and even rarer with solid Confederate provenance. This is really a wonderful relic and would look great in a collection of Confederate cavalry artifacts or in a display of percussion altered Hall's rifles.