The Hall rifles that were converted to percussion by the various Confederate state run armories and arsenals represent a very interesting and affordable field of Confederate arms collecting. While Richmond Armory manufactured long arms in very rough condition are often beyond the reach of many collectors, Confederate altered Hall rifles are just as Confederate, are available in a wide number of variations and in many cases are significantly rarer “ and all at roughly half the price of a mid grade Richmond! We owe a significant debt of gratitude to the late Dr. John Murphy and Howard Michael Madaus for their in depth research into Confederate long arms, published in their seminal work Confederate Rifles & Muskets. Through their research we have been able to identify a number of specific Hall rifle percussion alterations to the state or arsenal in which they were altered.
The Hall rifle offered here is one that is attributed to the Holly Springs Arsenal in Northern Mississippi. From Holly Springs was very active during the first half of 1862 converting flintlock arms to percussion and repairing arms that were not serviceable. From April to May of 1862 a total of 68 Hall’s Patent M-1819 Rifles were shipped from the Ordnance Supply Depot at Corinth, MS to Holly Springs for “alteration or repair”. It is believed that the majority of these arms were Hall Rifles in their original flintlock configuration that were turned in by Confederate troops after having been issued more modern weapons. They were then altered to percussion at Holly Springs and then reissued to CS troops. The alteration process at Holly Springs was similar to that in most Confederate arsenals, but has a handful of tell tale features that allow the alteration to be connected with that arsenal. Like most Confederate alterations, the first step was to remove all of the external flintlock parts, battery, pan fence, etc. Then the depression in the breechblock for the frizzen toe was filled in (much like filling in the pan depression during the 1816 musket conversion process). After filling in the depression, the top of the block was machined flat. This process typically obliterated the original maker marks and manufacturing date from the top of the block. A new percussion cone was threaded into the old flintlock vent hole, at about a 70” angle to the block. The original flintlock hammer was cut through the middle of the cock and a new striker head was brazed onto the old hammer body. Even though Hall Rifles were produced with interchangeable parts, CS armorers tended to mark the major parts with reassembly marks. The majority of the rifles attributed to Holly Springs are marked with Arabic reassembly numbers on the left side of the breechblock, on the wood of the wrist behind the receiver and on the frame (hidden by the stock). When Murphy & Madaus did their study of Holly Springs converted Hall Rifles they had identified 6 examples. One was marked with the Roman numeral IV, one was unmarked, and the other four were marked with the Arabic numbers 11, 14, 27, 35. They noted that all examples were numbered under 50, and theorized that their would be no numbers above 68, as that was the number of Hall’s known to be sent to Holly Springs for work to be performed on them. The Holly Springs alteration offered here adds a new number to their list of extant examples, and it is marked 47 on the left of the breechblock, and in the wood behind the receiver. I did not remove the receiver from the stock to see if it was marked as well, but I would assume that it has the same assembly mark. According to surviving Confederate documents we know that on March 27, 1862 the 3rd Mississippi Infantry had 7 Hall’s Rifles without Bayonets, and that the 32nd Mississippi Infantry has 105 Hall’s Breech Loading Rifles in their possession on April 6, 1862 and added 35 more to their inventory the following day. Around the same time 134 Hall rifles were issued to the “5th”/9th Alabama Battalion. All of these rifles are assumed to have been altered to percussion at one of the various Mississippi armories (like Holly Springs, the state arsenal in Jackson and Briarfield in Columbus, MS), and all were issued from the Ordnance Stores in Corinth, MS. On April 16, 1862 the Military Storekeeper in Corinth reported that they still had 180 flintlock Hall rifles in inventory, as well as 50 that had been altered to percussion. More history of, information about and pictures of these Mississippi altered Hall can be found in Confederate Rifles & Muskets on pages 327-334.
The Holly Springs Mississippi altered Hall Rifle offered here is in about VERY GOOD condition overall. The gun, as previously noted has the Holly Springs reassembly mark 47 on the left breechblock and in the wood on the top of the wrist, behind the receiver. This number also correlates with the Murphy & Madaus note that no assembly number above 50 has been observed. As is quite common, all of the original breechblock markings were removed during the conversion process. The original Holly Springs conversion hammer, with its unique and identifiable profile, is in place and functions as it should. The action works correctly, and the breech system still releases and locks smoothly. The gun has been lightly cleaned at some point in the past and has a pleasing medium pewter tone to the metal over its entire length. The metal is mostly smooth throughout, with only some small, scattered areas of light peppering and pinpricking. The original .52 caliber Hall rifling is in place in the bore, with strong grooves remaining. It is relatively dark and dirty with pitting the entire length of the bore. The original, full length Hall ramrod / cleaning rod is present in the channel under the barrel, but the threads are gone and the very last couple of inches of the rod have been tapered to a slight point “ possibly to use the rod a spit while the soldier was cooking “ a not uncommon occurrence in both armies. The original offset Hall rifle rear site and front site / bayonet lug are both in place and in good condition. The two sling swivels are in place on the rifle, one on the middle barrel band and one on the trigger guard bow. Both appear to be original, but have been reattached, as their original US armory rivets are missing. The replacement of the swivels may have taken place during the period of use, or in a more recent time “ it is impossible to tell. In either case, the swivels do appear to be original Hall Rifle swivels. The stock is in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition overall. It is complete, full length and free of breaks or repairs. It is interesting to note the often encountered “Hall Crack” in the wood behind the receiver is not present on this gun, but is regularly encountered on US converted Hall rifles. The stock still retains relatively sharp flats and the stock shows only the normal bumps and dings from service and use that one would expect “ not abuse or excessive wear.
Overall this is a really attractive example of a really rare Confederate altered Hall Rifle. Realistically there are probably more examples than the 7 currently known (6 from the M&M study, plus this one), but it is hard to know for sure. It is likely that less than 100 rifles were altered at this arsenal in this manner (even more likely no more than 68), thus making any surviving examples very scarce. These guns saw significant service during the first 18 months of the war “ mostly in the Western Theater. Clearly many of these guns were in the field at least through the battle of Shiloh and likely at least until the fall of Corinth in October of 1862. When you compare the very small number of these altered rifles to other Confederate produced long arms, they were altered in very small numbers and are really exceptionally rare. When you also consider that these rifles can be purchased for about half the price of a Richmond or Fayetteville rifle (made in huge quantities by comparisons), these altered rifles are a fantastic value for the Confederate long arm collector.SOLD