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Freemont Affair Hall Carbine - Very Fine

Freemont Affair Hall Carbine - Very Fine

  • Product Code: FLA-2135-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

This is a VERY FINE+ example of one of the more colorful long arms of the American Civil War era. This is one of the 5,000 altered US Model 1843 Hall-North cavalry carbines that was a part of the infamous Freemont Affair, which contributed to his removal from command in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. The US M-1843 Hall-North breech loading percussion carbine was produced by Simeon North of Middleton, CT from 1844 through 1853, with a total of 10,500 being manufactured. The carbine utilized the same rising block, breech-loading system, that had been incorporated in previous Hall breech loading-weapons. However, the M-1843 used a new side-mounted lever to open and close the breech, instead of the various bottom mounted releases used on all previous Hall models. The guns had a 21” long .52-caliber smooth bore barrel and were finished with the usual lacquer brown finish on the barrel and furniture and case hardened breech block and hammer found on the preceding Hall models. The M-1843 was the primary long arm of the 1st & 2nd US Dragoons through the Mexican American War, and these guns saw extensive use during the American Civil War as well. The most famous, and in some ways notorious, of these carbines were those involved in the Hall Carbine Affair that involved General John C Freemont and a number of somewhat unscrupulous East Coast arms dealers and financiers. The story is somewhat convoluted, but the essential details are covered in the following paragraph.

With the opening of the American Civil War, the US Government quickly came to the realization that this was going to be a longer war than originally anticipated, and more small arms were going to be needed than originally thought. Seeing the opportunity to make a quick dollar, numerous arms dealers and speculators jumped into this market and procured arms (from whatever sources were available) to resell them to the US Government, and in some cases to the various state governments as well. In June of 1861, Arthur Eastman of Manchester, NH offered for sale 5,000 altered Hall M-1843 Carbines. He proposed to have their .52 caliber bores rifled with 6 grooves, and to have their chambers enlarged to accept .58 ammunition. The barrels of the guns were not enlarged to .58 caliber (as the description of these carbines in Flayderman’s leads one to believe), only the chamber of the breechblock was enlarged, from a nominal .564 to a nominal .590. The theory was that the larger chamber feeding into a substantially smaller barrel would help reduce the gas leak problem that had hampered the Hall design since the very beginning of production. Eastman had successfully arranged to purchase the 5,000 carbines from the US Ordnance Department in May and June of 1861, paying $3.50 each for them and taking them from stores held at the Governor’s Island Arsenal in New York, and from Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia. Eastman arranged to sell the carbines to a Simon Stevens who agreed to pay Eastman $12.50 each for them in their newly altered, rifled state. Simon proceeded to contact Major General John C Freemont in Saint Louis, MO on August 5, 1861 and offered the carbines for sale to him. His initial letter read:

56 Broadway, New York, August 5, 1861

I have five thousand Hall’s rifled cast-steel carbines, breechloading, new, at twenty-two dollars, government standard, fifty-eight. Can I hear from you”


Freemont responded the very next day via telegram, saying in part:
"I will take the whole five thousand carbines. See agents, Adams Express, and send by express not fast freight. I will pay all extra charges. Send also ammunition. Devote yourself solely to that business to-day."

The most scandalous part of the deal was that Eastman did not even obtain the carbines from the Ordnance Department until August 7th, and since Stevens did not have the money necessary to pay Eastman, Stevens arranged financing through JP Morgan. The alteration of the carbines did not take place until later in the month, and the majority of the work was preformed by the WW Marston Company and the Taunton Locomotive Manufacturing Company. The first of the altered carbines arrived in St. Louis by the end of August with the balance arriving by mid-September. The guns were being issued to the troops in the field by the end of September 1861. By September of 1861, Colonel JW Ripley of the Ordnance Department had seen the initial documents relating to the purchase of the carbines at $22.00 each, and immediately realized that these were the same guns he had authorized selling out of inventory at $3.50 each! The story hit the newspapers, and in a very short time a Congressional inquiry was convened. By November 2, 1861 Freemont had been relieved of his command. Although his removal has often been believed to have been the result of this purchasing debacle, in the greater scheme of things his inept leadership had much more to do with it his loss of command than the arms scandal. The rifled M-1843 carbines were issued to a number of Western Theater and Trans-Mississippi cavalry units, including the 4th Arkansas, 2nd, 3rd, 9th & 10th Illinois, the 1st Indiana, 4th & 5th Iowa, 2nd & 5th Kansas, 2nd Battalion Militia, 6th Militia, 10th Militia, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th & 10th Missouri, 8th & 9th New York, 3rd & 4th US and 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry. Many of these altered carbines remained in service through the majority of the war, and as such they tend to be encountered in rather rough and heavily used condition.

The “Freemont Affair” Hall-North M-1843 rifled carbine offered here is in VERY FINE+ condition overall. The metal of the gun is mostly smooth, and the carbine retains about 20%+ of the original brown lacquer finish on the barrel and the iron furniture, except for the sling bar which retains only minor traces of brown. The balance of the metal has a mottled brown and gray patina, which has blended well with the remaining finish. There are some scattered light patches of peppering and pinpricking on the barrel and furniture, as well as a handful of small, slightly rougher patches of minor oxidation. The exterior of the breechblock retains about 30%+ of the original mottled case coloring, mixed with a medium mottled smoky gray and brown patina. The interior of the block retains some nice traces of the vivid case colored blues and purples. The hammer retains about 30%+ of its mottled case coloring, and bears a patina similar to the receiver of the gun. The breech markings are in about excellent condition, which is uncommon, as they are often worn due to erosion from the gas leaks that plagued the Hall design. The breech clearly reads U.S. / S. NORTH / MIDLtn / CONN / 1849 in five lines. The breech, forward of the breechblock is crisply marked STEEL across the top flat. The right side of the breech is also crisply marked with the inspectors initials JCB, the mark of Ordnance Sub-Inspector Joseph C Bragg. The breech system is mechanically excellent and opens and closes as it should, locking into place securely. The action of the carbine also functions correctly, with the hammer crisply locking into both the half cock and full-cock positions, and responding to the trigger as it should. The original sling bar and ring remain in place on the left side of the frame. The original block rear sight is in place on top of the receiver, forward of the breechblock and the original front sight is in place at the end of the barrel as well. The barrel is rifled with the 6 narrow grooves and measures about .530 caliber, with the breechblock having been enlarged to .588 according to my digital calipers. The bore is in about VERY FINE+ condition. The bore is mostly bright and retains excellent, crisp rifling. The bore shows only some lightly scattered pitting along its length and is in really wonderful condition. What appears to be the original button-head cleaning rod is in place in the ramrod channel, and is nearly full-length, although no threads remain at the end. There appears to be a very old (likely from the period of use) repair to the juncture of the rod body and the button head. The stock rates about EXCELLENT and may be the best example of a M-1843 Hall-North carbine stock that I have ever seen. The wood is extremely crisp and sharp throughout, with sharp edges and lines. The stock is free of any breaks, cracks or repairs, and even the ubiquitous “Hall crack” is absent from the stock, behind the breech. Two excellent cartouches are visible on the edges of the stock, immediately behind the breechblock. A wonderfully clear and crisp WAT (the mark of US Ordnance Department Captain William Anderson Thornton) is present on the obverse of the stock and an equally fine JH (US Ordnance Department Sub-Inspector Joseph Hannis) is present on the reverse. Behind the “JH” cartouche is the tiny block letter sub-inspection mark JH, another Hannis inspection mark. These tiny sub-inspection marks in the wood are almost never encountered due to stock wear. While the stock does show some wear and the expected bumps, dings and minor scrapes from use in the field, it is really in outstanding condition. The only significant wear worth noting is the loss of some small slivers of wood along the cleaning rod channel, which is quite typical, and a tiny chip of wood missing at the top of the wrist, immediately behind the receiver.

Overall this is a really excellent, extremely high condition “Freemont Affair” rifled Hall M-1843 carbine. These guns are rarely encountered with any finish on them at all and this one retains a good amount of the original brown lacquer. The stock of the carbine is likely the best I have ever encountered and is really wonderful. While the gun does show some real use in the field, it was never abused and remains in a really wonderful state of preservation. This example displays wonderfully, is 100% correct, and would be very difficult to upgrade. If you have been looking for a chance to add one of these rare and desirable Hall carbines to your collection, it would be very difficult to find a more attractive one without spending significantly more money.


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Tags: Freemont, Affair, Hall, Carbine, Very, Fine