Hall Breech Loading Mod. 1819
Confederate Conversion to Percussion

Of special interest to the Maine historian, the innovative breech loading design of this arm was developed and patented by Portland, Maine born John H. Hall. A classic Yankee tinkerer, the innovative Portland native worked in his father’s tannery before setting up his own woodworking and boat building shop in 1810. Inquisitive of all things mechanical, Hall’s local militia service intensified his interest in firearms with particular focus on increasing the ease and rapidity of loading. John Hall’s effort toward the development and successful patent of a pivoting chamber, breech loading system, caught the interest of the U. S. Army ultimately leading to its adoption of the Hall’s Patent rifle in 1818. By 1842 production of the Hall had switched from flintlock to the percussion cap ignition system then by1844 Federal arsenal production of the Hall culminated. Early flintlock arms had been relegated to Federal and State arsenal storage. By the outbreak of the Civil War the vast majority of these obsolete weapons had been moved to storage in southern arsenals where, in the heat of hostilities, they were converted to percussion and pressed into service against Union troops. While rarely surviving examples of these Confederate conversions offer testimony to the challenges of material and equipment shortages of a largely non-industrial South, will and resourcefulness offered a remarkable level of accomplishment.

With undisturbed evidence of age and hard period use, this example of Portland, Maine native John Hall’s patent breech loader was no exception to the Southern make-do challenge as it was converted from flintlock to percussion. Lacking a proper hammer for the conversion the outmoded flintlock hammer was retained and the desired result was accomplished simply by removal the flint and tightening down an iron striker in the existing clamp. The conversion was completed by removal of frizzen components and enlarging the flash pan vent to accommodate a percussion cap nipple. The resourcefulness of the armorer is once more evident when we note that rather than a standard musket nipple a smaller percussion revolver nipple is utilized. Weather this was done because standard musket nipples were not available or because the smaller revolver caps were more plentiful must be left to speculation. (We are aware of at least one other such conversion of the Hall utilizing the revolver nipple.)