Bilharz Hall & Co : A Crude Confederate Cavalry Carbine Copy

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In 1863, the Bilharz, Hall, & Co firm of Pittsylvania Court House, Virginia (now Chatham VA) received a contract to make 1,000 examples of a simple percussion cavalry carbine modeled after the US Model 1855 carbine. They would work until the end of 1864, but only make a total of 750-800 of them. These carbines are unnumbered externally, but most (although not this example) have what appears to be a serial number of the rear face of the barrel, hidden inside the stock.

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You know it’s hard making guns in an Agrarian state that’s under blockade and Has Minimal natural resources and industrial Base of its own That’s what’s hard Thanks for tuning in to another video on i’m ian mccollum And i’m here today at rock island Taking a look at a u.s civil war Confederate Muzzleloading percussion carbine this is A Bill hars hall and company 58 caliber Percussion carbine it doesn’t have any Particular designation beyond that Because Well there are only two versions of gun That this company actually made They’re located in virginia and their First gun Interestingly was actually a pretty cool Breech loading design it had an Operating lever and when you pull the Lever down it would lift the breech up And you could load it and then drop the Whole thing back into place Kind of on the idea of a hull rifle but Not really at any rate they made a Hundred of those For 45 dollars a piece for the Confederacy early in the war The problem was it didn’t go all that Well and clearly it wasn’t

It was going to be too expensive over Time to keep making those So when that contract was up the company Looked into doing a much simpler gun This one this is basically patterned on A u.s Model of 1855 cavalry carbine and The hypothesis is that most of those 1855 carbines that were in u.s military Service with the cavalry Were turned in in the late 1850s and Replaced with sharps rifles and they Were turned in To u.s bases in texas where they Remained Until texas joined the confederacy and Those guns then ended up With the confederate arsenals one of Them Somehow or another wandering its way out To virginia where it was the basis For this copy so um There are a few small details that Differ but in general this is a U.s 1855 pattern carbine now Bill harz and hall the the founder by The way was one candidate Bill harz who was an immigrant from the State of baden Germany well it wasn’t germany at the Time but it would become germany Became a naturalized u.s citizen in 1859 He worked altern like at various times He was listed as a harness maker

A distiller and a mechanic and mechanic In those days meant what we would think Of as machinist today which set him up Nicely For being the the basis behind a gun Manufacturing company Obviously there was a lot of demand for Small arms in the confederacy during the Civil war and so That’s what he started doing now Let’s take a closer look at exactly what They put together here because This isn’t the world’s greatest gun like Like i said building guns without Materials is hard So we have a basic percussion lock gun Here note that there is a single fixed Rear Sight notch the 1855 american Union guns had a three position or a Flip up site with three range settings On it That was simplified here we have A captive ramrod here so you can pull This Out of the stock It’s a little sticky there we go And then what this allows you to do if You can get it around your camera tripod Is use the ramrod here to load around But the ramrod is fixed to the gun so if You’re on a horse trying to do this You are not in danger of dropping the Ramrod oops and then all of a sudden

Basically Having a useless gun that you can’t load So this is a feature that was also on The us 1855 guns One of the complaints made about the Initial prototypes of these guns was That they didn’t have a nose cap We’ll get to that in a moment so the Production ones do And about half of them have brass nose Caps like this one these are generally Understood to be the Early production and the late production Ones have Pewter nose caps probably because they Simply ran out of Available brass this is the only brass Part on the gun Most of the rest of the components here Are simple iron Now there was originally a csa stamp Right about here Unfortunately the surface finish of this That this gun is worn enough that That is that marking is lost it was Relatively shallow to begin with We do have this p mark on the barrel Which is um it’s found on all of the Bilhars and hull Guns and it probably comes from their Barrel supplier It’s found on a couple other patterns of Rifle and carbine That were manufactured in the same basic

Geographical area and probably all got Their barrels from the same source There is a sling swivel on the back of The trigger guard but that is the only Sling swivel so Probably hooked up to a single point uh Cavalry sling Now the lock plate here is unmarked but There are a couple of markings on the Inside of the gun which we’ll get to in Just a moment but First courtesy of one john murphy md We have some really good information About this based on original research That he did for this the 2002 edition of His book on confederate small arms and i Want to read a brief bit In march of 1863 the richmond armory was Being Run by a major william s downer who Investigator who inspected the first Prototype Carbine of this pattern from bilharsen Hall and he had a number of conclusions About it He said i find that the tumbler is made Of iron which is not case hardened Rendering the lock very rough and liable To get out of order very soon The barrel is not finished smoothly Either inside or out the inside should Be improved and boring The muzzle end of the stock is too short It should pass at least four inches

Above the band and be tipped Uh dot dot dot he’s got a bunch of Complaints about the way the wood stock Is done as well And then the general finish of the arm Is rough but with the exception of the Tumbler i see Nothing to prevent the usefulness of it In the field if the improvements and Alterations mentioned are made I should think and i am informed that The firm is paying 10 A piece for rough barrels that 45 would Be a reasonable price for the arm Now as you can see out here they did Make the changes that he requested they Lengthened the fore end they gave it a Metal cap And they made a number of changes to the Stock and to the ramrod attachment As well to meet his requests and they Would go ahead and put these into Production But this gives you again some idea of The straights that the confederacy was In Where they’re looking at this this Prototype gun and they’re basically Saying well this Is this is pretty much crap but we need Anything we can get And as long as you harden the lock Tumbler so it’ll keep working for a While

Well it’s better than nothing so we’ll Go ahead and take them now Let’s go ahead and pull the the barrel And the lock off and let me show you The secret hidden numbers inside the Bilhars and hall carbine Looking inside the carbine there are a Couple numbers that we would normally Expect to see and some of them are on Here Generally one expects to find a number On stamped on the back of the barrel Right here It’s not really we’re not really sure if That’s a serial number Uh pertaining to production of the guns Or if it’s a Like a serial number referring to number Of barrels produced You know a serial number that can’t be Visible from the outside of the gun Loses a lot of its value so it’s it’s a Little unclear exactly what that number Is Unfortunately on this one the number is Either missing or Simply not visible anymore because of Age and and corrosion on there However there is an additional set of Numbers on these bill hearts and hall Guns And those are basic what appear to be Assembly numbers Uh in the long tradition of military

Small arms and so we see that Here on the bottom of the barrel this One is e58 And we also see that here on the inside Of the lock plate the idea of assembly Numbers of course is that you’re hand Fitting the guns together And you do that before the guns have Been heat treated or finished So it’s important to be able to keep Track of which parts went to which Gun during the assembly process in those Final stages and that’s what the Assembly numbers are for These bill heart guns have been noted With a number of Letter number combinations on the inside Of parts like this A through e and typically only two digit Numbers So there is a hypothesis that these Represent That they did say 99 of each letter and These represent Sort of a secondary serial number or at Least they help tally A total quantity of guns made In the numbers above e don’t appear to Have been recorded Um and that would suggest you know Something about 500 Of the guns maybe 600 depending on Whether there was a series that had no Letter at all

The first deliveries of these carbines Were made in 1863 to the richmond armory It is interesting that these were also Purchased for 45 dollars a piece the Same price that the substantially more Complicated Breech-loading bilhars guns had been Priced at At the very beginning of the war and This is an indication of the inflation The devaluation of the currency that was Rapidly occurring In the confederacy at any rate It looked like the company was actually Going to shut down at the end of 1863 And they actually started talking to the Guys in charge started talking to the Richmond armory about Like maybe selling them some of their Machine tools and transferring some of Their best employees to the armory A couple of the best guys did in fact Move to the armory but then Operations continued at billhars hall And company apparently they Found some more material or something to Keep working with And they would continue producing these Guns until late in 1864 when they Finally did shut down Now based on the pseudo serial numbers That have been Recorded it’s estimated that between 750 And 800 of these guns were produced

Which is Not very many but that’s kind of the Story of Arms manufacturing the confederacy Nobody was able to do A really high quality gun in large Numbers they just Didn’t have the industrial base and the Raw materials With which to make something like that Happen so Um these have been well there aren’t Very many of these around This one’s not in the greatest shape but Really kind of this is kind of what you Get With uh civil war firearms from the Confederacy So hopefully you guys enjoyed the video Thanks for watching

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