Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3287: Congressional Presentation Hall Model 1819 Flintlock Rifle

Auction Date: December 6, 2020

Incredibly Rare and Historic CONGRESSIONAL PRESENTATION Hall Model 1819 Breech Loading Flintlock Rifle Presented to Smith Bateman for Gallantry as a Young Man during the Siege of Plattsburgh During the War of 1812, One of the Only Firearms Ever Presented by Congress for Gallantry

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $30,000 - $50,000

Incredibly Rare and Historic CONGRESSIONAL PRESENTATION Hall Model 1819 Breech Loading Flintlock Rifle Presented to Smith Bateman for Gallantry as a Young Man during the Siege of Plattsburgh During the War of 1812, One of the Only Firearms Ever Presented by Congress for Gallantry

Manufacturer: Hall
Model: 1819
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 52
Barrel: 32 3/4 inch round
Finish: brown/casehardened
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 2421
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 168
Class: Antique

This incredibly historic rifle is one of just seventeen Model 1819 Hall rifles authorized to be presented by a resolution of the U.S. Congress to a group of men who, mostly as teenagers, fought along side other American forces under General Alexander Macomb during the siege of at Plattsburgh in northeastern New York on September 11, 1814, during the War of 1812. These presentation rifles are the only firearms presented directly by Congress for gallantry/valor. Several of these important rifles are in museum collections, and less than ten are known today. Captain Aiken's rifle is on display at the Kent-Delord House Museum in Plattsburgh, and Gustavous A. Bird's rifle is part of the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (accession number 25598). This rifle was also almost placed within the Smithsonian. "History of Oregon Illustrated Vol. III" from 1922 includes an entry on C.B Clancey of Salem, Oregon, indicating that Clancey had inherited this rifle from Hiram Bateman, his maternal grandfather and Smith Bateman's brother, and that he considered it to be among his most highly valued possessions. The book also states that Smith Bateman's "father was shot down while defending the bridge at Plattsburg and the boy, who was then but sixteen years of age, at once picked up the gun and fearlessly took his father's place, thus performing a notable act of heroism. The gun is said by experts to be one of seven now in existence. It is a breech-loader and bears a memorial inscription. Collectors have offered Mr. Clancey large sums for the gun, but he has refused to sell as he contemplates giving the gun to the Smithsonian Institution for safe keeping." It is also illustrated and briefly discussed in the article "Historic Breech-loading Rifle" by Stanley Smullen in The Pennsylvania Antique Gun Collectors Association "Monthly Bugle" No. 532 from May 2014 (copy included). The distinctive and original silver plaque on the right side of the butt reads "BY RESOLVE OF CONGRESS/Presented to/SMITH BATEMAN/For his GALLANTRY at the/SIEGE OF PLATTSBURGH" and is engraved with olive branches. The replacement oval silver wrist inlay has is inscribed "SB" (originally had an escutcheon with his initials and battle date). Unlike the usual Model 1819 Hall rifles, the rifling on this rifle extends all of the way to the muzzle. It has the usual off-set blade and notch sights found on Hall rifles. The breech block is marked "J.H. HALL," and the stock has the inspector's mark "WB" on the bottom behind the trigger guard. On page 466 of "American Military Shoulder Arms, Vol. II" author George D. Moller indicates that only eight of these historic rifles are known to survive today but does not list this rifle as among those known to surviving indicating nine are extant. The history of Bateman's heroism is a bit different than what was passed down to his ancestors. Aiken's Volunteer Riflemen were a group of teenage boys from the Plattsburgh Academy that were too young to enlist but fought as volunteers with Martin James Aiken (1791-1828) as their captain and Azariah Flagg (1790-1873) as their lieutenant. They were among a smaller force of 1,500 regulars and around 2,500 militia under General Alexander Macomb that faced off against a British army of 14,000 soldiers under Sir George Prevost, the Governor in Chief of Canada. During the battle, the volunteers defended the Bridge Street Bridge, retreated across the bridge pulling up planks to slow the British advance, and then fought from the far side of the Saranac River at the stone mill. Some of their fathers were also involved in the battle, and it is possible, though not documented, that Bateman's father was wounded in the fighting at the bridge, but the man identified in included research as Hiram and Smith Bateman's father survived and was still alive in New York in 1850. The battle was decided by the American naval victory over the British fleet, which forced the enemy to abandon their attack on Plattsburgh. These volunteers were recognized by General Alexander Macomb for their orderly conduct in the face of British soldiers during the siege, while many grown men were routed easily or shirked their duty entirely throughout the war. They were reported to be excellent scouts and marksmen. They also lost a fourteen year-old boy during the fighting. Macomb tried to get the boys military issued rifles but was told he did not have the authority to do so, but also did not forget his promise. In 1822, newspapers reported on Macomb's effort to fulfill his promise and listed Bateman and the other 16 and noted that Congressional authorization was required. The House of Representatives passed a resolution that year, but the procurement of the rifles was stalled in the Senate but ultimately approved in 1826. Congress authorized seventeen rifles: fifteen for the boys (grown men by this time), including Smith Bateman, and their two officers. The resolution appears in the records for the first session of the 19th Congress under the heading "Resolution authorizing the delivery of Rifles promised to Captain Aikin’s volunteers, at the siege of Plattsburgh" and directed President John Quincy Adams to present "one rifle, promised them by General Macomb, while commanding the Champlain Department, for their gallantry and patriotic services as a volunteer corps during the siege of Plattsburgh. On each of which said rifles there shall be a plate containing an appropriate inscription." The resolution was approved on May 20, 1826. Little has been discovered about Smith Bateman's life, but there is a gravestone in Truthville in northeastern New York south of Plattsburg for a Smith Bateman who died in 1847 at the age of 53 (implying he would have been born around 1794 and was around 20 in 1814). General Macomb was promoted to commanding general of the U.S. Army in 1828. The Battle of Plattsburgh was an important victory for the United States in a war that was full of all too many embarrassing defeats including the burning of the nation's capital only a few weeks prior. The victory helped the position of the American peace negotiators and prevented the United States from losing any territory when the conflict ended late that year. A copy of the Conestoga Auction Company "High Quality Investment Grade Antique Arms Sale" from April 19, 2008, is included. This rifle is lot 408 inside and identified as coming from the collection of Everett "Birdie" Partridge.

Rating Definition:

Very good plus with a mix of traces of original finish mixed with dark brown patina on most of the iron and attractive aged patina on the silver. There is some mild pitting and oxidation. The stock is also fine and has the noted replacement wrist escutcheon and repaired section at the top of the wrist, crack between the breech "hook" and ramrod channel, a few other minor hairline cracks, some chips, and general mild overall wear. Mechanically fine. This is an incredibly rare rifle. Reportedly nine of the original seventeen rifles are known to exist today, and some of those rifles are understandably locked away in museum collections such as the Smithsonian. This is an incredible opportunity to get your hands on one of the rarest U.S. martial arms and the only firearms presented through an act of Congress for gallantry. Provenance: Smith Bateman, Hiram Bateman (brother), C. B. Clancey (the latter's grandson), Norm Flayderman, Everett G. Partridge, David Kleiner, and Stanley B. Smullen, Michael E. Simens, Private Collection.

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