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General Fremont and Hall’s Rifles.


October 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, October 2, 1861.


Recent telegrams from Washington discovert the fact that a cry of anguish has gone up against Gen. Fremont for purchasing Hall’s rifles at some advance upon previous rates. Now, there is a war in Missouri, and troops and the people are clamorous form arms wherewith to defend their homes and maintain the integrity of the Union. With an energy and directness of purpose scarcely excelled, Gen. Fremont has bent himself to the task of meeting every want and supplying every necessity. These wants and these necessities are neither few nor trifling; and if, among the rest, arms have not been furnished in season from the proper sources, then let them be had, and for one, we say no matter from whom, or at what just outlay.

Under the direction of the government, Hall’s rifles were some years since manufactured at Harper’s Ferry. It is presumed that if the officers and mechanics in charge understood their business, the arms were properly manufactured and of good material. After a time the manufacture of Hall’s rifles was discontinued, and some other arm manufactured in place of it. Large numbers of Hall’s pieces were issued to the several States of the Union, and the price fixed for government manufacture was seventeen dollars. As the United States arsenals continued to fill up, it was resolved to dispose of certain lots of Hall’s rifles, as it was also determined to sell off portions of the older class of muskets, &c. George Law bought one or two hundred thousand of the muskets, more or less, paying but a dollar or two for muskets costing the government thirteen or fourteen dollars. Thus, by the sale of what it had on hand, and by its losses through seizure of its arsenals by the thieves of the South, the government has been unable to furnish arms as rapidly as required, both here and elsewhere. At least, it does not appear to have been done.

Purchasers here, as well as in other localities, bought arms from the government for the profit they might make, and upon this principle they are sold back to the government for the best price they will bring. It would be a new thing if the prices asked were not in accordance with the known exigency of the purchaser. Hence, Hall’s rifles, valued by the Government officers at $17, and sold at $6, are sold back to the Government at $22, being a nice speculation for the dealer, but only about 26 per cent. on the price of manufacture in the first instance. The actual loss to the Government, under the officers who had charge at the time of first sale was, upon every Hall’s rifle, $41! We heard no cry about it then; why is it so many tears are to be shed at this time of need and necessity to us all?

It is noticeable that long after this rebellion at the South broke out, and while it yet promised formidable head against us, the machinery and the mechanics at the Arsenal in this State were kept constantly busy altering and rifling muskets for the State of Kentucky. The traitor Buckner, now heading the rebel force in Kentucky, was a frequent visitor at the Arsenal to see how the work went on and urge it on, notwithstanding his State about that time refused to furnish volunteers for the Government under the President’s proclamation.

These arms, so far as the present Governor of Kentucky can control them, are now turned against the hearts of Union men. With a little more alacrity in preparing arms for our own volunteers, it might be that there would have been a better supply at this time, and the necessity of any purchase removed. If the authorities in control of these things at Washington were unaware of what was doing for Kentucky at the time stated, it would have been well, perhaps, to inquire. But in no case can the fact be altered, and this, as well as the Hall rifle sacrifice on their part, ought to make them a little less lugubrious in the matter of the prices paid, or said to be paid, by General Fremont for arms that must be had, and that now.

General Fremont is among the few live Generals who have gladdened the eyes and inspired the hearts of the people, since the development of this damnable plot to destroy the best government upon the face of the earth. He has courage enough to “take the bull by the horns,” and, we believe, sufficient of perseverance to see the strife through to the fullest results. What those results are to be, we want to see, and are not at all wanting in confidence that they will be of the right description. And whether we are to succeed with Hall’s rifles, or with other arms of greater or less cost, is comparatively a matter of small moment. Five hundred Hall’s rifles in the hands of the unarmed volunteers, who were but vain spectators within the entrenchments of the gallant Mulligan, would have been cheap at any price. The value of Hall’s rifles will be estimated by the people when it shall be known that they aided, as there is but little doubt they will aid, to drive rebellion from our borders. Neither will the popular instinct be slow to estimate the man himself, who, at this juncture, has dared to purchase back arms, even at 20 or 50 per cent over the original cost to the government.