“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Chatham in Pittsylvania County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Bilhartz, Hall & Co.

Gunmaker for the Confederacy

Bilhartz, Hall & Co. Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, February 17, 2013
1. Bilhartz, Hall & Co. Marker
Inscription.  When the Civil War erupted, the South seriously lacked sufficient quantity of modern weaponry. The Confederate government attempted to correct this deficiency by purchasing arms overseas. While this "cotton for cannon" trade resulted in the importation of thousands of revolvers and muskets through the blockade, the Confederacy also sought to remedy the lack of arms by home manufacture. Numerous arsenals and private firms were established to arm Confederate soldiers adequately. The site 150 feet in front of you was the location of one of these manufacturers, Bilhartz, Hall & Co.

The Bilhartz, Hall & Co. was established in 1862 by Candidus Bilhartz, George Hall and Coleman D. Bennett. Bilhartz, a native of Baden, Germany, and resident of Pittsylvania County since 1858, was a pre-war harness maker, mechanist, and distiller. He served as the factory's mechanical genius while George Hall managed the firm, and C.D. Bennett financed the operation as a silent partner. At the height of production in late 1863, Bilhartz, Hall & Co. employed 38 workers.

The firm produced two carbine types for the Confederacy. The first mode, known as the
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"rising breech" carbine, was an innovative design. Only 100 of these breech-loading carbines were produced from 1862 to 1863. Bilhartz, Hall & Co. also manufactured 400 .58 caliber muzzle-loading carbines for the Confederacy. These weapons appear similar to the U.S. Model 1855 Springfield carbine. In addition to firearms, the firm provided carbine stocks for the Richmond Armory. Bilhartz, Hall & Co. was paid $1.00 each for "650 short stocks" and "1095 long stocks" for carbines. The stocks were delivered in May 1863.

Bilhartz, Hall & Co. carbine production was not a success, and the company ceased operations in 1864. The firm, nevertheless, left a legacy of ingenuity in its production of raising breech carbine. Somehow small factories like Pittsylvania's Bilhartz, Hall & Co. were able to initiate the manufacture of weaponry for the Confederacy in a vain effort to match the North's amazing industrial output.

The firm first began the production of a unique rifle known as the "rising breech" carbine. The weapon's distinctive feature is its curved bow, which acts as the loading lever and trigger guard. The breechblock rises vertically when the lever is lowered allowing the .54 caliber paper cartridge to be inserted. When the lever is closed, a trunion action causes the breechblock to return to its position of alignment with the bore of the barrel.
The "Rising Breech" Carbine image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, February 17, 2013
2. The "Rising Breech" Carbine
Two types of rising breech carbines were produced, and the primary difference between the models was the latching mechanism for the lever. Each carbine was 40 inches in length and marked P and CS. The barrel was rifled with three broad, shallow lands and grooves. By September 16, 1862, the Bilhartz, Hall, & Co. had sold 100 rising breech carbines to the Confederate Ordinance Department at the price of $45.00 each.
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical month for this entry is May 1863.
Location. 36° 49.64′ N, 79° 23.882′ W. Marker is in Chatham, Virginia, in Pittsylvania County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street and Center Street, on the right when traveling north on Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Chatham VA 24531, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Pittsylvania County Confederate Monument (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Pittsylvania Court House (about 400 feet away); Hargrave Military Academy (approx. ¼ mile away); Rawley White Martin Residence (approx. 0.6 miles away); Peytonsburg
Bilhartz, Hall & Co. Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, February 17, 2013
3. Bilhartz, Hall & Co. Marker
(approx. one mile away); Markham (approx. one mile away); Claude A. Swanson (approx. 1.9 miles away); Whitmell P. Tunstall (approx. 2.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chatham.
Regarding Bilhartz, Hall & Co.. "Ordinance" should be "Ordnance" (no "i").
Receipt for Carbine Stocks image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Confederate Citizens Files
4. Receipt for Carbine Stocks
Recept for Breechloading Carbines image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Confederate Citizens Files
5. Recept for Breechloading Carbines
Credits. This page was last revised on March 13, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 6, 2013, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 779 times since then and 11 times this year. Last updated on March 13, 2021, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 6, 2013, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Feb. 25, 2024