Teenagers vs the British Empire: Smith Bateman’s Hall Rifle

On May 20, 1826 the United States Congress formally presented Model 1819 Hall rifles with personalized silver plaques to the 20 members of Aikin’s Volunteers, for their “Gallantry at the Siege of Plattsburg”. The Volunteers were a group of 20 boys, aged 14-17, from the Plattsburg Academy who joined up under 21-year-old Martin Aikin to help in the Defense of Platssburg during the British Invasion in 1814. The boys acted as valuable scouts in the days leading up to the battle, and on the main day of fighting they manned positions at a mill on the Saranac River, preventing British troops from crossing under rifle fire. The American General Macomb commended the boys’ contribution to the battle, and promised each a rifle as a token. Of thanks. It would take Congress 14 years to fulfill that promise, but they finally did in 1826, with the only rifles ever presented to civilians by Congress before or since.


  1. Ironically, the War of 1812 was started by bad communication and stupidity on part of America (what could POSSIBLY go wrong with trying to take over Canada after your constant requests that the British Royal Navy stop Shanghaiing American sailors to use as forced labor go unanswered?). And then the war ended when the British realized that occupying American soil wasn’t really worth it (angry and very vengeful militiamen shooting you in the back and burning your stuff tends to make you miserable!). I could be wrong. Political stupidity aside, how did Congress and the armed forces forget the promise to the Aikin’s Volunteers for 14 years!?

    • I’m SHOCKED, SHOCKED I tell you to think that the 19th century equivalents of Nancy and Mitch were too busy with “more pressing” business to remember the promises that were made to veterans.

    • I don’t know why you use “trying to take over Canada” as an example of bad communication and stupidity in the War of 1812. The far, far better example of it being bad communication is the British actually stopped the practice that led to us declaring war before we declared war, but the news could only travel across the ocean as fast as someone could make the three month voyage.

      • I meant to say that America didn’t really wait for a response from England after asking the latter to stop the practice of gang-pressing American civilian sailors into forced labor. Not that individual Royal Navy captains would have known that the practice was prohibited altogether in the first place, as they wouldn’t have gone back to their bases and heard the news in time. If the individual captains kept gang-pressing Americans, then America would take it to mean that the British hadn’t stopped the gang-pressing in the first place!

      • As a consequence, the last and most famous battle of the war, New Orleans, occurred a month after the peace treaty had been signed in Paris.

        Moral; The transatlantic telegraph cable (completed 1858) is your friend.



        • Completed 1858, soon fried by improper voltage, and the replacement destroyed 1914 so the British could propagandize America without the central powers getting their side heard.

  2. I don’t think Congress is set up to execute the personal promises of field commanders. Still, twelve years is a long delay for something they didn’t manage to forget completely. I wonder what kept, or returned, the promise to their attention?

  3. Wow! Congress only took 12 years! My dear friend Ed was shot in the face in combat in 1965…he finally received his Purple Heart in 2002 or ’03!

    • Politicians are what they are: concerned only with looking good for the sake of their constituents’ favor. It might take some hundred or so of those old veterans of war DYING FROM NEGLECT-INDUCED-STARVATION just to get politicians to SAY something and a few thousand more deaths from starvation to get them to DO something. Yes, I’ve exaggerated the problem just to show how frustrated I am, please don’t take the numbers or the supposed cause-of-death seriously.

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