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

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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.

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