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Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling, a medical doctor with numerous patents in farm equipment to his credit, devised the famous Model 1862 “Revolving Battery Gun,” now simply referred to as the Gatling gun.

 Although not first to manufacture a multi-fire weapon, he was the first to produce a reliable, rapid fire, “machine gun.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Major General Benjamin F. Butler purchased 12 Model 1862 Gatling guns for $1,000 each, in 1863 and employed them successfully at the battle of Petersburg.

The Gatling gun was a hand-crank-operated weapon, comprised of six barrels revolving around a central shaft. The original gun was actually designed to fire the standard military issue paper cartridge of the day, .58 caliber. The paper cartridge was placed inside a steel or brass chamber with percussion nipple on the back end just like muzzle loading rifles and pistols of the time. The cartridges were gravity-fed through a hopper mounted on the top of the gun. Six cam-operated bolts alternately wedged, fired, and dropped the bullets, which were contained in steel chambers. Gatling used the six barrels to partially cool the gun during firing. Since the gun was capable of firing 600 rounds a minute, each barrel fired 100 rounds per minute.

There were other machine guns used during the Civil War such as the Agar Machine Gun, which was nicknamed the Coffee Mill.  The Vandenberg Gun - 91 barrel model - delivered ninety percent of its load in a six-foot square at 100 yards.  The Williams Machine Gun fired sixty rounds per minute and was considered the Confederate's secret weapon.




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Wight N. Manning
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