The First Gatling Gun

Richard Gatling invented and patented one of the first machine guns which was the Gatling Gun in 1862.
His gun was the first practical, rapid-firing machine gun developed in the United States. It could fire about 600 rounds a minute. It was used only to a limited extent during the Civil War.

An endorsement from General Horatio Wright, after seeing the weapon fired, he wrote a report which recommend the Army test it further. In his report he included the following statement: “I have examined … the invention known as the ‘Gatling gun’ and it seems to me to possess much merit.”
Despite the endorsement, and many successful tests, the Union Army never really adopted the gun.

By the end of the Civil War, the War Department took interest in this technological marvel and rather than fading into obscurity Gatling and his famous battery gun patent became an indelible part of US combat history.

Russia became the first foreign purchaser of Gatling Guns in 1862 with the purchase of 100 Guns at a cost of $1500 each. Literally hundreds of Gatling’s were later manufactured in Russia under license. Russia actually built and had more Gatling Guns in the service than any other country in the world. There are reports that these battery guns were still in service on the China border during World War II.

Improved models became standard equipment for the U.S. Army and Navy in the Spanish-American War. Without a doubt, the Gatling Gun’s finest moments in U.S. combat had to have been during the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, and the Boxer Rebellion in China at the turn of the century. At Santiago, the battle of Bloody Ford, three Gatlings were credited with laying down 18,000 rounds of ammunition in less than 8 minutes, saving countless American lives.

On February 26th, 1903 Richard Gatling died at the age of 84. His Gatling Gun company was to follow shortly thereafter. With the introduction of the Maxim machine gun, the death bell had also tolled for the Gatling Gun. In 1911, Colt produced the last gun. In 1915, the last US military manual was printed for them and they became obsolete by year’s end. Most U.S. Gatling guns were eventually melted down for the brass scrap. The name Gatling nearly faded from history. However, in 1947, the U.S. Air Force commissioned General Electric to develop a rapid fire cannon for aircraft. Out of the mothballs came the Gatling Gun.


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