Mr. Richard J. Gatling

Mr. Richard J. GatlingMr. Richard Jordan Gatling was born in Hertford County, North Carolina on September 12, 1818. He maintained that he conceived, with humanitarian notions, as “a labor-saving device for warfare,” the prototype Gatling gun during the first year of the Civil War, 1861.

The gun was capable of firing at the then unbelievable rate of 200 shots per minute. Unfortunately, few people were willing to try the Gatling gun and only twelve guns were purchased by elements of the Union Army and one by the Mississippi Squadron. Its successes during the Civil War were not notable and the actual use was not significant.

The Gatling gun was adopted later by many nations and enjoyed a long period of popularity. It was really a most effective weapon, with some good features. In our own service (which adopted it in 1866 after it was chambered for the caliber .50 Army rifle ammunition), it was the standard machine gun as late as during the Spanish-American War.

Although Mr. Gatling was best known as the “father of the machine gun,” he was, in fact, a very prolific inventor. He died in February 1903.