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Why you still know the name of a 19th century weapon.

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

In April 1861, Richard Jordan Gatling watched hundreds of Union soldiers march through Indianapolis, ready to ride the rails to the front. In the opposite direction came a never-ending stream of badly wounded men, to say nothing of those who lost their lives. Gatling set about inventing a '' that he hoped would minimize the number of men needed to fight a war, and thus minimize the number of men exposed to its horrors.

Working throughout the summer of 1861, Gatling developed the invention that would carry his name though history: the Gatling gun. The Gatling is the most famous of late 19th century''s been obsolete for a hundred years?

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Richard Gatling''Improvement in Battery Guns''s crank fired the weapon. Each barrel fired with one turn of the crank, and the weapon''s reluctance to embrace the machine gun meant Gatling was ignored, at least at first.

It wasn''s end, and Gatling approached Colt to manufacture them. Following tests at Fort Monroe, the U.S. Army used the Gatling extensively throughout the 1870s during its campaigns against Native American tribes in the West. Custer''d slow his advance, but without them, he and his men were famously overwhelmed and massacred.

Foreign interest charged up. In Europe, Russia became the first country to buy Gatling guns directly from Colt while the British W.G. Armstrong & Co. became one of the first European manufacturers to purchase a license to build and sell the new weapons

The first British use of the Gatling gun came in 1879 during the Zulu War. At the Battle of Gingindlovu, two guns broke up a Zulu attack with long bursts of suppressive fire that forced the Zulus to take cover. At the Battle of Ulundi the guns were used to great effect, despite several jams. The British commander, Lord Chelmsford, later wrote that the Gatlings: ""

Indeed, this statement typified the use of the Gatling during the late 19th century: The guns, with their incredible volume of firepower for the time, acted as force multipliers in engagements where the enemy were far more numerous. The Gatling would go with British units to Afghanistan, Egypt, and the Sudan in the late 1800s, remaining in service until the Maxim gun came around.

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for The British were not the only European nation to embrace the Gatling gun, Imperial Russia made large orders, and the Tsar used his Gatling guns against the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War 1877-8 and again in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. Gatling guns went to South America during the War of the Pacific, with Peru deploying them first in 1879. By 1880, nations and individuals around the world had bought Dr. Gatling''s finest hour came during the Spanish-American War. During the Battle of San Juan Hill, Lieutenant John Parker''s ""

But the end would come soon.

Officers of the US Marine Corps pose with two Gatling Guns, c.1896
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Despite American forces using the weapon into the 1890s, the Gatling gun fast became obsolete. The culprit in its quick death was Hiram Maxim''s gun was recoil-operated, using the recoil energy created when the weapon was fired to cycle the action. Feeding from a cloth belt, the Maxim could fire up to 600 round per minute.

Gatling tried several times to revive his design after he saw market share slipping away. In 1893 he patented a Gatling powered by an electric motor. In 1895, he tried to create a truly automatic gas-operated Gatling gun. These designs proved to be too complex or cumbersome, losing the simple practicality that made the original Gatling so good. In 1911, the U.S. Army declared all its remaining Gatling guns obsolete and began a process of rearming with automatic machine guns.

Gatling himself never confined his life''s Wild West Shows and later through comics, pulp fiction, and countless films. Today Gatling''s A-10. Even in the 21st century, the Gatling gun is no mere museum piece.

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