1 inch Gatling Gun - 1877
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 'labor-saving device for warfare' 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 manual machine guns. In an age of slow-loading rifles, the Gatling offered unprecedented firepower. Even today, a century and a half after its design, the gun retains its iconic status.
Richard J. Gatling
Gatling was born in Hertford County, North Carolina in 1818. At the age of 21, Gatling created a screw propeller for steamboats, without realizing that one had been patented just months prior by John Ericsson. While living in North Carolina, he worked in the county clerk’s office, taught school briefly, and became a merchant. At the age of 36, Gatling moved to St. Louis, Missouri where he worked in a dry goods store and invented a rice-sowing machine and a wheat drill (machines to aid in planting rice and wheat, respectively). The introduction of these machines did much to revolutionize the agricultural system in the country. After an attack of smallpox, Gatling became interested in medicine. He graduated in 1850 with an MD. Although he had his MD, he never practiced; he was more interested in a career as an inventor. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Gatling was living in Indianapolis, Indiana. There he devoted himself to the perfection of firearms. In 1861, the same year the war started, he invented the Gatling gun. A year later, he founded the Gatling Gun Company.