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 Posted: Sat Jan 26th, 2013 02:22 am
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chrisr
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Hi Everyone,

I posted this on another forum but thought I would also post here to get a wider coverage.

I am requesting information regarding the use of the gatling gun during the war. Many sites and books state the gatling gun was used during the the American Civil War. I understand General Butler purchased some before the Bermuda 100 campaign, and that the gun was adopted by the US Army in 1866, one year after the war ended but I have never come across any references to it actually being used during the war.

Has anyone come across any instances of it being used, and the source of the information?

Any replies would be much appreciated. I have had one reply from the other forum which accords with my understanding

Best wishes (from a very hot Australia)
Chris



 Posted: Sat Jan 26th, 2013 02:51 am
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Texas Defender
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chrisr-

  I have read in more than one place that Gatling Guns were used in combat in the Petersburg campaign in 1864. This source says that some were mounted on gunboats as well, but it doesn't actually say whether or not the ones on gunboats were fired in anger during the war.

The Gatling Gun In The Civil War

Last edited on Mon Jan 28th, 2013 12:12 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Sat Jan 26th, 2013 11:46 am
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Hellcat
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Graham Smith's Civil War Weapons states this on the Gatling on page 236:

In practice the mechanism was unwieldy and unreliable, and the Gatling wasn't adopted by the government, and those that saw wartime service were private purchases.



Burke Davis devoted an entire chapter to the development of a practical machine gun during the was in The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts. The Gatling is discussed on the last page of the chapter (chapters in the book are short; the chapter on the development is 5 pages with the fifth being an illustration). On the use of the Gatling during the war Davis states on page 60:


Gatling tried to interest Lincoln, who by then had moved on to other weapons, and few of the improved guns got into service. General Ben Butler ordered a dozen, and one of these helped kill Confederates near Petersburg as the end of the war drew nigh. Three of the weapons helped guard the New York Times building in the draft riots of July, 1863.



My next place to turn on the subject was the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War edited by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler which has an article on the Gatling on pages 817 and 818. The article mentions that in late 1862 Dr. Gatling was reported by Federal agents to have joined the Knights of the Golden Circle, leading to fears he was going to try selling it to the Confederates. He was proven innocent of this charge but it could have possibly harmed his chances of selling the gun to the Federal government. The article also discusses Ordnance Department chief, Colonel James W. Ripley, and his policy of relying on what the Federal government already had rather than purchasing new models produced by inventors (he retired in September 1863 which could have paved the way for weapons like the Gatling). Ripley refused to purchase the weapon stating his reasons were the weapons meticulous loading and cleaning procedures. However price might have been more the cause. The article goes on to say that Butler, after seeing a demonstration of the gun, purchased a dozen Gatling along with 12,000 rounds for $12,000. So that's $1,000 for one Gatling and a thousand rounds for it, a huge sum of money in the 1860s. Eyewitness accounts state that Butler did use the Gatling during his retreat to Bermuda Hundreds in May 1864. This was following the Battle of Drewry's Bluff.

The Navy was a different story from the Army as they did agree to a demonstration of the gun. This would lead Admiral Dahlgren to allow navy commanders to order the Gatling and one did see service as part of Admiral David D. Porter's Mississippi squadron. However this gun never was used in battle. Also few Gatling saw naval service as Dr. Gatling failed to produce the gun in significant numbers.


The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference, edited by Margaret E. Wagner, Gary W. Gallagher, and Paul Finkelman says on page 488 that both the Gatling Gun and the Coffee Mill gun were extremely rare with neither government purchasing either and thus neither government issued them to the troops in the field. They were purchased privately by officers willing to use their own funds who

were willing to try new equipment and new tactics.

On 516 the book says that the Gatling saw action during the Siege of Petersburg.


The New York Times "On This Day: August 1, 1863"  (https://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/harp/0801.html) backs up what Davis said about the Gatling being used during the New York Draft Riots. It also reveals that it was the own of the Times that used the Gatlings during the riot



 Posted: Sat Jan 26th, 2013 01:35 pm
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Texas Defender
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Hellcat-

  You're right about the $12,000.00. That took a lot of spoons in those days.  ;)



 Posted: Sat Jan 26th, 2013 02:01 pm
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Mark
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I keep hearing that Butler's forces actually used the weapons, but can anyone point to a specific first person account of this? He doesn't mention it in any of his reports, and no one in the Army of the James seems to have known about it. I did find one letter from a soldier in the 7th CT that described being there when Butler did a demonstration with one of the guns, but nothing about the guns actually being fire in anger.

Mark



 Posted: Sat Jan 26th, 2013 02:32 pm
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Hellcat
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You know, I'd have to check either The War of the Rebellion or The American Iliad on that. Probably The War of the Rebellion as it will be easier to hit Cornell's website for that than it will be for me to dig out my copy of the latter. I know exactly where it is, I've just got a lot of other books on top of it.

Last edited on Sat Jan 26th, 2013 02:32 pm by Hellcat



 Posted: Mon Jan 28th, 2013 12:08 pm
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Mark
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I looked in both Hellcat, and I can't find any reference to their use in combat. When you have a chance could you let me know where you found it? Thanks!

Mark



 Posted: Mon Jan 28th, 2013 12:51 pm
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Texas Defender
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Mark-

  The source below goes into great detail about the history and specifications of the 1862 Model of the Gatling Gun. Near the end is an eyewitness account of a Signal Corps officer named Gustave S. Dana. It describes the gun (or guns) being fired at Confederates in Virginia in the spring of 1864, apparently after the Battle of Drewry's Bluff, and apparently under the direction of General Butler himself. (And, it seems, during an agreed upon truce).
  Also included in the source below is an account in the INDIANAPOLIS JOURNAL describing another incident of the use of the Gatling Gun in combat at around the same time. The correspondent who wrote the story is not named. No date for the action is given.

Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record


  And more on COL Dana:

Col Gustave S Dana (1839 - 1916) - Find A Grave Memorial


Last edited on Mon Jan 28th, 2013 03:44 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Mon Jan 28th, 2013 09:29 pm
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Hellcat
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I haven't yet found anything in either source, Mark. To be honest I haven't yet pulled out my copy of The American Illiad as I don't want to mess with that stack as it's one of the books on the bottom (either it or Grant's memoirs is the bottom book in the stack). Gonna have to prod myself to get it out because of how I have things set up. I can prod myself to get out the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War and The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference even though their the fourth and fifth lowest books in their stack, but some of the other stacks I tend to not want to dig down as often on as I should. My being lazy. However, a search on the net turned up this:

In the Wilderness, Va.
Sat. 28th, 1864

Sister Nancy

I received your of the 22 yesterday was pleased to once more here from home for it had been so long I thought you had forgotten me. I had written three and received none from you. Now I tell you there is nothing that keeps up the spirits of a soldier like hearing from home often. Don’t hesitate to write for fear that I shall not get it, we get mail every day. New York papers the next day after they are printed. Direct as usual Ft. Monroe and I shall get them. The last letter contained one 50 dollar bill which father can you see if he wants or put in the bank for me. Since my last the 7th has been in no fight. Pickett duty comes after every third day then we get shelled and troubled with the Sharp Shooters considerable. Yesterday we moved camp up near to the entrenchments. The Rebs line of entrenchments is in plain sight. The balls of their Sharp Shooters often drop in our camp. Their shells as a general thing go over us unless they burst short but when their open, our artillery dries them up very quick. Our force has been drawn away from here with in a day or two but it is kept very still. There is only enough to hold our works. There is plenty of rumors some think that they have gone around to get in the rear of the Rebs or to make a dash on Petersburg. Others think they have crossed the James RR and gone to join Grant but a soldier is supposed to know nothing. A few days will tell.

This morning we were told that there was two spies in our lines dressed in Navy officers suits. We are to keep our eyes open for them. I hope they won’t get away. Cal and Good are well. I saw Joseph G. night before last, was well. Gen. Butler is with us. I think Gen. Smith was with those that left. Yesterday they brought it from the landing a battery called the Gatling Battery. It is drawn by one horse. It is a neat thing to pick off Sharp Shooters. It is said to shoot one mile accurate it imitates a corn sheller more than a gun. It has six barrels, each four foot long, think and heavy, the ball one half inch the same as a common musket ball. It goes with a crank. The balls are put in a box at the breach of the gun. Then turn the crank and it keeps revolving and shooting as fast and long as desired. Gen. Butler was trying it. Plenty of us went to see him the old gent seemed much pleased with it. After standing around him the Gen. was in a pleasant manner – Well boys you have seen the machine operate now you had better go to your quarters.

As for news probably you get it all in the papers. We only live from hand to mouth. As Father used to say we are always awaiting orders. We know not where the next hour will find us. The news seems to be very encouraging from Grant. I hope he will meet the success for I think the whole thing depends upon him.

I don’t think of anything that will interest you. Give my respects to all enquires. Tell Emily to write a letter. From father would be read with interest.

I suppose it is asked for him to write but he can do the composing and you the writing. Write soon and often.

From your brother soldier,
E. E. Doane




The above transcript I got here: http://www.mqamericana.com/7th_CT_Describs_Gatling_Gun.html

Looking it over it's not a use of the Gatling in a battle but rather come out as a demonstration in the field. There's also this article, http://www.historynet.com/civil-war-guns, in which Dr. Gatling stats that Butler fired on rebels (scroll down, the article is Load the Hopper and Turn the Crank: Rapid-Fire Guns of the Civil War) It does beg the question of if Gatling was actually there to witness the gun being fired or not. But a Lieutenant J.B. Morris of the fourth New Jersey Battery did record this:

Gen. Butler brought one his favorite Gatling guns, which throws 200 balls per minute, in this Battery on Friday, and pointing it through one of the embrasures, began to ‘turn the crank.’ This drew the fire of the Rebs on us, and one captain and a private were severely wounded.

That is in the article. So we do have more evidence of Gatlings in the field. Was Butler firing on the Confederate lines with it and they were responding in kind or was this a demonstration that ticked of the Confederates? I can't really tell. But I suspect as the Gatling was pointed through the embrasure that even if it was a demonstration Butler may have been hoping to hit some Confederate soldiers.



 Posted: Tue Jan 29th, 2013 11:26 pm
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Mark
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Thanks for the links guys.



 Posted: Thu Jan 31st, 2013 11:07 pm
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chrisr
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Hello Texas Defender, Hellcat, and Mark

My apologies for this late acknowledgment. Thank you for your very generous replies to my question. Your comments, knowledge and links are much appreciated. It gives me a much clearer understanding of the Gatling's place in the ACW

It seems the gun was not used as much as some general sources discussing machine guns, seem to think.

Best wishes from Australia
Chris



 Posted: Fri Feb 1st, 2013 05:52 am
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Hellcat
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Would some of those sources happen to be a game? I can't rmember if I even saw the title of the game, maybe Modern War though I can't be certain on that, but while searching the web for first hand accounts to answer what Mark was saying about it being used by Butler during his Bermuda Hundred campaign I ran across a forum talking about the Gatling. What I got from the forum was it was for some video/computer game and the developers had it ready for use in 1861, the year before Gatling introduced it. Not sure if I was on this computer or my laptop when I found that forum, will have to check the histories of both.

Edit: Found it. It was this one. The Forum is called Total War Center http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?t=545388

Last edited on Fri Feb 1st, 2013 05:58 am by Hellcat



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