Machines of Murder The gatling gun, and other civil war weapons

Changing Times

Sad as it is, war is essential to new technology. Out of a desperation to get the upper hand, we turn to inventions to carry us through battles. The Civil War is a great example of such a time, where both the Union and Confederacy quickly moved to gain the advantage. The result: weapons that would change the face of war as we knew it.

One of the deadliest guns of the Civil War, and perhaps of any war, was the Gatling gun. This weapon of destruction was invented by Richard J. Gatling during the Civil War, and was extremely useful due to it requiring a reload much less frequently. The gun was also very effective from long ranges, and could even be outfitted onto boats.

After being created by Richard J. Gatling, he sold to the Union, who bought just a few initially. However, Gatling was also a Confederate sympathizer, and was a part of a group called the American Knights, which supported Confederates. As a result, he also offered the South a chance to buy the product.

However, the product was never adopted by either the Union or Confederacy. The Union only purchased a few of the guns, and General Custer famously decided not to use them in the battle commonly called "Custer's Last Stand." This was mostly due to the inability to carry the gun around, making it hard to transport quickly. The gun was eventually phased out by the handheld machine gun.

The gun was manufactured in two different models, the .58 caliber and the .3 caliber. Both models shot insanely quickly for the time period, as the .58 could shoot 350 rounds a minute, and the .3 a whopping 400 rounds per minute.

The Gatling gun required hand cranking, and was on wheels so it could be moved short distances fairly quickly (although this wasn't enough; see above). It was very heavy, but could shoot for a while without a reload being necessary.

While the Gatling gun remains one of the most infamous Civil War weapons, there were many other incredible "machines of murder" which played a huge part in many battles. Many of their qualities can even be seen in guns today. Below you can find more examples of the devices used to achieve what would eventually be a Union victory.

Left: Modern Reproduction of Springfield Model 1861. Top right: View of hammer up close. Bottom right: Springfield today.

The Springfield Model 1861

The Springfield Model 1861 was an amazing new weapon for the Civil War, which completely changed guns forever, including today. The Springfield was the main weapon of the Civil War, as approximately one million of them were produced. Both the Union and the Confederacy handed them out to soldiers, since they were easy for inexperienced shooters to use accurately.

They were easy for inexperienced shooters to use

The Springfield Model 1861 was .58 caliber, and had a range of around 850 feet. For an even deadlier effect, bayonets would often be attached to these guns, and soldiers could stab their enemies with this attachment. The guns were manufactured in the Springfield Armory, and cost $20 each, just over $500 in today's money.

LeMat Revolver

The LeMat revolver was a major leap forward in handguns. This weapon was the most lethal handgun of the time. They could hold 50% more ammo than the traditional handgun in use before the LeMat, and even had two firing modes, a normal revolver mode as well as a shotgun mode, which fired shotgun rounds. As a result, this gun was know for how deadly it was.

The LeMat was primarily used by the Confederates, and around 2900 of them were produced. The gun's main users were riding soldiers, who fired the LeMat as they rode.


Overall, the Civil War ended up creating a multitude of advanced weapons for the time period. Many features of these weapons even have an impact on the guns of today. While they were used for war and death, they were revolutionary nonetheless, and we owe it to the Civil War for these machines of murder.

Thank You

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