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"Manoeuvre of Gatlin Guns" Topic

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Trajanus23 Jul 2022 4:33 a.m. PST

Just a question regarding moving Gatlin's.

Their carriage's never look particularly robust to me and although they are obviously a lot lighter weapons than cannons and don't generate such concussion when firing, how did they stand up in field use?

Not that relevant in Civil War terms but I get a mental picture of them bouncing along over the post war Plains and wonder how they took punishment and if that effected their speed of movement.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP23 Jul 2022 5:07 a.m. PST

They had a reputation for being difficult to maneuver. Gatlings were rarely used in the field during the Plains Indian Wars.

cavcrazy23 Jul 2022 5:09 a.m. PST

Custer didn't want them!
The guns were prone to jamming, and I'm thinking the dust and dirt swirling around on the March didn't help either. I think proper maintenance in the field was the biggest problem.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP23 Jul 2022 6:09 a.m. PST

Add to that an Army habit of using condemned cavalry horses to haul them. Custer made some bad calls, but turning them down for what might have been a high-speed chase wasn't one of them. Also plains Indians were a little less prone than Confederates to mass up for a charge.

Pack howitzers did come in handy every so often, though.

Trajanus24 Jul 2022 8:06 a.m. PST

Well that confirms what I expected, thanks.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Jul 2022 10:55 a.m. PST

And let us recall, Gatlings were considered field artillery. Their use for close infantry support had to wait until 1898.

Dragging them to the Little Big Horn would have made exactly as much sense as trying to tow a couple of 12-pdr Napoleons.

The washboard terrain of the prairies would have made moving any such items up and down hills and across creeks/streams was simply an obvious "No Go." Why do you think mules were used to carry supplies rather than wagons?

Please, let's finally put to the rest even the suggestion that Gatlings would have made an iota of difference at Custer's Last Fight.


Trajanus25 Jul 2022 5:49 a.m. PST

Please, let's finally put to the rest even the suggestion that Gatlings would have made an iota of difference at Custer's Last Fight.

Only those knowing nothing about the fight, or the terrain, would think that was the case.

I've just been intrigued over the years to think the Army would have found them suitable enough to have them in the West to start with.

Trajanus25 Jul 2022 7:58 a.m. PST

Second Lt. William H. Low and a detachment of the 20th Infantry had been assigned to the fort to organize this "artillery" component of Brig. Gen. Alfred H. Terry's "Dakota Column."

Low's unit, however, would be denied a role at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, fought that June, when his guns were assigned to Col. John Gibbon's less mobile "Montana Column" because of a legitimate concern that the Gatlings would impede Custer's "pursuit of the Indians," as Custer's orders of June 22 stated. During a previous cavalry reconnaissance "over very rough ground," one of Low's guns had overturned, injuring three men, and was temporarily abandoned, several participants recalled.

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