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In The Middle of the Civil War, inventor and businessman Richard Gatling created the world's first working machine gun. He naively hoped that the overwhelming effectiveness of a multiple-firing weapon would save lives by reducing the number of soldiers needed to fight. (The scientists who would unleash America's atomic arsenal less than a century later would see things much the same way.) Instead, it kicked off a worldwide escalation in armaments and opened a path toward modern gunnery that leads all the way to ...
In The Middle of the Civil War, inventor and businessman Richard Gatling created the world's first working machine gun. He naively hoped that the overwhelming effectiveness of a multiple-firing weapon would save lives by reducing the number of soldiers needed to fight. (The scientists who would unleash America's atomic arsenal less than a century later would see things much the same way.) Instead, it kicked off a worldwide escalation in armaments and opened a path toward modern gunnery that leads all the way to the AK-47. Through her portrait of its misunderstood creator, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Julia Keller draws on her investigative and literary talents to show how the Gatling gun, in its combination of ingenuity, idealism, and destructive power, perfectly exemplifies the paradox of America's rise to a world superpower.
Keller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, analyzes the nexus between invention and culture in this incisive and instructive cultural history cum biography. Her subject is the iconic Gatling gun, the "first successful machine gun," and its inventor, Richard Jordan Gatling, a 19th-century tinkerer and entrepreneur. A gifted amateur inventor, he registered his first patent-for a mechanical seed planter-in 1844 and had 43 lifetime patents. In 1862, with the Civil War raging, Gatling invented a six-barrel, rapid-firing (200 rounds per minute) gun based on his seed planter. Initially rejected by the Union army, the gun finally came into use in 1866 as a "bully and enforcer" against striking workers and in the Indian Wars; its legacy-"the mechanization of death"-didn't become fully apparent until the killing fields of WWI. A celebrity in the 19th century, Gatling was soon reviled for his "terrible marvel" and then consigned to obscurity. Keller rescues Gatling and anchors his remarkable life firmly in the landscape of 19th-century America: a time and place of "egalitarian hope and infinite possibility." (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Military histories typically cover leaders, major wars, or important battles, seldom the development and history of the weapons used to wage war. These two brief books manage to fill that gap. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Keller (Chicago Tribune) describes the immediate impact of the Gatling gun when its "breathless whirl" was first used in the Civil War. Created in 1861, it was the prototype for the modern machine gun. When the operator turned the gun's hand crank, the rotating barrels turned and fired rapidly. It used multiple barrels and needed little time to cool off. Keller's book is both a biography of Dr. Richard J. Gatling and an analysis of how his invention permanently changed the face of warfare. The gun produced carnage on a scale never seen before. It created a blueprint for future rapid-fire weapons and contributed to American military success for years to come.
If the Gatling gun was a transforming invention of the 19th century, the AK47 represents the kind of weapon that has transformed the 20th and 21st. It was created by Soviet Lt. Gen. Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov in 1947. Hodges discusses the widespread use of this portable rapid-fire weapon, explaining that the AK47 was "not even the first semi-automatic weapon on the battlefield" nor "the most sophisticated." Its simple design was its greatest advantage; with fewer parts that might break, it was a reliable, cost-effective weapon that was easy to learn how to use. Like Keller, Hodges is an established journalist; both authors have a reporter's skill in driving their stories. Students and academics may find these books useful as secondary sources, although neither has footnotes and Hodges'sadditionally lacks a bibliography. Both are easy and enjoyable reads and will be accessible to general history buffs. Recommended for public and some undergraduate libraries.
—Antonio S. Thompson
Ch. 1 Cold Beauty 17
Ch. 2 A World of Mornings 53
Ch. 3 Land of the Second Chance 89
Ch. 4 "Drunkards, Dandies & Loafers" 113
Ch. 5 The Spaces Between the Bullets 141
Ch. 6 "A Little Gatling Music" 173
Ch. 7 "The World's Great Storm" 207
Ch. 8 Warriors and Sages 225