- , GATLING GUNRichard Jordan Catling (1818-1903) was born in Hertford County, North Carolina. He was a physician by education but an inventor by inclination. Because the South had few technical resources, he moved to Indiana, where he devoted all his time to the business of inventing. He invented a practical screw propeller for steamboats, a grain-sowing machine, a hemp-breaking machine, a steam plow, and a wheat drill. Catling then became interested in weaponry and invented a crankoperated machine gun, consisting of a cluster of barrels, usually ten, which he patented in 1862. It was mounted on wheels, and the gunner controlled the rate of fire, up to 150 rounds per minute, by turning a hand crank. The gun was accepted by the Union forces, but too late to see much service. Nevertheless, the Confederate leaders were devastated when they learned that the gun had an effective firing range of two thousand yards.If Colonel Custer had had more confidence in the Gatling guns, he would not have left them behind (which historians say was deliberate), and the massacre of his men at the Battle of Little Big Horn (Custer's last stand) might never have occurred. In any event, Catling has become immortalized, not because of the Gatling gun, which has long been allocated to the junk heap, but because that gun has given birth to a slang term for a gun, a term that is widely used and immediately understood — the gat.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.