Machine Gun


Local dentist Dr. Josephus Requa is credited with creating the first practical machine gun in 1862. Working with local gunsmith William Billinghurst, he built a 500 pound prototype consisting of 25 rifle barrels mounted on a two-wheel wagon. Three soldiers operating the gun could shoot 175 shots per minute. His guns did manage to kill Confederate forces in the two years following, but it was no match for the even faster hand-cranked Gatling gun, which could spew out 350 shots per minute. This was technically not a true 'machine gun' by the modern definition, as it was a multiple-shot, volley-fire weapon. Machine guns are capable of fully automatic fire.

(From the Epitaph newsletter)— [WWW]

"This first practical machine gun was known as the Requa rifle battery and consisted of 25 two-foot-long heavy rifle barrels mounted horizontally on a frame secured onto a two-wheel carrier. Its gross weight was 500 pounds. Twenty-five metallic cartridges were held together by a steel clip and loaded as an en bloc unit. The conical bullets in each cartridge were .52 caliber and weighed one ounce. One percussion cap fired all 25 barrels in a volley, and three men could reload seven times a minute, thereby firing 175 shots per minute. The rifle barrel assembly could be raised or lowered for distance.

Another unique feature of the weapon was the ability to spread the gun barrels in a wider horizontal arc, covering more area with bullets. The gun was nickname d the "street sweeper." It was particularly effective when placed near a bridge or other strategic location where the width of the road or other passageway was restricted, thus making it impossible for the enemy to pass."

Dr. Josephus Requa's grave is in Mount Hope Cemetery.