Thursday, August 16, 2007

Patents, Draft Riots, and Little Big Horn

The blog civilwarcavalry has a post connecting the New York City draft riots of July 1863 with Meade's failure to advance on Lee after Gettysburg.

One notes that the implementation of a US patent, to a North Carolina inventor named Gatling, also had an interesting role in the July 1863 riots, in saving the building of the New York Times from the rioters. John and Christopher Meyers briefly tell the story in a sign they exhibit with their Gatling gun replica:

The mere presence of the guns probably did the job in July 1863. [This apparently was not the only time that the New York Times deployed Gatling guns to protect itself.]

As noted in 88 JPTOS 1068 (2006), Custer, in June 1876, had access to three Gatling guns, but decided not to take them to Little Big Horn. It's not clear if the guns would have had the same in terrorem effect on Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, et al. as the guns apparently had on the draft rioters. Separately, LBE doubts that Custer's battalion of 212 men would have prevailed even with the Gatling guns and Spencer rifles, but the story illustrates that innovation is in the eye of the beholder.



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