One of Parker’s cranks, 119 years later
Via the National Firearms Museum:
In the late 1890s, the Gatling gun was still considered a relatively new innovation in firearms technology. By the time America entered into war with Spain in 1898, Gatling guns had only seen limited use during the American Civil War. Their practicality in battle was considered equivocal to the United States Army.
It was the suggestion of West Point graduate John H. Parker , a 1st lieutenant of the 13th US infantry, that troops preparing for the invasion of Cuba would benefit from a mobile Gatling gun unit. It was an experimental notion, yet Parker’s idea for a Gatling gun detachment caught the interest of a few commanding officers and his proposal was approved. Parker’s intentions were to create an artillery unit capable of providing infantry with heavy cover fire when engaging the enemy in the field.
On July 1, 1898, US troops in Cuba were advancing on the Spanish occupied port of Santiago. It was here that Parker’s famed artillery unit would finally be put to the test. Just after noon, United States Expeditionary Forces were ordered to assault a 4,000 yard ridgeline known as San Juan Heights. The hill was heavily fortified with hostile Spanish forces. As the troops charged the ascent, Parker’s Gatling gun detachment swept the summit with over 6,000 rounds of continuous .45-70 fire. The barrage adequately suppressed the enemy and allowed US troops to successfully take the hill.
In the days that followed, reports of the battle traveled back to the American home front. News of Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders’ “charge” would forever be immortalized in public memory. The Gatling guns of Parker’s artillery unit played a pivotal role in the skirmish and preserved here today is a Colt model 1895, serial number 1040. It was one of four Gatling’s under the command of Lieutenant John Parker during the Battle of San Juan Hill.