This gun was also known as the 'Coffee Mill' gun because the cartridges were fed down a hopper shaped like an old-fashioned coffee grinder. Officially it was the Union Repeating Gun. The manufacturers described it as 'an army in 6 feet square'.
The rate of fire was 120 rounds per minute. The gun was mounted on a two-wheeled carriage similar to that of the normal artillery piece, except that two equipment boxes were fixed one on either side of the axle. In order to reduce the danger of overheating of the barrel two spares were carried. Steel containers holding combustible cartridges, or loose powder and ball (75 grains), and with the nipple for the cap at the end, were loaded into the hopper and were gravity-fed into a recess at the back of the barrel. Containers, which also acted as firing chambers, were pushed forward to form prolongations of the barrel by action of the crank and were locked by a rising wedge. As the crank was turned the cam-operated hammer fell on the percussion cap.
BELOW: Union Agar machine-gun shown with and without shield. Note the hopper for the ammunition which gave it its nickname of the 'Coffee Mill' gun, not to be confused with the weapon on page 46 which was for grinding coffee.
Further turning of the handle released the wedge, a lever pushed the empty container out of the recess, and a fresh one dropped into place. A small shield could be fitted in front of the hopper to protect it and the operator from enemy fire.
The gun was only adopted under protest by the Union Army on Lincoln's personal intervention, and ten pieces were purchased late in 1861 for S1,300 each—twice the estimated cost of their manufacture. Two guns were with Colonel J. W. Geary's 28th Pennsylvania Volunteers on March 29, 1862, at Middleburg, Virginia, on the Potomac, where they 'cut to pieces' and routed two squadrons of Confederate Cavalry at 800 yards. Despite this Geary returned them to Washington with a report that they were 'inefficient and unsafe to operate'. In June 1862, North Carolina Infantry under Brigadier-General I. Trimble, CSA, captured two 'revolving cannon with hoppers into which bullets were poured', and reported that the devilish Yankee contraptions had blazed away for two hours before anyone could get near them. Two of these guns were used during the seige of Petersburg.
The mechanical unreliability and weight of these pieces, together with the problem of ammunition supply (problems which, in fact, applied to all the machine-guns of the period), eventually resulted in the guns being relegated to covered bridge defence along with the volley guns. In August 1865 Agar guns were sold at an army surplus sale at Fort Monroe for $5-8 each I
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