The “The Army In A Box.”

by Daniel Russ on November 22, 2014



 Ager “Coffee Mill” gun in the hands of the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment,

Camp Northumberland, northern Virginia, February 1862


The very notion of blocks of men standing shoulder to shoulder firing in unison is the promise of the firearm in combat. Overwhelming accurate fire always wins the day on the ground. So it was not unusual to see many comPeting designs for automatic fire weaponry in the American Civil War. In June 1861, New York inventor J.D. Mills presented the Coffee Mill Gun. The Coffee Mill Gun was loaded with .58 caliber paper cartridges that fell into a breech as a crank was turned, and then fed into a barrel and fired. The Coffee Mill Gun fired off at 120 rounds per minute. The actual inventor as John Ager and the Coffee Mill Gun was also called the Agar Gun and the Union Repeating Rifle.

Both General George McLellan and President Abraham Lincoln were entranced by the notion that a single gun could give one side such a decided advantage. McClellan ordered 50 copies and the president ordered ten.

After the Battle of Bull Run, the 28th Pennsylvanian was srtationed along the Potomac River securing Washington’s weak flank. Henry Hayward, First Sergeant of the 28th Pennsylvania, described the Coffee Mill Gun in a letter to his sister:

“we have got 2 Union Guns that were presinted to the 28th. they are fired by turning a crank. the faster you turn it the more Rebels it will kill. it will throw a ball 4 miles. I cannot describe it but when the men saw it first they thought it was a sausage machine.” 








Abraham Lincoln was trying to get the attention of General’s Buell and Halleck and commented: “I saw this gun myself, and witnessed some experiments with it, and I really think it worth the attention of the Government.

At the end of the day, the Ager Gun saw little action. No one was really verse in automatic weapons fire except for the notion that the barrel was pointed at opposing troops in the same was one pointed a hose at flames. The dozen or so guns ordered were used to guard bridge crossing or weapons stores.


Yes, there is a YouTube video of someone firing this arcane weapon


sources: Civil War Gazette, YouTube and Google Search results




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