|Winans Steam Gun, Captured by Colonel Jones on way to Harper's Ferry|
Photographed by Weaver for Harper's Weekly, May 25, 1861
Winans Steam Gun was a crude forerunner of a machine gun. It operated not by gunpowder but by steam. It was capable of shooting 100-500 iron balls per minute and shooting balls from 1 ounce to a 24 pound shot. It was made in Massachusetts and sent to Baltimore two years prior to the Civil War. Ross Winan, a Confederate sympathizer and a locomotive builder owned the steam gun. It was one of a kind. An interesting side note is that George Washington Whistler, the father of James McNeil Whistler, worked with him at the Baltimore and Ohio railroad and went to Russia with Winans' sons.
When the 90 days of service was completed for the Massachusetts Sixth they were allowed to take the gun back with them to Lowell as a war trophy. It was displayed at various military reunions at the fairgrounds on Gorham Street and was kept at the Merrimack Manufacturing Company's storehouse. It was owned by the Middlesex Mechanics Association. The Civil War veteran's loved it.
Around the time of the 50th anniversary of the march through Baltimore, the Lowell Sun published an article looking for information as to what happened to it. Several older citizens came forth with the information that it was demolished at R.H. Barker's plant on Middle Street by the Assistant Engineer of the Fire Department, Edward Meloy. They estimate this was sometime in the late 1880s to 1890s.
In 2007, Discovery Channel's Mythbusters tested if they could prove the gun could kill. While not an exact replica it's pretty interesting to watch.
It was never used in the war as it was found to be impractical. I wish they had saved it.