A Connecticut Yankee (and his Gatling) in Queen Victoria's Canada

By Terry Edwards

Long before “Gatling Gun” Parker’s guns made him famous by demolishing the Spanish on top of San Juan Hill, there was Lieutenant Arthur L. “Gat” Howard of the Connecticut National Guard. Born 1846 in New Hampshire and raised in Chicopee, Massachusetts, he helped make the Gatling gun famous, founded Canada’s national ammunition industry and largely determined Canada’s adoption of the machine gun.

Gat grew up in the cradle of American guns … Chicopee adjoined Springfield, home of the fabled Springfield Armory, gun makers Massachusetts Arms, Stevens and Savage and several other manufacturers and foundries.

Throughout the Civil War, firearms for the Union armies poured in from factories near Gat’s home, and the Confederacy already carried Maynard carbines made there. But Arthur L. Howard rankled under Miss Valentine inside the Chicopee Grammar School and missed the adventure. There was an A.L. Howard wounded in the 25th Connecticut. He was Alonzo, no relation to Arthur.

When the war ended in 1865 Howard was a schooled and trained machinist and still determined to be a soldier. In April 1867, he joined the First Cavalry and rode for five of the Cavalry’s most active years as the First opened the west and fought in several Indian wars.

The conflicts spilled across the border to Canada, where Gat would later make his mark. The fighting was not as bloody as in the United States. Two “rebellions,” in what would soon be Manitoba were led by the enigmatic Metis leader, Louis Riel and his friend Gabriel Dumont.

The Metis were descendants of French-Canadian fur trappers and their First Nation wives. Angry at Canada’s neglect and political abuse, the Metis declared their own Provisional Government in late 1869. The conflict remained a war of words until Christmas 1869 when the rebels executed a particularly provocative white hostage. Riel was blamed, and he fled to Montana.

Nonetheless, Canada negotiated with the provisional government and created the province of Manitoba in 1870 to settle the Metis claims. But settlers and con artists kept coming as Canada eagerly moved the Metis and First Nations out...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N4 (April 2019)
and was posted online on February 22, 2019


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