Billinghurst Requa Battery

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The Billinghurst Requa Battery gun was an early rapid-fire gun used during the American Civil War. It was invented by a Dr. Josephus Requa (1833–1910), a dentist by profession, who had at the age of 16 spent three years as an apprentice to William Billinghurst (1807–1880).

Billinghurst Requa Battery Gun
Place of originUnited States
Service history
Used byUnited States Union Forces
WarsAmerican Civil War
Production history
DesignerDr. Josephus Requa
Unit cost$500 (During American Civilwar)
$ 14230 current equivalent
Barrel length2 ft (0.61 m)

Cartridge weight1 oz (28 g)
Caliber0.58 in (1.5 cm)
Rate of fire175 rounds/min
Effective firing range1,800 ft (550 m)
Feed system25 round magazine


The gun consisted of twenty-five heavy .58 caliber rifle barrels, each 2 feet (0.61 m) long and mounted together in a secure frame, which could be elevated for range. The frame was then mounted on a two-wheeled carriage. Ammunition was loaded as a long magazine of twenty-five rounds, which were fired by a single percussion cap in a single volley. With a crew of three, it could be reloaded and fired seven times a minute, giving a rate of fire of 175 rounds per minute. The .58 caliber bullets were conical and weighed approximately one ounce. It was also possible to adjust the spread of the guns to make them diverge for use at close range.


In 1861 on the suggestion of an Albert Mack, Requa began thinking about the design of a rapid-fire gun. Requa talked with Billinghurst, who he remained friends with and came up with a scale model of a design by 11 July 1861. After it was received favorably, Billinghurst and Requa decided to build a full-scale prototype, which cost approximately $500 to build.

Requa met with General James Wolfe Ripley on 22 April 1862 to propose the idea. Ripley however dismissed Requa with the argument that such a weapon would consume expensive ammunition at such a rate that it would cause logistical problems. Requa then approached President Abraham Lincoln on 1 May 1862, who listened to Requa's explanation of Ripley's dismissal. He gave Requa a note which said: Gen. Ripley, please see Mr. Requa A. Lincoln, May 1, 1862.

Ripley, however, would not move from his position. Requa went back to Lincoln, who then ordered Ripley to arrange a demonstration of the weapon. Two tests were arranged on 12 May 1862 and 24 May 1862 with favorable results. Requa and Billinghurst needed financial backing to proceed with production of the weapon, and arranged for a public demonstration of the weapon as proof to backers. This was conducted on 12 August 1862 at Rochester, New York. At the demonstration, the gun blasted holes in a wooden barrel target setup 1,800 feet (550 m) away in the Genessee River. The backers were impressed, and contracts were drawn up to produce 50 units. A patent numbered 36,448 was also issued on 16 September 1862.

The battery was never officially accepted into service, yet it saw action at the siege of Port Hudson, Fort Sumter and Siege of Petersburg as well as the Battle of Cold Harbor.

A final test of the gun was conducted at the Washington Arsenal in August 1864, with a report issued in 1866 indicating that the gun was reliable and performed well during the testing. As a result, an additional five guns were ordered, but advances in firearms technology soon rendered the weapon obsolete.


  • Bilby, Joseph G. "Load the Hopper and Turn the Crank: Rapid-Fire Guns of the Civil War". Weider History Group. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  • Kling, Warren (Fall 1999). "The Story of Dr. Josephus Requa (1833-1910), a Dentist, and His Civil War Machine Gun". Epitaph: The Friends of Mount Hope Newsletter. Rochester, New York. 19 (4). Retrieved 8 September 2012.

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