Friends of Hastings Cemetery

William Gardner

AK K12 - William Gardner

Died "Henley Lodge", St. Leonard's-on-Sea, on January 20, 1887.

Born in Ohio, U.S.A. in 1844. His family moved to Toledo when he was nine years old.

During the the American Civil War, also called the War of the Rebellion (in the North), and the War for Southern Independence (in the South) he served in the North's Federal Army in  Company I of the 9th Ohio Cavalry.  He enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant on Nov. 16, 1863, aged 19, promoted 1st Lieutenant on Oct. 1, 1864, and mustered out on February 4, 1865, two months before the end of the war.  The rank of Captain appears to have been added to his story somewhere along the way!


He is remembered for his "Gardner Gun", 1874 - one of the earliest machine-guns.

He invented the Gardner machine gun in 1874.  After producing  a prototype, he went to the Pratt and Whitney company, who after a year of  development, produced a military version of the weapon.   A demonstration to officers at the United States Navy Yard in 1875 was successful, however they recommended that Pratt and Whitney continue with development of the system, incorporating improvements to the feed system, which were designed by E.G. Parkhurst, an engineer at Pratt and Whitney.  The army attended the tests, but showed no interest in the weapon.In 1880 the British Royal Navy, which had successfully deployed the Gatling gun, became interested in the weapon, and Gardner was invited to England to exhibit his invention.  The Admiralty were so impressed by the demonstrations that they adopted the weapon and purchased the rights to produce it in England.  Gardner remained in England to supervise the construction of the weapons.

The British Army then took an interest in machine guns and after a series of trials selected the Gardner gun.  During these tests a five-barrelled Gardner gun fired 16,754 rounds before a failure occurred, with only 24 stoppages.  When operator-induced errors were taken into account, there were only 4 malfunctions in 10,000 rounds fired.  The Army adopted the weapon, although its introduction was delayed because of opposition from the Royal Artillery.  The gun was used in the Sudan, notably at the Battle of Abu Klea, where its mechanism proved vulnerable to the environmental conditions of loose sand and dust.

Among his U.S. Patents are:

- 87,038 on February 16, 1869 for an "Improvement in Magazine Fire-Arms"

- 174,130 on February 29, 1876 for an "Improvement in Machine-Guns"

- 174,798 on March 14, 1876 for an "Improvement in Magazine-Guns"

- 216,266 on June 10, 1879 for an "Improvement in Machine-Guns"

His wife was Sallie Howell Mitchell Gardner.  She died on February 25, 1910 in Detroit, Wayne County Michigan, USA.

More information on the Gardner Gun on the Internet and specifically at