A comical, controversial, yet useful instrument, hot air balloons were used throughout most of the war for reconnaissance on the enemy. With frequent mishaps, difficult weather, inter-Corps rivalry and, of course, enemy fire, these missions could prove a wild ride for the brave aeronauts. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
|1861||The American Civil War begins and balloons become military tools for aerial observation.|
|June 1861||Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe makes his first experimental balloon ascension from the armory grounds at Washington. The balloon ascends 450 feet.|
|December 1861||John LaMountain experiments with Ballooning near Alexandria Seminary|
|June 13, 1862||An army correspondent for the Union credits ballooning for effectively helping General McClellan direct movement of artillery to win a battle.|
|September 4, 1862||Professor Lowe and a telegraph operator ascend an altitude of two thousand feet in a balloon while providing vital telegraph communication regarding the location and subsequent retreat of the opposing army to Richmond, Virginia.|
|June 6, 1863||Professor Lowe’s balloon gets shot down.|
|April 20, 1864||With the ballooning efforts declared failures, the equipment is sold off in an auction.|