Civil War Ballooning: Topics in Chronicling America
During the American Civil War, balloons ascended towards the battlefield as a military tool for aerial observation. This guide provides access to material related to "Ballooning" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.
Chronicling America is a searchable digital collection of historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Included in the website is the Directory of US Newspapers in American Libraries, a searchable index to newspapers published in the United States since 1690, which helps researchers identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.
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.
The American Civil War begins and balloons become military tools for aerial observation.
Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe makes his first experimental balloon ascension from the armory grounds at Washington. The balloon ascends 450 feet.
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.