Jun
18

Today in Smithsonian History: June 18, 1861

Image of Thaddeus Lowe's balloon test of the "Intrepid" at the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, during the Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862.

Image of Thaddeus Lowe’s balloon test of the “Intrepid” at the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, during the Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862. Note that this is a composite image, consisting of the May 31, 1862, stereo view photograph showing people on the ground and the basket of the balloon, with the balloon labeled “Intrepid” drawn in above the original image.

June 18, 1861 Encouraged by Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry, balloonist Thaddeus S. C. Lowe makes a number of ascents from the future site of the National Air and Space Museum, and from the Smithsonian and White House grounds, to demonstrate the usefulness of balloons for military reconnaissance by using the telegraph to communicate between aerial balloons and the ground. Henry witnesses these ascents and helps Lowe become appointed to organize a balloon corps within the Union Army.

Lowe’s balloon was used for reconnaissance for the Union Army during the Civil War. Using a telegraph the driver could send a message about Confederate camps and troop movements to soldiers below who then gave the information to Union generals.


Posted: 18 June 2016
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