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Military Ballooning Essay

1549 words - 7 pages

In 1794, the French Committee of Public Safety developed a “Corp d’ Aerostiers” also known as a military balloon that was initially created to make it easier to scrutinize the enemy. Thaddeus Lowe then set out to invent a portable gas generating device that could be used anywhere. The first balloon was used in the battles of Charleroi and Fleurus in 1794. (Civil War Ballooning, 1987) The balloon was indeed a success for those battles until it became disbanded in 1798. (, Napoleons Dream.) Before the balloon was disbanded, it did not move until later after the development became more of a popular topic between the Union and Confederate armies. In fact, military ballooning was so ...view middle of the document...

By the end of 1861 the first “Corp d’ Aerostiers” was flying one thousand feet above Washington D.C.
Lowes creation was inflated with gas, so the balloon was only able to travel as far as the tethers let it go. (Balloons in the Civil War, 2014) The limit on this development allowed Lowe to transmit information to the Union Army during the battles of Yorktown and Fredericksburg, Virginia. The information provided was hourly reports of the Confederate troop movements. As more balloons were created, they were getting more detailed. By 1862, the balloons had three different sizes. Each balloon made had a capacity of at least 15,000 cubic feet each. The largest balloons a capacity of 32,000 cubic feet of lifting gas and could carry 5 people aloft. The standard sized balloons had 25,000 cubic foot envelopes and could carry up to three people. The smaller balloons had a 20,000 cubic foot bag and could carry two people aloft. (Military Balloons 1700-1800, 2004) Smaller balloons could be inflated and sent skywards in a shorter amount of time. Larger balloons carried more observers and could include telegraphers.
Thaddeus Lowe invented a horse drawn wagon out of copper-lined wooden tank, mounted on a wagon filled with water and iron filings. (Military Balloons 1700-1800,2004) Since the balloons were forced to be inflated with gas inflating the balloons and getting them ready for battle was very time consuming. In addition, it was too risky to constantly move the equipment due to the fact that the confederates, the armies’ enemy, could attack during transport at any time or just have the opportunity to observe what they would be handling later. He invented a horse drawn wagon out of copper-lined wooden tank, mounted on a wagon filled with water and iron filings. The horse-drawn wagons were large and rectangular that each weighed about 1,000 pounds. Twelve of these wagons were built to service the balloons and carry other supplies need for the war. The balloons were moved, often fully inflated, on the wagons drawn by horse as well as teams of oxen and mules. Since it was being pulled, the balloons had to be small enough so the animals could pull them to battle. (Military Ballooning Transportation, 1998) The balloons being pulled were only 13,000 cubic foot in volume and the baskets were only big enough for one person. Balloons were inflated with city gas when it was available which was normally only in Washington and Richmond. Thaddeus Lowe saw this low supply as a problem and designed a balloon that did not need city gas to be inflated called, “Navy Yard constructed special inflation wagons.” These wagons were charged with dilute sulfuric acid and iron filings, which generated hydrogen. (Summary of Balloon Operations, Thaddeus Lowe.) These portable gas generator wagons gave the Union balloonists the ability to move around more freely then they would have with a balloon that had to constantly be inflated. This design also gave the military the...

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